In the Money

Horse racing insight that's loose on the lead

Revolutionary, Mylute set to duel again in the Derby

March 31st, 2013

Louisiana Derby stretch battle heroes Revolutionary, winner, and Mylute will head to Churchill Downs soon for the Kentucky Derby.

Revolutionary, trained by Todd Pletcher, left Fair Grounds at 8:30 a.m. to return to South Florida to continue training. derby 2

“We’re going to head right to Louisville,” said trainer Tom Amoss about Mylute, who lost by a neck. “I’m still not exactly sure what our plans are when we get there, but our horse ran a huge race yesterday and we’re very proud of him. He came out of the race just fine.”

Lightly-raced Ground Transport, fifth in the Grade 2 race, is still maturing.

“He’s just about three months behind where he should be right now, but once he gets some experience, we’ll have a real nice horse for the summer,” trainer Michael Stidham said.

Pam Fitzgerald, assistant to trainer Al Stall Jr., spoke about Louisiana Derby third-place finisher Departing and eighth-place runner Sunbean.

“They’re fine today,” she said. “Sunbean got absolutely slammed a couple of times yesterday but he seems to be alright.”


Florida Derby runners emerge from race in good order

March 31st, 2013

Reports from connections of the top finishers in Saturday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby indicate the runners emerged from the race, won by Orb, in good order.

Orb, who notched his fourth straight win with the victory, will remain at his home base of Payson Park for “at least a week,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. derby 2

McGaughey said all was well with the son of Malibu Moon Sunday morning.

“I’m kind of surprised how well he bounced out of his race, to tell you the truth,” McGaughey said.

John Velazquez, Orb’s main pilot, must now decide between the Florida Derby winner and unbeaten Verrazano, who runs in the Wood Memorial on April 6 for trainer Todd Pletcher.

If Velazquez chooses Verrazano, McGaughey will be scouting for a new jockey for the current Derby points leader.

“We’re going to have to wait until next week,” McGaughey said about the decision. “It’s not a problem. I knew going in.”

Itsmyluckyday, runner-up to Orb in the Florida Derby, was “110 percent” Sunday morning at his Calder base according to trainer Eddie Plesa.

“I believe he has the points (50) to get into the (Kentucky) Derby,” Plesa said. “I haven’t thought a lot about when we’ll take him up there (Churchill Downs), but I’d imagine probably about a week before.”

“I really wanted to win the Florida Derby. It would have meant so much to me and the other owners, but I was very pleased with his race and Orb was the best horse Saturday. As important as Saturday’s race was to us, it wasn’t the ultimate goal.

“I had my reasons to give him the 60-plus days between the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby and I still wouldn’t change anything with having made that decision. It may have made some difference in how he ran Saturday, but it was just a stepping stone.”

Trainer Bob Hess said Merit Man, third in the Florida Derby, would not target the Kentucky Derby.

“He’s great this morning,” said Hess. “I’m really proud of him. He got beat by two very good horses. He had a good winter here and he will go to New York from here. There are a number of options we’ll consider like the Peter Pan, which is a one-turn, mile-and-an-eighth at Belmont Park, the Woody Stephens, or even the Preakness could be a possibility.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sunday morning that Shanghai Bobby came out of this fifth-place finish in the Florida Derby in good order. The 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion has only 26 points and likely would need more points to qualify for the Derby.


West Hills Giant to miss Wood

March 30th, 2013

From New York Racing Association

West Hills Giant, second to Vyjack in the Gotham, will miss the Wood Memorial due to a respiratory infection that caused him to miss a workout.

“He was due to work today,” said Tonja Terranova, who assists her husband, trainer John Terranova. “He scoped dirty after his last work (March 24) and missed a couple of days. It was in his best interests to   skip this work.”

Terranova said West Hills Giant, a New York-bred son of Frost Giant who is 2-1-1 from six career starts, could possibly make his next start in the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 13 or the Grade 3 Lexington on April 20 at Keeneland Race Course.



In the Money: Analysis of the Florida Derby

March 30th, 2013

Analysis of Saturday’s Florida Derby at 1 1/8-miles, a Kentucky Derby points race.

1. Shanghai Bobby (R. Napravnik/T. Pletcher) (5-2) – The 2-year-old champ is back and in an unenviable spot at the rail considering the same slot forced his tactics in the Holy Bull. The waters are even deeper now with the improving Orb on the scene. He’s classy enough to factor, but this distance could be a challenge for him.

2. Pick of the Litter (J. Castanon/D. Romans) (6-1) – Maiden winner makes major class jump, but don’t blame Romans for giving it a shot after that impressive romp over the strip at 1 1/8-miles. A peculiar Kitten’s Joy, he seems to prefer dirt over turf. Great pedigree for long distances and he and Orb are the only runners with wins at this distance.

3. Itsmyluckyday (E. Trujillo/E. Plesa) (2-1) – Deserved favorite adores this track (2 for 2) and an added sixteenth doesn’t look to pose an issue. Interesting to note he’s been racing consistently over the past four months before this two-month respite since the Holy Bull. The last time he came off a two-month layoff, he finished sixth in the Delta Jackpot. Tough to determine, however, if that was a surface preference. Still, he’s making his 10th start and must resist the temptations of speedy Merit Man.

4. Pontiff (A. Garcia/D. Romans) (30-1) – Intriguing fellow has yet to break his maiden, but on pure pedigree alone – he’s a half-brother to Pulpit by Giant’s Causeway – he merits watching for the future when he has more experience, particularly on turf.

5. Frac Daddy (C. Lanerie/K. McPeek) (20-1) – McPeek says talented colt is over his issues, and the extra week after bypassing the Spiral is to his benefit. He has the look of a sprint-to-middle distance runner who might need a race to get back on track.

6. Orb (J. Velazquez/S. McGaughey) (3-1) – So much to like about the Fountain of Youth champ, including the distance and apparent pace scenario. Merit Man could set it up for another closing rush, and Velazquez will bide his time. McGaughey said he’s over the gate issues that hampered his early efforts and he’s mentally doing well going into the race. He’ll take a lot of play in this advantageous spot but has more appeal than the morning line favorite.

7. Indy’s Illusion (B. Tagg/R. Maragh) (20-1) – Long shot with some positives, including a lot of experience at this distance (three starts, a second and third), he beat Frac Daddy when he broke his maiden and was third behind Orb on this track. Last work was a very leisurely four furlongs in :52, but his overall work pattern is hit or miss. Key third off layoff race for Tagg; exotics add for price. A win would bring vindication to much-maligned 2012 Remsen, in which he finished fifth.

8. Merit Man (K. Desormeaux.B. Hess) (15-1) – Speedy colt is key to the pace scenario of the test, and Hess lays out the plan to be on the lead. The blinkers off will aid his cause, but wiring this field at 1 1/8-miles would be quite an accomplishment. He’s yet to run beyond seven furlongs, but if he gets taken off tactic, he’s won from off the pace previously.

9. Are You Kidding Me (J. Lezcano/R. Attfield) (15-1) – Appealing long shot is a son of Run Away and Hide trying dirt for the first time, and he’s trained very well over it at Payson Park. Splendid effort to just miss against the classy Noble Tune in a mile turf allowance. His pedigree isn’t stamina-laden, but there’s some distance runners on the dam side. Only drawback is the post.

10. Narvaez (A. Bezara/P. Lopez) (20-1) – Valiant effort off the layoff to dead-heat with Declan’s Warrior, and he showed major improvement in that 3-year-old debut. He hasn’t been facing the tougher competition like many of the rivals in this test, and the far outside post doesn’t help the cause.

Top pick: 6) Orb

Longshots to consider for exotics: 9) Are You Kidding Me, 7) Indy’s Illusion



In the Money: Value plays of the Louisiana Derby

March 30th, 2013

Is Revolutionary a beatable favorite? Code West is also an interesting Risen Star returnee. Here are some intriguing exotics plays for Saturday’s Louisiana Derby, a Kentucky Derby points race.

(7) Departing (B. Hernandez/A. Stall) (8-1) Is he one of the top 3-year-olds in Louisiana? This undefeated colt finally gets his class test here in his first graded stakes try. On paper, he fits in well among this group despite the fact he’s lightly-raced. He boasts an advantageous running style for the likely pace scenario, plus Hernandez is a solid tactical rider, particularly at Fair Grounds. By War Front and out of a Pulpit mare, he boasts the top Tomlinson distance rating of the field at 410 according to the Daily Racing Form.

(9) Proud Strike (C. Nakatani/S. Asmussen) (10-1) Inside post forced his position in the Risen Star, as jockey Gary Stevens hustled him to an early lead before he faded to eighth. He didn’t look comfortable in that spot, and he’s come from off the pace in his other races. Although his ideal post would be outside, post three is a better slot and Nakatani could put him in a prime position behind the pace. He’s a risk as his best accomplishment remains a maiden win, but tough to believe last out was his best effort. Asmussen is on a tear of late at Fair Grounds, finishing in the money in 7 of 10 races since Wednesday.

(4) Golden Soul (C. Borel/D. Stewart) (20-1) On a ledge here, but can’t overlook the jockey switch back to Borel, the rider from his memorable debut at Churchill Downs. He broke poorly and spotted the 10-horse field several lengths before rallying, dirt flying in his face, to narrowly lose. This scenario might be to his liking in contrast to the Risen Star, in which he rode the rail until swerving out to make his move and falling short. He hit the board in his other three races, one a Grade 3 (Lecomte), so these odds are worth a play in an exotics box.


Update: Kentucky Derby hopefuls eye future preps

March 29th, 2013

Here’s the most up-to-date list of Derby hopefuls and which race they are targeting as filed by the Churchill Downs press office, with total Derby points in parenthesis.

WOOD MEMORIAL – Verrazano (50), Vyjack (50), West Hills Giant (20), Elnaawi (10), Normandy Invasion (4), Always in a Tiz (2), Quinzieme Monarque (1), Freedom Child (0), Mr Palmer (0).

SANTA ANITA DERBY – Hear the Ghost (50), Flashback (30), Goldencents (29), Power Broker (10), Super Ninety Nine (10), Tiz a Minister (10), Cerro-IRE (0), Storm Fighter (0).

ARKANSAS DERBY – Oxbow (36), Den’s Legacy (20), Falling Sky (20), Overanalyze (10), Texas Bling (9), Dewey Square (2), Heaven’s Runaway (2), Demonic (0) and War Academy (0).

BLUE GRASS – Will Take Charge (60), Uncaptured (30), Java’s War (22), West Hills Giant (20), Dynamic Sky (13), Speak Logistics (11), Tiz aMinister (10), Taken by the Storm (5), Dewey Square (2), Balance the Books (0), Bambazonki (0), Charming Kitten (0), Crop Report (0), Demonic (0), Footbridge (0), Noble Tune (0), Rydilluc (0) and Undrafted (0). Not Triple Crown Nominated: Up With the Birds (0).


Friday update: U.S. hopefuls in Dubai World Cup

March 29th, 2013

The latest update on U.S. hopefuls in the Dubai World Cup from the Dubai Racing Club

Animal Kingdom – After watching Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom eagerly gallop about 2600 metres on the all-weather track, trainer Graham Motion said, “He was on his toes again today. I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Animal Kingdom has proven his ability on dirt, turf and all-weather surfaces in the United States and Motion said his assistant and exercise rider Alice Clapham “has been very pleased with how he handles this track.”

Dullahan – Donegal Racing’s Dullahan galloped about 2400 metres on the all-weather track and visited the starting gate for a schooling session during which he was well mannered. Assistant trainer and exercise rider Tammy Fox said the striking chestnut has been getting stronger in his work this week and is coming into Saturday’s race just the way trainer Dale Romans feels will lead to his best effort.

“I’m very pleased with him. He’s peaking at the right time,” said Fox.

Royal Delta – Two-time American champion Royal Delta galloped about 2200 metres on the all-weather track and then went to the starting gate for a schooling session.

“We’re pleased,” said trainer Bill Mott. “Everything has gone very smoothly with her here.”

Mott said he has discussed race strategy with jockey Mike Smith, and while he declined to share what they are planning, it is widely speculated that Royal Delta will use her speed out of post eight to gain a prominent early position.


Turfway aftercare program donates $13,740 to racehorse adoption agencies

March 28th, 2013

Turfway Park press release

Four racehorse adoption agencies went home from the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati
Spiral Stakes Saturday with checks totaling $13,740 from the Turfway Aftercare Program (TAP), a joint funding effort by Turfway Park and owners who race their horses at the Northern Kentucky track.

TAP collects one dollar from racehorse owners for each horse they start at Turfway. At year’s end Turfway matches the donation, and the fund is divided among partner agencies based on
the number of “Turfway horses” each took into its program during the calendar year. A “Turfway horse” either ran its final race at Turfway or was stabled at Turfway at the time it was sent to an agency. The program works with agencies either based in Kentucky or that have Kentucky satellite locations.

Altogether, 34 “Turfway horses” were transitioned from the track in 2012 by the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, New Vocations, Second Stride, and CANTER Kentucky. The agencies work to rehabilitate and retrain the horses and/or transition them into second careers as show horses or trail and companion horses.

“Winter slows down adoptions but increases all related care and feed bills, so getting funding in March really makes a huge difference,” said Kim Smith, founder and executive director of Second Stride in Prospect, Ky. “Our fundraisers don’t gear up until April when people are getting Derby fever, and the major Thoroughbred-related grants start to pay out in May and June. So the Turfway donation is a ray of sunlight for sure.

“We always make sure we have enough money to properly care for and feed the horses we have, so when funding dips and expenses increase, we have to restrict the intake of new horses—right at the time many trainers are wanting to retire older runners,” Smith continued. “Thanks to the educational push and prominence of [the aftercare issue] trainers are retiring older runners sooner. They’re ready to replace older horses with 2-year-olds coming from the training farms. So we need money to get these older fellows off the track now, not two months from now.”

The Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association worked with Turfway Park management to define contributions to the opt-out program. TAP wrote its first checks to adoption agencies last year for horses accepted in 2011, but 2012 marks the program’s first full year of funding. The program was launched in mid-2011, and while Turfway made its own contribution retroactive to the meet that began January 1, owners’ contributions did not begin until the race meets held in September and December. In 2012, contributions from owners and the track both commenced January 1, the start of the winter/spring meet.

Agencies that received TAP funds for 2011 and 2012 met standards established by the track and the Safety and Integrity Alliance, an industry organization that accredits racetracks. Going forward, TAP partner agencies must also be accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA). Broadly supported across the racing industry, the TAA was founded in early 2012 to confirm agency compliance with standards addressing operations, education, horse management including euthanasia policies, facility services, adoption policies, and status as recognized charitable organizations.

Turfway has been accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance since its inception in 2009. Turfway’s own efforts to assist trainers in transitioning racehorses off the track began a year earlier with the establishment of a surrender stall program. Provided certain conditions are met, the surrender stall program gives owners the option to leave a horse in Turfway’s care while the track arranges placement
with one of its partner agencies. In practice, most owners instead continue to pay their trainers to keep a retiring horse in familiar surroundings while placement arrangements are made.

“While we keep the surrender stall ready, we’re more and more seeing trainers retire horses in good time and take the initiative to contact agencies on their own,” said Turfway Park general
manager Chip Bach. “The agencies also send volunteers to the track to educate trainers and keep them aware of their options. The entire racing industry depends on the wellbeing of the horse, and we are proud to partner with these groups and to help fund their efforts.”


Kentucky Derby Daily: March 28

March 28th, 2013

Borel and Always in a Tiz ready for Wood

Always in a Tiz continues to prepare for the Wood Memorial on April 6, and he will have a new jockey in Calvin Borel.

Borel was recently named to ride the son of Tiznow, who was fifth in the Southwest Stakes over a sloppy track. Always in a Tiz bypassed the Rebel and instead returned to the stable of trainer Dominick Schettino to prepare for the Wood. derby 2

“Anthony Bonomo, Jr., who is the racing manager for MeB Stables, and I discussed it before making the decision,” said Schettino of the move to Borel, whose last appearance at Aqueduct came in 2010, when he was second on Jackson Bend in the Wood Memorial and second on Hurricane Ike in the Bay Shore. “He knows how to win the big races and he knows how to win the Derby.”

Always in a Tiz went five furlongs in 1:03.35 on the Belmont Park training track on Thursday.

How the Wood field is shaping up

Probables for the Wood: Verrazano, Vyjack, Elnaawi, Mr. Palmer, Normandy Invasion, Always in a Tiz, Freedom Child, West Hills Giant, Quienzieme Monarque.

Late bloomer Mr. Palmer is finding his stride

Some interesting insight on Mr. Palmer from NYRA notes:

After failing to distinguish himself in his first four starts, Michael Lauffer and Gregory McDonald’s Mr Palmer has improved vastly since joining Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s New York string and will enter the Wood Memorial on a two-race winning streak.

Soundly beaten in four starts in Kentucky, Mr Palmer finished second by three-quarters of a length in his New York debut, a maiden special weight on Aqueduct’s inner track on December 15. He made an early move along the backstretch when he broke his maiden by a neck on February 17 at the Big A, then employed an outside charge from the back of the pack to win Laurel Park’s Private Terms by 3 ½ lengths on March 9.

“I didn’t see him for two months, and he’s changed from when he first arrived from Churchill,” said Leana Willaford, assistant to Mott. “He’s mentally and physically matured a lot. He’s an attractive horse and a good mover, and as it turned out he’s going to be [a good horse]. He’s made a steady progression almost every start. Some horses just take a little longer.”

Junior Alvarado has ridden Mr Palmer in his past three starts and will have the assignment once again the Wood. Willaford said Alvarado’s patient riding style suits Mr Palmer well.

“Whatever the reasons are, [Mr Palmer] has a tendency to be a little flat-footed [at the start],” said Willaford. “Your best move is to let him get himself together and make a run like what Junior did with him last time. He ended up seven wide the other day, but he understands it takes a little to get the horse running. He has to get comfortable with himself, and he takes a little bit of riding. With those types you don’t want to be tapping on the breaks.”

Rebel winner back on track

Rebel winner Will Take Charge posted his first work since that race on Thursday at Oaklawn.

The D. Wayne Lukas trainee went four furlongs in :49.20.

Also on the worktab was another Lukas Derby hopeful, Oxbow, who worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:16.00.

Connections discuss Florida Derby contenders

Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr., on Itsmyluckyday: “I’ve got a horse that could not be feeling any better. He’s just tearing down the barn. He’s a very, very happy horse. He’s been away from the races for a little while and hasn’t missed a day of training, hasn’t missed a work. How do I feel? If I’d have known it would have gone this smooth, I would have been so happy.”

“I don’t want any extenuating circumstances to come in the way of everybody’s best race. I just want everybody to have a fair shot. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my horse, as I’m sure as everybody else does, and I don’t want anything to come in the way of it.”

“I just want the best horse to win. I don’t want anybody to have to come out of that race – me, Todd, Shug or any of the others in the race – and say, ‘This happened to me; that happened to me. I just want everybody to have a fair shot at the race.”

Starlight Racing’s Jack Wolf on Shanghai Bobby: “I think from a numbers standpoint the Holy Bull was his best race. I think we got sort of the worst of the track and the pace scenario and got stuck in the one hole. Having said that, I give credit to the horse that beat us, Itsmyluckyday. He certainly has shown in his last two races that he’s the horse to beat as far as I’m concerned. We were pleased with how Shanghai Bobby ran and how he’s been training.”

““There’s not much we can do at this point, the trainer’s got the horse ready and the horse is going to do his own speaking. It’s exciting for me and our partners to compete at these levels, so hopefully he shows up and has a good race. The main thing is to get here and hopefully be lucky enough to have a good trip and win the race.”

“He’s never been much of a work horse in the morning, but he’s shown up in every one of his races, even though he lost his last race. He’s progressed along; Todd likes the fitness level that he’s got him to at this point. He’s carrying good flesh, his coat looks good, his energy level is good and we’re pretty excited.”

Agustin Bezara on Narvaez: (Comparing to Bezara’s Reveron) “They’re different types of horses, but they both have a lot of class,” Bezara said through interpreter Isaac Jiminez. “Reveron was more of a stalker and this horse is more of a come-from-behind horse.”

“From the beginning I knew he was a good horse, but he’s had some ups and downs. In his last race, he sent me a message and told me he was ready to run.”

“This will be the first time at the distance, but he’s well-bred to go the distance. He’s out of a daughter of Unbridled. He should handle it.”