(May 22, 2008) - Two Churchill Downs-based 3-year-olds that are being pointed toward a battle against unbeaten Kentucky Derby (Grade I) winner and Triple Crown winner Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes (GI) were reported to be doing well with just over two weeks remaining before the June 7 “Test of the Champion.”
Mr. and Mrs. William Warren Jr.’s Denis of Cork, third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, runner-up in the Preakness (GI) and winner of the $100,000-added Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, turned in some exercise over a “fast” surface under the historic Twin Spires on Thursday.
Denis of Cork galloped on Thursday in his second trip to the track since a five-furlong work in 1:01 over a “fast” track on Monday at Churchill Downs. The David Carroll-trained son of Harlan’s Holiday had jogged on Wednesday.
“He came out of the work beautifully and we’re very happy with him,” Carroll said. “It just seems like he’s coming back into form, and we’re getting some nice weather, too. He just seems to be seems to be coming back to himself. We still have a couple of weeks and I’m very happy with him.”
Carroll said that Denis of Cork was scheduled to work on Monday. Jockey Robby Albarado, who will ride Carroll’s colt in the Belmont Stakes, is scheduled to be aboard for that Memorial Day holiday move.
Denis of Cork will take a record of 3-0-1 in five races and earnings of $413,582 into the Belmont. His victories include a win in the Southwest (GIII) at Oaklawn Park.
Trainer Dallas Stewart said that Macho Again jogged Thursday in his first visit to the track since Saturday’s Preakness. The son of Macho Uno overcame traffic problems to finish second, 5 ¼ lengths behind Big Brown at Pimlico.
Stewart said that the colt would go to the Belmont if all continues to go well.
“It’s been a while, but it’s great to have a good 3-year-old,” Stewart said. “It’s a shame we didn’t get going earlier. We were thinking he was a Louisiana Derby (GII)-type horse, but we just got set back with him. But it’s all working out now. He needed a little time to mature. It would have been nice to have a Kentucky Derby horse, but it doesn’t always happen. That’s why the Derby is the Derby.”
If Macho Again does go to the Belmont, Stewart anticipated a half-mile work for the son of Macho Uno on Saturday, May 31. The colt is scheduled to ship to Belmont Park on June 3.
The career record for Macho Again stands at 3-3-0 in nine races and he has earned $343,761.
McPEEK’S 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES THRIVE ON GRASS – Trainer Ken McPeek entered 2008 with a roster of 3-year-old fillies that appeared to have major contenders for the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks in Koolmen Racing Stables LLC’s A to the Croft and Sarah Lynn Stables LLC’s C J’s LeeLee.
But as the year approaches its midpoint, both fillies hold the possibility of a brighter future on the grass than on the main track. The Grade I-placed A to the Croft, who made it to the Kentucky Oaks but finished a non-threatening seventh behind Proud Spell, made a successful debut on turf Wednesday with a 1 ½-length victory over older rivals in a Churchill Downs allowance race.
C J’s LeeLee, an allowance winner on turf last fall at Keeneland who finished a good second to Pure Clan on the main track in the $250,000-added Golden Rod (GII) on Oct. 28, is set to return to the grass Friday as she makes her 3-year-old debut in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming for 3-year-old fillies.
A to the Croft had finished second to Irish Smoke in the Spinaway (GI) at Saratoga and Country Star in the Darley Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland last year before she ended her season with ninth-place run in the slop behind unbeaten champion Indian Blessing over a “sloppy” track in the in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Monmouth Park.
She has opened her 2008 campaign with three straight losses, but had run well over Polytrack at Keeneland and Turfway Park – efforts that helped lead McPeek to believe she could handle the switch to the grass.
“I had an idea she’d like it,” he said. “She's a lovely filly.”
McPeek said A to the Croft would probably run next in the $200,000-added Regret (GIII) on the Matt Winn Turf Course on June 14.
A to the Croft improved her career record to 2-3-2 in nine races with her successful turf debut. She has earned $263,189.
C J’s LeeLee had McPeek thinking big after a 2-year-old campaign in which she compiled a record of 2-1-0 in five races and earned $120,023. But thoughts about the Kentucky Oaks just didn’t work out.
“She had a little issue over the winter that we had to address, and we gave her a little time,” McPeek said. “I do think she would have been one of the better fillies in the country, turf or dirt. But unfortunately she had that setback. But she’s very talented.”
Jockey Robby Albarado will be aboard C J’s LeeLee in Friday’s race, which is scheduled as the 8th on the special 11-race “Friday Happy Hours” program.
The victory by A to the Croft allowed McPeek to retain the top spot in the race for leading trainer after 18 days of the 52-day Spring Meet. The victory was the 12th on the meet for McPeek, who led Steve Asmussen by a single victory heading into Thursday’s racing. Tom Amoss was next with nine wins, and was followed by a surging Mike Maker (seven wins), Dale Romans (six) and Greg Foley (six).
“I’m real proud of everybody,” McPeek said. “We’ve got a great group of people and a great group of horses and clients. I think our restructuring of our operation has helped – we’ve got everything more consolidated and it makes us stronger. We’re doing a better job.”
BARN TALK – Leading rider Julien Leparoux was shut out of the winner’s circle on Wednesday’s nine-race card, which allowed second-place Miguel Mena to narrow the leader’s advantage to a single win. Mena won the 6th race aboard Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Unbridled Spring ($5.20) to narrow Leparoux’s lead to 21-20. … Newcomer Elvis Trujillo won two races Wednesday to climb into the top 10 in the “leading jockey” standings. Trujllo won aboard Regardlesofoutcome ($5.20) in the 2nd and Beautiful You ($8.80 ) in the 9th to improve his meet record to 6-1-2 in 12 mounts since his arrival from Florida’s Calder Race Course on Saturday. He was a perfect three-for-three on Saturday’s program, which included a win aboard Eaton’s Gift in the $100,000-added Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds. … Wednesday’s victory by Unbridled Spring gave owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey their eighth victory of the meet. They led runner-up Zayat Stables LLC by three wins heading into Thursday’s program. The Ramseys have won a record 12 “leading owner” crowns at Churchill Downs, a total that includes six each in the Spring and Fall Meets.
Through Wednesday, May 21
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Julien Leparoux 121 21-23-21
Miguel Mena 118 20-14-20
Calvin Borel 131 18-17-22
Shaun Bridgmohan 80 18-14-10
Robby Albarado 79 18-7-10
Jesus Castanon 92 14-9-6
Jamie Theriot 76 8-8-5
Elvis Trujillo 12 6-1-2
Brian Hernandez, Jr. 61 5-10-6
Kent Desormeaux 31 5-8-6
Larry Sterling, Jr. 38 5-5-6
Corey Lanerie 73 4-13-5
John McKee 55 4-9-9
Fernando De La Cruz 51 4-3-5
Ken McPeek 27 12-2-3
Steve Asmussen 46 11-8-8
Tom Amoss 28 9-6-5
Mike Maker 20 7-2-1
Greg Foley 31 6-6-2
Dale Romans 48 6-9-5
Eddie Kenneally 27 5-6-6
Ian Wilkes 17 5-5-3
Steve Margolis 19 5-3-3
Three (3) trainers tied with four (4) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 22 8-2-3
Zayat Stables, LLC 23 5-5-3
Maggi Moss 12 5-2-3
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 17 4-3-1
Padua Stables 6 4-1-0
Four owners tied with three (3) wins