Sunday, April 23, 2017
Racing Around the Weekend
SoCal shippers had themselves a day Saturday, as did the resurgent Hall of Famer nominee, Javier Castellano.
Ironic, too, that the only mention of California horses on the national stage this year has been how disappointing Golden State three-year-olds have been this season, ill-fated Mastery notwithstanding.
But it’s sophomoric to count them out of Kentucky Derby mix quite yet; more on that later.
As for senior Californian equines, Itsintheday carried the day, virtually doing the same thing in Keeneland's Elkhorn field that he did to Left Coast marathoners in the San Luis Rey last month: He held off the deep closers from mid-stretch to wire for a hard-fought victory.
It was the second straight Grade 2 title for the team of Jeff Mullins and Tyler Baze.
Mullins said afterward that he wasn’t sure if there is more distance left in the five-year-old’s tank, which may explain why he didn’t stay home for a run in the 1-3/4 mile San Juan Capistrano, even if the latter-day version is somewhat diminished.
It’s impossible to conjure up the ‘San Juan’ without thinking of legendary Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham, who won 14 of these marathons: Harvey Pack always said that they started the race, ran round and round, and stopped it when a Whittingham horse got to the front.
Several hours after the Elkhorn, Bob Hess Jr. struck casino gold by shipping cross-country to win West Virginia’s richest race, the $1.25 Charles Town Classic, beneath Javier Castellano, who ironically used ‘Belmont Balcony” tactics on a bullring by making a 5-path sweep to victory.
The win was Castellano’s third in the event, leading all riders in that category, as he continues on his recent roll, looking like the Castellano who in 2016 won his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award as America's champion rider.
The year didn’t start out well for Castellano, probably owing to a modicum of pushback after having changed agents. Castellano was riding at an uncharacteristically poor 18% rate the first half of the Gulfstream Park meet, a session he has dominated in recent record-breaking seasons.
Then came the news of his Hall of Fame nomination and immediately his confidence was restored and he’s now working his magic once again. Ironically, Castellano has zero Derby victories when compared to the CT Classic, a scenario he hopes to remedy.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: It might be that Castellano’s Derby could end aboard Gunnevera a fortnight from now. Actually, at about the time the HRI faithful catches up with this post, the late running Fountain of Youth hero should have arrived at Churchill Downs.
He was vanned from Miami via Larry’s Kelly’s Elite Horse Transport, with Gunnevera in tow along with trusted groom Luis Cabello. Perhaps in search of some good Derby karma, he was bedded down Saturday night at Horatio Luro’s Old Mill Farm in Cartersville, Georgia.
Senor Luro, as he reverently was known, saddled two Derby winners, Decidedly in 1962 and the great Northern Dancer two years later. Kelly, himself a son of legendary Hall of Famer Thomas (T.J.) Kelly, is licensed in about a half-dozen stakes, so Gunnevera will get top hands-on care along the way.
Gunnevera worked a solid five furlongs at “Calder” Friday before leaving Miami Gardens for the Midwest and a shot at immortality.
DERBY WORKTAB: Saturday morning was to be the first official day of Kentucky Derby workouts at Churchill Downs, but timed moves were scrapped owing to the sloppy conditions. The Downs has carved out a window from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. each morning for Derby and Oaks horses only.
The workouts are available via live stream at that time by clicking on at http://www.kentuckyderby.com.
Typical work from Dale Romans as J Boys Echo worked a maintenance 5/8s this morning around the lower first turn in 1:02 and change, galloping out in 1:16 and a couple, on a fast track. He will be honed for speed+stamina next weekend…Gormley had a nice trial out west Saturday. He appears to be learning his speed-rationing lessons well…
RACING ON TV?: 60 Minutes will have a segment on Timber Racing tonight (check local listings) in advance of Saturday’s Maryland Hunt Cup. The race is approximately four miles over timber fences, not the brushy type that American chasers jump over and through on the steeplechase circuit.
In addition to the distance, horses must clear 22 fences. There will be a featured interview with the legendary Paddy Neilson, 75. Neilson has won the event three times.
HRI DERBY SIX-PACK: With the Illinois Derby, won by Multiplier, a non-qualifying Kentucky Derby event, there was no new poll taken this week for HRI's Derby Hi-5. These were the top vote-getters with our staffers last week, on a 6-4-2-1-1 consensus basis.
HRI KENTUCKY DERBY CONSENSUS
1 - (Tie) Always Dreaming 
1 - (Tie) Classic Empire 
3 - McCraken 
4 - (Tie) Girvin 
4 - (Tie) Gunnevera 
4 - (Tie) Irish War Cry 
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., April 23, 2017