Trainer Ian Wilkes had his humor intact and his perspective on point on the Sunday morning following McCraken’s third place showing in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the colt’s first loss in five career starts.
By Art Parker
If were not for the obligation to write about the 143rd edition of the Kentucky Derby, I probably would not be considering the race this far in advance (this was penned on April 18, 2017). I do my best, as I have previously written, to avoid concentration on a race so far away. I guess it’s about time to take a look at Kentucky Derby 143, and without making a specific selection, which would be truly foolish, let’s see what the future holds for the first Saturday in May.
[Before I go further please note that the final Derby field is yet to be determined. Some horses mentioned here may not make it to the post position draw.]
Nothing is a replacement for sound historical data, especially when one is considering making an investment, be it real estate, the shares of a corporation, or a pari-mutuel wager on a thoroughbred. Where winners come from is a prime consideration when analyzing the Derby in search of a winner. For that answer we look to the Derby prep season, which reminds me of a presidential campaign. First there are primaries and eventually a convention. The deal with the Derby is similar; we have prep races and then we have a race at a big venue called Churchill Downs. In the presidential primaries so much is made of winning certain primaries because of the number of delegates available. The same is true of the Derby preps especially since points have been awarded to the highest ranking finishers. Without getting into the specifics of the point system, let’s just look at the most important piece of pre-Derby history.
In the last several decades over 80% of the Derby winners finished either first or second in one of the following major prep races: Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Spiral Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Louisiana Derby, Santa Anita Derby or the Blue Grass. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, most of these races serve as the last “big prep” before the Derby and almost all serious contenders will run in one of these, plus the purses of these races are very appealing. Secondly, the cream of the crop shows up at these races, which are generally held four to five weeks before the Derby making these races the best indicator of current form.
Here are the winners and second place finishers in the critical prep races in 2017:
Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park in Miami): Always Dreaming (Winner) State of Honor (second)
Wood Memorial (Aqueduct in NY): Irish War Cry (Winner) Battalion Runner (second)
Spiral (Turfway Park in Florance KY): Fast and Accurate (Winner) Blueridge Traveler (second)
Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, AK): Classic Empire (Winner) Conquest Mo Money (second)
Louisiana Derby (Fairgrounds in New Orleans): Girvin (Winner) Patch (second)
Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita Park in LA): Gormley (Winner) Battle of Midway (second)
Blue Grass (Keeneland in Lexington, KY): Irap (Winner) Practical Joke (second)
A total of 14 different horses finished first or second in these preps. If you want to look in the direction of high probability when selecting a Derby winner then I can’t think of a better place than those that ran first or second in these select races.
Others worth noting:
McCracken won the Tampa Derby (Tampa Bay Downs) and finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Gunnevera won the Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park) and finished third in the Florida Derby.
Malagacy won the Rebel Stakes (Oaklawn Park) and finished third in the Arkansas Derby.
Thunder Snow won the United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai.
Easy pickings, right?
The Irap Traveling Show will remain at Keeneland for the time being.
“He will stay at Keeneland and probably do the Nyquist thing and go to Churchill Downs the week of the Kentucky Derby,” said Jack Sisterson, who assisted in the preparation of Irap for his maiden-breaking score in Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass (G2). “It seems like every time (trainer) Doug (O’Neill) has brought a horse here from California, they have thrived.”
Last year, champion Nyquist shipped directly to Keeneland after a victory in the Florida Derby (G1) and trained here for almost a month before shipping to Louisville and winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
Nyquist, like Irap owned by Reddam Racing, had all of his pre-Derby works here. Sisterson thinks Irap will follow a similar plan.
“I don’t think any of Doug’s Derby horses in the past have had their final works at Churchill,” Sisterson said before leaving town for Europe.
By text, O’Neill said he was not sure when he would come to Keeneland. Last year, he made several trips back and forth from his Santa Anita base to Keeneland before spending the final couple of weeks in Kentucky.
So, for now, Irap will be cared for by exercise rider Antonio Romero and groom Fernel Serrano. As a team, they have been on the road for three weeks now, first with a week’s stay at Sunland Park in New Mexico for the March 26 Sunland Derby, and then on to Keeneland.
“We got pretty excited,” Romero said. “Julien (Leparoux) rode him perfectly.”
Trainer Chad Brown said Toyota Blue Grass runner-up Practical Joke came out of the race well.
“Practical Joke ran terrific,” Brown said. “He had a little bit of a wide trip but really ran well. I was encouraged to see him in a two-turn race with a sustained run, making up ground in the lane, not losing ground. He gives me some optimism to keep going forward towards the Derby.”
Brown said Practical Joke would remain at Keeneland for the time being until he determines when to send the colt to Churchill.
Beaten favorite McCraken jogged once around the main track at 6 a.m. on Sunday with exercise Yoni Orantes aboard. Trainer Ian Wilkes vanned McCraken to Churchill Downs Monday.
McCraken finished third, beaten 3¾ lengths and recorded the first defeat in his five-race career.
“I thought he was too fresh and too much on the bit and that is where missing that race (the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 11) showed up,” Wilkes said. “He was a little too keen.”
Wilkes was the exercise rider for 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and the assistant to Carl Nafzger for 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, both of whom lost in the Toyota Blue Grass.
“I told Carl last night that I couldn’t get that ‘Nafzger Blue Grass Monkey’ off my back,” Wilkes said with a laugh. “I wanted to get a good race and I was very pleased with the race. He didn’t back down. He didn’t quit. You want to see what happens when he gets in against the big boys and he pushed back. We wanted to win, but maybe he learned something yesterday.”
Wilkes was asked if he was disappointed McCraken finished behind a maiden.
“That doesn’t matter. They all have a chance to beat you,” Wilkes said. “It got the monkey off my back of being undefeated. That adds a little pressure. Now that that is over, you can concentrate on getting the job done.”
While McCraken will be heading to Churchill Downs, fifth-place finisher Tapwrit figures to remain at Keeneland for the time being.
“He is good this morning and will stay here for a while,” said Ginny DePasquale, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “He may go over to Churchill Downs; I don’t envision him going back to Florida.”
Tapwrit has accumulated 54 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and is one of five Pletcher runners in the top 20, the maximum number of starters for the Run for the Roses.
“He just didn’t show up yesterday,” DePasquale said. “He was totally different compared to Tampa where he was on the muscle (before winning the Tampa Bay Derby).”
Calumet Farm’s Wild Shot, who set the pace before finishing last of seven, was fine Sunday morning, according to trainer Rusty Arnold.
“Nothing went right yesterday,” Arnold said. “He was terrible in the paddock and he may have run three races in there which is surprising because he had never done that before. He didn’t handle the crowd.
“Soundness wise, he’s fine. We will regroup and talk with the Calumet people. The ($250,000) Pat Day Mile (G3 on May 6) is an option.”
He is now training a major Kentucky Derby contender
Antonio Sano was Venezuela’s most successful thoroughbred trainer. Race after race, 3,338 times, his horses won as his reputation as the “Czar of the Hippodrome” grew. Until he lost it all in the span of 36 agonizing days. Not at the track, but in a cell of a room that had no windows, no toilet, no… [Read more…]
as of March 31, 2017. Things will change after this weekend!
KENTUCKY DERBY POINTS STANDINGS
|1||Thunder Snow||100||Godolphin||Saeed bin Suroor||$1,621,063|
|2||Gunnevera||64||Peacock Racing Stables||Antonio Sano||$1,042,800|
|3||Tapwrit||54||Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners||Todd Pletcher||$295,570|
|4||J Boys Echo||53||Albaugh Family Stables||Dale Romans||$255,000|
|5||Hence||50||Calumet Farm||Steve Asmussen||$481,129|
|6||Malagacy||50||Sumaya U.S. Stables||Todd Pletcher||$540,000|
|7||Fast and Accurate||50||Kendall E. Hansen||Mike Maker||$320,712|
|8||Girvin||50||Brad Grady||Joe Sharp||$249,800|
|9||Practical Joke||34||Klaravich Stables||Chad Brown||$766,000|
|10||Untrapped||34||Michael Langford||Steve Asmussen||$210,000|
|11||Classic Empire||32||John C. Oxley||Mark Casse||$1,493,820|
|12||El Areeb||30||M M G Stables||Cal Lynch||$330,000|
|13||Gormley||25||Jerry and Ann Moss||John Shirreffs||$284,000|
|14||State of Honor||22||Conrad Farm||Mark Casse||$119,564|
|15||McCraken||20||Whitham Thoroughbreds||Ian Wilkes||$285,048|
|16||Master Plan||20||Al Shaqab Racing, WinStar Farm et al||Todd Pletcher||$214,700|
|17||Iliad||20||Kaleem Shah||Doug O’Neill||$200,000|
|18||Sonneteer||20||Calumet Farm||Keith Desormeaux||$186,000|
|19||Blueridge Traveler||20||Horizon Stables||Kenny McPeek||$95,000|
|20||Cloud Computing||20||Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence||Chad Brown||$60,000|
|21||Wild Shot||17||Calumet Farm||Rusty Arnold II||$132,200|
|22||Guest Suite||15||William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy||Neil Howard||$144,040|
|23||Petrov||13||Rialto Racing Stables and Southern Spring Stables||Ron Moquett||$195,000|
|24||Irap||13||Reddam Racing||Doug O’Neill||$144,000|
|25||Lookin At Lee||12||L and N Racing||Steve Asmussen||$328,600|
|26||Term of Art||11||Calumet Farm||Doug O’Neill||$119,000|
|27||One Liner||10||WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing||Todd Pletcher||$300,000|
|28||Irish War Cry||10||Isabella De Tomaso||Graham Motion||$272,660|
|29||Mo Town||10||Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Team D||Tony Dutrow||$188,000|
|30||Three Rules||10||Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Tom Fitzgerald and Roy Geoff||Jose Pinchin||$142,240|
|31||No Dozing||10||Lael Stables||Arnaud Delacour||$106,500|
|32||Royal Mo||10||Jerry and Ann Moss||John Shirfeffs||$93,000|
|33||Convict Pike||10||Ashbrook Farm||Rusty Arnold II||$47,500|
|34||Local Hero||10||e Five Racing Thoroughbreds||Steve Asmussen||$40,000|
|35||True Timber||6||Calumet Farm||Kiaran McLaughlin||$74,000|
|36||Talk Logistics||6||Hardway Stables||Eddie Plesa Jr.||$60,100|
|37||Bonus Points||5||Three Diamonds Farm||Todd Pletcher||$52,500|
|38||Action Everyday||5||St. Elias Stable||Todd Pletcher||$15,000|
|39||American Anthem||4||WinStar Farm, S F Bloodstock and China Horse Club||Bob Baffert||$23,000|
|40||Warrior’s Club||3||Churchill Downs Racing Club||D. Wayne Lukas||$27,528|
|41||Rowdy the Warrior||2||Robert H. Zoellner||Donnie Von Hemel||$34,429|
|42||Takaful||2||Shadwell Stable||Kiaran McLaughlin||$31,500|
|43||Win With Pride||2||Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable||Todd Pletcher||$22,500|
|44||Midnight Pleasure||1||Ruis Racing||Craig Dollase||$54,000|
|45||Silver Dust||1||Tom Durant||Randy Morse||$52,000|
|46||Bobby Abu Dhabi||1||Rockingham Ranch||Peter Miller||$18,000|
|47||Arklow||1||Donegal Racing||Brad Cox||$12,000|
Lexington Herald Leader
Kentucky Derby contenders bunched tightly entering stretch run of prep races Lexington Herald Leader Quietly biding his time in second place with 64 points is Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera, who stormed to victory by 5 3/4 lengths in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 4 and has remained at Gulfstream in training for the Florida Derby this weekend.
When you put more money up for grabs than ever before in track history, it’s logical to expect top-quality racing.
Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit and the other four stakes winners more than delivered.
The Festival Day card on March 11, 2017 produced a track record and three stakes records (four if you count the Columbia Stakes, which was being run at a distance of a mile on the turf for the first time).
A crowd of 10,079 more than did its part to make the day memorable, contributing to total wagering handle of $12,123,021.60, the second-largest figure in Tampa Bay Downs annals.
“We’re extremely pleased and proud to see our biggest day receive such tremendous support from the Tampa Bay community,” said track Vice President-General Manager Peter Berube. “We wish all the participants the best of fortune going forward, and naturally we’re hopeful Tapwrit will move on to compete in the Kentucky Derby (Presented by Yum! Brands).”
The striking gray colt Tapwrit was the unquestioned standout of the afternoon, launching a powerful move approaching the far turn and going on to a four-and-a-half length victory from State of Honor in the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. His time of 1:42.36 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth is a new stakes record, and would have been a track record had not his stablemate, 5-year-old Stanford, won the $100,000 Challenger at the same distance three races earlier.
Both horses are trained by Todd Pletcher, who won his third consecutive Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, fourth in five years and fifth overall.
Also setting a course record was the 3-year-old filly Fifty Five, who won the Grade III, $200,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the turf in 1:41.60 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth.
Disqualifier for Kentucky Derby ? One Streak Has Stood Test of Time America’s Best Racing Previously, that streak dating back to 1882 Kentucky Derby hero Apollo was just one part of a veritable rulebook for glory on the first Saturday in May.
“It’s not really about experience, it’s about being far enough along to be good enough to win at a mile and a quarter on the first Saturday in May. That development usually takes some time; it’s just really hard to compress it all within four or five months and then not have any setbacks along the way. And then you have to be good enough on that day. Curlin was good enough — he had been before and he was afterward — just not that day,” explained Jerry Brown.
Source: Disqualifier for Kentucky Derby? One Streak Has Stood Test of Time (read the full article)
Future Book odds direct from the best racebook in Nevada, Wynn Las Vegas, and racebook manager Johnny Avello.
Derby odds as of February 9, 2017
|ANN ARBOR EDDIE||175/1||125/1|
|BATTLE OF MIDWAY||75/1||75/1|
|BIG GRAY ROCKET||35/1||50/1|
The future book odds have come in from our friends at Wynn Las Vegas. Here is the current list of newly turned sophomore runners whose connections are aspiring for a Run at the Roses.
This year’s Derby is Saturday, May 6, 2017.
|AIR ON FIRE||225/1||300/1|
|ANN ARBOR EDDIE||175/1||175/1|