The hard-luck suffered by champion 2-year-olds along the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) continues in 2009 as reigning juvenile champion Midshipman has been knocked out of consideration for the “Run for the Roses” after suffering what is described as a minor leg injury.
The winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), purchased privately last fall by Dubai-based Godolphin, was reported to have suffered a soft tissue injury to his left fore leg during training for the colt’s scheduled 3-year-old debut on Thursday in the Al Bastikaya at Nad Al Sheba. Godolphin Racing Manager Simon Crisford said Midshipman could return to racing in the latter half of the year.
The chestnut son of Unbridled’s Song, bred and originally raced by Stonerside Stable, won three of four starts in 2008 for trainer Bob Baffert. He was transferred to the care of Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor following his victory in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
The defection of Midshipman from the Kentucky Derby 135 picture leaves 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense as the only juvenile champion to return to win America’s greatest race since Spectacular Bid in 1979.
SOUTHEAST/QUALITY ROAD DAZZLES IN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
Edward Evans’ homebred Quality Road was quickly transformed from promising newcomer to major contender for Kentucky Derby 135 when the son of Elusive Quality romped to an authoritative 4 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park.
Quality Road stalked pacesetting This Ones for Phil before taking over at the top of the stretch and quickly pulling away under jockey John Velazquez. Theregoesjojo rallied for second, while Beethoven and favored Capt. Candyman Can ran third and fourth, respectively.
The Jimmy Jerkens-trained Quality Road covered the one-mile distance in 1:35.01 as he placed himself in a prominent position on the road to Churchill Downs and the May 2 Kentucky Derby. The colt is not nominated to the Derby and the Triple Crown – Jerkens said he simply forget to pay the $600 to make his star colt eligible by January’s early nomination deadline for the three-race series – but Jerkens will submit a $6,000 fee to make Quality Road eligible before the late nomination deadline on March 27.
It was only the third career start for Quality Road, who won his six-furlong debut at Aqueduct in November and returned to racing with a runner-up finish in Jan. 10 allowance race at Gulfstream Park.
“He was ready to run,” said Velazquez. “The closer we got to the finish the stronger I thought we were going.”
Jerkens said future racing options for Quality Road include the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct and the Florida Derby (GI).
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s top Kentucky Derby hope is the unbeaten Dunkirk, a $3.7 million yearling purchase who is perfect in two 2009 races. But he could have unveiled another late-blooming contender in Wertheimer Brothers’ homebred Affirmatif, who romped to a nine-length victory in his career debut in a one-mile grass race on Sunday at Gulfstream Park.
“That was very impressive,” Pletcher said of the son of Unbridled’s Song. “I wouldn’t have any problem running back in a stakes after that.”
WEST/THE PAMPLEMOUSSE NO FLUKE, ROMPS IN SHAM
Front-running odds-on favorite The Pamplemousse turned back runner-up Take the Points on the far turn and bounded away to an easy six-length win in Saturday’s $200,000 Sham Stakes (GIII) over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface.
The victory was the third straight for the Julio Canani-trained son of Kafwain and validated an earlier win in the San Rafael (GIII) in which The Pamplemousse had upset Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) runner-up Square Eddie. Ridden by Alex Solis, the Pamplemousse covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.86 and positioned himself as the major rival to West Coast 3-year-old leader Pioneerof the Nile.
“I’ve never ridden anything like him,” said Solis, who is still looking for his first Kentucky Derby win after 15 tries. “He has such a good mind and he was real relaxed the whole way.”
The Pamplemousse, named after a popular restaurant near California’s Del Mar racetrack, runs for a group of owners that includes Alex Solis, Jr., the jockey’s son and the bloodstock agent who picked the colt for purchase for $150,000 last March at Florida’s Ocala Breeders Sale for 2-year-olds in training.
The colt improved his record to 3-0-1 in five races with earnings of $209,280.
On Sunday, English-bred import Battle of Hastings ran down favored Flashmans Papers in the final yards to scored a 7-1 surprise in the $100,000 Baldwin (GIII) on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Tyler Baze was aboard as the Jeff Mullins-trained colt covered 6 ½-furlongs in a stakes record 1:11.86.
Southern California Invader Takes Borderland – Southern California invader Scorewithcater survived a stretch-long duel with Canadian juvenile champion Mine That Bird to win the $100,000 Borderland Derby by a neck on Saturday at Sunland Park.
Claimed last fall for $40,000 by trainer and co-owner Doug O’Neill, Scorewithcater was ridden by jockey Tyler Baze and covered 1 1/16-miles in a solid 1.43.96 in his debut on dirt.
Charlie’s Moment Takes King Glorious – Charlie’s Moment, the only Triple Crown nominee in the field of six, dueled for the lead and pulled away late to win Saturday’s $50,000 King Glorious Stakes for 3-year-olds at Northern California’s Golden Gate Fields. Danny Sorenson rode the winner.
MIDWEST/PROCEED BEE FLOURISHES IN RETURN TO POLYTRACK IN BATTAGLIA
William Stiritz’s Proceed Bee caught favored Parade Clown in the final furlong and edged clear for a 1 ¼-length victory in Saturday’s $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Turfway Park. The race is the Northern Kentucky track’s major prep for its $400,000 Lane’s End Stakes (GII) on March 21.
The Terry Gestes-trained son of Bernstein, who won the Grand Canyon on turf last fall at Churchill Downs, covered the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:47.49 under Rodney Prescott. He won his only previous start on a synthetic surface, but ran fifth on dirt to Flat Out in Oaklawn Park’s Smarty Jones in his previous start. Proceed Bee has won four of six races and could run next in Turfway’s Rushaway.
Morning line favorite Fitzaslew was scratched after the colt suffered a bout with colic.
SOUTH/CITIZEN WINS MOUNTAIN VALLEY
Naveed Chowhan’s Citizen, the longest shot in the field of eight at 29-1, rallied to win Saturday’s $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The Bernie Flint trainee held off the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Flying Private to win the six-furlong race by a head.
EAST/ROCK ON JUSTIN ROLLS AT LAUREL
Non Stop Stable’s Rock on Justin was successful in his stakes debut as the son of Rock Slide notched a 2 ¾-length victory in the $50,000 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park. He won for the fourth time in his last five races for trainer Gary Capuano.