Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minn logo

NTRA Thoroughbred Notebook

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.

Undefeated Kentucky Derby contender, Old Fashioned, bids to take the second step on the Oaklawn Park path to the Kentucky Derby when he heads the field for Saturday’s Grade II, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at the Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack. Old Fashioned drew the rail in a field of nine.

The Rebel will be followed especially closely this weekend. Although the mile and one sixteenth race is one of four key three-year-old races on Saturday, the style of Old Fashioned’s wins have placed him at or near the top of virtually everyone’s Top Ten lists of Triple Crown prospects. The Larry Jones trainee’s 3 1/4-length win over Silver City and nine others in the Southwest was accomplished off a nearly three-month absence from racing, following a 7 ¼-lengthsvictory in Aqueduct’s Remsen Stakes last November.

Silver City will return to take on Old Fashioned once again in the Rebel, rather than stay at his New Orleans base to contest the Louisiana Derby. “We know he runs well in Hot Springs,” noted Silver City’s trainer Bret Calhoun, “so we’re going to take him back there.”
A frontrunner who likes to go straight to the front, Silver City will break from post eight in the Rebel. He figures as the horse that Old Fashioned will again have to run down in the stretch.

Trainer Larry Jones and owner Rick Porter have the horse to beat in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. And the same could be said of Saturday’s Grade II, $600,000 Louisana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Jones trains -and Porter co-owns — Friesan Fire, winner of the Lecomte Stakes and Risen Star Stakes, who heads a field of 10 entered for the 96th running of the signature race at Fair Grounds.

The Louisiana Derby is the ninth race on a blockbuster 12-race program that includes six stakes races.

Friesan Fire, a son of A. P. Indy, drew post No. 9 and has been installed as the 5-2 morning line choice in the Louisiana Derby. The Kentucky-bred, who can become the first horse in 16 years to sweep the Louisiana Derby series.

“The horse is just getting very, very good right now,” said Jones.

The early second choice is Patena, pegged at 7-2. Patena ran second, beaten a length and a half by Friesan Fire in the Lecomte. That race was Patena’s only start this year but was run before the colt was sold and transferred to the barn of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who saddled Big Brown to win last spring’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Patena, who won Woodbine’s $150,000 Display on December 6, worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.40 handily on Monday morning at Gulfstream.

“He obviously has a lot of talent,” said Dutrow after Monday’s move, “and we’re very pleased with what he showed us in his work. We’re very happy with him right now.”

Giant Oak, second in Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 29 and severely blocked when fifth in the Risen Star last time out, is the third choice in the morning line at 4-1. Trained by Illinois-based Chris Block, Giant Oak will be ridden for the first time by Irish-born jockey James Graham.

From the rail out, with jockeys and morning line odds, the Louisiana Derby field consists of Free Country, Kent Desormeaux (12-1); Soul Warrior, Shaun Bridgmohan (20-1); Patena, Albarado (7-2); Terrain, Julien Leparoux (10-1); Flying Pegasus, John Velazquez (8-1); Giant Oak, Graham (4-1); Uno Mas, Brian Hernandez Jr. (12-1); Papa Clem, Rafael Bejarano (8-1); Friesan Fire, Saez (5-2); and Nowhere to Hide, Corey Lanerie (15-1).

Nowhere to Hide is expected to bypass the Louisiana Derby, however, for a start in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby.

Although seven horses in all were entered, a field as small as four or five is expected to ultimately face the starter for Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 San Felipe Stakes to be run at 1 1/16 miles at the Arcadia, Calif., track. The small number of interested participants is due to the presence of Pioneerof the Nile, considered the leading West coast candidate for the Kentucky Derby.

The 72nd running of the San Felipe, joined on the program by the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, will serve as the final stepping-stone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 4.

Following tenacious victories in Hollywood Park’s Grade I CashCall Futurity and last month’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, Pioneerof the Nile will be heavily favored to gain his third graded stakes win on Saturday.

Two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Garrett Gomez, the national leader in purse earnings while seeking a fourth straight title, will attempt to extend his perfect relationship with Pioneerof the Nile to three consecutive victories.

Pioneerof the Nile’s opposition includes the enigmatic Shafted, who was sent off at odds of 6-1 in the Lewis following an impressive 2 ½-length allowance race victory going 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 2. However, the son of Mineshaft, trained by Mark Casse for Woodford Racing, showed little in the Lewis when finishing eighth. Shafted’s connections offered no excuse for the chestnut colt’s poor effort behind Pioneerof the Nile that day, but are cautiously optimistic that he will return to his earlier form in the San Felipe.

The complete field for the San Felipe Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: He’s Really Big, Aaron Gryder, 115; Pioneerof the Nile, Garrett Gomez, 122; Feisty Suances, David Flores, 115; Shafted, Joel Rosario, 115; Jeranimo, Brice Blanc, 115; Kelly Leak, no rider, 115, and New Bay, Joseph Talamo, 115.

General Quarters and Sumo, two longshots who ran first and second, respectively, in Tampa Bay Downs’ Sam F. Davis Stakes last month, are slated for a rematch in Saturday’s Grade III, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby. The race is part of the tracks’s Festival Day, which includes the Grade III $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby, the Grade III $200,000 Florida Oaks, the Grade III $175,000 Hillsborough Stakes and the $75,000 Turf Dash.

In addition to being the likely betting favorite for the Tampa Bay Derby, General Quarters is also something of a sentimental favorite due to the humble nature of his connections, which essentially boil down to one person: Tom McCarthy. General Quarters is the only horse owned by McCarthy, having claimed him for a mere $20,000 out of his career debut last May. And McCarthy also does the training himself.

“Ever since I had General Quarters, I do everything,” said McCarthy. “I train him, I groom him, I give him his bath. Whatnever he needs I do. I do the one-horse operation right now.”
McCarthy admits to having been approached with some lucrative offers to sell General Quarters. But the Louisville native says that General Quarters represents a lot more than money to him at this stage of his life.

“Everybody’s dream is to train one that can go to the Derby,” he said. “Especially being from Louisville and seeing every Derby since, I think, the 1950s, I am just bent on the hope that he will get to the Derby.”

There is a twist to this weekend’s Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW). In addition to the traditional win betting available, fans will, for the first time, also have the opportunity to pick the Derby exacta, which requires selecting the first and second finishers in order.

Both bets are available to Kentucky Derby fans across North America through 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. The addition of the exacta marks the first major change in the Derby Future bet since it was introduced in 1999.

KDFW Pool 2 features 23 wagering interests that consist of 22 horses and the always popular mutuel field, which includes all 3-year-old Thoroughbreds other than the pool’s individual horses. “All others”, the 9-5 fan’s choice in February’s opening pool of the 2009 Derby Future Wager, has been installed as the 8-1 morning line co-favorite with the unbeaten Old Fashioned. The latter was the favored individual horse in Pool 1 at odds of 7-1. A 23rd individual horse in Pool 2, Big Drama, has been withdrawn from wagering after his connections announced earlier this week that the horse is recuperating from an injury and will be unable to race in the Derby.

Both the KDFW “win” and exacta bets are $2 minimum wagers. Payouts will be determined by the odds that are in place at the conclusion of betting. Kentucky Derby fans will be hoping for generous return on their wager in the March 12-15 pool that would rival the opening pool of 2003, which saw Derby winner Funny Cide return $188 for a $2 Pool 1 Derby Future bet. A $2 Kentucky Derby Day “win” wager on Funny Cide paid only $27.60.

Future wagering is also being held, for the only time this year, on the Kentucky Oaks, a prestigious race for three-year-old fillies run at Churchill Downs the day before the Derby.
Real-time odds on Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager and Pool 1 of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager are available on the official Kentucky Derby Web site at