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Brisnet Handicappers Edge Kentucky Derby and Oaks Notes 4/28/10
Blind Luck installed as 6-5 Oaks favorite
Blind Luck (left) just got up to deny Evening Jewel in the Las Virgenes (Paula Smith/Horsephotos.com)Multiple Grade 1 queen BLIND LUCK (Pollard's Vision), a convincing 2 1/2-length winner of the April 2 Fantasy S. (G2) in her last start, drew post position 5 and has been installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in Friday's $584,300 Kentucky Oaks (G1). Fourteen fillies are set for the 1 1/8-mile fillies' classic at Churchill Downs.
An Eclipse Award finalist for champion two-year-old filly honors following victories in the Hollywood Starlet (G1) and Oak Leaf S. (G1), as well as a close third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Blind Luck opened her sophomore campaign with a victory in the Las Virgenes S. (G1) and then finished a troubled third in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1).
A 13 1/4-length maiden winner at Calder, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained chestnut rebounded in style from her Santa Anita Oaks setback when returning to a dirt track in the Fantasy at Oaklawn Park, rallying strongly from off the pace to win going away under the finish line. Regular rider Rafael Bejarano will return to the saddle on Friday.
Churchill Downs' oddsmaker Mike Battaglia could find no clear-cut second choice among Blind Luck's 13 rivals, listing AMEN HALLELUJAH (Montbrook), CRISP (El Corredor) and TIDAL POOL (Yankee Gentleman) as 8-1 co-second choices.
Amen Hallelujah posted a convincing 6 1/4-length score in the Davona Dale S. (G2) two back and exits a commendable runner-up finish to Kentucky Derby (G1) contender Devil May Care (Malibu Moon) in the Bonnie Miss S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., the dark bay filly will keep Julien Leparoux in the saddle but must overcome post 13.
Crisp, who followed her maiden win with a victory in the Santa Ysabel S. (G3), will enter the Oaks in good form for John Sadler, upsetting Blind Luck in the March 6 Santa Anita Oaks last time out. She'll have regular pilot Joel Rosario up.
Tidal Pool will be seeking her first stakes victory in a tough spot, but the D. Wayne Lukas charge merits respect off a good second in the Fantasy. She's registered triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings in her last two outings and will keep the hot-riding Calvin Borel in the irons.
Ashland S. (G1) winner EVENING JEWEL (Northern Afleet) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) victress QUIET TEMPER (Quiet American) come next on the morning line at 10-1. IT'S TEA TIME (Dynaformer), a fast-finishing second when making her stakes bow in the Ashland, multiple Grade 1 runner-up BEAUTICIAN (Dehere) and Grade 3 scorer AILALEA (Pulpit) are all listed at 15-1.
JODY SLEW (Slew City Slew), CHAMPAGNE D'ORO (Medaglia d'Oro), BELLA DIAMANTE (Lost Soldier), JOANIE'S CATCH (First Tour) and AGE OF HUMOR (Distorted Humor), all rated as outsiders at 30-1 on the morning line, complete the field.
Awesome Act, Conveyance drill for Derby
Awesome Act puts his head in front of Peace Town (Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com)
Gotham S. (G3) hero AWESOME ACT (Awesome Again) breezed four furlongs in :48 1/5 over Churchill Downs' muddy track on Tuesday in his final major move ahead of Saturday's Kentucky Derby (G1).
With Derby jockey Julien Leparoux aboard, the English-trained colt turned in the second-fastest of 24 moves at the distance overall. The bullet for the day, a :47 3/5 half-mile, was posted when the track was listed as good, not muddy.
Working in company once again with stakes winner Peace Town (Peace Rules), Awesome Act was clocked in splits of :13, :24 4/5 and :36 3/5. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 and six furlongs in 1:15 2/5.
"We were happy with it. We were looking for :49 and he gave us :48, but we're not unhappy about that," said Wayne Tanner, assistant to trainer Jeremy Noseda, who is expected to arrive in Louisville, Kentucky, from England late Tuesday night. "He's right where we want him to be."
Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award-winning jockey, also gave the workout his stamp of approval.
"The work was nice," the 26-year-old native of Senlis, France, said. "He did it very easy. He got over the track very good."
Leparoux was aboard Awesome Act when the Kentucky-bred English shipper won the Gotham at Aqueduct in his first start on dirt on March 6. He didn't have a dream trip in the Wood Memorial (G1) after stumbling at the start and throwing a shoe. Although he made a menacing move on the turn into the Aqueduct homestretch, he flattened out to finish third, a result blamed on his inability to settle off a pedestrian early pace.
"You never know. In a race you never know what is going to happen when the gates open," Leparoux said. "Obviously, there's going to be a lot of speed, so we'll probably sit behind them."
Awesome Act is co-owned by Vinery Stables and Mrs. Susan Roy. Vinery Stables was represented in the 2009 Kentucky Derby by favored Friesan Fire (A.P. Indy), who finished 18th after being squeezed and bumped at the start.
"We're not going to be the favorite -- we've got that going for us," Vinery stable manager Tom Ludt said.
"He's gotten better and better since he's gotten over here, so we're excited. But one of the things we've learned is that we're going to have a good time and hopefully we get a little racing luck. Last year, we had some unfortunate luck, but that's just racing. We got taken out of the race at the gate last year. We were out of the race when they went by the first time."
Awesome Act is scheduled to walk Wednesday morning before schooling in the paddock in the afternoon.
Conveyance will get to roll right from the gate in the Derby (Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com)Also working in the Churchill mud on Tuesday, dual Grade 3 victor CONVEYANCE (Indian Charlie) blitzed five furlongs in a bullet :59 4/5, easily the best of nine moves at the distance.
With exercise rider Dana Barnes in the saddle, the Bob Baffert pupil recorded split times of :13, :25 1/5, :36 3/5 and :48 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.
"He went out in :13, picked it up around the turn, looked good and just came down the stretch in :59 4/5," Baffert said.
Asked what a speedy type like Conveyance must do to win the Derby, Baffert offered a two-word answer.
"War Emblem," he said, laughing.
War Emblem, Baffert's Kentucky Derby winner in 2002, was a front runner who was not given much of a chance to win. Sent off at odds of 20-1, War Emblem jumped out to the lead, was kept to a reasonable pace by jockey Victor Espinoza and had more than enough left in the stretch.
Conveyance rattled off four straight victories, including the San Rafael S. (G3) at Santa Anita and his dirt debut in Oaklawn's Southwest S. (G3), but suffered his first career loss when second behind Endorsement (Distorted Humor) in the Sunland Derby (G3) on March 28.
"He's got natural speed," Baffert said of Conveyance. "He moves like Holy Bull."
The resemblance is no coincidence: he is out of the Holy Bull mare Emptythetill.
Conveyance will be the first Derby starter for Zabeel Racing International, the nom de course of Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum, the oldest son of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai.
Baffert also trains likely Derby favorite LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike). Last year's champion two-year-old walked Tuesday, the morning after he covered five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 4/5.
Baffert, who has started 18 horses in the Derby prior to this year, still feels the buzz surrounding America's biggest race.
"It's always exciting when you have a horse that has a chance, or you think he has a chance," he said. "We have two nice horses."
Decision on Interactif put off for another day
Devil May Care toured the oval without her blinkers on (Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs)One decision was made, but another was put on hold at the Kentucky Derby (G1)/Kentucky Oaks (G1) beehive that is trainer Todd Pletcher's barn Tuesday morning.
After consulting further with owner John Greathouse of Glencrest Farm, the conditioner entered his Grade 1-winning filly DEVIL MAY CARE (Malibu Moon) in the Kentucky Derby alone, and not a double entry that would have include the Kentucky Oaks.
"In the end, it sorts out the rider situation (ensuring that John Velazquez will ride Pletcher horses in the Derby and Oaks) and it also doesn't have us bumping someone on the outside from getting into the Oaks," Pletcher said. "It's just better all the way around.
"I think she (Devil May Care) fits well in the race (Derby). Her races are competitive with colts, she has tremendous mechanics and she figures to very much like the distance."
Devil May Care, wearing her yellow Derby saddle cloth, went out with three other Pletcher Derby horses at the "Derby/Oaks horses only" period at 8:30 a.m. (EDT) following the renovation break.
Exercise rider Horacio De Paz did the steering as the filly turned in a 1 1/4-mile gallop as well as a visit to the starting gate.
In the matter of INTERACTIF (Broken Vow), the dual Grade 3 turf winner who has enough money ($307,950) to enter the Derby, but perhaps not the owner-trainer inclination to do so, the thought of possible entry was put off to the last moment, which would be Wednesday morning prior to Derby entry time at Churchill Downs.
"I talked with the owners (Alain and Gerard Wertheimer) and they want to wait until the last moment," Pletcher said. "Things happen and can happen between now and entry time. Maybe another horse or two comes out of the race and that could affect the way we think about entering. We'll make a call in the morning."
Pletcher noted that he did not have a rider for the horse at this point, but that "there are several riders out there that are available."
Interactif jogged 1 1/16 miles early Tuesday morning with exercise rider Patti Barry in the irons.
Alain and Gerard Wertheimer also own Santa Anita Derby runner-up SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect), who needs a few defections to get into the Derby. The Richard Mandella pupil galloped two miles under exercise rider Nestor Capitaine during the 15-minute "Derby/Oaks horses only" session Tuesday.
"Distance is no problem with this one," Mandella said. "The farther the better. He likes to gallop long and run long."
Mandella and the Wertheimers appear resigned to Setsuko's fate of not being able to run in the Kentucky Derby because of lack of graded stakes earnings, but to go instead in Friday's American Turf (G2) at 1 1/16 miles. Rafael Bejarano will ride the colt on Friday.
"I'll talk some stuff if I win that race on Friday," Mandella said, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. "I'll be telling everyone that it was a darn good thing that they didn't let us into the Derby. We would have won that one, for sure."
Mission Impazible has created a favorable impression (Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com)Pletcher's other three Derby runners -- MISSION IMPAZIBLE (Unbridled's Song), SUPER SAVER (Maria's Mon) and DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft) -- all turned in 1 1/4-mile gallops during the "Derby/Oaks horses only" period.
Mission Impazible, the racy gray who won the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his most recent start, had Fernando Espinoza up for the exercise. Super Saver, a close second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his latest effort, was handled by KevinWilley. Discreetly Mine, the Risen Star S. (G2) hero, was piloted by Obed Perez.
Pletcher was asked if his Derby "mindset" had changed following the injury-forced withdrawal of early Derby favorite Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway).
"I feel good about all my horses -- how they are training, how they are coming up to the race," the four-time Eclipse Award winner said. "I think we're in good shape. But, yes, my mindset has changed. It has to when you lose a horse like that in a position like that."
Eskendereya was withdrawn from the race on Sunday after a filling in his left front leg, causing the horse to appear slightly off, was discovered the day before. The powerful chestnut again walked the shedrow at Pletcher's Barn 38 and continues to be treated with ice, poultice and anti-inflammatories.
"The swelling is down some," Pletcher noted. "I spoke to Mr. Zayat (owner Ahmed Zayat) and he said he knew we were busy with our Derby horses and that he understood that. He said after the Derby is done that we would talk and figure out then what we were going to do with the horse; what clinic we might take him to."
Trainer Rick Dutrow postponed a scheduled workout for HOMEBOYKRIS (Roman Ruler) Tuesday morning because of the muddy track conditions. The gelding, who galloped once around the Churchill oval under exercise rider Joe Deegan, is set to breeze four furlongs on Wednesday.
In a change of plans, Dutrow will name Ramon Dominguez to ride Homeboykris when entries for the Derby are taken Wednesday morning. Joel Rosario had previously been announced as the jockey on Homeboykris, but that offer was revoked by Dutrow when Dominguez became available because of the defection of Rule (Roman Ruler).
"I think Ramon's best game is his hands," said Dutrow, who saddled Big Brown to the Kentucky Derby victory in 2008. "He gets horses to just relax so well, and that's what we need 'Homeboy' to do the first part of the race. We're very happy to have Ramon's hands on him in the Derby. We're very happy with that.
"I think that's why he gets along so well with the horses."
Homeboykris will try to settle off the pace as he did in the Champagne (Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com)Homeboykris has not raced since finishing second in a Gulfstream Park allowance race on February 27, and he has been winless since capturing the Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont Park last fall in his first start since being purchased privately by his connections. His trainer said his horse is training well and sitting on a big race. He just doesn't know if he will be suited to the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles.
"I'd like to see him sit off the speed. I'm not looking for him to be forwardly placed. I usually don't tell riders what to do, but I am going to tell Dominguez that we don't want to be lying close," Dutrow said.
"We want him to finish up in the race. We figure our only chance is if our horse closes and runs big the last half-mile. If he does, we'll be in pretty good shape. If he doesn't, then we'll know why."
Rosario now picks up the mount on Lane's End S. (G2) winner DEAN'S KITTEN (Kitten's Joy), trainer Mike Maker revealed.
On Monday, Maker had said he was hoping to land Dominguez, who rode Dean's Kitten to a stakes win and a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) last fall. So Maker ended up essentially swapping Derby riders with Dutrow.
"Looks that way," Maker said with a chuckle.
Rosario, a 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, was last year's leading rider at Del Mar and the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet. He won the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) in November aboard Dancing in Silks (Black Minnaloushe).
Maker reported from his Trackside Training Center base a few miles from Churchill Downs that both of his Derby contenders, Dean's Kitten and Blue Grass S. (G1) upsetter STATELY VICTOR (Ghostzapper), galloped 1 3/8 miles Tuesday morning and that "everything's good with us."
Maker said he would attend Wednesday's Kentucky Derby post position draw.
Lukas believes that Dublin has all the tools (Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com)Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had Hopeful S. (G1) hero DUBLIN (Afleet Alex) take part in another schooling session in the paddock Tuesday morning and jogged over the muddy track.
A close third in the Arkansas Derby last out, the strapping colt breezed five furlongs on Sunday morning under jockey Terry Thompson, who will ride him in the Derby.
Lukas said that Dublin is being inaccurately portrayed as fractious because of the way he acted while galloping Saturday morning. Seeing and hearing runners participating in the Louisville Marathon on the course that took them through the infield, Dublin bolted toward the outside rail along the backstretch near the six-furlong pole. He reacted again and went to the rail father down the backstretch.
"The publicity on that is totally, totally wrong," Lukas said. "This horse is very manageable. Terry will tell you that you can put him anywhere you want to out there.
"But if you're going to run 4,000 screaming marathon runners out of the tunnel, he's going to take a look at that. My pony shied from that. The horse in front of him shied from that. He was the only one who got the publicity, but that's ridiculous. That's not a problem at all. I have no concern with that at all."
Lukas, by far, the all-time leader in Derby starters with 43, said there is a lot to like about Dublin.
"His strength and his ability," Lukas said. "He's got a long stride; he's a stayer. I don't think he'll have a bit of trouble with the mile and a quarter. He's a big, powerful horse who has got tactical speed. He fits all of my parameters for the good ones.
"He's the best-looking horse I've ever led over there. This is a hell of a horse."
Lukas described the colt as a grinder, but noted that he had not won any of his three starts this year. Dublin hit the board all three of those races at Oaklawn Park.
"We'd like to win this one," he said. "Grindstone got beat in the Arkansas Derby. Thunder Gulch got beat in the Blue Grass. We're after this one."
Lukas said the colt is making a progression and might be peaking at the right time.
"I think he is," Lukas said. "I feel very comfortable, probably more so than I have in a long time."
Lukas said that Dublin is the best horse he has started in the Derby since Charismatic, the longshot winner in 1999 at odds of 31-1.
Shannon Ritter will try tomake history with Endorsement (Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com)Sunland Derby (G3) victor ENDORSEMENT (Distorted Humor) galloped 1 1/2 miles under trainer Shannon Ritter at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning under a light drizzle.
Ritter said that Endorsement would work an easy half-mile on Wednesday morning at 8:30 after the renovation break.
"The rain is supposed to clear out tonight and I think it will be good in the morning," said Ritter, who is hoping to become the first female trainer to win the Kentucky Derby. "I will be on him for the work."
Endorsement has been one of the first Kentucky Derby hopefuls on the track each morning, leaving Ritter time to scout out the opposition during the special training time at 8:30 for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses only.
"They all look good," Ritter said, "but I saw Devil May Care's work and I thought she really looked good."
A former jockey, Ritter attended her first Kentucky Derby in 1998 as the exercise rider for Victory Gallop, who finished second that year to Real Quiet.
"I did the walkover (to the paddock) with Victory Gallop and it was awesome," Ritter said. "What made it special was the horse. I remember all the people lined up on both sides (leaving the barn area) and he was on his toes."
Ritter will make the walk again Saturday with Endorsement, who will be ridden in Derby 136 by Robby Albarado.
"My dream was to ride in the Kentucky Derby," Ritter said. "This will be the next best thing."
Ritter was asked about the first time she really paid attention to the Kentucky Derby.
"Winning Colors; she just really made a big impression," Ritter said. "I remember the big gray and (jockey) Gary Stevens was one of my favorites."
Uh, Shannon, there is theme here with Devil May Care and Winning Colors.
"That's just coincidence, really," Ritter said with a laugh. "Devil May Care, I thought that she really looked good, and then Winning Colors. Just coincidence."
Paddy O'Prado aims to transfer his strong turf/synthetic form to the dirt (Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com)Blue Grass runner-up PADDY O'PRADO (El Prado [Ire]) turned in another strong gallop Tuesday as trainer Dale Romans looked down from the clocker's stand near the half-mile pole. The gray covered 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Faustino Aquilar.
By all indications, Paddy O'Prado appears to be handling the dirt surface very well after back-to-back efforts on Gulfstream's turf course and Keeneland's Polytrack. Romans remained guarded in his optimism and evaluation.
"You can tell if a horse won't run on a particular surface a lot of times before you put them on it in a race," he said. "But it's much harder to tell if they will run well on one until you see it on race day."
Paddy O'Prado broke his maiden in the grassy Palm Beach S. (G3) in early March, and announced his Derby 136 candidacy with a solid second at Keeneland a month later.
"We took him to the Blue Grass to see if he belonged in the Derby," Romans said. "He proved that he belongs that day and has done well since."
As for the Derby's pace scenario, Romans said he envisioned Paddy O'Prado racing in the "second shelf" of contenders down the backstretch.
"But that could mean he's about 12th with as much speed as the race looks to have on paper," he said. "Kent (Desormeaux) will decide if they're going too slow or too fast up front and put him where he needs to be. Kent has won three more Derbies than me. You let a guy like that do his thing."
The Hall of Fame rider Desormeaux has won the Derby in 2008 (Big Brown), 2000 (Fusaichi Pegasus) and 1998 (Real Quiet).
The Nick Zito duo of ICE BOX (Pulpit) and JACKSON BEND (Hear No Evil) both schooled in the starting gate Tuesday morning before galloping 1 1/2 miles under Dennis Chavez and Carlos Correa, respectively.
Zito has saddled two Kentucky Derby winners, Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994, has fond memories of the Run for the Roses.
"They fade to a point, because we're getting older, but I remember like it was yesterday; I still remember all the hoopla before and after it," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "We'll just keep going. We're lucky and blessed just to have horses in the Derby. If we ever win a third Derby -- it's been a long time between drinks, as they say -- we'll take it and thank God and get down on our hands and knees. This game will humble kings, no matter how you look at it."
Zito regards Ice Box, a fast-closing winner of the Florida Derby (G1), and Jackson Bend, runner-up to Eskendereya in both the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Wood Memorial (G1), as legitimate contenders with a solid chance to get back to the Churchill Downs winner's circle on the first Saturday in May. Yet, he makes sure that he doesn't expect too much from his colts.
"Hopefully, we get in the gate. Then, once you get in the gate, you hope you hit the board, and if by some miraculous reason you win, forget it," Zito said. "It's horse racing. Unless you got the goods, unless you have Secretariat, something special, you can't boast about anything."
Jose Lezcano will ride Ice Box, while Mike Smith will be up on Jackson Bend.
Sidney's Candy has won his past three (Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com)Trainer John Sadler had his Kentucky Derby ace SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]) out early and on the track when it opened at 5:45 Tuesday morning for a good gallop of 1 3/4 miles. Exercise rider Lupillo Alferez had the chestnut out in the middle of the oval and, after an easy first go-round, picked up the pace for a strong finish to the exercise.
Sadler noted that he originally planned to go out with Sidney's Candy during the "Derby/Oaks horses only" time following the break, but with a threatening weather report for the day and some raindrops falling at 5:30, he changed direction.
"This track right now is smooth and not as hard as it has been," the conditioner noted trackside. "If it rains more this morning, it is going to loosen it up and then it'll get chewed by other workers. I'll take it now when it looks good and feels good."
Sidney's Candy, a triple stakes winner including the Santa Anita Derby (G1), will have the saddle services of Joe Talamo in Derby 136 Saturday.
Sadler's other Derby candidate, Arkansas Derby upsetter LINE OF DAVID (Lion Heart), was a shedrow walker Tuesday morning following his less-than-spectacular drill of 1:15 for six furlongs on a muddy strip. The trainer said the horse would return to the track Wednesday to jog.
Rafael Bejarano will ride Line of David on Saturday.
It was an easy morning inside Barn 6 for NOBLE'S PROMISE (Cuvee), as the beaten favorite in the Arkansas Derby walked the shedrow following Monday's final major Kentucky Derby workout.
Trainer Ken McPeek reported all is well the day after that :48 4/5 half-mile move. McPeek remains firm that an entry decision doesn't need to be made until Wednesday's entry deadline, as is the case for all Derby 136 hopefuls, but that Noble's Promise looks most likely headed to the entry box.
McPeek's most recent Kentucky Derby starter was 2002, when Harlan's Holiday finished seventh as the highest-priced post-time favorite of all time (6.00-to-1 odds).
"I'm very excited to be back in the Derby mix with this kind of horse," McPeek said. "This is the fourth time down this road for me, the Derby, and I never, ever take it for granted. It's exciting for everyone involved, as it should be. We have a lot of exciting days during the racing year, not just the Derby. It was great to have a big hand at the Breeders' Cup last fall, too."
Journeyman rider Willie Martinez will have the Derby mount on Saturday. This year's Derby also will be a welcome back for the rider, who has not heard "My Old Kentucky Home" from the saddle since guiding longshot Valhol in 1999.
"It means the world to ride the Derby," Martinez said. "You can't put it into words."
Noble's Promise will return to the racetrack Wednesday as he continues his final Derby preparations, McPeek said.
Illinois Derby (G3) victor AMERICAN LION (Tiznow) also had a quiet morning on Tuesday, the day after he worked five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 for trainer Eoin Harty.
"He walked for about 45 minutes," Harty said. "I was going to graze him, but due to inclement weather, those plans were put on hold."
It rained throughout the training hours at Churchill Downs Tuesday.
Harty said American Lion was fine after the breeze and will return to the track Wednesday for some light exercise.
"I'll play it by ear," Harty said. "If he's jumping around, I'll gallop him. If he's behaving himself, I'll just jog him."
Now that the final breeze is over, Harty said his duties with American Lion are pretty simple as they wait for Kentucky Derby 136.
"It's keep him happy and stay away from him, leave him alone," Harty said. "That is what I'm going to do."
Backtalk won the Bashford Manor at Churchill last July (Ted Terquinio/Horsephotos.com)His Kentucky Derby status still in limbo, BACKTALK (Smarty Jones) jogged one mile and galloped one mile over the sloppy Churchill Downs surface before Tuesday's renovation break.
Backtalk remains at 21st on the graded earnings list among horses under consideration for the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. While plenty of speculation involving possible defections from the field is circulating, no official word has come down and Backtalk remains on the doorstep.
Because Backtalk vanned to Lexington, Kentucky, on Saturday to breeze over Keeneland's synthetic Polytrack surface, some observes have misconstrued that decision as evidence that Backtalk does not like the wet track. Trainer Tom Amoss wanted to correct that notion Tuesday and explained that he would always prefer to train on the best and safest track available regardless of the horse's ability in the mud.
"Let me be clear: I always want to practice my horses on the best track possible and I don't think we had that this weekend," Amoss said. "That is not a testament to whether Backtalk likes or dislikes the slop. On the contrary, he won on the slop and trains very well on it, and I'd be very comfortable running on it if it came up sloppy.
"Slop is something he likes and he's already won on it going a route of ground in a stakes race (the February 26 Sportsman's Paradise at Delta Downs)."
Amoss concedes that Backtalk has been more impressive sprinting -- his two graded stakes wins were at six furlongs – but he also feels that the son of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones continues to relax well and has the advantage of coming back to a track he has proven success on.
"In the races that he's run in at three, although he's won at a route I would not say they've been as impressive as his sprints," Amoss said. "Our job is to bring him to the Kentucky Derby and show that he's a good horse at this distance. We want to show that we're competitive.
"Backtalk is a horse that we've taught to relax in his longer races. He's done a very good job of that. He's smart, pays attention to the rider. We think he's got his lessons right for this.
"He's a horse that really likes Churchill Downs. He's two-for-two here, albeit in sprints, and the Derby's a mile-and-a-quarter -- which is a totally different race."
MAKE MUSIC FOR ME (Bernstein) jogged once around the track under Andy Durnin Tuesday morning, while his trainer continued the wait to learn whether her colt will run in the Derby on Saturday or the American Turf at Churchill Downs on Friday.
"I'm fine with the grass. Like we said there's only one Derby, but the grass is very suitable for him," said Alexis Barba, a former assistant to Eddie Gregson, the trainer of 1982 Derby winner Gato Del Sol.
Make Music for Me, who broke his maiden in the Pasadena S. over the Santa Anita turf course on March 6, finished second twice and third once behind likely Derby favorite Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike) on synthetic tracks in Southern California. Barba isn't surprised that so many Southern California horses have excelled on traditional dirt tracks in Derby preps this year.
"When you have a horse that comes from the farm and you first put him on synthetics, they get really tired. So I think they get a lot more out of the synthetic physically," Barba said.
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