Horse racing: Pompay looking forward to Currency Swap's return Friday
Kentucky Derby contenders already have begun to fall by the wayside.
Currency Swap, meanwhile, finally is poised to jump onto the Road to Louisville — perhaps.
The undefeated Grade I Hopeful winner, trained by Saratoga Springs native Terri Pompay, is set to make his comeback from surgery in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Friday.
If all goes well, Pompay and owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence will take a hard look at one of the final prominent Derby preps, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Blue Grass at Keeneland or Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
“We’ll take it race by race,” Pompay said by phone on Monday
afternoon, after having attended the Ocala Breeders Sales races in Florida. “If the horse tells us he’s ready, we’ll consider the Kentucky Derby. If not, we’ll skip it and go to the Preakness.”
Currency Swap staked his claim as one of the top 2-year-olds of 2011 when he gave Pompay, a 1979 Saratoga Central Catholic High graduate, the first Grade I victory of her career by winning the Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 5.
He was pointing toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but was sidelined by a minor chip in his ankle in October.
He returned to light training this winter and has been breezing steadily at Gulfstream Park, most recently a 1:11.40 for six furlongs out of the gate on Saturday that has Pompay in high anticipation of a race.
Currency Swap, who broke his maiden by six lengths at Saratoga before winning the Hopeful, was nominated to the Broad Brush at Aqueduct and was considered for the Private Terms at Laurel Park on Saturday, but Gulfstream wrote a one-turn dirt race that fit the bill, so they decided to stay in Florida.
What they hadn’t anticipated was that trainer Todd Pletcher would also see that race as a good spot to give the undefeated Gemologist, a WinStar Farm Derby prospect, his 3-year-old debut.
Gemologist will break from the rail, and Currency Swap has the No. 3 post under Rajiv Maragh in the short field of five.
“The race came up a tougher than we wanted it to, but that’s OK,” Pompay said. “I have a lot of respect for Todd’s horse. I expect Gemologist will go out of there like a bat out of hell, and we’ll run our race. If we’re second, we’re second, but that won’t deter us. It’s almost like a match race.”
Currency Swap’s work on Saturday was an eye-opener, Pompay said, not because of the time, but because of how easily he did it.
With Maragh aboard, the High Cotton colt trained with two other horses and blew up the rail, covering the final half-mile in under 47 seconds on Pompay’s stopwatch.
Various clockers had him anywhere from slightly above 1:11 to sub-1:10, she said.
“I knew right away that it was time to wake him up,” Pompay said. “He did it smooth. He didn’t even drink a full bucket of water afterwards. His nose wasn’t even moving. I expected him to work well, but he exceeded my expectations. I was astounded. He’s an amazing horse, a freak. I’ve never been around a horse like this.”
Another encouraging sign was the fact that Trinniberg won the seven-furlong Grade III Swale so convincingly at Gulfstream on Saturday.
On a sloppy, sealed track at Saratoga, Currency Swap caught Trinniberg and won by three-quarters of a length in the Hopeful.
“That flattered us,” Pompay said of the Swale. “It goes to show you how the track at Saratoga was a sea of sludge and glue.
“We’re behind the eight-ball to get to the Derby, but on the other hand, a lot of the others could be getting tired. It happens every year. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but it’s a long 3-year-old season, and we’d like to have a nice horse to take to Saratoga.”
One of trainer Bob Baffert’s Derby prospects, Fed Biz, fell off the Derby trail before he was really even on it. On Monday, Baffert told the Daily Racing Form that Fed Biz was still having problems with a hind leg that kept him out of Sunday’s San Felipe.
ANIMAL KINGDOM HURT
Team Valor’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will miss the Dubai World Cup after developing lameness in his left hind leg over the weekend at Palm Meadows.
It’s the same leg he injured in the wake of the Belmont Stakes last June, for which he underwent surgery.
“This is a crushing blow for our company and our partners, as well as our trainer, who has done such a great job getting the horse back to this point,” managing partner Barry Irwin said in a Team Valor release. “If he comes out of this OK, hopefully, we can run in the World Cup in 2013.”
Animal Kingdom was lame after working five furlongs on Saturday, his first serious drill since he won a turf allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 18, his first start since the Belmont.