Standing under cover in the midst of intermittent showers on Friday morning at Keeneland, a crew from WinStar Farm, including co-owner Bill Casner, was laughing and smiling. WinStar owns Hold Me Back, the 3-1 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) who is trained by Bill Mott.
“We’re excited,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar’s vice president and racing manager. “He (Hold Me Back) trained good this morning, galloped a mile and a half and looks great.”
“If he were a speed horse, I’d be a little more concerned, but the fact that he wants to fall back out of his race and make one run—usually those horses have a way to get over,” Walden said. “The thing that I always think about is it isn’t a bad post unless you get a bad trip. You can get a good trip from anywhere; it just takes a little luck. You can be in the one hole and get shut off. I think we’ve got plenty of run to the first turn, and I’m not that concerned about it.”
Walden is the fourth-leading trainer in Keeneland history by stakes wins with 22, recorded from 1991-2004. In 1999, he won the Toyota Blue Grass with Menifee.
McANALLY ARRIVES FOR TOYOTA BLUE GRASS RUN WITH MASSONE
Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally was trackside Friday morning to oversee the training of Frankfurt Stable’s Massone for Saturday’s Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
“He was just playing around out there this morning and that’s a good sign,” McAnally said of the colt’s gallop under jockey Goncalino Almeida.
Massone enters the Toyota Blue Grass off an eight-week layoff.
“After he ran second to Chocolate Candy in the El Camino Real (G3), we decided to come here,” McAnally said. “The owner (Lewis Figone) comes to the Blue Grass every year and this gave him a reason to come this year.”
Garrett Gomez, who rode Massone to his lone victory in nine starts, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position 11.
“The post is perfect. Garrett will be able to see what is going on,” McAnally said. “Massone is a closer and I’d like to see a good pace.”
Massone has had seven works since the El Camino Real and McAnally feels he has a horse on the upswing on his hands.
“He has improved a lot in the past couple of months,” McAnally said. “His last two mile works were very good … 1:38 and 2 last Sunday and 1:39 and 1 the week before. You have to work them long when you have plenty of time between races. That is what I used to do with John (Henry).”
McAnally said that Massone would have an easy jog in the morning.
MAFAAZ COMPLETES WORK FOR U.S. DEBUT
Shadwell Stable’s Mafaaz (GB) galloped a mile and three-eighths Friday morning with exercise rider Miguel Moya up. Trainer John Gosden and jockey Richard Hills are scheduled to arrive in Lexington late Friday night.
Les Reynolds, head traveling lad for Gosden, said Mafaaz would not go to the track in the morning.
“He did most of his work at home and he has done well here,” Reynolds said. “He shipped well and has handled everything here beautifully.”
The prospect of a large crowd Saturday and conditions that might be new to Mafaaz are not a concern for Reynolds.
“There will probably be a lot more people here than at home, but over there there are a lot of people around the walking ring,” Reynolds said. “He is not a silly horse, and I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Mafaaz has won two of three career starts. In his 2009 debut, he won the Kentucky Derby Challenge over Polytrack at Kempton Park on March 18 that guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
“His form is good,” Reynolds said. “The race in which he got beat by Donativum (who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf three weeks later), the horse that ran second, Crowded House for Brian Meehan, is now the favorite for the English Derby and Mafaaz was less than two lengths behind him. I don’t think he (Mafaaz) is here just to fill out the numbers.”
OTHER TOYOTA BLUE GRASS NEWS
Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Charitable Man galloped a mile and three-eighths and then stood in the starting gate under exercise rider Pat Correa.
Neal McLaughlin, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, was asked what he would like to see from Charitable Man on Saturday in his first start in seven months.
“I’d like to a see one, two or three finish,” McLaughlin said with a laugh. “He might be a little fresh off the layoff, so he may be close to the pace. I just hope he is not pulling too hard.”
Silverton Hill LLC’s Cliffy’s Future jogged a mile and then galloped Friday morning under trainer Darrin Miller. Cliffy’s Future is one of four Toyota Blue Grass entrants coming into the race off a victory.
“He is going to have to repeat what he did the last time in the Rushaway,” Miller said. “I hope he can make a run at the top of the stretch.”
IEAH Stables, John Sikura, et al, Joseph Bulger, James Covello and Puglisi Racing LLC’s Patena galloped early Friday morning under exercise rider Marcus Powell. Patena will break from post position one under Robby Albarado, who is seeking his first Toyota Blue Grass Stakes victory.
Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Keith Harris. The Al Stall Jr. trainee will not go to the track in the morning.
Stall was asked what he would like to see happen for Terrain to secure a Toyota Blue Grass Stakes victory. “Have something to run at and be clear in the lane,” Stall said of Terrain, who will be ridden by Julien Leparoux. “He will be back early.”
Jake and Reed Ballis, Rashard Lewis, and Regan and William Swinbank’s Join in the Dance galloped on Friday morning.
Samotowka Stables LLC, Delfiner Partners, George Krall and Magdalena Racing’s Theregoesjojo galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Amanda Tamburello.
Theregoesjojo comes into the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes off a third-place finish two weeks ago in the Florida Derby. Trainer Ken McPeek is not concerned about the quick turnaround.
“Shoot, in the old days, trainers used to bring them back in eight or nine days,” McPeek said. “I think I undertrained him for the Florida Derby; I was a little too conservative with him.
“Since the Florida Derby, he has eaten up early every night and I think I have a lot of horse to work with. It is time to be aggressive with him.”
McPeek, who has won three races at the current meeting from 10 starters, is sitting on a Keeneland milestone. A victory by Stratostar in Thursday’s third race gave McPeek 99 Keeneland victories.
“One hundred; that’s a neat number,” McPeek said with a laugh. “We get it tomorrow!”
McPeek has no horses entered here Friday and Theregoesjojo is his only Saturday starter.
For his career, McPeek has 991 wins. He has one runner entered at Gulfstream Park on Friday and three on Saturday.
SHEPPARD CONSIDERING NEXT RACE FOR VINERY MADISON WINNER INFORMED DECISION
Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said Augustin Stable’s Informed Decision was doing well the morning after her thrilling victory in Thursday’s Vinery Madison (G1). Making her 2009 debut, the 4-year-old Monarchos filly battled back in deep stretch to win the stakes by a head over Ventura. The victory marked Informed Decision’s third win in three starts over Keeneland’s Polytrack. She set the 1:20.86 track record in the Raven Run (G2) last October.
“It was amazing,” Sheppard said. “It shows how much class she’s got. It really looked like she was beat, too, I thought, inside the eighth pole. When he (jockey John Velazquez) asked her, she really dug in. It was a great effort, and he gave her a very good ride.”
When asked when Informed Decision might race next, Sheppard said, “We’ll have to look and see what her options are. I don’t think she’s strictly one-dimensional for synthetic. She’s won on the dirt; she’s won at Belmont, she’s won at Gulfstream Park. I think she probably is particularly suited to the synthetic, but I don’t think she has to have it.”
Informed Decision has begun what could be three big days for Sheppard. Today, he will send out Just as Well in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1). He owns Just as Well, a six-year-old son of A.P. Indy who will be ridden by meet-leading rider Julien Leparoux. On Saturday, Sheppard will saddle Augustin’s champion Forever Together in her 2009 debut in the Jenny Wiley (G2).
“I hope we didn’t use our luck up yesterday,” he said.
COOLMORE LEXINGTON DRAWS 38 NOMINATIONS
A total of 38 horses were nominated to the 28th running of the $300,000 Coolmore Lexington (G2) for 3-year-olds to be run Saturday, April 18 at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track.
The Coolmore Lexington offers hopefuls for the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) one of the last chances to accrue graded stakes earnings for the Run for the Roses
Keeneland stakes coordinator Tia Borgemenke had 10 horses listed as probable for the race. Entries for the Coolmore Lexington will be drawn Wednesday.
Headlining the list is California invader Jeranimo. Owned by B.J. Wright and trained by Mike Pender, Jeranimo is coming off a third-place behind Pioneerof the Nile in the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 14 in his most recent start. Brice Blanc is scheduled to ride.
Also expected to come from the West Coast is Peachtree Stable’s Mythical Power, trained by Bob Baffert. Second in the Sunland Derby on March 29 at Sunland Park in his most recent start, Mythical Power would be one of two Peachtree runners in the Coolmore Lexington as Masala also is under consideration.
The lone graded stakes winner among the early probables is G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s El Crespo, who won the Grade 3 Palm Beach on the grass at Gulfstream Park on March 14.
Others listed as probable for the Coolmore Lexington are WinStar Farm LLC’s Advice; Phipps Stable’s Conservative; Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, Gary Barber and Team Valor International’s Hull; Stonestreet Stable LLC’s Omniscient; Donamire Farm’s Parade Clown; and David Thompson’s Port Canaveral.
2008 TOYOTA BLUE GRASS WINNER MONBA RETURNING TO KEENELAND FOR BEN ALI
Starlight Stable LLC, Donald Lucarelli and Paul Saylor’s Monba, winner of last year’s 2008 Toyota Blue Grass (G1), is expected to return to Keeneland for the 79th running of the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3).
Fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in his most recent start on March 7 for trainer Todd Pletcher, Monba heads a list of 28 horses nominated for the 1 1/8-mile race on Polytrack. The Ben Ali would be Monba’s third start since running 20th in last year’s Kentucky Derby.
Also nominated is Melnyk Racing Stables Inc.’s Sterwins, upset winner of last year’s Ben Ali. Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Sterwins won the race by 3¼ lengths at 13-1 odds.
Nominations closed Wednesday for three other stakes to be run next week.
The 21st running of the $100,000 Appalachian (G3) for 3-year-old fillies going a mile on the turf on Thursday drew 31 nominees, including the top four finishers from last fall’s JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth. The top four, in order, were Laragh, Habaya, Complicity and Abbott Hall.
Next Friday’s 15th running of the Doubledogdare (G3) for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going 1 1/16 miles on the main track drew 25 nominations. Among the nominees is Courtlandt Farms’ Indescribable, who ran third behind Carriage Trail in the Doubledogdare last year.
The 13th running of the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf drew 35 nominations. Highlighting the nominees are Glen Hill Farm’s Sly Storm and Robert Dewitt’s Taletobetold, the 1-2 finishers in last fall’s Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at the 5 ½-furlong distance, and Team Valor International’s Jazzy (ARG), who ran third in last year’s Giant’s Causeway.
Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire, runaway winner of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in his most recent start on March 14, galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Jennifer Rabadan. Friesan Fire had worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Wednesday with a final quarter shading 23 seconds, according to Keeneland clockers.
“It was his first time working on Polytrack and that was impressive,” said Cindy Jones, wife of trainer Larry Jones, who is overseeing the stable’s Keeneland operation until her husband arrives from Oaklawn Park on Tuesday. “He had been on the Tapeta at Fair Hill last year, but I am not sure how he did on that because I was at Delaware Park.”
Gabriel Saez, who has ridden Friesan Fire to three consecutive victories, was aboard for the work.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Justwhistledixie, winner of five consecutive races and a leading contender for the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (G1), worked a half-mile in :50.40 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
“We were debating whether to go today and we just decided to do it because she was feeling so good,” said Neal McLaughlin, Kiaran’s brother and assistant. “She will likely be on a Friday schedule and work again on the 17th.”
A new face in the McLaughlin barn is Darley Stable’s Seventh Street, who arrived from Oaklawn Park after her dominating 5 ¾-length victory in last weekend’s Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap.
“The Humana Distaff (a Grade 1 on May 2 at Churchill Downs) is a possibility,” McLaughlin said. “It would mean cutting back to seven-eighths, but we will train up to it and take a look.”
MAKER’S MARK COMMEMORATIVE BOTTLE SIGNING DRAWS LARGE FOLLOWING
VIDEO OF COACH RICH BROOKS and BOTTLE DIPPING
An estimated 1,150 fans braved chilly temperatures and overnight rain to line up for Keeneland’s 13th annual Maker’s Mark Commemorative Bottle signing, featuring University of Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks. Signers also included Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels (pictured at left) and Keeneland President and CEO Nick Nicholson.
Commemorative bottles went on sale statewide April 3. Sales are slated to raise $400,000 ($200,000 in bottle sales plus an additional match from the University of Kentucky) in support of a UK School of Music outreach program for elementary and secondary students across Kentucky.
Fans, equipped with stadiums chairs, sleeping bags and coolers, began lining up in Keeneland’s grandstand early Wednesday for the signing. Keeneland provided heaters and concessions throughout the night, showing movies such as “Dreamer” and UK football games on the in-house TV monitors. UK Symphony Orchestra member Adam French entertained fans with a variety of fiddle tunes. The signing started at 5:30 a.m. and ran until mid-morning.
COVERAGE OF THE TOYOTA BLUE GRASS ON TVG, ESPN2, HRRN, SIRIUS and XM RADIO
Live coverage of Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass (G1) will be broadcast from 4:30-5:30 p.m. ET on TVG. ESPN2 will show the Toyota Blue Grass on a tape-delayed basis from 6-7 p.m.
Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will provide live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass, Commonwealth (G2), Jenny Wiley (G2) and Shakertown (G3) from 4-6 p.m. ET. The two-hour broadcast can be heard worldwide via free live streaming on the HRRN website at http://www.horseracingradio.net.
Dave Johnson and Bill Finley will broadcast live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass on Sirius channel 122 and XM channel 143 from 5-6 p.m. ET.