“He came out the race real well,” said trainer Jeff Mullins, sipping a Red Bull outside of trainer Tony Dutrow’s barn at Aqueduct Racetrack. “We had him out this morning, went over him from head to toe, and everything looks good.”
The hard-fought victory could make I Want Revenge the favorite for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky. on Saturday, May 2. He will seek to become the 12th Wood Memorial winner to take the 1 ¼-mile “Run for the Roses,” joining Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox (1930), Twenty Grand (1931), Johnstown (1939), Triple Crown winner Count Fleet (1943), Hoop Jr. (1945), Triple Crown winner Assault (1946), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Bold Forbes (1976), Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (1977), Pleasant Colony (1981) and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000).
Mullins, who moved his own travel plans back on Sunday to check on the horse, said I Want Revenge will ship to Churchill Downs on Monday morning and remain there through the Kentucky Derby. Mullins plans to return home to California for a couple of days before joining the horse in Louisville on Wednesday.
“We’ll wait until we get there and settle in to figure that out,” he said of training plans for I Want Revenge leading up to the Derby.
I Want Revenge was 1-for-6 on synthetic surfaces in California. He shipped in for the Grade 2 Gotham Stakes here on March 7 and won by better than eight lengths on his first start on dirt..
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Among I Want Revenge’s many admirers on Sunday morning was trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who will be making his first Kentucky Derby start with Edward P. Evans’ Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Quality Road.
“That horse [I Want Revenge] ran an impressive race yesterday,” said Jerkens after watching a set work on Belmont Park’s training track Sunday morning. “And you know what else? That kid (jockey Joe Talamo) rode that horse the only way you can ride them when then get left like that: he saved every inch of ground, didn’t rush his horse and let him put himself back in the race. They were both impressive.”
Quality Road is impressive as well. The Virginia-bred Elusive Quality colt broke his maiden at first asking at Aqueduct on November 29. He made his three-year-old debut in a Gulfstream Park allowance, where he ran second after a slow break. He then rebounded in a big way win the Grade 2, one-mile Fountain of Youth by four and a half lengths, and on March 28, turned in his biggest effort by winning the nine-furlong Florida Derby in track record time of 1:47.72 and defeating favored Dunkirk by 1 ¾-lengths
Jerkens plans to work Quality Road either Thursday or Friday. He added that he would likely ship to Churchill Downs on the Tuesday before the Derby (April 28).
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Trainer Kelly Breen reported that both Wood Memorial runner-up West Side Bernie and fourth-place finisher Atomic Rain exited the race in good shape and he will determine plans for both horses within the next few days.
“Both of them probably ran the races of their lives,” Breen said. “They came back in great shape, so now we can start finalizing our plans.
“I have a horse running at Aqueduct on Thursday (Bold Union in the $65,000-added Lucky Lavender Gal; eighth race), so West Side Bernie will stay in New York until then. Then, once I get the details together, we’ll send him to Churchill Downs.
“Atomic Rain ran a good race, too, but I’m not sure what’s next for him. Maybe the Preakness (May 16 at Pimlico), but we have other options, too. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
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Fox Hill Farm’s and Vinery Stable’s Kodiak Kowboy, vanned right back to Delaware Park lat night after his hard-fought head victory over Fabulous Strike in Saturday’s 109th running of the Grade 1 Carter Handicap.
“Everything is all right with him” said trainer Larry Jones from New Orleans. “He shipped well and was doing well back at the barn. I’m not sure what we will do with him next. I’m sure the owners will get together and we’ll figure something out. But he is definitely staying on the East Coast.”
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Albert Fried Jr.’s Giant Moon, mimicking the mood of his connections, was still feeling spirited Sunday coming off his victory in Saturday’s 97th running of the Grade 3, nine-furlong Excelsior Stakes.
“He’s very pleased with himself this morning, that’s for sure,” said trainer Richard Schosberg from atop his pony, watching a set over the training track.
Schosberg said the 4-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway came out of the race very well, continuing an upward trend that began upon his return in February from a long layoff after a disappointing finish in last year’s Preakness and hoof problems that kept him sidelined for the rest of his three-year-old season.
After running second in the Rough Rogue stakes at Aqueduct on February 6, Giant Moon came back to defeat four others in the Mr. G.J.G overnight stakes at a mile and a sixteenth over the inner track a month later. Yesterday’s victory marked a hard-fought return to form for the horse and his connections.
“He’s doing very well,” Schosberg said. “When he was on the farm upstate, (farrier) Ray Galluscio (brother of trainer Dominic Galluscio), completely restructured this horse’s feet back to the way they were intended to look. He had the beginnings of a small degree of rotation last year, and Ray has done a fantastic job with him and drives down from upstate to shoe him now. This has really been a team effort.”
Schosberg was unsure of the specifics of Giant Moon’s next move, but said he planned to remain in the older horse handicap division.
“I’m not sure what’s next,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Pimlico Special is no longer – that would have been the perfect spot for him, time-wise and distance-wise. It’s hard to say – he’s got the pedigree to try grass at one point, but I’m not going to do that now. We’re looking toward the Brooklyn, Suburban, Whitney – but I’m not a 100-percent sure yet.”
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IEAH Stables’ Laragh worked five furlongs in 1:00.22 handily under exercise rider Simon Harris on Sunday over the fast main track at Belmont Park in preparation for an expected start in Saturday’s 60th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Comely for three-year-old fillies at a mile. It was the fastest time of six workouts for that distance.
Laragh, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on December 13, makes her 2009 debut here for trainer John Terranova II. The gray Tapit filly has won three of six starts with one third.
“We freshened her up after she ran in California – she spent some time down in Florida and we brought her home to New York about three weeks ago,” said Tonja Terranova, wife of trainer John Terranova. “She’s been training great and everything is on target for Saturday.”
Another expected Comely starter, Alan Brodsky’s Don’t Forget Gil, worked four furlongs over the Belmont main track in .47.12 handily, also the top-ranked of nine workouts for the distance.
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The Big A will be open for simulcasting only on Monday and Tuesday, April 6-7. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. There is no admission or parking charge.
Live racing resumes at Aqueduct on Wednesday, April 8, with first race post at 1 p.m.
Aqueduct will be closed entirely on Easter Sunday, April 12.