Horse racing: Pletcher’s crowd of Derby contenders set to work
With rain forecast in Louisville for this afternoon into Sunday, most of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses will have their final breezes pushed up to this morning at Churchill Downs.
Among them will be the battalion of horses trained by Todd Pletcher, although Winning Cause will wait until Sunday or Monday because he just ran in the Lexington last Saturday.
That work should determine whether Winning Cause, owned by Alto Racing, will run in the Derby next Saturday.
“Right now, the plan is to work Palace Malice and Overanalyze together, and Revolutionary and Charming Kitten will go together,” Pletcher told the Churchill Downs press office on Friday.
He said Wood Memorial winner Verrazano would work with the filly Authenticity, who is pointing toward the La Troienne.
With five and potentially six horses to juggle for the Derby, Pletcher said he is treating the lead-up to the Run for the Roses like he would with any of his horses.
The record for Derby starters in a single year is five, which he equaled in 2007. Nick Zito did it in 2005, and D. Wayne Lukas was the first, with five in 1996, including the winner, Grindstone.
Pletcher had four starters the year he won it, with Super Saver in 2010.
“Obviously, everything and everyone’s under more of a microscope during this time, and you’re watching the horses very, very carefully and hoping that things go well,” Pletcher said on Tuesday during a national teleconference. “But really, one of the things that, if you’re not careful, you can get lost in is trying to do something differently for the horses that are running in the Derby than you would for horses that are running in other races.
“We focus on not getting carried away, not trying to be cute, not trying to do anything differently, but just focus on what has got these horses successfully to this point and trying to continue on that path.”
Pletcher’s Oaks fillies are Dreaming of Julia, Unlimited Budget, Silsita and Princess of Sylmar, who is owned by 1967 Linton High School grad Ed Stanco of New Jersey.
She is on the fence for the Oaks because Pletcher is still trying to determine if she’ll like the Churchill Downs surface, so they’ll make an adjustment in her workout this morning.
Last weekend, she posted a 48.60 for four furlongs, the sixth fastest of 62 at the distance that day, but didn’t really take to the inside of the track while working in company with Fusaichiswonderful.
Princess of Sylmar, second in the Gazelle by 3 3/4 lengths to Close Hatches, will work in company again today, but on the outside of another horse.
“It can be cuppy, and if she doesn’t take to it, we’ll skip the Oaks and go to the Black Eyed Susan,” Stanco said Friday morning. “She was on the inside, and as Todd said, she was sort of spinning her wheels.
“He sees things we don’t see. But she’s gained weight, and when the track is sloppy, she handles it. We’re not sure if she has a legitimate shot of beating Dreaming of Julia, but I say it’s like tuning a piano. If everything’s perfect and you’re ready to go, there’s only 11 in the race, she can run her race and have a legitimate shot. It’s truly a game of inches.”
The combination of owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Mike Maker and jockey Rosario proved nearly unbeatable at the Keeneland spring meet, which concluded on Friday.
The Ramseys’ 25 wins shattered the meet record of 12 wins by an owner during any Keeneland meet, spring or fall.
The Ramseys’ win in the closing-day Grade II Elkhorn, by Black Cove, marked their eighth graded stakes victory.
Maker’s 25 wins was also a record for a Keeneland meet, beating the 22 by D. Wayne Lukas in 1989.
Rosario broke the record for the spring meet with 38 victories. Pat Day holds the overall record of 45 wins, in the fall of 1991.
The Belmont Park-philic Flat Out will try to win another graded stake there, albeit at a shorter distance than he prefers, in the one-mile Grade III Westchester today.
The two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner also won the Suburban at Belmont in 2011.
Cross Traffic, undefeated in two starts, is the lukewarm favorite on the morning line, at 5-2, in his stakes debut.
The eight-horse field also includes Rattlesnake Bridge, the 2011 Travers runner-up who is making his second start since missing all of 2012; Big Screen, 2-1-0 from three starts this season; and the inconsistent Pants On Fire.
Churchill Downs opens with a night card, which means the Grade III Derby Trial post time will be 10:42 p.m. The field includes Titletown Five, owned in part by NFL Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, in a last-ditch effort to qualify for the Derby.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Last Saturday’s Charles Town Classic, won by Game On Dude in 1:52.27, was re-timed by hand this week.
As a result, the official fractions for the race will be recorded as :24.12, :47.43, 1:11.32, 1:37.10, with a final time of 1:49.93.
It appears that the original timing was off because one of the timing beams was tripped by an outrider’s pony. . . .
Purple Egg, a stakes winner at Tampa Bay Downs and considered a contender for Derby preps this spring, made his first start on Friday since a ninth in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9. He was third to Whiskey Romeo in the Trippi on opening day of the Belmont spring/summer meet.
HERE AND THERE
Captain Steve. winner of the 2001 Dubai World Cup, died of heart failure at the age of 16 in Japan last Sunday.
Eighth in thr 2000 Derby and fourth in the Preakness, he went on to earn almost $7 million and also won the Donn Handicap in 2001 for owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert. . . .
Colonial Affair, winner of the 1993 Belmont under Julie Krone, thus making Krone the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race, died in his stall on Tuesday at the age of 23 in Argentina, where he had stood at stud for the last 10 years.
He was fourth in the 1993 Travers and went on to win the Whitney and Jockey Club Gold Cup as a 4-year-old. . . .
John Velazquez will ride his Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom when the recent Dubai World Cup hero makes his career finale at the mid-June Royal Ascot meeting in England.
“Johnny knows the horse better than any other rider, and he has had success at Royal Ascot,” trainer Graham Motion said. “He won on a straightaway at Royal Ascot, and if we decide to go in the Queen Anne Stakes on opening day up the straight, that experience figures to come in handy.”
Velazquez rode at Royal Ascot in 2000, 2009 and 2011. He has not been aboard Animal Kingdom since an allowance win at Gulfstream Park in February of last year. Rosario rode Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup.
The mile-and-a-quarter Group 1 Prince of Wales is also an option for Animal Kingdom’s finale. . . .
According to the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, the 5-year-old mare Bold Affair has been retired and will be bred to Ghostzapper. . . .
Third in the 2011 Miss Preakness, the Maryland-bred daughter of Two Punch was a nine-time stakes winner, all but one on the Maryland circuit. . . .
Jockey Rosie Napravnik will be the subject of a feature on “60 Minutes” at 7 p.m. on Sunday. She’s been named to ride Mylute in the Derby.