News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
DERBY HOPEFULS HEAD THE CLIFF’S EDGE DERBY TRIAL
Eightyfiveinafifty and Pleasant Prince, two colts hoping to earn enough money to gain a spot in the starting gate for next week’s $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), top a field of 10 3-year-olds entered for Saturday’s $200,000-added, Grade III, The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial.
The one-mile race is the final prep for the 136th “Run for the Roses” and serves as the centerpiece of the opening day of Churchill Downs’ 42-day Spring Meet that will be highlighted by the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1 and the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks on April 30.
The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial has attracted one of its strongest fields after prominent Thoroughbred owner-breeder Robert LaPenta sponsored the race and named it in honor of his Grade I-winning star who finished fifth in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and now stands as a stallion at Central Kentucky’s Margaux Farm. The distance of the race also returned a one-turn mile after being run recently at 7 ½ furlongs
Eightyfiveinafifty, with $120,000 in graded stakes earnings, comes into The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial off a front-running victory in the seven-furlong Bay Shore at Aqueduct on April 3. Ramon Dominguez, who was aboard for the Bay Shore score, has the call Saturday and will break from post position 10. Eightyfiveinafifty will carry high weight of 121 pounds. Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed trainer Gary Contessa’s son of Forest Camp as the 8-5 morning line favorite.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Pleasant Prince, who ran seventh in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 10, will try to add to his graded stakes bankroll of $166,250. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters and those spots in the gate go to the horses with the most graded stakes earnings. The Derby’s cutoff mark is hovering around $250,000 and the Derby Trial winner will receive 62 percent of the purse.
Trained by Wesley Ward, Pleasant Prince will be ridden by Julien Leparoux and is the 4-1 second choice breaking from post position four and carrying 117 pounds.
The Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude is owned by Kuehne Racing and Bernie Schiappa, an ownership group that counts Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre among its partners. Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock’s, Soaring Empire is owned by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino who is the principal partner in Ol Memorial Stable.
The field for The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial, from the rail out with jockeys, weights and morning line, is as follows: Game On Dude (Robby Albarado, 117, 10-1); Soaring Empire (Eddie Castro, 117, 20-1 ); Privilaged (Rajiv Maragh, 117, 15-1); Pleasant Prince (Julien (Leparoux, 117, 4-1); Hurricane Ike (Calvin Borel, 117, 5-1); Miner’s Reserve (Jose Lezcano, 117, 8-1); Wow Wow Wow (Terry Thompson, 117, 20-1); Hear Ye Hear Ye (Corey Nakatani, 117, 20-1); Aikenite (Garrett Gomez, 117, 6-1); and Eightyfiveinafifty (Ramon Dominguez, 121, 8-5).
TALENTED CAST OF NINE ENTERED IN SAN FRANCISCO MILE
Nine talented runners, including the 7-year-old millionaire Bold Chieftain, are entered in Saturday’s 60th running of the Grade II, $150,000, San Francisco Mile on the turf at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, Calif.
The San Francisco Mile field includes six stakes-winners, including multiple stakes-winners Bold Chieftain, Monterey Jazz and Gallant Son. The lineup also features the lightly-raced but razor sharp 4-year-old gelding Red Sun, who has four wins and a second in five career starts. Bold Chieftain tops the field with 16 career victories and total earnings of $1,432,151. Trained by William J. Morey, Jr., Bold Chieftain scored his richest victory on Jan. 30 when he captured the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita.
Morey owns Bold Chieftain in partnership with Dwaine Hall, Ken Robinson and the Ernie Langbein Trust, and the group is hoping their veteran can get the one thing that has eluded him – a graded stakes win. Bold Chieftain is 0-for-10 in graded stakes, although he has three seconds and two thirds in graded events.
Bold Chieftain will be making his second straight appearance in the San Francisco Mile after finishing third in last year’s renewal of the race. Russell Baze, who has guided Bold Chieftain to all but two of his 16 victories, will be aboard “The Chief” again Saturday.
Monterey Jazz, trained by Craig Dollase, has eight wins in 23 career starts and $684,480 in earnings. On turf, Monterey Jazz is 5-for-12 with two stakes victories and $269,960 in earnings. Southern California-based jockey Tyler Baze – a second cousin to Russell – will ride Monterey Jazz. Gallant Son is a four-time stakes winner and is trained by Frank Lucarelli. Leslie Mawing, who guided Gallant Son to his first three stakes wins, has the call on the 4-year-old colt.
The complete field for the San Francisco Mile, in post position order with jockeys is as follows: Sir Al, (Juan Hernandez); Kelly Leak, (Paul Atkinson); Golden Balls, (Brice Blanc); Bold Chieftain, (Russell Baze); Gallant Son, (Leslie Mawing); Run It, (Chad Schvaneveldt); Monterey Jazz, (Tyler Baze); Massone, (Frank Alvarado); and Red Sun, (Michael Martinez). All of the runners carry 122 pounds.
CLOSING DAY FIFTH THIRD ELKHORN STAKES DRAWS 12, MARKS KEENELAND RETURN OF SHANE SELLERS
A field of 12 will meet in the 25th running of the Grade II, $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes on Friday, closing day of Keeneland’s 15-day spring meet. The 1 1/2-mile turf race for 4-year-olds and up includes the 2007 Fifth Third Elkhorn winner Ascertain; and the second- and third-place finishers in last year’s race, Musketier and Brass Hat, respectively; and a horse who will make his fourth consecutive start in the race, Transduction Gold.
The 122-pound highweight is Gary and Mary West’s Expansion, a 5-year-old son of Maria’s Mon trained by Chad Brown. Expansion closed his 2009 campaign with a win in the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct in his stakes debut. He was fifth in his lone start of 2010, the MacDiarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The field, from the hedge out with jockey and weights, is as follows: Tiger’s Rock (Garrett Gomez, 118 pounds); Timeless Fashion (James Lopez, 118); Sudden War, (Alex Solis, 118); Bearpath (Freddie Lenclud, 120); Expansion (Julien Leparoux, 122); Musketier, (John Velazquez, 118); Transduction Gold (Miguel Mena, 118); Pick Six (Shane Sellers, 118); Ascertain, (Brian Hernandez Jr., 118); Blushing Bear (Shaun Bridgmohan 118); Brass Hat (Calvin Borel, 118); and Demarcation (Javier Castellano, 118).
Brass Hat will be making his third consecutive start in the Fifth Third Elkhorn. He and Ascertain, who both are nine, are the oldest entrants in the stakes.
Friday will also mark the first Keeneland riding appearance for veteran jockey Shane Sellers since 2004. Sellers, who has won 398 races at Keeneland, is currently third on the list of Keeneland’s all-time leading riders, behind Pat Day (918 wins) and Don Brumfield (716). Sellers has won 53 stakes at Keeneland, placing him third behind Day (95 stakes wins) and Jerry Bailey (54) among the all-time leaders. Sellers will pilot Pick Six in the Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes.
Sellers, a winner of more than 4,000 races has eight titles as leading jockey at Keeneland. He returned to competition last year after a knee injury had forced him to retire from riding for some 4 ½ years.