By Ryan Martin
• Wycoff Hopes That Dunph Can Put Him On the Derby Trail
• Stewart Sends Out Pair for Grade II Risen Star
• Seeking the Soul Works Half-Mile For Dubai World Cup
• Bell’s the One Will Scratch from Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes
• Toner Ships Coffee Crush for Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes
• Grade I Winner Carrick Returns to Action in Saturday Allowance
WYCOFF HOPEFUL THAT DUNPH CAN PUT HIM ON THE DERBY TRAIL
Striking gold in major races in North America is the reason why Three Diamonds Farm owner Kirk Wycoff is involved in the sport. Like many other owners, however, he has aspirations to reach the pinnacle of horseracing on the First Saturday in May and hopes that Dunph has the capability to take him in that direction in Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford on Saturday.
Trained by Mike Maker, who won the 2014 edition of the Risen Star with Vicar’s in Trouble, the bay son of Temple City has earned two qualifying points towards the Grade I $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve when finishing third in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park in December, but a victory on Saturday would give him 50 more points. He drew post 11 in the field of 14 and gets the riding services of Jose Ortiz.
“The best thing he has is his tactical speed, he can be anywhere,” Wycoff said. “We drew outside which means well save some ground but we’ll just see what happens. In a 14 horse field you’ll need a few breaks along the way.”
Dunph won the first two of his four career starts, the second of which was in the Spendthrift Stallion Stakes at Churchill Downs in late October. Prior to the Springboard Mile, he was a distant ninth in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at the Louisville oval on November 24 which was his only start over a sloppy main track.
“I think he came up a little short in the stretch at Remington,” Wycoff said. “We brought him back quickly after the Jockey Club, where we were disappointed in the result. He had trained
well in the slop before the race but every track is different when it’s sloppy. Churchill had a tendency to be sticky that day. He’s had a little bit of down time so he’s matured and developed.”
Named after Fran Dunphy, the head basketball coach at Temple University, Dunph made his career debut at Penn National in September which he won by 8 ½ lengths for former trainer Tim Kreiser. He was acquired privately by Wycoff and transferred to Maker while original owner Joseph Besecker retained part ownership.
“We’ve been friends for a while,” Wycoff said of Besecker. “He’s a big supporter of Coaches vs. Cancer, which Fran is involved in, so he wanted to name a horse after him and he ended up picking a good one.”
Wycoff has enjoyed some nice success with Three Diamonds Farm with only a month-and-a-half of the year covered. His multiple graded stakes winner Bigger Picture scored his third straight win in the Grade III John B. Connolly Turf Cup at Sam Houston in late January and last week, his graded stakes winner Hembree won the El Prado Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Wycoff is hopeful that the momentum can continue this weekend. Not only does he race Dunph, but he also has three-time winner Krewe Chief in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap as well as Markitoff in the Grade III $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap.
“Hopefully we can keep this going,” Wycoff said. “It’s why Three Diamonds races, to run in big races. We have 40 horses in training and looking for that good three year old colt or filly at the highest level. That being said, the Derby is the toughest race to win with that big field. We’re just happy where we are and be happy to come back for the La Derby and be competitive there. We’d like to see our horse win on Saturday.”
Should Dunph put up a big effort in the Risen Star, he would likely point to the Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 23 – the last of the Road To The Kentucky Derby prep series at Fair Grounds – or the Grade I $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 13.
Bred in Kentucky by Equus Farm, Dunph was purchased for $27,500 at the Ocala Breeders Sales Company’s Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale last March where he was consigned by Golden Rock Thoroughbreds. He is out of the Sky Mesa broodmare Skymynx.
STEWART SENDS OUT PAIR FOR GRADE II RISEN STAR
Trainer Dallas Stewart has made a career out of sliding in under the radar in big races. In Saturday’s Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford, he will send out a pair of on-the-rise longshots with Chase the Ghost and Frolic More.
Owned by Holy Cow Stable, Chase the Ghost was sixth in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes last time out but only missed fourth by a slim margin. The Lecomte was his first race since breaking his maiden at fifth asking over the Fair Grounds main track on December 22. He is 30-1 in the Risen Star and will be guided by Mitchell Murrill from post four.
“He’s trained well, he looks good and he’s healthy,” Stewart said. “He had a good competitive race last time. Looking for a move forward and that’s why they run them. Got to get in there and give him a chance.”
Frolic More breaks from the 12 hole under Corey Lanerie and broke his maiden fourth time out going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs on November 17. His sophomore debut last time out
was a close second against winners where he finished 1½ lengths behind fellow Risen Star
contestant Owendale and finished ahead of well-bred Gun It who also is entered in the Risen Star. He is owned by Andrew Farm and On Our Own Stable.
“He’s on the rise,” Stewart said. “He (and Chase the Ghost) have got to prove themselves at this point. We think he’s a nice horse and thought he would run well that day. This is a bit of a challenge but they deserve the opportunity, the horses and the owners.”
SEEKING THE SOUL WORKS HALF-MILE FOR DUBAI WORLD CUP
Charles Fipke’s Seeking the Soul took another step forward toward the Group 1 $10 million Dubai world Cup at Meydan Racecourse on March 30 with a half-mile breeze on Friday morning.
Runner-up in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational last out, the 6-year-old son of Perfect Soul (Ire.) went the four furlong distance in :49 for trainer Dallas Stewart and galloped out in 1:02.40.
“It was a very good work,” Stewart said “He’s just staying sharp and keeping that edge on him. We’ll get a stiff work in him sometime next week where we’ll be a month out and a month from the Pegasus. Just gave him a couple moderate works since his last race. He’s all dappled out and eating well.”
Prior to his second-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup behind City of Light where he picked up a paycheck for $1.25 million, Seeking the Soul was third in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in November, a race which he won in 2017. He has earned a total of $2,951,042.
A Kentucky homebred, Seeking the Soul is out of the Grade I-placed Seeking the Gold broodmare Seeking the Title, who won the Grade III Iowa Oaks. He is a direct descendant of the undefeated Champion Filly and iconic broodmare Personal Ensign.
BELL’S THE ONE WILL SCRATCH FROM GRADE II RACHEL ALEXANDRA
Trainer Neil Pessin officially withdrew Bell’s the One from the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Friday afternoon.
“She got sick last week and hasn’t been right since,” Pessin said. “She’s been back in training but just not 100 percent and not training as aggressively as she usually does so we’ll just let her tell us when she’s ready to race again.”
Owned by Lothenbach Stables, the 3-year-old daughter of Majesticperfection is unbeaten in three career starts and has not raced since taking the Letellier Memorial Stakes on December 22.
TONER SHIPS COFFEE CRUSH FOR ALBERT M. STALL MEMORIAL STAKES
Trainer Jimmy Toner was hoping for a better effort out of Coffee Crush last time out when coming off of an eight-month layoff but he’s hoping that she can rebound when he ships her to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for Saturday’s $75,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes.
Owned by S Flay Racing, the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was a troubled sixth in a first level allowance race over the turf at Gulfstream Park on January 21 which was her first start since May 2018.
“She got in some traffic,” Toner recalled of her last outing. “She sort of got blocked in behind some horses. She’s got shuffled into the turn, never got a chance to run to that day. She’s a free runner so with a cleaner trip she would have run much better.”
Toner gave Coffee Crush some extended time off after finishing eighth in Monmouth Park’s Boiling Springs Stakes last May. Her lone trip to the winner’s circle was a second out maiden victory over the turf at Aqueduct in December 2017, which she won in wire-to-wire fashion
“She’s a lovely filly,” Toner said. “I was disappointed with her race so we gave her the summer off, didn’t come back like she wanted to. She’s trained great coming back and worked well. The works have been brilliant, doing well and acting right. I just wish we could’ve got off to a better start last time. I hope that this race shows us something.”
Coffee Crush breaks from post five under Florent Geroux and is 20-1.
Bred In Kentucky by Bart Evans and Stonehaven Steadings, Coffee Crush is out of the six-time graded stakes winning Najran broodmare Wasted Tears. She was purchased for $360,000 from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016 where she was consigned by Stonehaven Steadings.
GRADE I WINNER CARRICK RETURNS TO ACTION IN SATURDAY ALLOWANCE
Trainer Tom Morley has envisioned an ideal 4-year-old campaign for Donegal Racing’s Grade I winner Carrick and it is set to begin in Saturday’s eighth race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots – an allowance optional claiming event going a mile-and-a-sixteenth over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
The chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway won last year’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes over multiple graded stakes winner Analyze It at odds of 38-1. He has not raced back since a fifth-place finish in Del Mar’s Grade I Hollywood Derby on December 1.
If Carrick puts up a good effort on Saturday, he will likely race back in the Grade II $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap on March 23 followed by the Grade I $1 million Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 4.
Carrick drew post 14 for Saturday’s race and will be guided by Adam Beschizza.
“I would have loved a better draw but I won’t complain,” Morley said. “It’s his first race in what is hopefully a very productive year. Looking hopefully at a three race program to get his year started which would be to run in the allowance race here, come back on Louisiana Derby Day and then if we run well there, we’ll run on Derby Day.”
Carrick was purchased for $75,000 from Sheltowee Sales consignement barn at the Keenaldn September Yearling Sale in 2016. Bred in Kentucky by Patricia Pavlish, he is out of the Distorted Humor broodmare How Far to Heaven and is from the same family as Grade I winners Cindy’s Hero, Forest Secrets and Hall of Famer Silverbulletday.
Morley also spoke of recent allowance winner Ninety One Assault who won an open company allowance event over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course last Friday. The Louisiana-bred son of Artie Schiller was third in the Mr. Sulu Overnight Stakes at the beginning of the meet but was scratched from the Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes as well as a state-bred allowance event after rain forced both events off the turf.
Owned by Morley and Paul Braverman, Ninety One Assault will likely target the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes on March 2.
“The only frustration has been the weather,” Morley said. “He has been a remarkably easy horse to keep on the go. We had a productive meet last year. Had six or seven starts but there’s nothing that we can do about the weather. It’s been a pain all year. We had a number of horses get rained off so it was nice to get him in the starting gate. My only worry was the fact that he hadn’t run since the beginning of November.”