News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
“PAMPLEMOUSSE” VS. “PIONEER” IN SANTA ANITA DERBY SHOWDOWN
Despite drawing the far outside post position in a field of 10, The Pamplemousse has been installed as a narrow 9-5 morning line choice over the Bob Baffert-trained Pioneerof the Nile in the 72nd running of the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. The winner of Saturday’s race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles will likely proceed to Louisville as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.
The Pamplemousse has improved dramatically since breaking his maiden for trainer Julio Canani. He burst into the Triple Crown picture with a wire-to-wire win in Santa Anita’s Grade III San Rafael Stakes at one mile on Jan. 17 while scoring by two lengths over Square Eddie, runner-up and favorite in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Then The Pamplemousse, which means “grapefruit” in French, came back to dust nine rivals in front-running fashion with a victorious romp by six lengths in the Grade III, $200,000 Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 28.
“I’ve never ridden anything like him,” exclaimed jockey Alex Solis. “He’s unbelievable.”
Solis can be forgiven if he sounds biased. The Pamplemousse was purchased for $150,000 by a partnership on the recommendation of Alex Solis II, son of the jockey.
The Solises” horse will not have it easy. Pioneerof the Nile comes in to the race looking for his third straight graded stakes triumph. The son of Empire Maker successfully contended with a relatively paceless situation in his most recent win, the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 14, but his 1 ¼-length win as the 3-10 favorite was less than spectacular.
“It won’t be like that in the Santa Anita Derby,” Baffert said after watching his colt race close to the pace in the San Felipe. “He’ll have The Pamplemousse to deal with. He won’t be able to lollygag.”
In his previous two victories, Pioneerof the Nile closed strongly to get up in the final stages to take Hollywood Park’s Grade I Cash Call Futurity by a nose over I Want Revenge last December and Santa Anita’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes by one-half length over Papa Clem and I Want Revenge on Feb. 7. He was flattered when I Want Revenge subsequently ran off with Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes by 8 ½ lengths.
If either or both of the primary protagonists should falter, Chocolate Candy might well be the one to step forward. The Candy Ride colt has won four of his last five starts. His only setback since breaking his maiden came when running third, 1 ½ lengths behind victorious Pioneerof the Nile, in last December’s Grade I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park.
The Santa Anita Derby will be televised live by NBC Sports from 5:00-6:00 p.m. (ET). Also on the telecast will be the Illinois Derby from Hawthorne.
I WANT REVENGE ALSO WANTS ANOTHER STRONG SHOWING IN WOOD
I Want Revenge, the impressive winner of the Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 7, returns to New York from his California base for Saturday’s 85th running of the Grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial. If he can deliver an effort similar to his 8 ½-length Gotham romp, I Want Revenge will convince many that he will be the horse to beat in the Kentucky Derby.
Just this week, it was announced that owner David J. Lanzman had sold a 50-percent interest in I Want Revenge to IEAH Stable, which won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Florida Derby and Haskell Invitational last year with Big Brown. It was also announced that the colt would stay with trainer Jeff Mullins. Mullins has done right by the colt so far, and his decision to make the Gotham I Want Revenge’s first start on dirt was handsomely rewarded.
“He got everything right in the Gotham, and all I want from the Wood Memorial is to see him keep moving forward, even if it is just a little bit,” said Mullins. “I definitely don’t want to take any steps backward.”
I Want Revenge will be ridden by Joe Talamo, one of the stars of the Animal Planet reality series “Jockeys”.
The biggest threat to the 4-5 morning line choice may come the Shug McGaughey trained Imperial Council, who made a powerful late run to gain second in the Gotham Stakes.
“He ran a big race in the Gotham,” said McGaughey. “It was his first time around two turns, and it was definitely a big step up from allowance company. He chased a slow pace, and the winner ran a huge race.”
The complete Wood Memorial field, in post position order, is: I Want Revenge (jockey: Joe Talamo, morning line odds: 4-5); Lord Justice (C.C. Lopez, 15-1); Cellar Dweller (Rosie Napravnik, 30-1); Atomic Rain (Joe Bravo, 6-1); West Side Bernie (Stewart Elliott, 6-1); Imperial Council (Edgar Prado, 2-1); Just a Coincidence (John Velazquez, 12-1); and Lime Rickey (Javier Castellano, 20-1).