News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
SANTIVA HEADS DOZEN IN SATURDAY’S TOYOTA BLUE GRASS STAKES
Santiva, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall at Churchill Downs, heads a field of 12 horses entered for Saturday’s 87th running of the Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. A total of 19 horses that ran in the Toyota Blue Grass went on to win the Kentucky Derby, with Street Sense in 2007 the most recent.
The Toyota Blue Grass will be video streamed live at NTRA.com on a special NTRA Live! Webcast hosted by Randy Moss. The Webcast is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. (ET) with post time for the Blue Grass slated for 5:45 p.m. (ET). The race also will be televised live on TVG.
Santiva, installed as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line, returns to Keeneland’s Polytrack surface for the first time since finishing second in last October’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity. Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Santiva finished second in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on February 19 in his lone 2011 start.
“We wanted to have a fresh horse coming into the Blue Grass. He’s only had one start so far this year and it was a good race. He ran second at the Fair Grounds. So he’s a fresh horse,” said Kenneally.
Julien Leparoux will be aboard Santiva for the first time on Saturday. The pair will break from post position three.
Second choice on the morning line at 5-1 is West Point Thoroughbreds’ King Congie, who is named for the late Congie DeVito, West Point’s communications director who died in February after battling his entire life of 35 years with osteogenesis imperfecta?(a.k.a. brittle bone disease.)
King Congie was scheduled to run three weeks ago at Turfway Park in the Vinery Racing Spiral, but a strained hind muscle knocked him out of that race. In his most recent start, King Congie was disqualified out of the victory in the Hallandale Beach on turf at Gulfstream Park on February 6.
“It’s been a wild ride for everybody but the horse. It’s going to be a very emotional day,” said Jeff Lifson, Executive Vice President of West Point Thoroughbreds.
Rajiv Maragh has the mount on King Congie, who will break from post position two.
The complete field for the Toyota Blue Grass, from the rail out, is: Newsdad (jockey: Jesus Castanon, morning line odds: 20-1), King ongie (Rajiv Maragh, 5-1), Santiva (Julian Leparoux, 3-1), Joes Blazing Aaron (Garrett Gomez, 12-1), Brilliant Speed (Joel Rosario, 6-1), Sensational Slam (Jose Lezcano, 10-1), Twinspired (Robby Albarado, 12-1), Willcox Inn (Rosie Napravnik, 10-1), Wilkinson (Jamie Theriot, 6-1), Praetereo (Edgar Prado, 15-1), Crimson China (Alan Garcia, 10-1) and Queen’splatekitten (John Velazquez, 12-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.
Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will provide live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass, Commonwealth, Jenny Wiley and Shakertown Stakes on Saturday from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (ET) The two-hour broadcast, which also will include coverage of the Arkansas Derby, can be heard on various HRRN radio affiliates as well as on the HRRN website, www.horseracingradio.net. HRRN will also host a special Toyota Blue Grass edition of “Equine Forum” live from Keeneland on Saturday morning from 8:00-10:00 a.m. (ET).
THE FACTOR COULD CEMENT KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITISM SATURDAY IN ARKANSAS
He took the first round by more than six lengths and has since been tabbed a potential Kentucky Derby favorite, but The Factor did not scare the competition away for Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
Shipped back and forth from California by trainer Bob Baffert after winning the Rebel Stakes convincingly last month at Oaklawn, The Factor drew post 3 in a 13-horse field that features most of the top performing 3-year-olds from this season in Arkansas. The Factor was installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite and will team with jockey Martin Garcia in the 1 1/8-miles contest on closing day of the 2011 season.
In addition to the Rebel winner, Smarty Jones Stakes winner Caleb’s Posse is back with jockey Eddie Razo Jr. and will break from post 6 while Southwest Stakes winner Archarcharch returns with jockey Jon Court and will break from post 10. Both were second and third, respectively, behind The Factor when he romped in the Rebel in front-running fashion.
Two closely watched Arkansas Derby runners exit the Louisiana Derby in Nehro, who was a surprising second-place finisher at the Fair Grounds, and Elite Alex, the fourth-place finisher in New Orleans after two troubled trips at Oaklawn with jockey Calvin Borel. Nehro and jockey Corey Nakatani break from the rail and Elite Alex is in post 2.
Trainer Todd Pletcher used a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby to propel Super Saver to a Kentucky Derby victory last year. The five-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner sends a pair of contestants this year including Super Saver’s half-brother Brethren and Dance City. Brethren will be ridden by reigning Eclipse champion jockey Ramon Dominguez and will wear blinkers for this trip while Javier Castellano will be aboard Dance City.
While The Factor is the most prominent Californian, two other contenders originally from the West Coast should keep the pace honest. J P’s Gusto, second to Archarcharch in the Southwest in February and a Grade 1-winning 2-year-old, gets a new jockey in Cliff Berry and blinkers added by trainer Joe Petalino. Meanwhile, Sway Away will also wear blinkers for California-based conditioner Jeff Bonde and jockey Patrick Valenzuela. He remained in Arkansas after a troubled trip in the Rebel while J P’s Gusto was shifted here in early February to take on the 3-year-old series at Oaklawn.
The complete field for the Arkansas Derby, in post position order, is: Nehro (jockey: Corey Nakatani, morning line odds: 5-1); Elite Alex (Calvin Borel, 8-1); The Factor (Martin Garcia, 7-5); Brethren (Ramon Dominquez, 10-1); Sway Away (Patrick Valenzuela, 6-1); Caleb’s Posse (Eddie Razo Jr., 10-1); Truman’s Commander (Israel Ocampo, 30-1); Alternation (Luis Quinonez, 10-1); Dance City (Javier Castellano, 15-1); Archarcharch (Jon Court, 12-1); J P’s Gusto (Cliff Berry, 15-1); J W Blue (Joe Rocco Jr., 30-1); and Saratoga Red (Terry Thompson, 30-1).