From California to Kentucky

By Tom LaMarra

LEXINGTON, Ky (April 3, 2013) --  Dan Blacker has been at Keeneland for meets as an assistant trainer, but this spring will be his first with his own stable.

Blacker, a very young-looking 31 who was born in England, is based in Southern California but has four horses at Keeneland. His first two are entered for April 6: The Sixties for owner Jim Ford in the second race and Rafale for Ford, Richard Ansede, and Pat Bresnan. Both colts, bred and purchased in Great Britain, raced at Santa Anita Park before shipping to Kentucky.

"Hopefully it will be a good gauge on Saturday to see how they run," Blacker said. "We'll see where we're at."

Blacker said he looked forward to returning to Keeneland, and owed it to Ford, Ansede, Bresnan, and Bob Maycock. Ford, a Thoroughbred owner in California for roughly 20 years, owned Ticker Tape, a grade I winner, before she was sold privately.

"He's a passionate owner," Blacker said. "He loves the game, and I think he loves Kentucky and Keeneland as much as he does California. Jim wanted to take a shot here, and I jumped at the opportunity to come to Keeneland. It's a great meet."

Blacker, a graduate of the Darley Flying Start program, was an assistant trainer to Richard Mandella from 2007-09, and assistant trainer to Tom Albertrani from 2009-11. He is married to HRTV commentator Christina Oliveras-Blacker; they are expecting their first child in July.

Blacker said he and Ford have discussed perhaps staying a bit longer to run a horse at the Churchill Downs spring meet, but most likely he will head back to California.


Trainer Ken McPeek reported April 3 that Charles Fipke's Java's War, who went from last to second behind Verrazano in Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) in his first start of 2013, should arrive at Keeneland April 8 or April 9 in advance of the April 13 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).

The Kentucky-bred colt by War Pass gets points for his solid third-place finish last fall in the Dixiana Breeders' Futurity on the Keeneland Polytrack. Java's War has accumulated 22 points for the Kentucky Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), which puts him 19th on the list.

"He ran super in the (Tampa Bay Derby)," McPeek said. "I'm really pleased with him. He ran well (on Polytrack) here as a 2-year-old, and I'm inclined to think he'll handle it. He might be better on it than he is on dirt."

The Blue Grass, at 1 1/8 miles, is expected to draw a full field of 14.


The first two programs at Keeneland April 5-6 indicate a strong horse population, with 103 horses plus two also-eligibles on the Friday overnight sheet and 108 plus four also-eligibles on Saturday. ... In addition, 30 horses were excluded Friday and 24 Saturday. Maiden turf races with $58,000 pots seem the most popular, with 32 horses excluded from two races.


Normal maintenance has been performed on the Polytrack in advance of the spring meet, Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley said. That includes tilling the surface to bring up any materials that may have settled to the bottom over the winter.

"It's normal procedure," Beasley said. "We do it four or five days before every meet."

Beasley said Dr. Mick Peterson, executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, was on hand in March to examine the surface and make sure it is even in depth.


There are a few things Keeneland can't help. One is the weather. The other is new for this year: road construction.

Extensive on Versailles Road, the main artery for Keeneland, began almost a month ago and will continue through early fall. Keeneland has a plan in place to facilitate access, but be prepared to arrive early and leave later.

The tailgate area will be expanded to offer more amenities such as food tents, but it is bring-your-own-booze. It would seem that, on nice days at least, it may be best to camp out in the parking lot for a bit after the races.

The weather, however, should cooperate for the first three days of the meet, with a warm-up forecast for Saturday and Sunday.


Interesting speakers have been assembled to discuss exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding in the lungs, during a seminar April 9 at the Keeneland sale pavilion. The event is co-sponsored by the maker of FLAIR Nasal Strips, but it's fair to expect some talk about drugs, particularly race-day furosemide.

FLAIR co-inventor Dr. Jim Chiappetta, who will discuss non-drug methods for reducing EIPH such as nasal strips, will be joined by Dr. Nathan Slovis, director of the McGee Medical Center at Haygyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington. Three trainers--Darrin Miller, Malcolm Pierce, and Jeff Thornbury--will offer their views on EIPH and its treatment.

The seminar, co-sponsored by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, will begin at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

"The Keeneland Files" will appear at twice a week, Wednesdays and Sundays, through April 28.

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