By Esther Marr
Heavy rainstorms the morning of April 17 gave way to a mix of afternoon clouds and sunshine at Keeneland in Lexington as trainers made necessary adjustments to their schedules and prepared for the spring meet's final days.
Trainer Kenny McPeek was on the scene with high spirits as he continued to bask in his victory with Java's War in the April 13 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
"He's got plenty of good energy," said McPeek of the colt four days after his come-from-behind feat over the Polytrack surface.
Java's War winning the Toyota Blue Grass; photo by Coady Photography
McPeek had to wait for the thunderstorms to pass before sending the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)-bound Java's War to the track for his first gallop since the Blue Grass April 17, and the Charles Fipke homebred came out of the 1 1/4-mile run in good order.
"He'll go to Churchill tomorrow (April 18)," said McPeek of the son of War Pass, who currently ranks No. 4 on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leader board. "We wanted to leave him at Keeneland for a few days and let him recover and he's fine. He'll do some gallops over the next 10 days (at Churchill)."
McPeek said it was likely Java's War would soon breeze in company with stablemate and other Kentucky Derby hopeful Frac Daddy, who arrived at Churchill April 17.
Other buzz at Keeneland surrounded McPeek's 3-year-old filly Pure Fun, who will race against the boys in Keeneland's Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) April 20. The daughter of Pure Prize, who won the 2012 Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I), is looking to earn enough points for a start in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
"She's doing super right now; she came out of that Turfway race (March 23 Fathead Bourbonette Oaks, gr. III) with a spiked fever for a few days, so I think that attributed to why she ran a little flat," said McPeek of the chestnut filly, who finished third to other Oaks hopeful Silsita in the one-mile contest.
In her previous starts at Keeneland, Pure Fun finished seventh in the Jessamine Stakes (gr. IIIT) and second in a turf allowance contest last October. In her most recent work over the Lexington oval April 13, she covered five furlongs in 1:01 2/5.
Pure Fun at Turfway Park; photo by Kevin Thompson
"I'd rather run her than work her; they don't pay us to work her and she needs to get a good race under her belt," said McPeek of Pure Fun, who has 20 points toward the Oaks--which currently has a 34-point cutoff. "I think she's got a legitimate shot in the Oaks, so we're going to go ahead."
McPeek is also pleased Rosie Napravnik has the riding assignment on Pure Fun as the female duo will face 10 male horses and jockeys in the Lexington.
"I'm excited about Rosie riding her...it's basically like, 'Bring on the boys,' so I think it's kind of fun," said McPeek, who owns Pure Fun in the name of his Magdalena Racing with Susan McPeek.
"She's a beautiful filly," added McPeek, who purchased Pure Fun for $22,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. "Looking at a filly like her is like looking at a beautiful woman. She's just gorgeous. She's so sweet too. I'm going to bring her over (in the race) in pink bandages and a pink halter."
In other stable news, McPeek's 2012 Travers (gr. I) winner Golden Ticket, who was originally pointed for either the April 21 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland or the April 20 Charles Town Classic at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, will be temporarily sidelined.
"I haven't been real thrilled with the way he's been eating lately, so I decided to back off and wait for something else," McPeek explained.
The trainer also confirmed that War Dancer, a 3-year-old son of War Front who won an allowance race at Keeneland April 10, is pointed toward the May 3 American Turf (gr. II) at Churchill.
Some surprise news came April 17 when trainer Shug McGaughey confirmed he had supplemented five-time graded stakes winner Boisterous to the 1 1/18-mile Ben Ali.
"He's never run on the Polytrack, but he's always trained well (at Keeneland) and has run well off of it," McGaughey explained of the 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor, who has contested the majority of his 22 starts on turf.
Boisterous has worked twice at Keeneland this spring. On April 8, he covered four furlongs in :48 1/5, and on April 15 he ran the same distance in :49 1/5.
All of Boisterous' graded stakes victories came on the New York circuit. He won back-to-back runnings of the Knickerbocker Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) in 2011-2012, and also took the 2012 Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. IIIT). In his sole outing at Keeneland, the dark bay or brown horse won a 1 1/16-mile turf contest in 2011.
Boisterous; photo by Jessica Hansen/NYRA
"This is probably his third spring (at Keeneland) getting ready," said McGaughey. "Since he's been working over (the surface) as well as he has, I figured it was worth taking a chance (in the Ben Ali)."
Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Emollient will not run in the Kentucky Oaks, it was confirmed by trainer Bill Mott April 17.
Mott didn't indicate where the daughter of Empire Maker might make her next start. Perhaps she is in need of a freshening considering the short length of time between her outings in the March 30 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), where she finished a distant fifth to Dreaming of Julia, and the April 6 Ashland, which she won by an eye-catching nine lengths.
A Juddmonte Farms homebred, Emollient is currently under the care of Mott's assistant Rudolphe Brissett at Keeneland, where she will remain in light training. Mott's other probable Oaks starters are Close Hatches and Flashy Gray.
Close Hatches, winner of the April 6 Gazelle Stakes (gr. II), is already stabled at Churchill Downs, while Flashy Gray, who ran second in the March 9 Honeybee (gr. III) and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), is currently at Payson Park.