Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner California Chrome has been made the 3-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 139th running of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (Grade I). With all the success that California Chrome has achieved in his sophomore season, his sire Lucky Pulpit also has been enjoying a significant amount of attention.
Lucky Pulpit was bred, raced and continues to be owned outright by Larry and Marianne Williams of Parma, Idaho. In 2004 the Williamses sent Lucky Pulpit to Churchill Downs-based trainer Grant Forster for his 4-year-old campaign. Forster talked about his time with Lucky Pulpit and some similarities to the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner.
“Lucky Pulpit was a really smart horse,” Forster said. “Obviously California Chrome is very intelligent. Lucky Pulpit had figured out how to play with us and make our lives difficult at some point, but he was a really talented horse. A lot of people wondered why we kept sprinting him on the grass, but he had been doing well at the time with that so there was no need to do anything else. He was a very pretty horse just like California Chrome.”
Lucky Pulpit made eight starts under Forster, six of which were on the turf and all were between five and seven furlongs.
“I didn’t think there would be any distance limitations with California Chrome.” Forster said. “Obviously people looking at Lucky Pulpit’s form were somewhat questionable of that.
“The best race I had him for was probably the Smile Sprint at Arlington on the grass. He had a couple other races in some of those grass sprints where he had a couple tough trips and got in some traffic trouble. I remember the Keeneland race (a sixth place finish in the $112,800 Woodford Stakes in 2005) where he wasn’t beaten by too many lengths, but just had a tough trip that day. He was just a horse with a ton of personality, a really neat character.”
Lucky Pulpit was shipped to Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif. where he began his stud career in 2008. Forster was delightfully surprised to see the horse he had trained sire a Kentucky Derby winner.
“You really don’t expect anything like that,” Forster said. “His owners sent him to me as a 4-year-old with the goal of winning a stake because they thought he had a good enough pedigree and was already graded placed. They thought he had a good chance to at least stand at stud somewhere like California where they have a lot of horses. So we accomplished that goal anyway.”
GARCIA LOOKS TO DENY CHROME’S PREAKNESS BID WITH RING WEEKEND
St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Ring Weekend looked like an obvious Kentucky Derby contender after wiring foes in the March 8 Tampa Bay Derby (GII) where he won by three lengths.
On Saturday, the 3-year-old gelding hopes to return to that form when he tackles Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) winner California Chrome in the 139th running of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (GI) at Pimlico Race Course.
Following the victory at Tampa Bay Downs, trainer Graham Motion sent Ring Weekend to Calder for his next start, the April 5 Calder Derby, where he finished 9 ¾ lengths back in second with jockey Alan Garcia at the reigns.
“He worked at Calder the week before and worked pretty well,” Garcia said. “Then by the time he got to the race, the track was completely different. I noticed it changes a lot from the morning to the afternoon over there, so I think the horse was unhappy. He didn’t break that well and was not himself in that race.
“Then I said to Graham, ‘You have to throw away this race,’ because he wasn’t himself and even when he was galloping out. He was just completely different.”
Ring Weekend had enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby but was taken out of consideration when his owners announced that he had come down with a fever about a week before the race.
“I was expecting him to run in the Derby,” Garcia said. “We talked about it and then the horse shipped to Fair Hill. He was training super. I was being told how well he was doing the whole time. Then he did an excellent jog a week before but then caught a fever and that’s when I was expecting him to scratch.”
Garcia was optimistic that his horse would get another chance at a Classic race.
“I wasn’t disappointed,” Garcia said. “I just wanted to make sure he got over the fever and would come back in good shape for the next race.
“Baltimore is a great place with great people,” Garcia said. “It’s so nice and fun and I’m looking forward to running in my third Preakness.
Garcia finished fourth on Flying Private in the 2009 Preakness and seventh with Mint Slewlep in the 2007 edition.
“[Ring Weekend] has to have a good break and then we’ll see how it’s working out from there. He has the speed and I think he’s going to like the track because he’s been training in the area. But again it all depends on the break. If he breaks good, then he’s going to get in his position and then folks from California won’t be as sure what will happen this time.”
ADVANCE PREAKNESS WAGERING FRIDAY DURING HAPPY HOUR
Fans attending Churchill Downs on Friday can advance wager all day on a simulcast of Saturday’s 139th running of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes, featuring Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.
The Preakness from Pimlico Race Course near Baltimore will be run Saturday at approximately 6:18 p.m., about 23 minutes after Churchill Downs’ final race of day. The Preakness, along with other select stakes from Pimlico, will be shown on Churchill Downs’ new 15,224 square foot video board.
In addition to advance wagering on the Preakness, fans can place wagers Friday’s on a pair of unique multi-day wagers that conclude with the Preakness: a $1 Pimlico Special/Preakness Double and a 50-cent Preakness Pick 3 that links Friday’s Pimlico Special with Saturday’s Dixie and Preakness. Those wagers will close at post time of Friday’s Grade III, $300,000 Pimlico Special, which goes as Pimlico’s 12th race at approximately 5:52 p.m.
Gate 17 opens Friday at 11:30 a.m. for simulcast wagering and all other admission gates open at 1:30 p.m. The first of 10 races at Churchill Downs is 2:45 p.m.
Friday doubles as Happy Hour at Churchill Downs. Field of Kings will entertain patrons with live music between races on the Plaza stage from 3-7 p.m.
Guests in the Plaza can take advantage of $2 Bud Lights and $3 Stella Artois, specialty food items and register for box seats for the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Oaks.
‘FAMILY ADVENTURE DAY’ DEBUTS SUNDAY
On Sunday (May 18), Churchill Downs will host its inaugural “Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger” – a new family-focused promotion that will run on select Sundays throughout the Spring, September and Fall meets.
While adults enjoy an action-packed day of live racing, the Churchill Downs Plaza will be transformed into a family-friendly playground featuring crafts, face painters, numerous inflatables, nine-hole mini golf, stick-horse races, a Hula Hoop contest, cookies-and-canvas painting classes, carnival games, sidewalk chalk area, and appearances by Churchill Charlie for the delight of children of all ages.
Churchill Downs admission gates open and the Family Adventure Days activities begin Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (all times Eastern). Post time for the first race is 12:45 p.m.
Sunday’s Family Adventure Day celebration also will feature entertainment performances by two local popular kids’ bands on the Plaza Stage: The Breakthrough (1-3 p.m.) and Black Friday (3-5 p.m.). Additionally, the Kentucky Derby Museum will present story time, along with a meet-and-greet session with Winston, the museum’s resident miniature horse.
The new Grandstand Pavilion (Sections 326-328) has been designated as a family-friendly area for the day where guests can gather for group dining, seating, to watch the races and provide convenient access to family activities in the Plaza. A Family Pavilion wristband is required to access the area and to participate in all Family Adventure Day activities. Wristbands can be purchased online in advance for $5 per person at www.churchilldowns.com/familyadventureday or $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under at the track on the day of the event. Regular $3 admission fees will apply for other track areas.
Partial proceeds from Grandstand Pavilion Ticket sales will support Kosair Children’s Hospital
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Friday, May 16 – Happy Hour
Saturday, May 17 – Preakness Stakes Simulcast
Sunday, May 18 – Family Adventure Day