News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
BAFFERT’S LOOKIN AT LUCKY FAVORED IN 20-HORSE FIELD FOR KENTUCKY DERBY
Lookin At Lucky, America’s champion 2-year-old of 2009 and a winner of six of eight career starts, has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 136th Grade I, $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, at a mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Sidney’s Candy, who defeated a traffic-plagued Lookin At Lucky in the Santa Anita Derby last time out, is the 5-1 second choice. Ironically, both horses received little luck at the Derby’s post position draw. The two favorites are bookends in the 20-horse field as Lookin At Lucky drew the rail post and the John Sadler-trained Sidney’s Candy drew the outside gate – results that drew audible gasps from onlookers as the traditional post draw Wednesday at Churchill Downs.
The number one has produced 12 Kentucky Derby winners and is tied for the most winners in Derby history, but that post last produced a winner in 1986 when Ferdinand rallied from last to win the roses. Only two horses have won the Kentucky Derby from gate 20, with Big Brown in 2008 being the most recent. The only previous winner from that gate was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.
“This horse, he can’t catch a break,” said Bob Baffert, trainer of Lookin at Lucky. “We named him wrong. Can we change the name? You know what? You can’t worry about that. We’ve made it this far.”
“Not the best of draws,” said Sadler after Sidney’s Candy landed in the outside gate. “What can I say? At least you’re outside and can see what’s going on.”
If all 20 horses entered in the classic start, the race will be worth $2,185,200 with the winner receiving $1,425,200. Post time for the Kentucky Derby, which will be the 11th race on the 13-race program is 6:24 p.m. (all times Eastern). NBC Sports will provide television coverage of the race from 4-7 p.m., with radio coverage provided by ESPN Radio from 5-7 p.m.
Lookin At Lucky will seek to provide Baffert with his fourth Kentucky Derby victory as he brings a career record of 6-1-1 in eight races and a bankroll of $1,513,000 into the race.
Baffert’s most recent Kentucky Derby winner was War Emblem in 2002. He also grabbed the Derby’s famed mantle of roses in 1997 with Silver Charm and 1998 with Real Quiet. Jockey Garrett Gomez, seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory in seven attempts, has been Lookin At Lucky’s regular rider and will be in the saddle again Saturday.
Sidney’s Candy brings a streak of three consecutive stakes victories into Derby 136 that includes scores in the San Vicente, San Felipe and the Santa Anita Derby – all on synthetic tracks. Sidney’s Candy will be making his first start on a traditional dirt track when he goes postward Saturday under jockey Joe Talamo, who is making his first Kentucky Derby appearance. Talamo had the mount on favored I Want Revenge in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, only to see that horse scratched on the morning of the race.
A trio of horses are listed as 10-1 co-third choices in Saturday’s race, including Devil May Care, an impressive filly that will attempt to become only the fourth member of her gender to defeat males to win the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Devil May Care, has posted a record of 3-0-0 in five races, including wins in Belmont’s Frizette, and the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream Park for earnings of $399,000.
Pletcher is seeking his first Kentucky Derby win after failing with his first 24 Derby starters, while jockey John Velazquez, also winless in the Derby, has the riding call on Devil May Care, who will carry 121 pounds – five fewer than her male rivals. Devil May Care will break from post 11 as she attempts to join Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988) as the only fillies to win the Kentucky Derby.
Devil May Care, one of four Derby contenders trained by Pletcher, is listed at 10-1 on the morning line and is co-third choice with the Gotham winner Awesome Act and the Florida Derby winner Ice Box.
Also seeking to make history is trainer Alexis Barba, who will send out Make Music for Me for Ellen and Peter Johnson. She will be the 14th woman trainer to saddle a Kentucky Derby starter and hopes to become the first to train a Derby winner. The best previous finish by a female trainer came when Shelley Riley saddled Casual Lies to a runner-up finish to Lil E. Tee in 1992. Jamie Sanders was the most recent woman trainer with a Derby starter, sending out Teuflesberg to a 17th-place finish in 2007.
Awesome Act won the Gotham in his U.S. dirt debut in March and then finished third when he stumbled at the break and lost a shoe in the Wood Memorial early this month. Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux has the mount on Awesome Act, who will break from post position 16.
The deep Kentucky Derby field features six other Grade I winners including Dublin, trained by four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas; Ice Box, conditioned by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito; and Homeboykris, who is handled by Rick Dutrow, the trainer of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown.
Dublin won the Hopeful last summer at Saratoga and is a graded-stakes placed in all three of his starts this year at Oaklawn Park. Terry Thompson has the mount on Dublin, who will break from post position 17.
Ice Box earned his way to the Kentucky Derby with a last-to-first victory in the Florida Derby under Jose Lezcano. Ice Box will break from post position two and is one of two Zito-trained runners in the Derby along with Jackson Bend, who is co-owned by LaPenta and Jacks or Better Farm. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rode Jerry and Ann Moss’ Giacomo to victory in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, has the call on Jackson Bend who will break from post position 13.
Homeboykris captured the Champagne last fall at Belmont Park. Ramon Dominguez has the riding assignment on Homeboykris, who will break from post position 19.
The other Grade I winners in the Derby field are Noble’s Promise, Line of David and Stately Victor.
Line of David is a second Derby starter for Sadler and Stately Victor is trained by Mike Maker, who will also send out Dean’s Kitten. Ken McPeek trains Noble’s Promise.
The field for the 136th Kentucky Derby, in post position order with jockey, weights and morning-line odds is as follows: Lookin At Lucky (Garrett Gomez, 126 pounds, 3-1); Ice Box (Jose Lezcano, 126, 10-1); Noble’s Promise (Willie Martinez, 126, 12-1); Super Saver (Calvin Borel, 126, 15-1); Line of David (Rafael Bejarano, 126, 30-1); Stately Victor (Alan Garcia, 126, 30-1); American Lion (David Flores, 126, 30-1); Dean’s Kitten (Robby Albarado, 126, 50-1); Make Music for Me (Joel Rosario, 126, 50-1); Paddy O’Prado (Kent Desormeaux, 126, 20-1); Devil May Care (John Velazquez, 121, 10-1); Conveyance (Martin Garcia, 126, 12-1); Jackson Bend (Mike Smith, 126, 15-1); Mission Impazible (Rajiv Maragh, 126, 20-1); Discreetly Mine (Javier Castellano, 126, 30-1); Awesome Act (Julien Leparoux, 126, 10-1); Dublin (Terry Thompson, 126, 12-1); Backtalk (Miguel Mena, 126, 50-1); Homeboykris (Ramon Dominguez, 126, 50-1); and Sidney’s Candy (Joe Talamo, 126, 5-1).
BLIND LUCK IS STRONG FAVORITE IN FRIDAY’S KENTUCKY OAKS
Blind Luck, a three-time Grade I stakes winner, tops a stellar cast of 14 3-year-old fillies for Friday’s 136th running of the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks, a Grade I, 1 1/8-miles race at Churchill Downs. The race will be televised nationally on Bravo from 5-6 p.m., ET.
Blind Luck, who is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, comes into the Oaks off a 2 ½-length victory in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn. Rafael Bejarano has the call. The daughter of Pollard’s Vision was made the 6-5 morning line favorite and will break from post position five. All fillies will carry 121 pounds.
The California-based Hollendorfer is seeking his third victory in the Oaks. His previous winners were Lite Light in 1991 and Pike Place Dancer in 1996.
Also seeking his third training victory in the Kentucky Oaks is Todd Pletcher, who will send out Ailalea. Pletcher notched his first Oaks victory in 2004 with Ashado, who was owned in partnership by Starlight, and scored again in 2007 with Rags to Riches. John Velazquez, who rode Ashado to her Oaks victory, will ride Ailalea. The daughter of Pulpit will break from post position 12 and is listed at 15-1 on Mike Battaglia’s morning line.
Seeking a record-tying fifth Oaks victory is Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. He will saddle Westrock Stables’ Tidal Pool, who will break from post position eight under Calvin Borel. Tidal Pool, runner-up to Blind Luck in the Fantasy Stakes is 8-1 on the morning line and co-second choice with Crisp and Amen Hallelujah.
Crisp, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks in her most recent start on March 6, is trained by John Sadler. She will break from post position seven under jockey Joel Rosario. Amen Hallelujah, winner of the Santa Ynez and the Davona Dale and runner-up to Kentucky Derby contender Devil May Care in the Bonnie Miss, is trained by Rick Dutrow and will be ridden by Eclipse Award winner Julien Leparoux. Amen Hallelujah will break from post position 13.
The field for the 136th Kentucky Oaks, from the rail out with jockey and morning line odds is as follows: It’s Tea Time (Alan Garcia, 15-1); Jody Slew (Miguel Mena, 30-1); Quiet Temper (Robby Albarado, 10-1); Age of Humor (Rajiv Maragh, 30-1); Blind Luck (Rafael Bejarano, 6-5); Beautician (Alex Solis, 15-1); Crisp (Joel Rosario, 8-1); Tidal Pool (Calvin Borel, 8-1); Bella Diamante (Mike Smith, 30-1); Champagne d’Oro (Martin Garcia, 30-1); Evening Jewel (Kent Desormeaux, 10-1); Ailalea (John Velazquez, 15-1); Amen Hallelujah (Julien Leparoux, 8-1); and Joanie’s Catch (Paco Lopez, 30-1). All starters carry 121 pounds.
RACHEL ALEXANDRA TRIES TO GET BACK ON WINNING TRACK IN THE LA TROIENNE
Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick’s reigning Horse of the Year and record-smashing Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra will make her much-anticipated return to Churchill Downs on Friday’s Oaks Day racing program when she faces five rivals in the Grade II, $400,000-added La Troienne Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Last year’s Kentucky Oaks program was highlighted by an unforgettable performance by Rachel Alexandra as she demolished six rivals in winning the Kentucky Oaks by a record 20 ¼ lengths. That Oaks victory was one of five Grade I triumphs during Rachel Alexandra’s 8-for-8 campaign that earned the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award honors as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old filly.
On the way to that honor, Rachel Alexandra defeated 3-year-old males in the Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational – downing Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the former and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird in the latter – and closed out her 2009 campaign with a triumph over older males in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Rachel Alexandra will be ridden by Calvin Borel in the La Troienne and break from post position four under the top impost of 124 pounds.
The La Troienne, formerly known as the Louisville Stakes, provides Rachel Alexandra a rematch with Zardana, the John Shirreffs-trained horse that put a damper on Rachel Alexandra’s 2010 debut when she handed the champion a three-quarter-length upset loss in the New Orleans Ladies on March 13 at Fair Grounds. David Flores, who rode Zardana to the Fair Grounds win, has the call Friday and will break from post position three. Zardana will carry 120 pounds.
The field for the 25th running of the La Troienne, from the rail out, with jockey and weights is as follows: Be Fair (Terry Thompson, 118 pounds); Morena (Jose Lezcano, 118); Zardana,(David Flores, 120); Rachel Alexandra (Calvin Borel, 124); Unrivaled Belle (Kent Desormeaux, 120); and Distinctive Dixie (Julien Leparoux, 118).