Wednesday Notes: Campbell's Super Derby Was Mmm Mmm Good

It’s amazing what a Super Derby victory can do, especially if you are Fair Grounds-based jockey Jesse Campbell and you’re going to get to ride Adele Dilschneider’s 2010 Grade II Super Derby winner Apart back once again in Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds. 

The Mineshaft ’Cap is the final tune-up for the Grade II New Orleans Handicap five weeks later on Louisiana Derby Day March 26.

Campbell, who grew up in Lake Zurich, Illinois, in the vicinity of Arlington Park, and was Chicago-based in previous years, switched his tack to Louisiana Downs last summer and enjoyed immediate success, capping off the season with a win in the showcase race of the Shreveport meeting.

“My first emotions (after the Super Derby) were that you work a long time for moments like that,” said Campbell during training hours Wednesday. “I thought of my grandparents and my parents (Mike and Janice), of course, because my Dad trains horses and I knew they were watching the Super Derby simulcast from their box at Arlington. Naturally, the win was a highlight for the whole family.

“I had told my wife Ally during dinner the night before the race that I had a lot of confidence in myself and the horse going in, and things went pretty much the way I thought they would,” said Campbell, “but you never really know what’s going to happen. It was weird, because once I knew I was going to win, the last 70 yards or so went by really fast because he was running so fast, but for me, my whole thought process slowed down and it was like the race was going on in slow motion. It was hard to describe that feeling.

“Then, what made it really great was that when I walked back to the jock’s room, it was like half the riders in the room were waiting for me outside to congratulate me,” Campbell said. “Guys like Boo Boo (Kerwin) Clark – he was one of the old veteran jockeys at Arlington when I first started riding – and to be able to see someone like that being genuinely happy for you was a great feeling. I never dreamed I’d be in a position like that with someone like that when I first started riding.

“As for the race Saturday, I’m looking forward to it,” concluded Campbell. “I worked (Apart) before he ran here last time (in the $60,000 Louisiana Handicap with Garrett Gomez aboard), and he worked very well for me. All I can do now is hope for racing luck. I know Al (trainer Stall) has a lot of confidence in the horse, and if he has a lot of confidence, I have a lot of confidence.”

INVADING TRAINER ATTEMPTING ANOTHER TWIN-MCPEEKED CONQUEST – Nine years ago trainer Ken McPeek invaded Fair Grounds twice with double-barreled threats and hit his targets four times for a perfect score unprecedented at the time and unmatched since in Fair Grounds history.

Select Stable’s Repent (trained by McPeek) invaded once to win the 2002 Risen Star as the final prep for the Louisiana Derby and then came back to win that year’s Louisiana Derby. Accompanying that colt both times was Select Stable’s Take Charge Lady, a sophomore filly who took down winning honors in the designed tune-up for the 2002 Fair Grounds Oaks and then returned to win that year’s Fair Grounds Oaks.

“That was nice,” said McPeek earlier this week when asked to recall his unprecedented 2002 double-double. “Now I hope we can do it again.”

A McPeek-trained duo of the colt Rogue Romance, owned by Catesby Clay, as well as the filly Kathmanblu, owned by Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables, arrived Wednesday at Fair Grounds as the respective favorites for Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes and Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes

Prior to their local arrival, McPeek breezed the Risen Star’s 3-1 morning line favorite Rogue Romance in 1:02 flat at Gulfstream Park Feb. 12, while Kathmanblu, 6-5 early choice in the Rachel Alexandra, accomplished the same distance on the same day at Gulfstream in 1:02.20.

“Those were maintenance moves – nothing complicated, very simple,” McPeek said, speaking over the phone from South Florida earlier this week. “I’m every bit as confident in these two horses coming in as I was in Repent and Take Charge Lady nine years ago. We’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to it.”

Rogue Romance has not started since a third-place finish in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs Nov. 6 after being forced five-wide on the first turn in that test. Kathmanblu has made one start this year, winning the $100,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes over the Gulfstream grass on Jan. 22.

Rogue Romance and Kathmanblu, along with McPeek’s Pan Zareta Stakes contender Beautician, arrived at Fair Grounds without incident Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. All three are stabled in Barn 15. McPeek will arrive in New Orleans Thursday.

NEIL HOWARD OFFERS MACHEN, WILKINSON UPDATES TUESDAY – Trainer Neil Howard has two 3-year-old prospects who have already shown enough promise to be under consideration for this year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby when that local classic offers a $1 million purse for the first time in its 98-year history on March 26.

One of them, Courtlandt Farms’ undefeated Machen, will go to the post in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes as the designed prep for the Louisiana Derby and breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 Monday morning.

Jamie (jockey Theriot) said he felt very comfortable under him,” Howard said Tuesday. “I feel that if (Machen) is good enough, this race Saturday should set up perfect for him.”

Howard’s other current leading 3-year-old, Gaillardia Stable’s Wilkinson, breezed the same distance in the same time Monday and won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes Jan. 22 as the first leg of the three-race local sophomore series. Wilkinson remained possible for Saturday’s Risen Star until Howard and owner Ed Gaylord conferred after Monday’s work.

“(Wilkinson) worked good,” said Howard, “but he had a hard race in the Lecomte and he’s had three races over the track already this season, and when you’re changing your mind (about whether or not to run Wilkinson in the Risen Star) every 15 minutes or so – there’s a reason you’re hedging. These horses are still young and very vulnerable at this stage of their careers, so I’ve found out that when you’re in doubt like that the best thing to do is stay in the barn. However, I would say that the Louisiana Derby is definitely in the cards for Wilkinson.”