By Frank AngstLEXINGTON, Ky (April 10, 2013)
While Shug McGaughey prepares his usual strong string of horses at the Keeneland spring meeting, more than a few of his thoughts are occupied by the stable’s big 3-year-old Orb.
Orb will not be making an appearance at Keeneland, as the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) winner currently is training at Payson Park and will ship to Churchill Downs to complete preparations for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But just knowing the opportunity ahead this Triple Crown season is energizing the stable.
“It’s business as usual but there is a lot of energy and excitement going on right now,” McGaughey said. “My people are all excited; I’m excited. We’re looking forward to the next three weeks.”
McGaughey said on April 10 that Orb will ship to Churchill in the next week or so. The Florida Derby win followed a half-length score in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and extended the Malibu Moon colt’s win streak to four races. Orb is a homebred for Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III.
Meanwhile, McGaughey saddled one winner from his first three starters at Keeneland opening weekend as dual grade II winner Hungry Island, an Emory Hamilton homebred, opened her 5-year-old season with a one-length victory in a tough allowance race on the Keeneland turf. Air Support, a Janney homebred, finished third in the seasonal debut for the 5-year-old Smart Strike horse, a two-time grade II winner.
The Racing Hall of Fame trainer said he will continue to be active at the Keeneland spring meeting with eight horses scheduled to start this week.
Kelley’s Calumet Targets Blue Grass
Brad Kelley would love to add to Calumet Farm’s legacy in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with a horse in Channel Isle who has deep roots to Kelley’s operation.
Out of the Linamix mare Dandanna, Channel Isle is a homebred son of English Channel, a stallion Kelley owns. Dandanna is a half sister to stakes winner Scriptwriter and Courteous and her dam is a full sister to group I winner Darshaan and half sister to group I winner Darara.
Channel Isle won an allowance race Jan. 26 at Oaklawn Park before finishing fourth in the Feb. 26 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) there. Channel Isle will try the Polytrack again after finishing seventh in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. II) March 23 at Turfway Park.
Channel Isle - Photo by Kevin Thompson
“He has a lot of pride in this horse,” said John Stuart of Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services, who advises Kelley and noted the deep roots Channel Isle has to Kelley’s racing and breeding operation. “He loves English Channel. He purchased English Channel just before his (2007 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf [gr. I) victory) and he’s turned into a great sire for us.”
Stuart said Kelley would love to see Calumet capture a seventh Blue Grass Stakes win and its first since Alydar captured the 1978 edition of the key Derby prep. Other Blue Grass winners for Calumet include Bull Lea, 1938; Ocean Wave, 1945; Faultless, 1947; Coaltown, 1948; and Forward Pass, 1968. In 2012 Kelley purchased Calumet, which stands Aikenite, Americain, Eye of the Leopard, Lentenor, and Point Given.
Kelley also boasts Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) winner Oxbow on this year’s Derby trail. Oxbow, by Awesome Again, and Channel Isle are both trained by D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas won the Blue Grass in 1987 with War and in 2000 with High Yield.
“It’s been a big spring for Wayne,” said Stuart, who added that Kelley enjoys working with the Racing Hall of Fame trainer. “They like each other a lot and love talking about the horses.”
Besides the opportunity to add to Calumet’s Blue Grass success, Kelley also would love to add to the historic farm’s classic success.
“Mr. Kelly wants to win the Kentucky Derby,” Stuart said. “I think he has a big chance this year. I think Oxbow is an underrated horse for the Derby.”
Welker to Blue Grass
The connections of Wes Welker’s Blue Grass entrant, Undrafted, said the NFL All-Pro receiver plans to attend the Blue Grass Stakes with a large contingent.