Horse racing: Normandy Invasion on his own in Derby preps
Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion, who would be the first Kentucky Derby starter in Chad Brown’s career as a head trainer, is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on Sunday, and one switch from his routine will be to not work in company.
Normandy Invasion typically does run in company, but his final breeze before the Wood was a solo mission, and Brown told the Derby media office that that will be the routine this weekend and next.
“I finally took the company away because he was starting to get strong going to the pole,” Brown said. “Now he’s matured to where I can take him to the pole and count on him to do his work. I work a lot of horses in company, generally.
“Not that I work fast, but I want them to stay in the bridle through the work. He doesn’t need it [company] anymore.”
Brown said that jockey Javier Castellano will come in for one of the final breezes, probably next Sunday’s, “because he’ll be doing a little more than.”
Besides Normandy Invasion, the Derby field has shaped up to include five from trainer Todd Pletcher, including Wood winner and Wynn Las Vegas favorite Verrazano. John Velazquez, out with rib and wrist injuries, is expected to start riding again on Wednesday, May 1, and is scheduled to ride Verrazano.
Pletcher’s other Derby runners, with jockeys, will be Overanalyze (Rafael Bejarano), Revolutionary (Calvin Borel), Palace Malice (Mike Smith) and Charming Kitten (TBD).
The rest of the field likely will consist of Orb (Joel Rosario), Goldencents (Kevin Krigger), Java’s War (Julien Leparoux), the Aidan O’Brien-trained Lines of Battle (TBD), Vyjack (Garrett Gomez), Itsmyluckyday (Elvis Trujillo), Governor Charlie (Martin Garcia), Black Onyx (Joe Bravo), Frac Daddy (TBD), Mylute (Rosie Napravnik), Super Ninety Nine (TBD), Falling Sky (TBD) and two from trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Oxbow (Gary Stevens) and Will Take Charge (Jon Court).
Louisiana Derby runner-up Mylute’s last serious Derby work occurred last Sunday, when he went 1:12.20 at Churchill Downs and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25 under Shaun Bridgmohan.
“If anybody was interested in Mylute as a Derby prospect, today’s work was the one they needed to see,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “It was a serious work, and he looked very good. Mylute is going to do nothing to impress anyone in his next two works. He’s going to work by himself, and they are going to be slow and easy half-mile works. Today’s work was an indication of where we are with him and we were pleased.
“I wanted him to pass those horses down the lane and then finish once he got by them,” Amoss said. “He did those things, so the work went well.”
Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze arrived at Churchill on Sunday, a few hours before stablemate Verrazano showed up.
“We were hoping for an improved performance in his second start off the layoff,” Pletcher said of Overanalyze’s Arkansas Derby. “We were hoping for a big effort, but he actually exceeded our expectations.”
Joining Verrazano on the Tex Sutton flight from New York were Normandy Invasion and Kentucky Oaks contenders Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar, owned by Linton High School grad Ed Stanco, the 1-2 finishers in the Gazelle.
Grade I winner Pure Fun was prepared to take the road less traveled to the Oaks today, but now she doesn’t have to.
Trainer Kenny McPeek said she’ll still run in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland, even though she no longer needs the transferrable qualifying points to move into the top 14 in the Oaks standings.
She did that by default on Wednesday, when trainer Mark Hennig declared Live Lively out of the Oaks, thus moving Pure Fun into the top 14, whether she gets any more points today or not.
Otherwise, Pure Fun would’ve had to win the Lexington to get into the Oaks field.
Pure Fun, winner of the Grade I Hollywood Starlet last year but winless in one start this year, is the 7-2 morning-line favorite against a wide-open field.
In her only start as a 3-year-old, the Hollywood Starlet winner was third behind Silsita and Marathon Lady in the Bourbonette on March 23.
The rest of the Oaks field is expected to include 2-year-old juvenile filly champion Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Unlimited Budget, Rose to Gold, Emollient, Flashy Gray, Fiftyshadesofhay, Midnight Lucky, Silsita, Manuka Honey and Seaneen Girl.
Dreaming of Julia, the 213⁄4-length winner of the Gulfstream Oaks, breezed a half-mile in :49, recorded fractions of :12.80, :24.40, :36.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.20. The four-furlong time ranked 15th of 43 at the distance.
“I thought she looked great and thought she handled the surface really well,” Pletcher said. “It was a typical breeze for her. She looked like she was in a gallop, but she went in :49. We were very happy with it. Her appetite and energy level have been great since that big performance at Gulfstream.”
Unlimited Budget, undefeated winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks, and Silsita, narrow winner of the Bourbonette Oaks, worked together and breezed four furlongs in :48.60 and recorded early fractions of :13.20 and :25.60. Unlimited Budget galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.80, and Silsita galloped out in 1:02. The four-furlong time ranked 10th of 43 at the distance.
“I think both worked very well, especially Unlimited Budget,” Pletcher said. “She seems like she really likes the surface here and was full of run throughout the run.”
Hennig said that Davona Dale winner Live Lively, second by 213⁄4 lengths to Dreaming of Julia in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, will point to the Black Eyed Susan on Preakness weekend at Pimlico.
Rudy Rodriguez was grilled by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday in order to secure a license to train Vyjack in the Derby, and was approved.
Rodriguez just came off a 20-day drug suspension in New York.
The KHRC said they would allow the license, but would require 24-hour surveillance including video while Vyjack is at Churchill Downs.
The other Derby horses will be under surveillance for the 72-hour period before the Derby.
BLACK CAVIAR RETIRED
Unbeaten Australian mare Black Caviar has been retired after winning 25 consecutive races.
Trainer Peter Moody said Wednesday that “25 was a great number” and “she has done everything we have asked her to do.”
Black Caviar, ridden by regular jockey Luke Nolen, won her 25th race by two lengths last Saturday morning in the T.J. Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick. It was the 6-year-old’s third win since coming back in February from an eight-month.
Black Caviar narrowly won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 23 and faced possible retirement after tearing a quadriceps muscle at Ascot.
But laser therapy and exercise enabled her to return to the track for her final season.
Willard C. “Mike” Freeman, who trained champion two-time champion older mare Shuvee, died at the age of 84 on Wednesday at the Wesley Nursing Home in Saratoga Springs, where he had been transferred last month.
In 1969, Shuvee swept the NYRA filly Triple Crown of the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks, then won the Alabama at Saratoga.
She won championships in 1970 and 1971, in part because she was able tobeat males in the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont both years.
Freeman began training in the 1950s and also had such top horses as Bukhar, Gala Performance, Hodges Bay, Cold Comfort, Show Off and Understudy.
NYRA HIRES WING
The New York Racing Association has named Eric Wing director of communications and media relations. The job had been vacant since Dan Silver left for Penn National in October.
Wing, who will begin at NYRA on May 15, has been the director of media relations at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association since 1999.
EL PADRINO RETIRED
El Padrino, the 2012 Risen Star winner who is a half-brother to Verrazano, was retired by Let’s Go Stable on Tuesday.
He was fourth in the Florida Derby and 13th in the Kentucky Derby, then did not race until December because of an injury to his left front. He was preparing for the Donn Handicap this year when the injury resurfaced, and has been retired with a record of 3-2-1 from eight starts with $326,770 in purses.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Ruler On Ice, the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner, finished fourth in an allowance at Parx on Tuesday.
Since the Belmont, he has just one win, in an allowance at Aqueduct in January, in 12 starts. . . .
NYRA will again offer a $250,000 Big Apple Triple bonus to a horse who sweeps the Mike Lee at Belmont, New York Derby at Finger Lakes and Albany at Saratoga, all restricted to New York-breds.
Tin Cup Chalice is the only horse to have won all three, in 2008. . . .
Jockey Emilio Flores got career victory 2,000 when Nicetoseey’again won the ninth race at Penn National on Wednesday. . . .
The Barclay Tagg-trained Unbelieveable Dream charged from the back of the pack under Joel Rosario to win the 25th running of the Appalachian Stakes three-year-old fillies by a half-length over Overheard at Keeneland on Thursday.
The victory was the fifth of the afternoon for Rosario, the meet’s leading rider. It marked the 16th time a rider has won five races on a Keeneland program, and Rosario was the 11th to do it. The Keeneland record for wins in a day is six, accomplished three times. . . .
Game On Dude (4-5), Ron the Greek and Caixa Eletronica are in the field for the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic today. Post time is 10:30 p.m. . . .
Kauai Katie is 1-9 in the Road Princess at Aqueduct on Sunday.
Her only loss in six career starts is a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
She broke her maiden and won the Adirondack at Saratoga last summer and has gotten off to a hot start in 2013, winning the Old Hat by eight lengths and the Forward Gal by 51⁄2.
HERE AND THERE
Rachel Alexandra, still recovering from complications of her second foal delivery on Feb. 12 and subsequent surgery, took another step in the right direction on Tuesday at Stonestreet Farm when she enjoyed two hours to graze in a paddock.
The 2009 Horse of the Year will gradually increase her paddock time each day. . . .
Grade I Hollywood Derby winner Unbridled Command, the New York-bred who was a good third behind Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, has arrived at his new digs in England, at the Newmarket barn of trainer Ed Dunlop to prepare for an international campaign for his new owners.
On his schedule are Royal Ascot in June before a trip to Australia for the Cox Plate and Hong Kong for the International meeting in December.
If you’re interested in wild rides, the recommendation here is to call up the YouTube replay (http://youtu.be/FbH3N5VJzBE) of Spicer Cub’s eventful trip in last Saturday’s 11th race at Pimlico, which has gone viral and is generating interest outside of horse racing circles.
Spicer Cub took the early lead but bolted midway on the far turn before jockey Xavier Perez was able to straighten the son of Louis Quatorze at the head of the stretch.
The 4-year old gelding regained the lead at the top of the stretch but bolted again, causing Perez to lose his irons inside the three-sixteenths pole.
The duo then raced between the starting gate, which was parked parallel to the track, and the outside rail in midstretch and closed determinedly under strong urging to just miss breaking his maiden, losing by a nose to Turbin.
“It was wild. He didn’t give me any warning, especially the second time, and went straight for the gate,” Perez told the Maryland Jockey Club. “My life went before my eyes for a few seconds. I was thinking about bailing but saw there was enough space between the gate and the rail to get through, so I grabbed his mane and hoped for the best.
“Once we cleared the gate, he re-broke again and almost won the race. It was really close. In fact, Forest Boyce [who was aboard Turbin] congratulated me after the wire.”
The replay of the race was viewed on YouTube more than 13,000 times from 6:30 p.m. Saturday to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
“I have watched the replay many times with my fiancee, and I still cannot believe what happened,” Perez said. “I am grateful to be here. The guys in the room were impressed. I had ridden him three times before, and he never did anything like that before. He is a nice, kind horse.”
Trainer Mary Eppler reported Sunday afternoon that Spicer Cub was fine, with no nicks or cuts from his adventure.
Perez’s remarkable ride and track announcer Dave Rodman’s call of the race have received plenty of positive attention.
“It was probably the wildest race I have ever called,” said Rodman, who has called races at the major Maryland tracks since March 1991. “It beats the Afleet Alex incident in the 2005 Preakness and tops the guy running on the track [1999 Preakness day]. All I could do was keep my eyes on the X-Man [Perez] and Spicer Cub.
“I can’t believe he went through that hole between the outer rail and the gate. It was really something else. I really thought he was going to win the race. Xavier did an amazing job. It was certainly a gutsy ride.”