* DESERT PARTY ROLLS OVER STABLEMATES IN DUBAI
* OLD FASHIONED SET FOR ’09 DEBUT IN SOUTHWEST
* CHOCOLATE CANDY A SWEET VALENTINE FAVORITE
* ‘ALL OTHERS’ STILL FAVORED IN DERBY FUTURES
All eyes watching Thursday’s one-mile Dubai 2000 Guineas were focused on Vineyard Haven, the winner of last year’s Champagne (GI) at Belmont Park who was purchased last fall by Sheikh Mohammed’s stable for a reported price tag of $12 million from trainer Bobby Frankel and a group of partners that included Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre. But jockey Frankie Dettori chose to ride Desert Party, the winner of last year’s Sanford (GII) at Saratoga, over Vineyard Haven in the nearly one-mile dirt race. The call made by Dettori proved to be very instructive.
Desert Party rolled through the stretch to an impressive 4 ¾-length victory over Godophin stablemate Regal Ransom as Vineyard Haven struggled home a well-beaten fourth.
Desert Party, trained last year by Eoin Harty while racing under the colors of Shadwell Stable, went to the sidelines last fall following a sixth-place finish behind Vineyard Haven – whom he had beaten in his Sanford win – in Saratoga’s Hopeful (GI). The son of Street Cry finally returned to competition for trainer Saeed bin Suroor on Jan. 22 with a victory over Regal Ransom in a conditions race at Nad Al Sheba. The victory in the UAE 2000 Guineas made Desert Party the likely favorite in the $2 million UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup undercard on March 28.
“We were expecting a big run and he is a nice horse,” said bin Suroor. “The UAE Derby is the obvious target, but we will have to see how he is and we have a few other options to consider.”
Desert Party was a $2.1 million purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Calder selected sale of 2-year-olds in training last March. He launched his racing career with a win at Arlington Park.
Earlier on the Thursday program at Nad Al Sheba, Dettori teamed with Godolphin and bin Suroor to win the six-furlong GNB Plate on turf with Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown nominee City Style. The son of City Zip had finished fourth to Donativum in his previous outing in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
SOUTH/OLD FASHIONED SET FOR ’09 BOW IN MONDAY’S SOUTHWEST – Trainer J. Larry Jones got off to a good start on the road to the Kentucky Derby with Friesan Fire, the son of A.P. Indy who has already won the Risen Star (GII) and Lecomte (GIII) at Fair Grounds. But most observers feel there’s a better Kentucky Derby hope in Jones’ barn in Fox Hill Farm’s Old Fashioned and that colt makes his 2009 debut on Monday in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (GIII) on Presidents’ Day at Oaklawn Park.
The unbeaten gray son of Unbridled’s Song won the Remsen (GII) at Aqueduct by a dazzling seven lengths in his final start of 2008. He tuned up for Monday’s one-mile Southwest with a sharp five-furlong breeze in 1:00.40 on Wednesday at the Hot Springs, Ark. track.
Jones saddled the ill-fated filly Eight Belles for her runner-up finish in last year’s “Run for the Roses” at Churchill Downs – a devastating result for the Hopkinsville, Ky. native who had won the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks (GI) one day earlier with Brereton Jones’ Proud Spell. The 52-year-old Jones plans to retire from training at the end of this year.
Those considered likely to take on Old Fashioned in Monday’s race are Silver City, Poltergeist, Flat Out, Gresham, Kick On, Silver Bayer, recent Turfway Park stakes winner Loch Dubh and the D. Wayne Lukas-trained duo of Buzzin and Dreamin and Flying Private.
WEST/CHOCOLATE CANDY LOOKS SWEET IN EL CAMINO REAL DERBY – California Derby winner Chocolate Candy appears to be both a sentimental and logical choice in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (GIII) on Valentine’s Day at Northern California’s Golden Gate Fields.
Owned and bred by the Sid and Jenny Craig Trust, the son of Candy Ride is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and will face six rivals in the race that will be run at a new distance of 1 1/8-miles. Russell Baze will be aboard Chocolate Candy, whose only loss in his last four races was a third-place finish to Kentucky Derby contender Pioneerof the Nile in the CashCall Futurity (GI) at Hollywood Park.
The Craigs have made a considerable mark in both the weight-loss business and Thoroughbred racing. They have not won a Kentucky Derby, but their Dr Devious finished seventh to Lil E. Tee in the 1992 Derby and then won England’s classic Epsom Derby in his next start. This year Jenny Craig will be without her longtime partner as her colt travels along the road to Louisville. Sid Craig died last July.
“Sid’s dream was to win the Kentucky Derby,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Larry Stumes. “If we should get lucky and if Chocolate Candy is in the Kentucky Derby, I know that Sid will be riding the horse along with the jockey.”
Twenty-seven previous renewals of the El Camino Real Derby have produced one Kentucky Derby winner in Charismatic, the “Horse of the Year” in 1999, and two runners-up in the big race at Churchill Downs in Casual Lies (1992) and Cavonnier (1996).
EVITA ARGENTINA TAKES ON BOYS IN SAN VICENTE – The $150,000 San Vicente (GII) on Monday’s Presidents’ Day program at Santa Anita does not look like a key Kentucky Derby prep race, but it will be a notable running if the 3-year-old filly Evita Argentina is successful in her bid to knock off nine male rivals in the seven-furlong event on the track’s Pro-Ride surface.
If trainer John Sadler’s daughter of Candy Ride wins, she’ll be just the third filly to do so in 68 runnings of the San Vicente and the first since Hubble Bubble humbled the boys in 1947. Two years earlier the race was won by the brilliant Busher, who earned “Horse of the Year” honors in her 3-year-old season. Washington state invader Gallant Son and San Pedro winner Congor Bay appear to be Evita Argentina’s chief rivals.
KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGER POOL 1 – The mutuel field, or “all others,” remained a solid 8-5 favorite among 24 betting interests as wagering in Pool 1 of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager moved past the $100,000 mark around 5:30 p.m. (EST) Friday. Old Fashioned was the favored individual horse at 6-1. Betting in the four-day pool continues through 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 15. Real-time odds for Pool 1 can be found at the Kentucky Derby Web site at http://www.kentuckyderby.com.
GALLOPING OUT – Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s Indygo Mountain, seventh in the recent Risen Star at Fair Grounds, is off the Kentucky Derby trail. The A.P. Indy colt chipped a knee during that race and was scheduled for surgery to remove the chip on Friday. … Trainer Ralph Nicks said Risen Star runner-up Flying Pegasus would make his next start in the Louisiana Derby (GII). … Daily Racing Form reported that a shin injury suffered by Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) runner-up Square Eddie could knock the colt completely off the Kentucky Derby trail. Trainer Doug O’Neill says X-rays revealed a micro-fracture in Square Eddie’s shin. “We’ll do what’s in his best interest,” said O’Neill. “If he’s not 100 percent by the first of March, we can’t think about it.”