Friday, April 30, 2010

The Kentucky Derby

Derby favorites draw tricky posts

By Jay Privman

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The top two choices in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday have 'em surrounded. Lookin At Lucky, the favorite, drew the rail, and Sidney's Candy, the second choice, drew the outside post in a field of 20 when post positions were drawn on Wednesday for Derby 136 at Churchill Downs.

Devil May Care, the filly who will challenge 19 males, wound up in the middle, in post 11.

The posts for the top two choices are not considered ideal. No horse has won from the rail since Ferdinand in 1986, and no horse beginning from the rail has finished in the money since Risen Star was third in 1988.

"He's got to break well," said Bob Baffert, who trains Lookin At Lucky and Conveyance, who drew post 12. "Plan A is to break well. Plan B is we're screwed."

Big Brown won from post 20 just two years ago, but he was clearly superior to his rivals. Though 20-horse fields have been the norm in recent years, they were rare in the early years of the Derby.

The only other horse to win from post 20 was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929, when there was a walk-up start.

Post 11 also had its drawbacks. Because the Derby field is double-loaded, posts 1 and 11 go in the gate first for the 1 1/4-mile race, then 2 and 12, on down to 10 and 20.

"Eleven is a great position from which to start the race. The only thing I don't like is that she'll have to be in the gate a long time," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Devil May Care and three other horses in this Derby.

Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, made Lookin At Lucky the 4-1 favorite, with Sidney's Candy 5-1 and Awesome Act the third choice at 8-1. He has Devil May Care next at 10-1, followed by Ice Box at 12-1.

Mike Battaglia, the linemaker at Churchill Downs, has Lookin At Lucky at 3-1, and Sidney's Candy at 5-1. Battaglia made Awesome Act, Devil May Care, and Ice Box co-third choices at 10-1.

Devil May Care is adding blinkers for the Derby, while Lookin At Lucky is having his removed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Horse Racing - Pletcher contingent hits track

Pletcher contingent hits track

By Marty McGee

Trainer Todd Pletcher had all seven of his potential Kentucky Derby starters on the track at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning, including the filly Devil May Care, who is now under consideration for both the Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

Pletcher remained uncommitted as to both her status and that of two of his other 3-year-olds, Interactif and Discreetly Mine. They are among the top 20 horses on the graded earnings list but were described as still being "on the bubble" by their trainer after training on Wednesday.

"Right now we're preparing everybody as if they might run in the Derby," said Pletcher. "They all have enough earnings to get into the race, but some will have to have key works this weekend to earn their way into the race."

Wednesday marked the first local appearance of Eskendereya, who is just about everybody's favorite to win the Derby. Eskendereya galloped an easy 1 1/4 miles after the renovation break.

"He galloped exactly the way I expected him to this morning," said Pletcher. "He was curious and looking around, but he got over the ground well."

Pletcher said he was also pleased what he sees from Super Saver.

"He takes to this track better than anywhere, but like all of these horses, we'll know more after they work this weekend," said Pletcher.

Pletcher also said no decision regarding whether Devil May Care might run in the Derby or Oaks would be made until after her next work.

"She's had the benefit of working with some of these other good 3-year-olds in my barn this winter, and I know she can stick with them, and I'm also confident she'll like a mile and one-quarter and even a mile and one-half," Pletcher said.

Horse Betting at

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Horse Racing - Careless Jewel

Careless Jewel won't duck Rachel

By Marty McGee

LEXINGTON, Ky. - No, Josie Carroll isn't monitoring every move that Rachel Alexandra makes, but she does have more than a passing interest in where the superstar filly shows up next.

That's because Carroll intends to have Careless Jewel make her 4-year-old debut at Churchill Downs on the April 30 Kentucky Oaks undercard in the Grade 2, $400,000 La Troienne Stakes, a race often mentioned as a possible next start for Rachel Alexandra.

"You're always looking for the easiest spot you can find for your horses," said Carroll, who trains Careless Jewel for the Donver Stable of Donna and Vern Dubinsky. "There's nothing easy about Rachel. But we are pointing to the La Troienne whether or not she goes."

Owner Jess Jackson has been coy about his immediate plans for Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year who was second at 1-20 in her only start this year, the March 13 New Orleans Ladies. Rachel Alexandra has had two workouts since shipping to Churchill late last month and is scheduled for another one Monday.

Careless Jewel, unraced since finishing last as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic last fall, was scheduled to work Saturday over the Polytrack at Keeneland as she continues to progress toward the 1 1/16-mile La Troienne. Julien Leparoux will have the mount on Careless Jewel for the first time, said Carroll.

"Everything seems to be falling into place for her," said Carroll. "After the La Troienne, we'd just have to see what happens and make plans from there."

Prior to her disappointing Breeders' Cup effort, Careless Jewel won five straight races, most notably the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama in huge romps.

Among the other 24 fillies and mares nominated to the La Troienne is Zardana, winner of the New Orleans Ladies.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Horese Racing - Zenyatta

Zenyatta loving Oaklawn's dirt
By Jay Privman

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Although she has trained and raced almost exclusively on synthetic surfaces, being based in Southern California, Zenyatta ran one of the best races of her life here at Oaklawn Park two years ago in the Apple Blossom, and she went around the main track Thursday morning as if reunited with an old friend.
"She was bouncing on the track," said her exercise rider, Steve Willard, after Zenyatta took a one-lap gallop on the one-mile track. "She loves real dirt. She was happy as a pig in pie."
Zenyatta is scheduled to go for her 16th straight win, without a defeat, in the Apple Blossom on Friday.
Zenyatta's owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, were at the track on Thursday morning and were part of a large contingent that followed Zenyatta to the track for her routine gallop shortly after the mid-morning renovation break. Her presence was noted by the local horsemen, who lined the bridle path leading to the track to get a glimpse of the champion mare.
Jerry Moss said Zenyatta will travel quite a bit this year.
"Our focus is on the Breeders' Cup, as it has been the last two years," he said. "We'll be happy to show up at Churchill Downs. We want to let everybody see her. We're proud of her. She's a star."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Horese Racing - Zenyatta

Zenyatta takes a spin around Oaklawn oval

By Jay Privman

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Zenyatta on Wednesday morning took her first tour of the Oaklawn Park main track since her arrival 24 hours earlier, making one lap around the one-mile dirt oval with her regular exercise rider, Steve Willard.

Zenyatta went out shortly before the 8:30 a.m. renovation break, earlier than she usually trains at home at Hollywood Park. Both Willard
and Zenyatta's trainer, John Shirreffs, said they went early because of threatening weather in the area on Wednesday morning, which was forecast to worsen as the day went on.
"She handled everything great," Willard said.

When Zenyatta went to the track, only a misty drizzle was falling. There are thunderstorms forecast for Wednesday afternoon, but the
National Weather Service is predicting gorgeous weather the rest of the week, with a high temperature of 71 degrees on Friday, when the unbeaten Zenyatta will attempt to go 16-0 in the Apple Blossom.

Zenyatta won the Apple Blossom two years ago. That is her only prior start on dirt. Wednesday marked the first time she had been on dirt since last May at Churchill Downs, when she arrived there for an intended 2009 debut in a race from which she was subsequently scratched because of a sloppy track.

Horse Betting at

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Horse Racing - Keeneland

Keeneland opener runs the gamut
By Marty McGee

LEXINGTON, Ky. - They say that character is best revealed under trying circumstances, which says a lot about the smile that trainer Larry Demeritte managed to put on his face in the aftermath of the first race of the Keeneland spring meet Friday.

Demeritte had just seen Weekend Wildcat, a 2-year-old colt he trains for Mervin and Barbara McNamara, come up on the short end of a nose photo. With 100 yards to go, Weekend Wildcat appeared to have gotten the best of Wetzel after the pair had hooked up in early stretch, but Wetzel battled back along the rail to prevail in a head-bob.

"You'd rather just get flat outrun than lose like that," said Demeritte, a Keeneland-based trainer who has not won a race here since the 2003 fall meet. "That was tough."
Brutal beats aside, it was difficult for ontrack fans not to enjoy the first of 15 afternoons at this bucolic track. With high-70s temperatures mitigated by a thin cloud cover and slight breeze, conditions were perfect for breaking the cabin fever that many of the locals had endured during the winter.

"It's the scenery, the atmosphere," said Bill Campbell, a 42-year-old Lexington resident. "I probably come out four or five times a meet. I've got a friend on the mutuels line who usually throws me a tip, although I try to keep it a secret."

What is not a secret is how racing at Keeneland once again has lured many of North America's top jockeys and trainers to Kentucky for the next month. Wetzel ($6.60) was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, the leading rider at the recently ended Fair Grounds meet, and saddled by Steve Asmussen, the two-time defending Eclipse Award-winning trainer. The second race was won by Taqarub ($10.40), whose trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, has some 30 horses here this spring and is one of about a dozen prominent East Coast trainers on hand.

The third winner, Flying Warrior ($16.40), was ridden by John Velazquez, while the fourth winner, Intercoastal ($5.80), was ridden by the defending Eclipse jockey, Julien Leparoux. And on it went.

The Friday feature, the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes, was scheduled as the ninth of 10 races. It was the first of 16 stakes that will be run through a meet that ends April 23.
Meanwhile, less than midway through the program, the crowd count already had surpassed the Keeneland record for a Friday opener.

"We've already had more than 19,000 pass through the gates," Keeneland's president, Nick Nicholson, said as the fifth race neared. "In this day and age, that's remarkable. We're more than pleased."

The record for a Friday opener was 18,031, set in 2006. The record for an opening day, 21,371, was set on a Saturday in 1978.