Dr. Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing’s Hansen, the 6-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 88th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1), made his first appearance at Keeneland on Friday morning with a jog to the starting gate for a schooling session and then galloping 1½ miles (click here for video of Hansen on the track).
Exercise rider Joe Sharp was aboard the juvenile champion of 2011 as Hansen went through his paces. Trainer Mike Maker said Hansen would be on the track at 6 tomorrow morning for light training.
“He stumbled in the Holy Bull (G3) and in the Gotham (G3) he did not get away very well but he behaved himself,” Maker said, noting that Hansen had no problem last fall in his biggest victory, the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Hansen has won four of five starts for earnings of $1,473,305. He will break from post position four in the Toyota Blue Grass and be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
A victory in the Toyota Blue Grass would be worth $450,000 and make Hansen the top money earner to enter the Kentucky Derby in the race’s 138-year history. Hansen would have $1,923,305 to surpass Snow Chief’s mark of $1,719,040 entering the 1986 Run for the Roses.
Hansen’s home base is the Trackside Training Center, about 4 miles from Churchill Downs, and a victory Saturday would make that spot a must stop in the buildup to the Kentucky Derby.
“We will have a lot of people coming over there,” Maker said. “Or, it will be very lonely.”
About a half-hour after Hansen came to the track, Sharp brought stablemate Gung Ho to the track for a 1½-mile gallop.
Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Gung Ho finished seventh behind Toyota Blue Grass rival Dullahan in last fall’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in his lone Keeneland start. Gung Ho, who will be ridden by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Edgar Prado, finished second in the Rushaway on March 24 at Turfway Park in his lone start of 2012.
In other training activity involving Toyota Blue Grass entrants at Keeneland, Holy Candy galloped 1½ miles on the main track under Lupillo Alferez; Howe Great galloped 1½ miles on the main track under Heather Craig; Midnight Crooner galloped 1 3/8 miles on the main track under Peter Hutton; Politicallycorrect galloped about 1½ miles under Juan Merino on the main track; Ever So Lucky galloped twice around on the training track under Barry Wiseman; and Heavy Breathing galloped 1¼ miles on the training track under Nick Bush.
Trainer Gennadi Dorochenko’s two Toyota Blue Grass entrants, Hero of Order and Russian Greek, walked the shedrow. At Churchill Downs, Dullahan, Prospective and Scatman galloped and are scheduled to ship to Keeneland tomorrow morning.
HUMANA DISTAFF NEXT UP FOR VINERY MADISON WINNER GROUPIE DOLL
There was no stopping at the farm for Groupie Doll after her victory Thursday afternoon in the Vinery Madison (G1).
“Usually they get to go to the farm after winning a Grade 1, but she was on the shuttle and came back to Churchill Downs,” said trainer and part owner Buff Bradley, who would take former stable star Brass Hat back to the family farm in Frankfort after races during his lucrative career.
Bradley, who bred Groupie Doll along with his father, Fred, said the filly came out of the race in good order.
“She ate up well last night and came back fine,” Bradley said. “The plan is the ($300,000) Humana Distaff (G1 on May 5 at seven furlongs) and then give her some time off and plan for the rest of the year.”
The Humana Distaff will mark the rubber match this year between Groupie Doll and beaten Vinery Madison favorite Musical Romance, who finished fourth Thursday.
“She came out of the race perfect and she will go to Churchill Downs tomorrow,” said Freddy Guzman, assistant to trainer and co-owner Bill Kaplan. “She fought the rider the whole way around and had no kick at the end.”
Musical Romance, the champion female sprinter of 2011 and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) last fall at Churchill Downs, had beaten Groupie Doll in their first meeting in the Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream Park in March.
Trainer John Sadler said that Home Sweet Aspen, who set the early pace before fading to last in the eight-horse field, displaced her soft palate and will return to California.
JUDDMONTE SPINSTER HEROINE ARUNA MAKES 2012 DEBUT IN JENNY WILEY
When she was last seen at Keeneland, Flaxman Holdings, Ltd.’s Aruna had successfully passed her initial test on Polytrack in winning the 2011 Juddmonte Spinster (G1).
The 5-year-old Graham Motion-trained mare is scheduled to make her 2012 debut Saturday in the 24th running of the $300,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
“She arrived here from Fair Hill (Md.) on Wednesday,” Motion said. “We planned to start the year and having the race a Grade 1 didn’t hurt.”
Following her Juddmonte Spinster victory, Aruna returned to the turf, finishing fifth, beaten only a length, in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs.
“We plan to run her five times this year and hope to wind up at the Breeders’ Cup,” Motion said. “She stayed at Fair Hill all winter. It was so mild, she didn’t need to go to Florida and she didn’t miss any time at all. She has matured and filled out well.”
Aruna has compiled a 7-4-2-0 record on the grass in the United States since coming here midway through 2010 from Europe. Motion said Aruna could return to the Polytrack in the fall and defend her Juddmonte Spinster title, something that has been done only three times in the race that began in 1956.
“It is possible,” Motion said of using the race as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup that will be held at Santa Anita this year. “We know she handles this surface well.”
REVERON MAY MAKE KENTUCKY DERBY BID IN COOLMORE LEXINGTON
Stipa Racing Stable’s Reveron, runner-up in the Florida Derby (G1) in his most recent start, is the top name among 49 horses nominated to next Saturday’s 31st running of the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (G3) to be contested at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Trained by Agustin Bezara, Reveron has $220,000 in graded stakes earnings, a figure that is perilously close to the cutoff line of the top 20 earners under consideration for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). The Coolmore Lexington’s winner’s share is $120,000.
According to Keeneland stakes coordinator Scott Jones, other horses under consideration for the Coolmore Lexington are Arm Force, Golden Ticket, Holiday Promise, Stirred Up and Summer Front.
Nominations for the four other stakes during the third week of the meet are out with marquee names dotting the rosters.
The biggest name is Morton Fink’s Wise Dan, runaway winner of the Fayette (G2) here last fall and the Clark (G1). Wise Dan is slated to make his 2012 debut in the 82nd running of the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track on Sunday, April 22.
The Ben Ali drew 27 nominations and among those expected to face Wise Dan, according to Jones, are Cease, Golden Yank and Ioya Bigtime.
Starting the stakes action will be the 24th running of the $100,000 Appalachian (G3) for 3-year-old fillies going a mile on the turf on Thursday. The race drew 30 nominations headed by Caroline Forgason’s Somali Lemonade, winner of last fall’s JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) here.
Among those expected to be entered Sunday are Dayatthespa, Regalo Mia, Firehouse Red and Dame Marie.
Next Friday’s feature is the 18th running of the $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Topping the list of 26 nominations is Fox Hill Farms’ Joyful Victory, a two-time graded stakes winner last year and fourth-place finisher as the favorite in last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1).
The 16th running of the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway for filly and mare turf sprinters drew 28 nominations for the 5 ½-furlong test next Saturday.
Headlining the list of runners expected in the race are Dawn and Ike Thrash’s Wild About Marie, winner of the Buffalo Trace Franklin County here last fall, and Peter Blum Thoroughbreds’ Inspired, winner of three consecutive races. Other probables include Extravaganza, Flash Mash and Well Deserved.
According to Trakus, which records individual sectional times and distance covered for races at Keeneland, the extra ground traveled by Joha in Thursday’s fifth race at 4½ furlongs proved costly for him in a half-length defeat. Breaking from the outside No. 9 post position, Joha covered 47 feet more than the victorious I’m Boundtoscore that equates to traveling about 5½ lengths more than the winner.
HORSE OF THE YEAR HAVRE DE GRACE TO PARADE IN THE KEENELAND PADDOCK ON SUNDAY
Reigning 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace will make an appearance in the Keeneland paddock on Sunday at approximately 4 p.m. ET, just prior to the seventh race.
Fans can register to win the opportunity to have a photo made with Havre de Grace (visit the white tent near the paddock). The first 500 people to register receive a free commemorative T-shirt. Additional merchandise will be available for sale with proceeds benefiting Horses and Hope.
Havre de Grace was purchased by owner Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm for $380,000 from Mill Ridge Sales, agent, at Keeneland’s 2008 September Yearling Sale. The Saint Liam filly won five of seven starts last year, for earnings for more than $1.6 million. Wins in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational and Apple Blossom established her at the top of her division, while a victory against males in the Woodward (G1) and a solid fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) clinched Horse of the Year honors.
In her only start so far this year, she won the New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds by 4½ lengths on March 17.
SALE OF TOYOTA BLUE GRASS CONTENDER T-SHIRTS TO BENEFIT THOROUGHBRED AFTERCARE ALLIANCE
Show your support for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance by purchasing T-shirts commemorating Toyota Blue Grass (G1) contenders Hansen, Dullahan and Howe Great. T-shirts are on sale Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14 in the Keeneland Gift Shop. Proceeds benefit the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, an organization designed to serve as both the accrediting body for facilities that care for Thoroughbreds following the conclusion of their racing careers and a fundraising body to support these approved facilities.