Gunnevera Antonio Sano
Dialed In—Unbridled Rage, by Unbridled
After a nice easy 5-furlong breeze he stepped it up with a good sharpener in 1:01 4/5 at Gulfstream Park West in his final drill for the Florida Derby. Working alone, he cut the corners tightly, hugging the rail on both turns, and was striding out beautifully at the wire. Let’s see what he can do now with the longer stretch, which should play to his advantage. It will be interesting to see if his move is timed differently, this time not being asked to sustain a 4 1/2-furlong run and making a monster move around the far turn to reach the leaders by the quarter pole, which he had to do in the Delta Jackpot and Fountain of Youth with the short stretches. Even with the finish at the sixteenth pole in his last start and coming from the back of the pack, he still won by almost 6 lengths. Pace obviously will be a factor, which he should get with Three Rules back in there and working like a tiger, along with State of Honor, and the highly regarded newcomer Always Dreaming stalking them. We have discussed his sensational pedigree, which is very strong in the classic and stamina categories, so there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to make a big move and keep going. We know he’s a very athletic, shifty colt with good balance, as indicated by the way he hugs the rail in his workouts.
McCraken Ian Wilkes
Ghostzapper—Ivory Empress, by by Seeking the Gold
If he runs back to his last two works in the Blue Grass Stakes, it would be hard to imagine anyone beating him. Perhaps missing the Tampa Bay Derby was indeed a blessing in disguise. In Monday’s work, he went his first three-eighths in :38 and last three-eighths in :35 2/5, with his final two quarters in :11 3/5 and :11 4/5 to complete the 6 furlongs in 1:13 2/5. They gave him a gallop-out in 1:25 2/5, but when you go :12 flat past the wire you are basically working 7 furlongs in 1:25 2/5. Like in his last work, the amazing part was that he did it all on his own, with jockey Bryan Hernandez breaking off well behind his workmate who came out to the four-path at the head of the stretch to let McCraken inside him. He switched leads smoothly and just cruised down the stretch on a nice loose rein with great extension to his stride. With Hernandez up in the saddle past the wire, McCraken kept going on his own, hugging the rail into the turn as tight as you can get without scraping it, with his head low, neck stretched out, and game face still on. He also is so well balanced in action with no wasted energy. If he wins the Blue Grass, we could have a major star going into the Derby, who is undefeated and 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs. If he and Gunnevera both win their preps, that would be quite a matchup between the two powerful closers, both bred to run all day.
Tapwrit Todd Pletcher
Tapit—Appealing Zophie, by Successful Appeal
He breezed a half in :49 1/5 in company for a possible engagement in the Blue Grass Stakes against his Sam F. Davis Stakes conqueror McCraken. He sat off his workmate and was going smooth throughout, but never was able to catch the workmate, who was going a bit easier of the two. He was being asked on the gallop-out, but still wasn’t able to get to him. It’s difficult to know what to make of Pletcher works. Normally they are carbon copies of each other and very repetitious, with a lot of focus on the gallop out. I’m never going to get down on a horse off one work, and he still has another scheduled before his next start. And this work certainly wasn’t that bad; it just wasn’t as good as his stablemates Always Dreaming’s or Battalion Runner’s. He only worked in :50 4/5 before winning the Tampa Bay Derby, so we’re not going to make too much out of works. Also, as far as for Palm Beach Downs works, on Saturday for example, Pletcher worked 26 horses, so he can pretty much dictate who gets bullet works on what is essentially his own private training track. Remember, he used to train at Palm Meadows, but moved to the quiet and solitude of Palm Beach Downs.
Girvin Joe Sharp
Tale of Ekati—Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon
He continues to train sharply for the Louisiana Derby, turning in his second straight 1:01 breeze. He’s been pretty much out of sight, out of mind since the Risen Star Stakes, but the feeling here is that he will leap up many Derby lists if he can duplicate or improve on his effort in the Risen Star. As I’ve been saying, I’m not crazy about his having only four career starts before the Derby, but he’s in the same boat as so many other leading contenders, he just might be able to get away with it, especially considering he seems so much more mature mentally and physically than many of the other top 3-year-olds, and appears to be the ultimate competitor, who has the determination you want to see. When he puts those ears back and digs in and levels off with those long powerful strides, he is a quite a formidable presence. There is no way to determine just how good he is off only three races, one of them on grass, and basically coming from nowhere to win the Risen Star, so you can only go by the eye test, and he passes that with flying colors. He is a bulldog of a horse whose potential is limitless at this point. We’ll see if all that holds up in the Louisiana Derby, where he will have a rabbit to assure a brisk pace and not let Local Hero get out there on a big easy lead again. He might not be as easy to catch this time.
J Boys Echo Dale Romans
Mineshaft—Letgomyecho, by Menifee
He certainly hasn’t been tearing up the track in the morning, first breezing a half in :52 2/5 and then following that up with a 5-furlong drill in 1:02 4/5. He seemed to be moving at a good clip early, but took the turn wide and came down the stretch with his ears pinned and being pushed along. Again, I have no idea what Romans was looking for, and we’ll see if shows more speed and does it more in hand in his final work for the Blue Grass Stakes, which is looking like the toughest prep of them all, despite being downgraded to grade 2. There is a lot to like about him, but he still has to show what he can do against better quality competition, which he’ll face in the Blue Grass, and getting off the Aqueduct inner track, which is an entity all to itself. The Gotham was run in slow time and they didn’t come home particularly fast, and he beat a horse with one 6-furlong race in his life, but he looked awfully good visually, so it is difficult to get a true read on that race. In the Blue Grass, he’ll be facing some top-class colts who are looking for points to get in the Derby and should be pretty well cranked for the race.
Practical Joke Chad Brown
Into Mischief—Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor
I really liked his 5-furlong work in 1:00 4/5 in company with the top-class Shagaf. He actually broke off in front, holding a neck advantage, indicating Brown probably would like to see him closer to the pace in his next start. He was shown the whip very briefly at the eighth pole and was able to maintain a neck advantage at the wire and galloped out the stronger of the two. Brown still believes that Practical Joke will be able to stretch out to longer distances successfully, considering he’s such a “big, strong, imposing colt.” He wasn’t happy running him back in four weeks in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after his gut wrencher in the Champagne Stakes, and he didn’t want to run him two turns in his 3-year-old debut off a layoff. He said in a perfect world he would have brought him back in a sprint, but he didn’t have time to make the Swale Stakes, which he won anyway with Favorable Outcome. What gives Brown confidence is that Practical Joke looks like a distance horse physically, and he just feels as if he moved too soon in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. But that was quite an electrifying run he made around the far turn. He just wasn’t able to match strides with the victorious Gunnevera, who had the two-turn Holy Bull Stakes under him. With only two preps this year, Practical Joke will have to time his move better in his next start and sustain it this time to show that he can win going two turns and that he’ll be capable of stretching out even farther at Churchill Downs.
Iliad Doug O’Neill
Ghostzapper—Little Swoon, by You and I
I honestly have no idea how I feel about him being a legitimate Kentucky Derby horse, because he hasn’t had an opportunity to show who he really is and what he’s capable of. He worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 2/5 in company for the Santa Anita Derby, where he could join three other Doug O’Neill-trained horses in what looks to be one of the most wide-open renewals of the race ever. Assuming he got a lot out of the San Felipe, and with a two-turn race under him, he should be very tough. He was equipped with blinkers and a shadow roll in his work, and I was surprised to see him in front at the break, considering he rated off the pace so nicely in the San Felipe. He was on a loose rein in the stretch and galloped out strongly all on his own. There are few marquee names left on the Southern California scene, and Iliad, who was always thought very highly of by former trainer Bob Baffert, need only move forward a couple of lengths to emerge victorious and head to Churchill Downs as one of the leading Derby contenders. He will have to contend with his old trainer, who has the improving Reach the World, and an invading Todd Pletcher with Battalion Runner, neither of whom have competed in a stakes race. He just needs to rate off the pace like he did in the San Felipe and deliver a stronger punch in the stretch. He doesn’t have any Masterys to futilely chase this time, so the opportunity to move forward is there if he’s good enough.
Always Dreaming Todd Pletcher
Bodemeister—Above Perfection, by In Excess
Taking a big shot here with the Florida Derby coming up this weekend. I am jumping the gun with him because I feel he is going to run a big race and establish himself as a major player. But this year’s 3-year-olds have been making everyone looking foolish each week. Although he’s never run a stakes, and his allowance victory was agonizingly slow, I just love the way he moves and handles himself. He seems to just glide over the ground with smooth effortless strides and has the look of a classy horse who is extremely responsive to what the rider asks of him. You want him to relax and go along on cruise control and he’ll just prick his ears and lope along. You want him to get down to business and run and he’ll pin his ears and step on the gas. He has a commanding presence about him and despite still being under wraps around the far turn and well into the stretch in his allowance win, he still was able to run that quarter in :24 1/5, followed by a :12 1/5 final eighth. When Velazquez finally started pushing on him in deep stretch he quickly put it in another gear, leveled off, and came home his final sixteenth in just about :06 flat. Yes, a horse going that slow early is supposed to come home fast, but most horses can’t go :24 1/5 from the three-eighths pole to the eighth pole while in a common gallop. He then galloped out strongly, going the mile and a quarter in about 2:07 1/5, which on that track no doubt put a lot of bottom in him. For the second straight time, he turned in an exceptional work, breezing his half in a bullet :48 2/5, fastest of 26 works at the distance. I love the way he finishes in his works, always with the rider just sitting on him, and how strongly he gallops out, leaving his workmate far behind. He desperately needs to finish first or second to assure a spot in the Derby, but I think he can do it. As a note of interest, Always Dreaming is a half-brother to stakes winner Hot Dixie Chick, who was Rachel Alexandra’s paddock buddy for several years.
One Liner Todd Pletcher
Into Mischief—Cayala, by Cherokee Run
I wasn’t crazy about his work last week, so I watched his latest work with great interest. He breezed an OK half in :49 3/5, while on the inside and in front this time. But he seemed to finish up stronger than last time and galloped out strongly, so this was a step in the right direction. He hasn’t raced in a while and doesn’t have much mileage under him, having competed in two sprints, one of them last July, so he better get a lot of the Wood Memorial, which will be his final Kentucky Derby prep. He was flattered on Sunday when Hence, who finished 13 lengths behind him in the Southwest Stakes, won the rich Sunland Derby in impressive style by nearly four lengths in 1:48 flat. Like several of Pletcher’s Derby horses, we really don’t know much about this horse at all, other than he was impressive winning the 1 1/16-mile Southwest. But after his stablemate Malagacy went to Oaklawn and was just as impressive winning the Rebel Stakes, you have to wonder if these are both exceptional colts or if the competition at Oaklawn isn’t that strong, especially with the abrupt regression of the leading local horse Uncontested. But who knows, perhaps Hence’s performance helped provide a clue as to the answer.
Malagacy Todd Pletcher
Shackleford—Classiest Gem, by Dehere
It goes to show you that you can even find a good story among Todd Pletcher’s League of Extraordinary Horses. If Malagacy wins the Derby, you can head to Darby Dan Farm to visit his sire. But if you want to visit his mom you’ll have to figure out the best way of getting to Webster, Minnesota and make your way about 35 miles south of Minneapolis on I-35 to the 40-acre farm of Dean and Teresa Benson, who have operated the farm since 1974 and are among the leading breeders and sales consignors in the Gopher State every year. When their daughter, Michelle, a lifelong horse person who works in racing in advertising, took a liking to the 14-year-old mare Classiest Gem at the 2014 Keeneland November Sale, little did she know that the mare’s weanling colt selling first would become one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby. The other buyers certainly didn’t know it, letting the weanling go for $45,000 and allowing Michelle to “steal” Classiest Gem for a meager $17,000, in foal to Malagacy’s sire Shackleford. So for that modest price, they not only got the dam of an undefeated Kentucky Derby contender to join their five other mares, but eventually Malagacy’s full-sister, who they sold last year at the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association yearling sale, and a yearling half-brother by Revolutionary, who is still at the farm. And Classiest Gem is in foal to Distorted Humor. Although little Malagacy wasn’t the flashy sort at the time, Michelle couldn’t fault him and felt he was a horse who would improve with age. The fact that this “beautiful classy-looking” mare could produce such a correct colt, and knowing how much her father liked Shackleford as a racehorse, she figured, after he sold for only $45,000, she could walk away with a bargain. I’d say she was right.
Classic Empire Mark Casse
Pioneerof the Nile—Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief
At this point, it doesn’t really matter where I rank this horse. Some feel he shouldn’t be ranked at all because of his antics and how much time and training he has lost. When Casse sent him to Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala to work, he probably didn’t realize that the long term effects of that move could work wonders for the colt. You see, Winding Oaks Farm used to be Tartan Farm, and Classic Empire was breathing the same air as the legendary Dr. Fager, who is buried about a quarter of a mile from where he was working over hallowed ground. Also buried in the Tartan cemetery atop a hill behind a cedar tree and shaded by two oak trees and overlooking tranquil Lake Ta Wee are greats such as Ta Wee, Codex, Dr. Patches and foundation mares Aspidistra and Cequillo among many others. Yes, in a baffling year like this, and with an enigmatic horse like Classic Empire, I don’t mind venturing into the ethereal and bringing the Derby Dozen into some mystical realm. Why not? Once in a while it’s better to deviate off course than write the same “will he behave?” and “will he work?” comments ad nauseam. So, there ya go. Maybe the ghosts of Tartan Farm and the Good Doctor will possess Classic Empire and guide him to Churchill Downs mentally sound and physically at the peak of his game. Wait a second, come to think of it, the only horse John Nerud, the architect of the Tartan empire, ever ran in the Derby was Gallant Man, who lost by a nose when Bill Shoemaker misjudged the finish line 60 years ago almost to the day. Oops.
Guest Suite Neil Howard
Quality Road—Guest House, by Ghostzapper
Turned in another sharp breeze, going a half in :48 flat for Saturday’s Louisiana Derby. With the speedy Local Hero in the race, trainer Joe Sharp has entered a rabbit for Girvin, and that could not work out any better for Guest Suite, who can use all the help he can get after being 13 lengths back in the Risen Star Stakes and having way too much ground to make up. He still was beaten only 4 1/2 lengths and could make that up with the right pace scenario. With two flat-mile races at Churchill Downs and three two-turn races under him, he’s one of the few horses who has a ton of bottom and racing experience, and he has closed ground in all six of his starts, including his career debut going 5 1/2 furlongs, in which he made up four lengths in the final furlong against the likes of Wild Shot. He easily defeated Sunland Derby winner Hence in his two-turn debut, was a solid third behind McCraken in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes, broke his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs, and defeated Untrapped in the LeComte Stakes. So he definitely has the credentials. Like so many others he just needs to pick up valuable points on Saturday.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
I’m about to start off by getting a little crazy this week, but let’s just say I’m trying to put some pizzazz in the Santa Anita Derby. So I had to reach pretty deep into the forbidden recesses of my mind for this one. Just humor me.
The horse Iliad isn’t the only Iliad in this year’s Santa Anita Derby. We have racing’s version of Homer’s Iliad waiting to be played out. For years, Santa Anita during the Kentucky Derby season was like the ancient city of Troy -- well fortified, with massive walls to dissuade enemy forces. As a result, it seemed safe from attack and would repel all invaders. The hierarchy ruled, this time in the form of six-time Santa Anita Derby winner Bob Baffert and his second in command Doug O’Neill, with two victories. No one from foreign lands dared to attempt to infiltrate the fortress of Santa Anita, which had no fear of attack from the great ruler of the East, Todd Pletcher, who like the powerful conquerors of Greece, was content to control most of the world and leave Santa Anita alone.
But now, with King Baffert’s main warrior, Mastery, wounded in action, King Pletcher decided this was the perfect time to send his forces across the country and attack the once impenetrable walls of Santa Anita, which suddenly seemed vulnerable. That is the only conclusion as to his reason, as there is no one named Helen involved, and no reports of Baffert kidnapping Pletcher’s wife.
So, come April 8, Pletcher’s “Trojan Horse” will be dragged inside the walls of Santa Anita, and his “Battalion” will be released to create the same kind of havoc and destruction it does back East every year and finally conquer the kingdom of Baffert.
How will it turn out? Will Baffert’s new warrior, as inexperienced as he may be, prevail or will O’Neill, with his army commanded by the aptly named Iliad, step up and repel the invader? Or will Pletcher, like the Greeks, finally conquer Troy, uh, Santa Anita? Stay tuned as the drama is about to unfold.
Hopefully that wasn’t too painful, but at least I had fun with it.
For those wondering why THUNDER SNOW isn’t in the Top 12 after his gutsy victory over EPICHARIS in the UAE Derby, I need to sort out the horses running next weekend first and felt compelled to have Guest Suite and Always Dreaming in the Dozen on the assumption both will run well enough to earn a prominent spot next week. And I have plenty of time to absorb the UAE Derby and place him accordingly with six weeks to the Kentucky Derby. That also goes for third-place finisher MASTER PLAN. As of now it doesn’t appear likely that Epicharis will make the trip to Kentucky. It’s difficult separating these three horses. I was a fan of Thunder Snow after the UAE 2,000 Guineas, but had concerns about the 1 3/16-mile distance and the 13 post. When he got hung 4 to 5-wide on the first turn and was out in the middle of the track down the entire backstretch I thought he would be in trouble. But he ran his heart out to eke out a victory by the slimmest of margins, despite making several mistakes in the stretch.
He never did change leads in the UAE Guineas, but won in dominant fashion anyway. In the UAE Derby, he was very late switching, but did finally get on his right lead. Then in midstretch he turned his head in toward the infield as if gawking at something there. Then after being hit right-handed, he suddenly ducked sharply to the outside, obviously getting spooked by something, possibly the big infield screen, and jumped back to his left lead. He seemed to lose enough momentum to cost him the race, as Epicharis was not giving up. But he shifted back inside under another right-handed whip and switched back to his right lead. Despite being totally out of sync, running with high action, he made another surge at Epicharis and just got the bob on the wire.
What was most impressive was that Thunder Snow won despite his travails and racing almost a mile and quarter, having gone so wide. He sure has the bottom now, and we know he can win in a dogfight. And for what it’s worth, he is a gorgeous individual, with a great deal of class. Epicharis ran his heart out as well, setting all the pace, and also must be considered a serious contender in the Derby, even if just for the unknown factor. Last year we had a Japanese invader who was a plodder and this we have one who has early speed when he wants to use it. I don’t know what Pletcher’s plans are for Master Plan, but he was coming on strong at the end and slowly getting to the top two. He doesn’t have the strongest pedigree for a mile and a quarter, but that is moot after this race, and his tail-female family is pure stamina with English Derby winners Roberto and Nijinsky II.
Back in January I wrote this about HENCE: I have no idea how good the Steve Asmussen-trained Hence is, but if you want a real treat, watch his maiden victory at Oaklawn Park on January 16. If you’re looking for athleticism in a colt, watch the way the son of Street Boss ducked in badly for no apparent reason with the race won and somehow managed to dig his feet in the slippery slop at the last second to prevent him from crashing into or going over the rail. By the time he recovered he had been passed by fellow Calumet Farm colt Horse Fly in deep stretch, but somehow managed to level off and rally again, winning by three-quarters of a length. Despite all that, he still came home his last sixteenth is a quick :06 1/5. Again, there is no way of telling how good he is, but I can’t wait for him to run again.
Well he did run again and was beaten badly in the Southwest Stakes, 13 lengths behind One Liner, and was never in the race. His maiden win obviously was a fluke. But lo and behold, he showed at in the Sunland Derby and crushed his opponents at odds of 10-1, winning by 3 3/4 lengths in a sharp 1:48 flat and was very impressive doing it. The horses he beat obviously were not of the caliber he’ll be facing, but the bottom line is he is in the Kentucky Derby.
Most times, when a trainer tells you he’s high on his Kentucky Derby hopeful, you take it with the proverbial grain of salt. If he tells you he’s very high on his horse you might take him more seriously, depending on who the trainer is. But when Chad Brown tells you he’s “very very high” on his horse, that’s when you raise your eyebrows and really take notice. That second “very” is big. Well, those are the exact words Brown used when asked what he thought of CLOUD COMPUTING. Brown explained on the internet call-in show “Switching Leads,” which I was thrilled to co-host with Dina Alborano and Jonathan Stettin, that Cloud Computing was one of his best 2-year-olds, but suffered a small chip in his ankle, and they had to be patient with him and clean it up, which delayed his career debut until February 11, putting him way behind the other 3-year-olds. When he won impressively going six furlongs, they made an ambitious decision to run him back in only three weeks in the Gotham Stakes against the top-class El Areeb and J Boys Echo.
“He was jumping out of his skin after his maiden win,” Brown said. “We had some reservations, but we wanted to learn what we had, so we were forced to play the hand we were dealt. We knew he was extremely talented.”
After finishing an excellent second in the Gotham, finishing 7 1/2 lengths ahead of 2-5 El Areeb, despite being too close to the lead, Cloud Computing now likely will take another huge step forward in the Wood Memorial. If he runs another big race, would Brown be concerned sending him to the Kentucky Derby off only three lifetime starts? “He deserves the chance to buck history, and we know he has tremendous stamina,” he said. “Right now he seems to be dragging us to the Derby.”
Some may feel that Cloud Computing should be in the Top 12 after his second in the Gotham, but as a traditionalist, I feel it is asking a lot of a young horse to run in the Derby off only three lifetime starts, and while others have tried it I need to wait until the Wood Memorial, where he will face quality horses, such as One Liner and Mo Town, and El Areeb again, before I have enough confidence to move him into the Dozen. Big Brown won the Derby off only three starts, but he was a total freak running against a very weak group, and Curlin did finish third behind Street Sense and Hard Spun, although well-beaten after encountering some traffic problems. If Cloud Computing bears any resemblance to Big Brown and Curlin after the Wood I admit it will be difficult to leave him off. He enhanced his reputation with a very sharp 5-furlong drill in a bullet 1:00 2/5, fastest of 36 works at the distance. Actually, make that a very very sharp drill.
IRISH WAR CRY had his long-awaited first work since his Fountain of Youth debacle, and he worked well enough in company with Dancing Rags, breezing 5 furlongs in 1:01. He broke off right behind Dancing Rags and was under a stiff rein early, but then pulled back, dropping about two lengths off his workmate. He collared him at the top of the stretch and they ran together down the lane, with Irish War Cry’s rider showing him the whip at the eighth pole. He hit the wire about a neck in front, and then Dancing Rags got in front of him on the gallop out. It was a solid enough first work back, but he has only one more work before the Wood Memorial, and the question is whether these two works will have primed for a big rebound effort. The fact is, no one has any idea how he’s going to run. The ideal scenario would be to see him rate kindly and come home fast. If he can do that, even a second-place finish would be a big step in the right direction.
I had to drop MO TOWN again this week to make room for others, but he could make his way back on before the Wood Memorial if he has a good work. His last two works were a bit odd, as he was being asked pretty good two works back and didn’t come home particularly fast, and in his last work, five furlongs in 1:02, his rider pulled the whip out of his back pocket around the eighth pole, but didn’t use it, and then really set the horse down after the wire, giving him a little smack with the whip around the turn, while continuing to ride him hard into the backstretch. I have to admit I have no idea how to interpret this work, nor do I have any idea what to expect from Mo Town, my one-time No. 3 ranked horse, in the Wood. I would love to see him bounce back into Derby contention, because I still feel the talent is there, and for now I’ll listen to John Velazquez, who said he couldn’t handle the track at Fair Grounds, which is kind of unusual. Like a number of the other contenders he’s having only two prep races and blew one of them, so he has to do something special in the Wood Memorial.
Although many will dismiss him because his only stakes victory came in the John Battaglia Memorial on Polytrack, it might not be wise to overlook IT’S YOUR NICKEL in the Blue Grass Stakes, especially after the son of Dialed In breezed a half in a bullet :47 2/5 at Keeneland, fastest of nine works at the distance. Trainer Kenny McPeek then gave him an easier work, breezing him 5 furlongs in 1:02 3/5. In his last three starts, he has won on grass at Saratoga, dirt at Fair Grounds, and synthetic at Turfway Park. And in the Battaglia he unleashed an explosive move to blow by WEBN Stakes winner EN HANSE and quickly draw off to win by 6 1/2 lengths.
En Hanse came back in the Spiral Stakes and tired badly in a race won by his stablemate, 24-1 shot FAST AND ACCURATE, who had broken his maiden for a $30,000 claiming tag two races back, but won a small sprint stakes on grass at Gulfstream in his last start. The son of Hansen, owned by the one and only Dr. Kendall Hansen, scored by three-quarters of a length over Kenny McPeek’s recent Oaklawn Park maiden winner BLUERIDGE TRAVELER, a 35-1 shot. It took Dr. Hansen about three seconds to declare Fast and Accurate a supplementary Kentucky Derby starter at a cost of $200,000. You remember Dr. Hansen, a pain management physician from Northern Kentucky, with the blue tail controversy and his bevy of beautiful office employees who paraded around Churchill Downs with him as his entourage, decked out in blue skin-tight strapless dresses and blue tails. Perhaps this year’s Derby can use racing’s P.T. Barnum to spice it up a little. But no attempts this time to paint his horse’s tail blue. Let the fun begin.
In the Rushaway Stakes on the undercard, we had another son of Dialed In join the likes of Gunnevera and It’s Your Nickel as 3-year-old stakes winners when 17-1 MONTU, who tired badly in the John Battaglia Memorial, went wire-to-wire this time, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over 70-1 megabomb CAPTURE THE GLORY.
An impressive allowance victory to catch up on was the 2 1/2-length score at Oaklawn by the Wayne Lukas-trained WARRIOR’S CLUB, who rebounded off a dreadful performance in the Southwest Stakes, covering the one mile in 1:37 2/5.
On the work tab was Florida Derby hopeful THREE RULES, who turned in as good a work as I saw this week, going 5 furlongs in 1:00 2/5 alone and doing it very easily with his ears up and the rider high in the saddle. He was very strong on the gallop-out and galloped out a long way. And he is going to take the field a long way on Saturday. Also on the tab was STATE OF HONOR, who worked alone in :48 1/5. One of this year’s biggest disappointments NO DOZING breezed a half in :49 3/5. Maybe he just needs to get away from Tampa Bay.
Bob Baffert’s recent maiden winner WEST COAST, on whom he has been very high, turned in a blistering five-furlong work in a bullet :58 4/5, fastest of 34 works at the distance and then came back with a sharp 6-furlong move in 1:12 3/5. Also working at Santa Anita was BATTLE OF MIDWAY, who went his 5 panels in :59 4/5. GORMLEY, a big disappointment in the San Felipe, breezed 3 furlongs in :37. The last two are headed for the Santa Anita Derby.
Here is the way the Santa Anita Derby field is shaping up – Battalion Runner, Iliad, American Anthem, Gormley, Sonneteer, Reach the World, Battle of Midway, So Conflated, Term of Art, Kimbear, Midnight Pleasure, Sorry Erik, and Milton Freewater,
EL AREEB, who is looking for redemption in the Wood Memorial after his disappointing effort in the Gotham Stakes at 2-5, was back on the work tab at Laurel, breezing a half in :49 2/5 in company. Trainer Cathal Lynch put him in behind horses this time breaking off two or three lengths behind his two workmates and he finished up well, coming home a little stronger than they did. Lynch said he wanted to make sure jockey Trevor McCarthy felt the horse relaxing for him and give him the feel of a race scenario and have him on the horse to know how he felt.
A few other works of interest, LOCAL HERO breezed a half in :49 3/5 for the Louisiana Derby, WILD SHOT breezed a half in :49 1/5 at Payson Park, while over at Oaklawn Park, UNTRAPPED breezed a half in :51 2/5 coming off his third-place finish in the Rebel Stakes, while LOOKIN AT LEE, sixth in the Rebel, breezed his half in :52.
On the injury front, MASTERY’S surgery to repair a condylar fracture looks to have gone very well, and BEASLEY, who recently had a chip removed from his ankle following the Tampa Bay Derby also is doing very well, as one can see by a video posted on Twitter of him frolicking about in his stall. Expect to see him back later in the year.