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Monday, May 23, 2016

Desormeaux named Jockey of the Week

Jockey Kent Desormeaux teamed up with his brother Keith on Saturday to win the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes aboard Exaggerator. That win led to Desormeaux being named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for May 16th – May 22nd.  The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.

Second choice Exaggerator, who finished second behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, received a ground-saving trip from Desormeaux and would eventually prevail over ten rivals in the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (Grade I) at Pimlico Race Course.

After losing to Nyquist in their previous four meetings, the pair finally broke through with a dominating performance at the racetrack where Kent launched his Hall of Fame career nearly 30 years ago and his brother Keith began his path towards a career in thoroughbred training.

Those early years riding at Pimilco certainly paid off according to Desormeaux’s post-race quotes.

“I can’t even fathom it. It’s going to take a while. I’m in shock right now. I think that Nyquist had company all the way around the course. They stayed really wide. For the [trouble] I’ve had in his previous starts, I had a dream trip today. I was on the fence and they all stayed wide. These turns, you want to paint the fence. We did, they didn’t and, not for nothing, but knowledge is power.”

Desormeaux, a two-time Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey, won his first Preakness Stakes in 1998 aboard Real Quiet. He would capture another in 2008 when he piloted Big Brown to victory in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

The native of Louisiana began his career at Evangeline Downs in 1986. After immediate success he moved north to compete on the Maryland racing circuit in 1987 where his performance earned him the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. In each of his first three years racing in Maryland, Desormeaux won more races than any other jockey in the United States.

Desormeaux, along with Chris McCarron, Steve Cauthen, and Julien Leparoux are the only jockeys to win the Eclipse Award in both the apprentice and overall categories. Desormeaux’s career has produced numerous individual honors including the 1993 George Woolf Award, the 2009 Bill Hartack Award, and a 2004 induction into the Thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame.

The Preakness Stakes was Desormeaux’s only win for the week from his three mounts. His mounts total earnings of $904,845 led all North American riders.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Maryland Takes the Lead On Concussion Protocol

Jockeys don't need to be racing to take a spill. Last month, during a post parade at Laurel Park, Trevor McCarthy's horse reared up and tossed the 22-year-old rider, who slammed into the ground.

Immediately, McCarthy, one of Maryland's top jockeys, underwent a battery of tests at the track administered by a sports medicine physician and was told he'd suffered a concussion. Last fall, the state became the first in the nation to establish a concussion protocol for jockeys and, as such, McCarthy was required to rest for as long as a week before being cleared to ride again in Maryland.

The jockey mulled his options. No mounts meant no money, and McCarthy was to ride the next day at Keeneland (Ky.), which has no concussion policy. In the end, he followed doctor's orders. Six days later, having recovered, he was back in the saddle.

"It was tough to sit," said McCarthy, who's now riding at Pimlico Race Course. "It stinks that you lose money. Yeah, I was dizzy [from the fall], but your natural instinct is to say, 'I want to ride, I want to ride.'"

Without Maryland's new mandate, he conceded, "I would have gone right back to the track. But when a [medical] professional says, 'We're looking out for your future just like we do on Sundays for NFL players' ... I took him at his word."

According to a 2016 study by the University of Kentucky, there were 36 reported concussions among jockeys (29 males, seven females) at tracks in the United States between 2012 and 2015. But a number of concussions still go unreported, said Dr. Carl Mattacola, author of the study.

Mattacola said 8 to 10 percent of all jockey falls result in concussions.

Head trauma has long been shrugged off by the industry. Jockeys often ride out concussions rather than forgo a paycheck. And track owners have largely ignored the more subtle but sinister injuries in a community they consider a transient hodgepodge of independent contractors.

"Experts have said that girls high school soccer teams are more prepared to deal with concussions than the thoroughbred industry," said Terry Meyocks, national manager of The Jockeys Guild. "Most tracks have doctors, but some of them care more about betting on the races. Some have even been dermatologists. You want doctors trained in trauma.

"This country is 15 years behind England in addressing the problem. We applaud what the Maryland Jockey Club [which owns Pimlico and Laurel] is doing; they are taking the lead so, hopefully, things are changing."

Last September, the MJC teamed with MedStar Sports Medicine to create The Horsemen's Health System, which provides routine and critical care to jockeys, backstretch workers and other track employees.

"We'd had an old retired doctor at the track, but he wasn't up to date on concussion protocol," said Dave Richardson, executive director of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "We blew up the old program and started from scratch. We took old barbershops at both tracks and turned them into doctors' offices."

Now, a rotation of four physicians, all skilled in head trauma, serve Pimlico on race days. When a jockey falls, he or she is examined on the spot. Those who are flagged for concussions must undergo four days of testing, from a 30-minute jog to a simulated ride, before returning to racing.

To date, three jockeys have been benched. Alberto Delgado sat out five weeks after an accident during a workout at Pimlico on April 4 in which he and his mount butted heads.

"My horse wanted to go faster, got mad, acted up and whacked me in the forehead," said Delgado, 50. "I was dizzy and weak, and had issues sleeping. At one point I didn't think I'd ever feel normal again, but the doctors assured me that if I continued to rest, everything would be OK. Without them, I probably would have gone crazy."

Psychology plays into a jockey's recovery from concussion, said Dr. Kelly Ryan, one of those who treated Delgado.

"It's like taking care of pregnant women," she said. "They have all of these signs but if they've never been pregnant, they don't know what to look for. Reassurance is important."

At first, jockeys at Laurel were wary of both the physicians and their protocol.

"They ignored us [doctors] for about two months," Ryan said. "Once they realized we were there for their safety, they welcomed us. Educating them is important. I tell them, 'I'm not taking you out because I want another jockey to win, but because of what can happen if I don't.' Imagine if you rode with a concussion — dizzy, with no depth perception or sense of balance. It's like driving drunk."

Not all jockeys embrace the new regimen. Two years ago, at Delaware Park, Jevian Toledo fell during a race and was kicked in the head. He woke up the next day in the hospital and couldn't ride for a week. So Toledo, 21, understands the risks of his job.

"This is my career that's at stake," he said. "But I can't lie. If I was told [to sit out] and I felt I could ride, I would go to another state and race."

"Of all the trophies I've won through the years, that helmet is my most precious because it saved my life," said Prado, 48. Yet the Hall of Famer won't rush to judgment on the new mandate.

"It is very important not to ride with a concussion," he said. "But I think we should be allowed to get a second opinion. These doctors have the rider's safety at stake, but we need specialists qualified in [head trauma]."

Dr. Frank Dawson understands such concerns. He is medical director of the Horsemen's Health System, director of sports medicine at Franklin Square Medical Center and an associate team physician for the Ravens.

"The key to jockeys being receptive to our care is trust and education," Dawson said. "Trevor and Alberto are great ambassadors for us. When horsemen see that they are being treated the same way as other pro athletes, that's huge. The difference is that if a Raven has a concussion, he still gets paid. A jockey doesn't."

For apprentice Kali Francois, it’s not about the money.

"I'm a competitive athlete. I don't want to sit on the bench and I have to be told that I can't ride," Francois said. At 25, she has already suffered two concussions, most recently at Laurel in December.

"The headache afterwards was tremendous; it came on like a wave," Francois said. "It was scary."

She's glad to be riding nowadays, with medical support close at hand.

"In the 1950s when a jockey went down, they took him off in a pickup truck. That's terrifying," Francois said. "The Maryland colony is at the forefront [of concussion concerns]. It's about time somebody made an example for the rest of the nation."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikeKlingaman


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Preakness News for May 18

Wednesday was jog day at Pimlico Race Course for Reddam Racing LLC’s Nyquist, who has been on a somewhat unusual training schedule of alternating days of jogging and galloping throughout the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner’s unblemished eight-race career.
 
 
“The morning went great. As planned, we jogged him two miles. I sound like a broken record – great energy, he looked great,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, whose stable star jogged two miles in the company of a pony. “We’re just looking for him to continue what he’s been doing since he’s been in Baltimore and just keep his appetite up and stay injury-free and stay loose. I’m very happy.”
 
 
Nyquist, who arrived at Pimlico two days after winning the May 7 Derby, is scheduled to face 10 rivals in Saturday’s 141st Preakness Stakes (G1). Keith Desormeaux-trained Exaggerator, who finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Nyquist in a second-place Derby finish under Kent Desormeaux, is slated to seek his first decision over the O’Neill trainee after falling victim to him in four meetings.
 
“I have great respect for both Keith and Kent Desormeaux. They’re great horsemen. Obviously, with Keith now in Southern California we’re around each other a lot. Both Desormeauxs are very competitive,” O’Neill said. “Both Nyquist and Exaggerator are top horses. We have a lot of respect for Exaggerator.”
 
 
While it’s customary for Preakness starters to be saddled on the turf course across from the grandstand, O’Neill will accept the option to saddle Nyquist in the paddock inside the grandstand building.
 
 
“We’re going to saddle inside just with the theory that we saddle the horse in the stall every day,” O’Neill said. “Sometimes saddling in the wide open, they can get looking around and not paying attention, so we’ll saddle him in the downstairs paddock area and then come out on the grass.”
 
Nyquist will seek to become the third West Coast-based horse in a row to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, following 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah and California Chrome, whose 2014 Triple Crown bid fizzled with a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
 
“I think it probably goes in cycles. Probably the next three or four years, it’ll be East Coast horses. Yeah, it’s been a pretty good run for West Coast horses,” said O’Neill, who speculated that the consistent weather could be a contributing factor.
 
Nyquist is scheduled to gallop under exercise rider Jonny Garcia at 8:30 Thursday. O’Neill will address the media at 9:15 a.m.
 
EXAGGERATOR – Keith Desormeaux entertained the media with his homespun way on a dreary Wednesday morning, spending about five seconds perched on the interview podium before vaulting over a rail to stand on the ground with the journalists and videographers. That proved his warm-up act.
 
 
Asked the daily administrative question concerning his Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator’s morning training session, Desormeaux said playfully, “He jogged two miles. You want more than that? Nothing happened. How about this? He bucked two times at the three-eighths pole and then settled in and jogged twice.
 
“He was feeling good. The kids were running around on the grandstand, and that usually gets him stirred up, any horse stirred up. He handled it well.”
 
 
Told that assistant trainer Julie Clark had quipped Sunday that she wished that ever-energetic Exaggerator would get a little tired just once, Desormeaux said, “It’s not a dangerous energy. Some horses, their energy can be used in dangerous ways. His is just a happy energy. He’s really not hard to handle. He’s a lot of fun to be around, to tell you the truth. Easy for me to say, though; they [his crew] spend a lot more time around him.” 
 
Asked if he finds horses more fun to be around and have more personality when they win Grade 1 races, Desormeaux said, “I haven’t had enough Grade 1 winners to expound on that question. But I can tell you, in my experience with Exaggerator, it seems like that (based on his) reaction to the clicking of the cameras. Maybe some horses will shy from that. But it seems he enjoys it, or he takes it as a cue to pose. He starts hearing the clicking, he’ll plant his feet and put his ears up and look over the horizon. It’s a pretty cool scene. That’s about the only equine characteristic I’ve seen with the Grade 1 wins.
 
“That’s what makes it so great, what’s great about owning a racehorse. When they take you to that highest level, it’s not like a football player who comes from the B leagues and makes the pros and after one year he’s asking for a multi-million dollar contract. We’re in the pros with Exaggerator; he’s won at the top level, and he’s not asking for any more feed, any more money, any more attention, shinier shoes. He’s still the same Exaggerator, and we’re just trying to keep him in peak health.”
 
Exaggerator’s Santa Anita Derby was Desormeaux’s second in a Grade 1 race, following Texas Red’s win the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). His nine graded-stakes victories started with Ive Struck a Nerve winning the Fair Grounds’ Risen Star (G2) at 135-1 odds in 2013. The rest have come after Desormeaux started training in Southern California, a move made possible after joining forces with Matt Bryan’s Big Chief Racing, the majority owner in Exaggerator.
 
California-based horses have won the Kentucky Derby for three straight years, with Nyquist following Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Preakness winner California Chrome in 2014.
 
“It is interesting, and I noticed that years ago,” the Louisiana-born Desormeaux said in response to a question. “Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I chose to head out West when I had the opportunity. The stats are just staring you in the face: If you want to be successful in the Triple Crown, it seems like being out in California is one of the first steps to accomplish that.
 
“I don’t know why I’m saying so, because if people listen, there will be more competition. And it’s tough enough out there as it is. Please, everybody, stay where you are. But if I had to go further and explain it, the only thing that makes real sense to me is the fact that these horses don’t have to deal with the weather changes as much out there. That’s why there’s 40 million people in California. The weather is outstanding, and I think the horses react favorably to it. They don’t have to constantly change their metabolism to deal with the seasons.”
 
Exaggerator is scheduled for a walk day Thursday morning. Keith Desormeaux will be available to the media at 9 a.m.
 
ABIDING STAR – Stonehedge Farm LLC’s Abiding Star will be Pimlico-bound Thursday morning now that the quarantine at Parx Racing was lifted Tuesday.
 
The Ned Allard colt, who jogged once around the Parx track Wednesday morning after breezing an easy half-mile in 50.16 seconds Tuesday, is scheduled to ship to Pimlico early Thursday morning.
 
“He’ll walk and ship tomorrow. He’s just going to gallop once around on Friday, and he’s good to go,” Allard said.
 
Abiding Star is riding a five-race winning streak that includes a triumph in the James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel in March and the Parx Derby on May 7. Allard acknowledged that the son of Uncle Mo will be making a sharp leap in class for the Preakness Stakes.
 
“I haven’t met that kind of horse yet, but I’m at least meeting it with a horse that’s confident and lately hasn’t smelled defeat. So I’m hoping he continues on,” Allard said.
 
AWESOME SPEED – Colts Neck Stable’s Awesome Speed walked the shedrow at owner Richard Santulli’s private training facility in New Jersey Wednesday morning, the day after his final workout for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
 
“Everything’s fine,” trainer Alan Goldberg said by phone from Colts Neck, where Awesome Speed breezed four furlongs in 47.20 seconds on Tuesday. “He’ll gallop tomorrow and then get on the van for Pimlico at around 8 or so.”
 
Originally sold back to co-breeder Allen Poindexter for $80,000 as a yearling, the son of Awesome Again showed up at the March 2015 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Sale for 2-year-olds in training and Goldberg bought the colt for $335,000 for Santulli.
 
So far, he’s earned $223,660 back for the stable with four wins in six starts, including a victory in the Federico Tesio at Laurel April 9 via disqualification that earned an automatic berth in the Preakness starting gate.
 
“I just liked him,” Goldberg said of the son of the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion. “I liked the way he breezed and I liked the way he looked.”
 
Goldberg isn’t exactly sure where his colt fits in the 3-year-old picture right now, but his Tesio victory was flattered by the fact that Christophe Clement-trained Governor Malibu, who impeded Awesome Speed at Laurel, came back to run a close second in Belmont’s Peter Pan (G2) last weekend to undefeated Unified, who had previously won the Bay Shore (G3).
 
“That horse of Christophe’s ran a pretty good race the other day and had a pretty good final time,” Goldberg said. “He probably would have won if he didn’t get bumped.”
 
Still, Goldberg admits he’s a bit uncomfortable with all the front-running types signed up for the Preakness.
 
“He’s had some good races,” Goldberg said of his three-time stakes winner. “I just don’t really like the flow of the race looking at it. There’s going to be a lot of speed and he wants to be a forward kind of horse.”
 
Jevian Toledo, a 21-year-old who was Maryland’s leading rider in 2015, gets the return ride aboard Awesome Speed. He was the colt’s fifth different rider in six races when he won the Tesio.
 
CHERRY WINE – The third-place finisher in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G1), Cherry Wine was to land in Baltimore around 2 p.m. ET Wednesday after the flight from Louisville, but trainer Dale Romans and partner Tammy Fox stopped by the track in the morning.
 
Romans’ only Triple Crown victory to date came in the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford, who held off the late-running Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom by a half-length.
 
“Shackleford was just fourth in the Derby and he was a special type of horse,” Romans said of his Metropolitan Mile (G1) winner. “Cherry Wine is one of those horses where he’s probably not the best horse, but he’s opportunistic. If he gets the opportunity, he’s going to capitalize on it. If Nyquist comes up a little tired where he can’t handle the two-week turnaround, we’ll be right there ready.
 
“Everybody knows that if everybody runs true to form, Nyquist isn’t going to get beat. But horses don’t always run true to form. We saw that last year in the middle of the summer,” added Romans, who saddled Keen Ice for an upset victory over Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga last August.
 
“So you’ve got to just keep trying them,” Romans said. “They’re not cars. They’re animals, organic. Anything can happen. My horse loves the mud. If it comes up rainy and wet, he could run a huge race. But it’s going to take a huge effort, and it might take a little bit of Nyquist backing up, even with a huge effort, to win the race.”
 
Cherry Wine is owned by the partnership of breeders William Pacella, Frank Jones and Frank Shoop. The gray son of the Romans-trained Paddy O’Prado needed five starts to win a race, but then did so by 9 1/4 lengths in the slop last Nov. 28. He then won a Gulfstream Park allowance race by six lengths on Jan. 9. A scheduled appearance in the Fountain of Youth (G2) was derailed by an untimely temperature, with Cherry Wine later going in Oaklawn Park’s Rebel (G2), in which he rallied late to finish fourth. He rallied again in the Blue Grass, won by stablemate Brody’s Cause. He missed out qualifying for the Kentucky Derby field by falling just a head short of Blue Grass runner-up My Man Sam. 
 
Asked to compare American Pharoah and Nyquist, Romans said, “The comparison would be Seattle Slew. That was the last undefeated champion 2-year-old to come in and win the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah was a superstar, but he was beaten in his first start. And Nyquist ran faster. I’m a huge American Pharoah fan.  I think he’s a horse of a generation, but Nyquist is doing some amazing things. He has that intangible. He just wins.”
 
Romans expressed an opinion that Nyquist may not be under-appreciated.
 
“He doesn’t seem to have the same critical acclaim inside the industry that he deserves, and I don’t know what that’s about. But I think after the Derby that changed. I think going into the Derby, we could say he wasn’t getting the same respect that some of the other favorites going into it did. But coming out of it, I think people realized this is a special horse. And Doug has done a special job with him. I keep saying to everybody, to get out of your pattern that you won your first Derby with (I’ll Have Another in 2012) and to do something totally different, and bringing in a totally different horse, that took a lot of expertise and understanding of your horse. He trains him completely different, and that’s the sign of a good trainer. He knows his horse, and he knows what Nyquist needs compared with what I’ll Have Another needed.”
 
COLLECTED – Bob Baffert said Wednesday that the Speedway Stable colt Collected deserves a shot in the Preakness, but the Hall of Fame trainer acknowledged that Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will be difficult to beat.
 
 
Baffert secured his sixth Preakness last year with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. A victory by Collected would put him into a tie with Robert Walden for the most victories by a trainer, but Baffert has never won the Preakness with a horse that did not compete in the Kentucky Derby. In his most recent start, Collected ran his record to 4-1-0 from six starts with a victory in the Lexington Stakes (G3) on April 16.
 
“It’s going to be a step up for him,” Baffert said. “He’s fast and there are a lot of fast horses in there. We never thought about the Derby with him. We thought about the Preakness, the shorter one. The owners get excited. He’s the kind of horse that brings it every time. He’s handy. He’s quick.”
 
That said, Baffert turned to Nyquist, who he said deserves respect for what he has accomplished – by staying unbeaten with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), the Florida Derby (G1)and the Kentucky Derby on his resume.
 
“He’s a really good horse,” Baffert said. “When you win eight in a row … It’s like California Chrome, where everybody was lukewarm. Then he won the Derby and it was like, ‘Oh, he is for real.’  Then he won the Preakness and it was like, ‘Oh!’
 
“He’s fast. He’s really fast and he stays out of trouble. He has a winning attitude. Horses like that are tough. It’s like ‘pass me to win.’ He’s tough. He’s fast. He reminds me of Smarty Jones, just really explosive.”
 
Smarty Jones was unbeaten in 2004 through the Derby and Preakness but was edged by Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes.
 
Baffert nodded in agreement when asked whether Nyquist was the standout in the field.
 
“I think he is better,” Baffert said. “That’s what the Classics are all about. He ran pretty fast in the Derby and kept running. It was a pretty impressive race.”
 
Baffert said Nyquist’s win over previously unbeaten Mohaymen in the Florida Derby made him a standout.
 
“When you can ship and win that’s a big thing,” Baffert said. “He really did that. He took care of business there. His comeback, the seven-eighths race (the San Vicente), he ran really fast. He’s just fast and he carries his speed. A lot of these horses are fast, but can they carry their speed?
 
“I probably would be surprised if he didn’t win it. He’s going to be tough to beat. The only way we can beat him is either if he does not bring his ‘A’ game or has some racing luck that hampers him. Any time you win the Derby and you come back, usually they’ll come back and it’s easy because you don’t have to do much and they’ll just fire.  Especially with a horse that has speed, you have an edge on them.”
 
FELLOWSHIP – Jacks or Better Farm’s Fellowship, who arrived from Churchill Downs early Tuesday morning, got acquainted with the Pimlico racing surface Wednesday morning.
 
“He’s settled in real nice. He seems to be really enjoying it here. Usually, when we ship in we’ll take it easy with them for the first couple days. He just went off and galloped just a mile instead of a mile and a half,” said trainer Mark Casse’s son and assistant Norm Casse.
 
 
Fellowship finished fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs May 7. Like Derby winner Nyquist and runner-up Exaggerator, as well as ninth-place finisher Lani, Fellowship will run back in the Preakness with just two weeks between races.
 
“He seems like he has a really high energy level. He’s a horse when he gallops shows a lot of enthusiasm. He seems to be coming into this race the same way he came into the race Derby Day,” said Casse. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to be here.”
 
Fellowship closed late to finish third in three graded stakes at Gulfstream Park this winter – Holy Bull (G2), Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Florida Derby – and might be expected to benefit from an apparent abundance of speed horses in the Preakness field.
 
“We’re just going to let him settle into his stride. We don’t have a target on our back by any means. Nobody’s really paying attention to us. We find that his horse has a really good cruising speed, so I think, ideally, you just don’t mess with him – just let what happens in the race happen and let him come with his run when it’s time,” Casse said. “It’s certainly nice to know there’s going to be speed for him to run at, but we’re not going to take him back and take him out of his game because we think there’s going to be a ton of speed that’s going to collapse. We’ll just let him be who he is.”
 
Jose Lezcano has the return mount aboard the son of Awesome of Course.
 
LANI – Koji Maeda’s homebred colt Lani breezed five furlongs in 1:01.2 Wednesday at Belmont Park to complete his preparations for the 141st Preakness Stakes. 
The ninth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby will ship to Baltimore early Thursday. 
 
According to Keita Tanaka, the agent for Maeda, the timed work went according to the plan laid out by trainer Mikio Matsunaga, who returned from Japan on Tuesday. Lani walked one time around the 1 1/2-mile main track, then galloped toward the five-eighths pole, where he began his run to the wire.
 
“It was an ideal work,” Tanaka said. “He showed a very good turn of foot.”
 
Just as important, the son of Tapit followed instructions and did not act up, which he did at times at Churchill Downs prior to the Kentucky Derby. 
 
“The horse behaved very well,” Tanaka said, “and it was exactly what the trainer wanted to see this morning.”
 
Tanaka has overseen Lani’s two-month international journey, which took him from Japan to Dubai, where he won the U.A.E Derby, and then on to America for the Triple Crown series. He said that the decision to go to Belmont Park two days after the Derby has paid off.
 
“After he left Japan, we have been to many places,” Tanaka said. “For the training aspect, Belmont has been the best location for him. Because the track is wider and there are fewer horses out there, Lani just concentrated on what he needs to do. He has been behaving as good as he does back home in Japan. He been relaxing and when he needs to run he concentrates on running.”
 
Tanaka said he thinks the colt is as good as he can be approaching the Preakness.
 
“Since he left Japan for this trip, I would say that he is in the best form right now,” Tanaka said.
 
Regular rider Yataka Take, the 16-time Japanese champion jockey, will be aboard in the Preakness.
 
LAOBAN – McCormick Racing LLC and Southern Equine Stable’s Laoban made his first visit to the Pimlico Race Course track Wednesday morning under the wide and watchful eyes of trainer Eric Guillot, jogging two miles under exercise rider Clay Courville while in the company of a pony.
 
 
Decked out in customary cargo shorts and a hoodie, Guillot said the son of Uncle Mo was settling in nicely after arriving on a flight from Louisville Tuesday afternoon. He has been training at Keeneland since finishing fourth in the Blue Grass on April 9.
 
“There were a lot of moving parts, a lot of things to get done, but we did it,” said Guillot, who is set to saddle his first Preakness horse. 
 
 Probable Preakness favorite Nyquist has never lost a race in eight starts; Laoban has never won a race in five starts. That doesn’t faze Guillot, who needed 10 tries before his most successful runner Moreno broke his maiden. He then went on to win multiple graded stakes and nearly $3 million in purses.
 
Laoban was on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby, along with Preakness contender Cherry Wine, but neither colt got into the field.
 
“I wanted to be the next one to win the Triple Crown, because it was 37 years since the last one, but that white-haired (expletive) did it last year, so now I’m trying to win the Preakness with a maiden,” said Guillot, referring to trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled American Pharoah for a sweep of the 2015 Triple Crown.
 
Laoban, which means “boss” in Mandarin Chinese, came closest to the winner’s circle in a maiden race as a 2-year-old and again in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct in March, both second-place finishes in which he had the lead in the stretch.
 
With all the speed signed up for the Preakness, Guillot hopes to alter that strategy with the removal of blinkers and the addition of jockey Florent Geroux.
 
“He’s too big of a horse to show that kind of speed early,” Guillot said. “I think he’s going to relax more.  He’s had a few works with horses in front of him. This field is loaded with speed – loaded more than Guillot’s plate at a Chinese buffet.”
 
Guillot said he’s more than mildly impressed with Derby winner Nyquist.
 
“Nyquist looks great,” he said.  “I think Nyquist looked better today than he did previous to the Derby when I saw him. That’s not good for me.”
 
STRADIVARI – Ten years ago, an unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner came into the Preakness Stakes, but the winner of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown was a horse making only his fourth career start. The Derby winner was Barbaro, who, in one of racing’s saddest chapters, sustained what ultimately proved fatal injuries not long after leaving the starting gate. The Preakness winner was something of a footnote at the time, but became the 3-year-old champion: Bernardini, who went on to win Saratoga’s Travers and Belmont’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) before finishing second behind Horse of the Year Invasor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
 
Stradivari brings form into Saturday’s Preakness that is reminiscent of Bernardini’s at the same stage. Both colts were fourth while sprinting in their racing debuts, though Stradivari’s came in November and Bernardini never ran until January. Both then impressively won a maiden race at Gulfstream Park, Bernardini by 7 3/4 lengths and Stradivari by 11 1/4. While Bernardini in his third start captured Aqueduct’s Withers Mile (G3) by 3 3/4 lengths, one could argue that an entry-level allowance race at Keeneland, which Stradivari took by 14 1/2 lengths, included comparable company.
 
“I hope you can draw the same comparisons following the race,” said trainer Todd Pletcher.
 
So breathtaking was Stradivari at Keeneland that if the Medaglia d’Oro colt goes on to be a classic winner, the question might become: How the heck did he lose his first race? Especially considering that since 2010, Pletcher’s horses debuting as 2-year-olds have gone 159 for 567 - good for a 28-percent win clip, according to Brisnet.
 
“Uh, the trainer didn’t have him ready to run first time out,” Pletcher said recently from New York. “It’s like I kidded with some of my clients, I think we’ve done so well with our first-time starters over the years that we’ve spoiled everyone thinking they just have to win first time out.
 
“At the time we were getting him ready, I felt like he was ready to run. I wasn’t a thousand percent sure he was what I would describe as super-tight ready to go. But the way the condition book fell, I didn’t want to run him six furlongs first time out. The seven-furlong race came up. I had Rally Cry for the next six-furlong race. I didn’t want to run Stradivari six and I didn’t want to run the two together and I didn’t want to wait three more weeks to run. So I decided to go ahead and run, and he came up a little bit short.
 
“At the eighth-pole he flattened out a little bit and got a little bit tired. We sent him to Florida after that race and a few more works moved him forward. Plus we got to stretch him out around two turns, which is what he really wants to do.”
 
Stradivari is owned by breeder John Gunther, who sold part-interest in the colt after his maiden victory to the Coolmore associates Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier, the wife of the head of the Coolmore stallion conglomerate.
 
Stradivari galloped 1 3/8 miles Wednesday morning over Belmont’s training track. He is to arrive at Pimlico around 9 a.m. Thursday, Pletcher said.
 
UNCLE LINO – Trainer and co-owner Gary Sherlock is confident that Uncle Lino is ready for the challenge of facing unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and the other nine horses entered in the 141st Preakness. 
 
“I don’t know if I’m going to get it done, but I’m going to come in and give it a good shot,” Sherlock said. “The horse is doing good. He’s moving forward.”
 
Uncle Lino, who Sherlock owns with Tom Mansor and Jim Glavin, finished third  to Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and won the California Chrome, an ungraded stake at Los Alamitos in April. Those performances encouraged him to try the Preakness and he said every horse in the field has got to improve to have a chance to beat Nyquist.
 
“Exaggerator has beat me twice, but I’ve had some excuses,” Sherlock said. “I think my horse is better now than when I ran with him. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t run first, second or third. If nothing happens to Nyquist, he’ll probably win.”
 
Uncle Lino, named for Mansor’s favorite uncle, shipped from California to Baltimore on Tuesday and did not go to the track on Wednesday. Sherlock, 70, is a veteran horseman who has had success with Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds in California. Uncle Lino will be his first starter in one of America’s classic races. As he stood outside the Preakness Stakes Barn Wednesday morning, he said he was looking forward to the experience.
 
“It’s fun. It’s good,” he said. “It’s the Preakness, so it’s not just another horse race. I’ve been doing this for 50 years, so I don’t get that excited. Want to see me excited? Let me win.”  Pimlico Race Course Press Box
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Diego R, Sanchez, paralyzed in May 6 spill at Emerald, slated to begin rehabilitation

Jockey Diego R. Sanchez, who was paralyzed in a spill at Emerald Downs on May 6, remains hospitalized Monday in stable condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Jeff Brown, Sanchez’s agent, said Sanchez suffered extensive spinal cord damage, including two fractured vertebrae, in addition to broken ribs, a broken left clavicle and a collapsed lung, after his mount, Agate Beach, appeared to clip heels and fell near the three-eighths pole in the third race May 6.

Sanchez, 26, was air-lifted to Harborview after the spill and underwent more than eight hours of surgery the following day.

“He’s paralyzed from the chest down,” Brown said. “It was a bad injury. He was really scared; here was a kid who didn’t know if he was going to live or die. When it happened – I don’t know if I’ve fully taken it in yet. But he tells me, ‘It’s going to be okay, I’m okay.’ He’s an amazing young man.”

Sanchez spent more than a week in intensive care before being transferred to Harborview’s trauma recovery unit. He was scheduled to begin an arduous rehabilitation process later this week.

Cassidy Burg, Sanchez’s girlfriend and an aspiring jockey in Northern California, said Sanchez has made slow but steady progress both physically and emotionally.

“He’s getting a little better every day,” Burg said. “The doctors have been talking to us a quite a bit, and he knows the extent of his injuries. We don’t know what the future holds. There’s hope for a recovery, but we’re being practical. The spinal cord injury is going to be a long-term process. Diego has been very aware throughout the entire process.”

A native of Mexico, Sanchez has 138 career victories, according to Equibase, and was 3 for 23 in 2016. In 2015, his first season at Emerald Downs, Sanchez finished 12th in the jockey standings in a meeting cut short for him because of a July spill that resulted in injuries to his back and wrist.

Brown said doors were just starting to open wide for the affable Sanchez at Emerald Downs.

“Doris Harwood had given him my first two calls, and we were going to work some horse for her the next day. That was huge,” Brown said. “I had guys coming up from Arizona who he was going to ride for. He’d won a couple the previous week. He was just getting ready to take off.”

Sanchez’s friends created a page at GoFundMe.com to help offset his medical costs. As of late Monday, $17,901 had been donated. Officials at Emerald Downs also reached out, paying airfares for Burg to travel from Golden Gate Fields, and for Sanchez’s parents to join him from their home in Mexico.

“He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” Burg said. “He’s been handing it as well as can be expected. He really appreciates all the support he’s been getting. He just wants to make sure I tell everyone, ‘Thank you.’”

http://www.drf.com/news/diego-sanchez-paralyzed-may-6-spill-emerald-slated-begin-rehabilitation
 

Monday, May 16, 2016

John Velazquez Named Jockey of the Week

It took a heady ride from veteran jockey John Velazquez to rally his mount, find a clear path late and ultimately rundown his own stablemate to win the $400,000 Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday. That ride along with an overall solid week of riding led to Velazquez being named this week’s Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for May 9th – May 15th.  The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.

The Hall-of-Famer’s mount, Wake Forest (GER), was sent off as the 2-1 favorite for the 1 3/8 mile turf feature on Saturday and the pair would not disappoint. Off a step slow at the break, the German-bred winner saved ground at the back of the nine-horse field, trailing an early pace set by Go Around. That leader would be tracked closely by Money Multiplier, the Chad Brown trained stablemate of Wake Forest (GER).

Velazquez urged his mount to pick up the pace in the far turn as the field converged at the top of the stretch. The Puerto Rican born rider then deftly navigated Wake Forest to angle off the hedge, finding a clear path late where the pair charged down the lane to sweep past their stablemate in the final yards. The three-quarter-length victory was Velzaquez’s second win in the Man o’ War as his first came aboard Boisterous in 2013.

“We know he doesn’t break really well,” said Velazquez, “so it was a perfect opportunity to put him behind horses and save ground and hopefully, down the lane, we’d get some sort of seam where we could let him run. When he got the little seam he just exploded.”

The 44-year old Velazquez learned to ride in his native Puerto Rico. In January of 1990, he won his first race at El Nuevo Comandante Racetrack in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico. That same year, under the guidance of agent and former jockey, Angel Cordero, Jr., he moved to New York State to ride. He has since earned a combined 24 riding titles at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.

On October 13, 2013, the George Woolf Award winner became the all-time leading money winner among North American jockeys, surpassing Pat Day. The next year, Velazquez became the all-time leading money winner in the history of jockeying and the first whose earnings surpassed $300 million. He has finished in the top ten in North American earnings every year since 2000 as well.

For the week, Velazquez won five races from his 25 starters with two second place finishes, and five third place finishes. His mounts total earnings of $523,802 were good enough for second amongst all riders.

Monday, May 16, 2016

MITCHELL MURRILL FITS RIGHT IN WITH LEADING JOCKEYS

This time last season, Mitchell Murrill was a 20-year-old apprentice jockey who was quickly riding his way out of the weight allowance. After an encouraging 2014-2015 winter meeting at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Murrill brought his tack to Arlington International Racecourse.

 

“I was second leading rider last year to Jose Valdivia, Jr.,” said Murrill. “I’m looking forward to having a good meet again. I’m trying to ride the best horses I can and go for that leading rider title. Jose is a good rider and gets a lot of business, so I’ve just got to stay focused and see what we can do.”

 

On his way to finishing second in the Arlington jockey standings last meet, the young rider graduated from his “bug-boy” status. That didn’t slow down business for Murrill, who has showed the skill and experience of a more seasoned rider.

 

“Down at Fair Grounds this winter I rode 66 winners and I was also second leading rider there to Florent Geroux,” said Murrill. “I don’t think [losing the bug] hurt as bad because I’ve built enough confidence in the trainers that I rode for previously that they’ll trust me to ride their horses to the best of my ability. Mike Stidham is my main barn, and he’s done a phenomenal job keeping me on most of his horses and giving me a shot. Throughout the Fair Grounds meet I rode about 65% of his horses there, which is a pretty high percent for one jock for him. Hopefully it goes the same way here, and I do well for him again.”

 

Following a strong winter season in Louisiana, Murrill traveled to Lexington, Kentucky where he received mounts at Keeneland, only adding to his experience and gaining notoriety as a fierce competitor on the track.

 

“I rode three winners at Keeneland this spring,” continued Murrill. “I set a track record on one of those three going 4½ furlongs on the Eoin Harty-trained Drafted. He’s a pretty cool horse. It was a solid little meet, for the experience and the business I have, and for that time. Hopefully the fall meet will be a little better, that’s where we will point for after the summer at Arlington.” Arlington Park Press Box Notes

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

TAA and PDJF Team Up for Jockey Goggle Fund-Raiser

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) have come together to offer signed jockey goggles as a part of a joint fund-raising effort. The goggles, signed by top-class jockeys, will be available as a souvenir in exchange for a donation to be shared between the two organizations.

 

The TAA and PDJF will be offering the goggles on site at Pimlico Race Course on Black-Eyed Susan Day (May 20) and Preakness Stakes Day (May 21). The goggles have been signed by jockeys such as Victor Espinoza, last year’s Triple Crown-winning jockey, and Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens and John Velazquez.

 

“This is a great thing for both the riders and the horses,” stated Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. “We make a living with these horses, so it’s a very worthy cause.”

 

“The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund is looking forward to partnering with the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on this fund-raising initiative,” stated Nancy LaSala, PDJF president. “It is a great opportunity for our two organizations to work together to bring awareness and raise funds for both the equine and human athletes in our sport.” 

 

“It is great to be collaborating with the PDJF to shine the light on our athletes on some of our sport’s best days of racing,” stated Jimmy Bell, TAA and Darley America president.

 

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, the non-profit Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredits, inspects and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain and rehome Thoroughbreds using industry-wide funding. Funded initially by seed money from Breeders’ Cup Ltd., The Jockey Club, and Keeneland Association, Inc., the TAA is supported by owners, trainers, breeders, racetracks, aftercare professionals and other industry groups. To date, 56 aftercare organizations supporting more than 180 facilities across the U.S. and Canada have been granted accreditation and received funding from the TAA. To learn more about the TAA, visit thoroughbredaftercare.org.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Mario Gutierrez Named Jockey of the Week

Jockey Mario Gutierrez is still undefeated in America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, after scoring with undefeated Nyquist under the Twin Spires on Saturday. That great ride led to another honor as he was named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for the week of May 2nd to May 8th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.

Four years after riding I’ll Have Another to victory in the “Run for the Roses”, Gutierrez earned another Derby triumph by riding favorite Nyquist to a 1 1/4-length victory. Gutierrez’s next step may well be trying to win another Preakness in only his second try, two weeks from now in Baltimore.

For the moment he’s basking in this Derby win. “One race at a time,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez got Nyquist to break cleanly, settle nicely and find a great spot early on in the Derby before giving him his head as they came around the far turn. He then asked for another gear into the stretch and Nyquist was willing. A familiar rival, Exaggerator, launched a late run from far back, but his rider, Kent Desormeaux, knew that it was a futile chase.

Gutierrez did not see Exaggerator or anyone else that he was worried about when he peeked beneath his arm. The rider knows his colt.

“He will not allow any other horse past him,” he said. “He’s the kind of horse that always has something left for whatever comes to him late.”

Gutierrez has experienced the highs and lows of the sport. After reaching the pinnacle of success in 2012, his career began a downward turn. He experienced self-doubt and was puzzled on how to rebound.

The Mexican born rider decided to try seeing a sports psychologist. After his first session, he booked ten more. He changed his diet and began intensifying his physical training. The changes came just in time as he was introduced to his current horse, Nyquist.

“I’m doing things I wasn’t doing four years ago,” said Gutierrez, who is expecting a child with his wife Rebecca. “So, that makes me have a lot of confidence. I know that my surroundings always believe in me, so you get extra confidence. “I believe I got the right people behind me, so they always give me confidence,” he added.

Gutierrez has shown it with Nyquist, who’s a perfect 8-0 — all with him aboard. The relationship came full circle at Churchill Downs with a run that didn’t shock trainer Doug O’Neill.

“He’s got ice in his veins,” he said of the jockey. “He’s the one you want on the free throw line at the end of the game.”

For the week, Gutierrez had one big win from just six starts and added one second place finish aboard Land Over Sea in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday. He led all North American riders in earnings for the week with $1,830,260.

JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, The Daily Racing Form, Equibase, Horse Racing Nation, The Jockeys’ Guild, The Paulick Report, The Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Derby/Oaks Update for Thursday, May 5

Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 80s under sunny skies Saturday afternoon for Kentucky Derby 142, but Thursday morning’s conditions were nowhere close to that as the 22 entrants for the $2,391,600 race went through their paces.

            Temperatures were in the upper 40s with a light, steady rain falling when the track opened at 5:45 (all times Eastern) with the track condition labeled as “wet-fast” by Churchill Downs clockers. The rain stopped at 6:30 but by the time the track reopened at 8:30 after the renovation break, conditions were downgraded to “good” as a light drizzle began to fall along with a biting breeze.

Conditions are forecast to be more favorable for the weekend with warmer temperatures and little chance of rain.

Training hours Friday and Saturday will be from 5:45-8 a.m. with the 5:45-6 window reserved for Kentucky Derby entrants and any Kentucky Oaks starter wanting to test the track the morning of their Run for the Lilies.

 

KENTUCKY DERBY NOTES

 

BRODY’S CAUSE/CHERRY WINE – Trainer Dale Romans sent Albaugh Family Stable’s Brody’s Cause and William Pacella, Frank L. Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop’s Cherry Wine to the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning for 1 ½-mile gallops.

            Brody’s Cause, the Blue Grass (GI) winner, drew post 19 and is rated at 12-1 in the morning line for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, while Blue Grass third-place finisher Cherry Wine is second on the also-eligible list and will need two defections by 9 a.m. Friday to draw into the field.

Romans was joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer during the training session for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses Thursday morning. A lifelong resident of Louisville, Romans will be seeking his first Kentucky Derby success.

“A lot is being made about me being from Louisville. But it wouldn’t mean any more to me than anyone else in this game,” Romans said. “Once you come into this game, walk through the gate at any racetrack and starting taking care of horses, you’ve got to be thinking about Kentucky Derby. It would mean as much to the Japanese who came over here to go back home and say, ‘Konnichiwa, everybody,’ and wave the trophy.”

Brody’s Cause has given his trainer a lot of confidence about his Derby chances.

“Because he’s peaking at the right time; he’s as good right now as he could possibly be; he’s extremely sound; he likes this racetrack; he’s won over this racetrack; he’s beaten a 14-horse field; he’s beaten an 11-horse field; he was third in a 14-horse field; he’s not a plodding closer; he’s an accelerating closer,

“He went from the half-mile pole to the quarter pole in the Blue Grass and passed – what? – 10 horses? I thought it was pretty amazing. He’s not one who’s going to be a victim of horses stopping in front of him. He’s one who, when he’s ready, he’ll catch up to them.

“In this race, what I’ve seen all the times I’ve tried it, acceleration is important. When the hole opens, you can get through it. He can get to it quickly. There will be trouble for anyone passing horses,” Romans added. “Those horses that can accelerate can get to the spot the jockey wants them and won’t get in trouble.”

 

CREATOR/GUN RUNNER – Trainer Steve Asmussen sent WinStar Farm's Creator and Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner to the starting gate for schooling after the renovation break Thursday. For exercise, the colts galloped.

Asmussen said that the colts, "to this point,'' have behaved well at the gate. "The Derby and that many runners, and both of them drawn considerably inside, it's going to test their patience,'' he said.

Creator will break from post position three and Gun Runner drew post five in the 20-horse Derby field. Since the draw Wednesday, Asmussen said, he has been envisioning race scenarios and trying to come up with the best strategies for both colts.

"Nothing but,'' he said. "Nothing but. Simulate it in your head. You know, who's where and who's doing what? You know, tendencies. Then go back and watch the replays of them. See if there's a reason they were where they were.''

And there are two more days to gather information and form plans. "Overanalyze it to say the least,'' Asmussen said.

 

DANZING CANDY – Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. continues to be pleased with Danzing Candy’s training and schooling sessions as the big day nears.

“He really settled in right away, and has been perfect,” Sise said Thursday morning before sending out the colt for a gallop under Rolando Quinones and to stand in the gate. “This weather is cold for us, but for the horses, they like it.”

Perfect wouldn’t be the word to describe post 20 the front-runner drew for the Derby, but Sise and jockey Mike Smith prefer to put a positive spin on it.

“Mike texted me yesterday and said, ‘Well, it’s better than one,’ ” Sise said. “We’ll just let (Danzing Candy) do his thing, which means go to the front, because it’s really up to the owner (Ted Aroney) and he’s a kind of a speed-bias type of owner. If it were up to me, I would lay second, because Nyquist has speed, too.”

Aroney of Halo Farms co-owns Danzing Candy with Jim and Dianne Bashor. Aroney bred Danzing Candy from his dam, Talkin and Singing. The colt’s sire is Twirling Candy, a son of Candy Ride.

“Compared to my other 2-year-olds early last year, I (ranked Danzing Candy), at times, second, third, or maybe fourth,” Aroney said this week. “He started to come around in July, and then he became No. 1, without even making his first start.

“Every day after the Santa Anita Derby, he kept getting better and better and better. I wouldn’t run him if he didn’t have a chance; and I think he has a good chance.”

Danzing Candy, who is 15-1 in the morning-line odds, was scheduled to school in the paddock Thursday during the first race.

 

DESTIN/OUTWORK – The Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Destin and Outwork were trackside at 8:30 Thursday morning to take advantage of Churchill Downs’ special Derby/Oaks training period.  It was chilly and it had rained earlier and the track had gone from “wet-fast” early to “good,” but the two colts and their showcase training partners warmed things up noticeably.

            With exercise rider Ovel Merida in the saddle on Destin and Hector Ramos aboard Outwork, the two moved handily over the track for solid gallops of a mile and three-eighths.

            The evening before they had drawn posts for Saturday’s $2,391,600 Kentucky Derby (GI) with Destin being slotted in post nine and Outwork in post 15. 

            Pletcher spoke to the fact that it appears that the way the Derby horses drew, the majority of the “speed” horses – which would include Outwork – have drawn outside in the 20-horse field.

            “It looks like the speed is on the outside and most of the deep closers have drawn inside,” the trainer said. “That certainly is something that has to be considered coming up to the race. I’ll have my thoughts on what I think should be our race strategy and my riders (Javier Castellano on Destin and John Velazquez on Outwork) will have their ideas, too. They’ll be riding (other) horses for me during (Saturday) and walking back after races we can discuss what we’re likely to do for the Derby. Waiting until then gives us the extra advantage of seeing how the track is playing that afternoon, which is another factor that has to be considered. We’ll work up a plan; we’ll get it figured out.”

 

EXAGGERATOR – The Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Exaggerator headed to the track at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to train with other Derby and Oaks contenders. Trainer Keith Desormeaux’s dark son of Curlin had exercise rider Peedy Landry attached and the two did a double “wrong way” jog around the track.

            Among those watching the two-mile exercise was one of the colt’s owners, Matt Bryan, who is the “big chief” in the Big Chief Racing stable.

            “You dream about this,” the tall Texan said. “It is a blessing. If you’re in the horse business, this is where you want to be. Just to be in the Derby is great. And then to have a horse that has a real chance to win (Exaggerator is the 8-1 second choice in the 20-horse Derby field), that is so special.”

            Bryan recalled his initial meeting with Desormeaux at a horse sale in Texas in 2012.

            “Keith was there trying to pick one out and I saw how hard he was working,” Bryan remembered. “I think I have a bit of a gift to be able to read people and I just got a really good vibe off him. We were together for about 30 minutes and in that time I just knew he was the guy I was looking for. I grew up around horses; not Thoroughbreds, but work horses, Quarter Horses. I know a bit about them. And I could tell that Keith knew a lot about them and that he had an eye for them. I saw the way he looked at horses, how focused he was. I knew he was good. So I signed on with him and the first horse we bought – Ive Struck a Nerve – turned into a stakes winner. We bought others (including Exaggerator, of course) and now I think I’ve got about 20 horses with him.

            “And one of the nicest parts of all this is that Keith has become one of my best friends. I like him so much and the team and family he has here at the barn. It’s just all so good.”

            Exaggerator will break from post 11 Saturday in Kentucky Derby 142 and be ridden by three-time Derby winner (and Keith’s brother) Kent Desormeaux.

 

LAOBAN – McCormick Racing LLC and Southern Equine Stable’s Laoban, the first horse on the Kentucky Derby also-eligible list, jogged two miles Thursday after the renovation break while accompanied by a pony. As Laoban is stabled in trainer Wes Hawley’s Barn 20, Guillot used his host’s exercise rider, Eric Scherer, for the jog.

Barn 20 and stall 15, where Laoban is residing, is the same accommodations used by 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.

Failing a defection at the 9 a.m. Friday scratch time for the Derby, Laoban will be on a 10 a.m. van bound for Keeneland, which is where he has been stabled this spring. The Preakness is the backup plan, and Guillot said the fourth-place finisher in the Blue Grass (GI) may go to Pimlico as early as next Tuesday.

“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” said Guillot, who never has started a horse in the Derby. “He’ll run past his odds if he gets in.”

If he does secure a spot in the starting gate, Laoban, who is 50-1 in the morning line, will race without blinkers, equipment the front-runner has worn in four of his five career starts.

“I’m getting him to relax,” Guillot said. “I’ve been working him behind horses.”

 

LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani returned to the track Thursday morning for a half-hour exercise under exercise rider Eishu Maruuchi for trainer Mikio Matsunaga.

            Lani came on the track at the five-eighths gap, walked to the head of the stretch and jogged around for his first lap. Lani combined a jog and a gallop on his second circuit, galloped a third circuit and part of a fourth before slowing at the three-quarter pole and turning right to walk in the mile chute before walking back to the gap on which he entered the track.

            “I have seen him many mornings here and today was his best form,” Matsunaga said.

            Lani, winner of the UAE Derby (Group II) in his most recent start, drew post position eight for Saturday’s Run for the Roses and will be ridden by Yutaka Take. Lani was listed at 30-1 on the morning line.

            Matsunaga has had Lani visit the starting gate twice in the past week, but has no paddock schooling planned for his runner.

            “He has raced at several courses in Japan and behaved well, so I am not concerned,” Matsunaga said. “He has a strong mind of himself. He may get aggressive when horses come to him, but in the race he always concentrates. If horses don’t want to be around him that is good for the horse.”

            With an early 10:30 a.m. post time Friday, training hours will be from 5:45-8 a.m. with the 5:45-6 slot reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses. Matsunaga indicated that Lani would take advantage of the reserved time Friday.

            Mansunaga was not fazed by his colt’s longshot status.

            “Someone has to make the odds, but that doesn’t matter to me,” Matsunaga said.

 

MAJESTOGrupo 7C Racing Stable’s Majesto was sent to the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning for an easy gallop.

“He is very, very happy,” trainer Gustavo Delgado said. “He went very easy. He had his open gallop (Tuesday), he doesn’t need to do more.”

The Florida Derby (GI) runner-up drew the No. 18 post and was rated at 30-1 in the morning line.

“I prefer to be inside more, but what can I do?” Delgado said. “But you don’t know what will happen. Anything can happen.”

Delgado reported that jockey Emisael Jaramillo is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Thursday evening.

 

MOHAYMEN Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen galloped once around the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning.

“The track superintendent and his crew have again done a great job. We were able to gallop after the break. We changed up today and went off to the right and just went once around, because it was a little wet,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He went great. He wasn’t too keen. We had another great morning.”

Mohaymen, who had won his first five races before sustaining his first loss in a fourth-place finish in the Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park April 2, will be looking to rebound from post 14 Saturday.

“The outside horse (Danzing Candy) and Mike Smith are probably going to have to go to clear. Hopefully, we break good and follow Nyquist and him and see how it unfolds,” McLaughlin said. “We won’t be too far away – stalking from fifth-ish, hopefully.”

 

MOR SPIRIT – Michael Petersen's Mor Spirit, runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) in his most recent start, galloped once around the Churchill track for the second straight day under exercise rider George Alvarez during the special 8:30 a.m. training time.

“He's doing well,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “I'm happy with him. He's a nice horse. He's just as good as any of them here.”

The Eskendereya ridgling drew post position 17 Wednesday night, a spot that has yet to produce a Kentucky Derby winner in the 141-year history of the race.

“The last time I had post 17, it was with Gary Stevens and Point Given (in 2001),” Baffert said. “And, we all know how that turned out. But, it wasn't the post that got him beat that day. We'll just have to make history again this year.”

Point Given and Stevens, who will be aboard Mor Spirit on Saturday, did go on to win the Preakness (GI) and Belmont Stakes (GI) as well as Horse of the Year after finishing fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the Kentucky Derby.

 

MO TOM – G M B Racing's Mo Tom, with exercise rider Mario Garcia aboard, jogged to the starting gate for schooling before having a short gallop. On Friday, he'll gallop his usual two miles, trainer Tom Amoss said.

The colt was to go to the gate Wednesday, but Amoss said he called a last-minute audible. "I ended up changing my mind, because I was schooling him in the paddock, and I didn't want to throw too much at him.'' he said.

Corey Lanerie, Mo Tom's jockey, said he's grateful to have retained the mount. Lanerie's status was uncertain after the Louisiana Derby (GII), in which Mo Tom had a troubled stretch run. Lanerie tried to move him along the rail, but couldn't find running room. Mo Tom had to be checked for about a sixteenth of a mile and finished fourth.

After the race, Amoss strongly chewed out Lanerie, and in newspaper reports, Amoss put the blame squarely on the jockey.

"Like I tell everybody, the minute I came back on the horse, I wanted to get under a rock,'' Lanerie said. "And I could hear Tom, and I was just like, 'You know what Tom, give me what you've got. I'm sorry. There's nothing I could do. It's my fault. I don't remember what he said. ...

“I told that to him. I don't know if he heard it, but he's hollering. ... I was so embarrassed with myself for what had happened and for all the connections. I was so sorry for them. And I couldn't take it back and go do it again. So, I was heartbroken and embarrassed. I was in another world. I didn't hear him. I know he was mad and hollering, but I didn't know what he said.''

Back in the jockeys' room, Lanerie received a text from Amoss, who apologized for his outburst. "But like I told him, he really didn't have to do that, because, anybody in my life will tell you, I'm not a mean person,'' Lanerie said. "I give everybody all kind of options and look at things from the other side. It's not going to change our relationship. If he never rides me on another horse, I'll play golf with him next week or do whatever. Tom's a great guy and a great trainer, and he's been really helpful in my career.''

Mo Tom also had encountered traffic trouble in the stretch in the Risen Star (GII). Bistraya crossed toward the rail in front of him and Lanerie had to check Mo Tom sharply. He finished a close third.

"You know, everybody says, twice; I did it to him twice,'' Lanerie said. "The first time was not my fault at all.''

Amoss agrees that Lanerie wasn't at fault in the Risen Star. "He did nothing wrong,'' Amoss said.

But the Louisiana Derby was different, Lanerie said. "I really hadn't moved yet, and I ended up in a bad spot,'' he said. "I watch the replay, and I don't know how I ended up there. But it's only really been one time where I might have made a bad choice. So, we all make mistakes, and I know the horse. I don't blame them for sticking with me, but if they would not have, I could not be mad at them one bit. I'm human. My dad trains. I could have been on the other side of the fence. ... You can see them going somewhere else. But thank God, they didn't.''

Amoss said that as he was driving to Louisville on the Monday after the Louisiana Derby, he and Lanerie talked by telephone and tried to figure out how Lanerie could stay on Mo Tom.  Emotions had cooled.

"I know the media played it out for a long time after that, but Corey had other horses to ride in preps, and so we didn't want to say, ‘Corey's our rider’, and have Corey tell us, 'Listen, you know, I'm going to do something different.' So we wanted to wait for Corey. ... That's why we didn't say anything.''

Lanerie said that his non-combative response to the situation probably helped him stay on the horse. Also, Lanerie said, his success at Churchill Downs probably helped him, too.

"We all make mistakes, and I've done really well at Churchill, obviously,'' Lanerie said. "If I hadn't been leading rider here 10 times, I'm sure I wouldn't be on the horse. But I've done really well here.''

Amoss said: "It's a huge advantage. You know, people are like, 'Are you going to tell him not to go to the inside?' I'm not going to tell him anything. Corey knows how to ride a horse. I watched him win on the rail yesterday. If that's where he chooses to go, he thinks it's the best move.''

Lanerie, who will be riding in the Derby for the second time, finished 16th on Harry's Holiday in 2014. Mo Tom is a much different animal, Lanerie said.

"I only rode the Derby once, so it's easy to say it's my best chance, but I really think he has a real good chance,'' he said. "In my mind, he's one of the favorites. Besides what Nyquist has done, I think it's wide-open, and, you know, I really haven't had a chance to see his quarter of a mile run, except for in the LeComte.''

 

MY MAN SAM/SHAGAF – Trainer Chad Brown's Kentucky Derby duo followed their usual routine of going to the track to gallop 1 3/8 miles Thursday during the special 8:30 a.m. training time. Daniel Bernardini was on My Man Sam and Gian Cueva was on Shagaf.

On Wednesday evening, My Man Sam drew post position six and Shagaf got the 16 hole. Both positions were just fine with Brown.

“I'm happy with them,” Brown said. “I was hoping for more of inside post for My Man Sam and I wanted more of an outside post for Shagaf. He's just a big, steady moving horses and I don't want him losing his momentum once he gets to running. He should be OK from the 16.”

 

NYQUIST – The Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Nyquist was in the sizable grouping of Derby/Oaks horses who slipped through the six-furlong gap on the Churchill Downs’ backside Thursday morning at 8:30 to take advantage of a cleared racetrack for a bit of training. He was led out by assistant trainer Jack Sisterson on a pony with regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia in the tack.

            Trainer Doug O’Neill and a sizable contingent of the Nyquist “family” -- including owner Paul Reddam – watched the bay colt set out on his own and accomplish a gallop of a mile and three-eighths in strong fashion.

            On Saturday, the man in the saddle for Nyquist will be Mario Gutierrez, the same fellow who piloted the Reddam-owned and O’Neill-trained I’ll Have Another to Derby glory in 2012.

            What, O’Neill was asked, did the I’ll Have Another experience in Derby 138 do for him coming up to this year’s Derby 142?

            “It has allowed me to not be overwhelmed this time,” O’Neill said. “We found out that time that we had success doing what we’d been doing all along. It worked. So we’re just doing that again – same patterns, same style. We just want to stay on course. That’s what’s going to work. We know that now.”

 

OSCAR NOMINATEDKen and Sarah Ramsey’s Spiral (GIII) winner Oscar Nominated galloped at 8:30 Thursday morning with exercise rider Joel Barrientos at the controls. The son of Kitten’s Joy, a $200,000 supplemental nominee, arrived from nearby Trackside Training Center on Wednesday, and Thursday marked his first day on the Churchill track, although the colt had his final work for the big dance here April 29.

Back at the barn after Oscar Nominated’s Thursday training session, trainer Mike Maker, said it was business as usual for his 50-1 Derby entrant.

“Didn’t see anything that we don’t see every day from him — nice, smooth action,” Maker said.

Oscar Nominated will be Maker’s ninth Kentucky Derby starter and his fourth for the Ramseys.

“Ken’s enthusiasm is contagious — what a fun ride we have had together,” Maker said of the 13 years he has trained for the loquacious owner.

 

SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS Trainer Donnie Von Hemel and jockey Luis Quinonez have teamed for a lot of races together over the past 20 years, but Saturday will be biggest one when Quinonez rides the Von Hemel-trained Suddenbreakingnews in his first Kentucky Derby.

Overall, the two have won 202 races together, including such graded stakes as the Southwest Stakes (GIII) with Suddenbreakingnews, the Azeri Stakes (GII) with Gold Medal Dancer and Oaklawn Handicap (GII) and Pimlico Special (GIII) with Alternation.

“Luis has proven to be a very good jockey,” Von Hemel said. “He has a good, level head. He can tell you a lot about a horse. He's always been known as a strong finisher, which fits well with this horse. This race won't be too big for him.”

Suddenbreakingnews, owned by Texan Samuel F. Henderson, continued to prepare for his start in the Kentucky Derby by galloping 1 ½ miles Thursday morning under regular exercise rider Ramiro Gorostieta.

 

TOM’S READY – G M B Racing's Tom's Ready, with exercise rider Emerson Chavez aboard, galloped a mile and a half Thursday after the renovation break.

Trainer Dallas Stewart said he's relieved that in the post draw Wednesday Tom's Ready avoided landing in one of the inside three positions. He drew No. 12.

"When the one, two, three are sitting down in there, you're sitting there like, 'We've got to get by this,' '' Stewart said. "The maiden (Trojan Nation) gets the one. Now the two's laying out there. And somebody jumped in the three. Then they call out the 12, and your name goes out, and you go, ‘Whew. I'll take it.'

"The horse just needs to get out of the gate good, get a position, hopefully not get in trouble. A lot of things can happen with a 20-horse field. Don't kid yourself.''

Stewart said he's expecting a fast pace.

"Mohaymen is going to rock and roll,'' he said. "I think he'll rock and roll. If you work in :46, :47 in the morning, you can look for that in the afternoon, in my opinion.''

Positioning for Tom's Ready, of course, will be up to jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.

"You just have to leave it up to him,'' Stewart said. "You can't over-coach him. ... You just have to let it play out. I don't want him to be thinking (too much). I hired him to do the job. He knows how to get it done.''

 

TROJAN NATION – The big Street Cry colt Trojan Nation went out during the special Derby/Oaks training period at 8:30 Thursday morning just two days ahead of his attempt to become the first non-winning winner of the Kentucky Derby in 83 years.

            Trainer Paddy Gallagher had exerciser rider Andy Durnin take the Kentucky-bred maiden for a mile and one-half gallop on the Churchill strip. They reported back to Barn 41 in good order following the exercise.

            Trojan Nation drew post number one for the mile and a quarter test Saturday, which is sort of a “good news/bad news” thing in the trainer’s mind.

            “I don’t mind the post at all for position,” Gallagher said Thursday. “We’re going to come from the back anyway, so we’re on the rail right away and able to save ground. But I don’t like the fact that we’ll load first and will have to wait for everyone else to come in. But what are you going to do? That’s horse racing.”

 

WHITMOREEarlier in the week, trainer Ron Moquett used the word “happy” to describe his second straight Kentucky Derby starter and that continues to be the case, although Whitmore is putting more of a game face on each day.

“He cracks me up. He's all attitude,” said Moquett, who described how Whitmore threw him a warning kick Thursday morning when he was in his stall. “It's got to be his way. If we get the trip, they're going to know who we are after the race.”

Whitmore, accompanied by a stablemate, galloped one mile under Laura Moquett during the special 8:30 a.m. training session and also schooled in the paddock during this time.

 

KENTUCKY OAKS NOTES

 

CATHRYN SOPHIA – Cathryn Sophia’s owner, Chuck Zackney, was on hand to watch his filly gallop Thursday morning after the renovation break, her final track session in her preparation for tomorrow’s Kentucky Oaks.

The John Servis trainee, who was reluctant to exit the track after her Wednesday training session, was escorted off the track by a pony on Thursday without incident.

Zackney, of Afleet Alex fame, said he hasn’t run a horse at Churchill Downs since Afleet Alex finished third in the 2005 Derby. Afleet Alex, who was co-owned by Zackney, went on to win the Preakness (GI) and Belmont (GI).

Afleet Alex was named for his son, Alex, and Zackney has continued that tradition of naming horses for relatives. Cathryn Sophia is named after Zackney’s 19-year-old niece, a freshman at Rowan University in New Jersey.

“It’s actually going to be the first time Cathryn has seen her race,” Zackney said. “Everybody is really excited. I think we have about 20 people out here.”

The owner said he really tries to gauge a horse’s ability before attaching someone’s name to the horse.

“I asked John (Servis) if he thought this filly had a little bit of talent,” Zackney said. “I told John I wanted to name her after my niece, and he said that was a really good idea. I’m always looking to name horses after people, but I want to find out how the horses are before I name them. It’s a very tricky business, and I’ve been burnt several times with horses who haven’t been that successful.”

Zackney purchased Cathryn Sophia, the co-second choice in the Oaks, for $30,000 at auction and said the daughter of Street Boss completely surpassed his expectations. The filly enters the Oaks with a record of four wins in five starts, including the Forward Gal (GII) and Davona Dale (GII). Her sole defeat came in the Ashland (GI) when she finished third, beaten a half-length.

“This is a complete surprise,” Zackney said. “We were never expecting to be here at the Kentucky Oaks. It’s been a dream trip — since Oct. 30, her first race. Other than the last race, and losing by a couple feet, she has been perfect. We’re very optimistic; she has been training well and we’re happy with her post. We have our fingers crossed for tomorrow.”

 

DOTHRAKI QUEEN – Magdalena Racing’s Dothraki Queen galloped a little less than a mile and half under Erin Walker shortly after the track opened for training at 5:45 a.m.

            Dothraki Queen is on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Oaks and would need one defection by scratch time at 9 a.m. Friday to make the race. Should she run, she would be ridden by Gary Stevens.

            Dothraki Queen won her first start at Churchill Downs in September in the Pocahontas (GII) and was placed third in the Golden Rod (GII) in November.

            “If she gets in, I’d like to see her get comfortable,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “Have a decent pace and have something to run at. They are not going to worry about us.”

 

DREAM DANCE – Stoneway Farm’s Dream Dance was on the track shortly after 6 o’clock Thursday morning to gallop a mile and three-eighths under Joel Dominguez.

            “I wanted to get her out early when the track was good,” trainer Neil Howard said of his filly who galloped on a track labeled as “wet-fast.”

            Brian Hernandez Jr. will be aboard Dream Dance in her quest for her first stakes victory.

            “She has her work cut out for her,” Howard said. “I’d like to see her take advantage of the (early) speed.”

 

GO MAGGIE GO Mike Tarp’s Go Maggie Go schooled at the starting gate and galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Tammy Fox Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.

“She’s doing terrific,” Fox said. “She doesn’t act like a horse that’s run only twice. She’s very mature out there. She acts like an older horse. She does nothing wrong. She’s very professional out there.”

The late-developing Dale Romans-trained filly broke her maiden in her March 13 debut at Gulfstream Park by four lengths before scoring by 2 ¼ lengths in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) April 2.

 

LAND OVER SEA – The chestnut Bellamy Road filly Land Over Sea was sent trackside at approximately 6:50 Thursday morning for a final bit of exercise before her Friday run in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).

            She had regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia up top and assistant trainer Jack Sisterson alongside on a pony as they went through the six-furlong gap on the Churchill Downs’ backstretch. The duo stayed together for a two-mile “backtracking” tour of the oval, a feat the filly accomplished with vim and vigor.

            “She’s ready,” Garcia said on the way back to Barn 41.

            Her trainer, Doug O’Neill, echoed that thought. “She is ready,” he said. “She had a good jog this morning. She’s feeling good and doing good. It’s time.”

            Since entering stakes company six races back, Land Over Sea has been stakes-placed four times and won another. The four stakes placings were all in the wake of champion Songbird. There will be no Songbird tomorrow and O’Neill and the other Land Over Sea connections – owner Paul Reddam and rider Mario Gutierrez – will tell you readily they are thankful for that.

            Land Over Sea is listed at 5-1 in the track’s morning line and will start from post 13 in the Oaks.

 

LEWIS BAYGazelle (GII) winner Lewis Bay changed up her routine slightly Thursday, training after her Kentucky Derby-bound stablemates My Man Sam and Shagaf instead of before. She came to the track at 9 a.m. and galloped 1 3/8 miles under Gian Cueva.  “She's doing well,” trainer Chad Brown said. “I'm happy with all my horses. They all drew good post positions, so we're good.”

Lewis Bay drew post three for Friday's Kentucky Oaks.

 

MO D’AMOUR/RACHEL’S VALENTINA – The pair of 3-year-old fillies trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle in the 142nd edition of the Kentucky Oaks (GI) Friday had their final bits of exercise Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, each galloping a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Amy Mullen.

            Mo d’Amour went out with the barn’s two Derby colts – Destin and Outwork – during the 8:30 special training period allotted for Derby and Oaks horses. Rachel’s Valentina had put in her high stepping at 6:30.  Both galloped strongly, especially so in the case of Rachel’s Valentina, who has seemed to get stronger in her drills as the week has gone along.

            Pletcher has captured the Oaks three times already -- with Ashado in 2004, Rags to Riches in 2007 and Princess of  Sylmar in 2013. He was asked if R

PDJF

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