- DENIS OF CORK EYES BELMONT, SET FOR MONDAY WORK
- ELITE SQUADRON TARGETS CHURCHILL’S ARISTIDES
- BRASS HAT FIRES ‘BULLET,’ SET FOR LOUISVILLE ‘CAP ON TURF
KENTUCKY DERBY THIRD-PLACE FINISHER DENIS OF CORK EYES BELMONT, SET FOR MONDAY WORK – Mr. and Mrs. William Warren’s Denis of Cork, a fast-closing third in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), is ready to get back to serious work in preparation for a bid for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI) three weeks from today.
The son of Harlan’s Holiday galloped on Saturday at Churchill Downs and trainer David Carroll said Denis of Cork is set for his first post-Derby work on Monday.
“The last few days he’s really beginning to get back to himself,” Carroll said. “I really haven’t been able to do too much with him with the weather that we’ve had and the wet tracks. I’ve just been very careful with him.”
Denis of Cork was last, some 19 lengths off the lead, in the early stages of the Kentucky Derby. He was still 13th with a half-mile to run, but rallied strongly in the stretch to comfortably gain third. He was beaten 8 ¼ lengths by the unbeaten Big Brown in the “Run for the Roses,” and was 3 ½ lengths behind the filly Eight Belles, the ill-fated runner-up.
The Kentucky Derby was only the fifth career start for Denis of Cork, who was coming off the only poor effort of his career in a fifth-place effort in the Illinois Derby (GII), where he finished 8 ½-lengths behind the victorious Recapturetheglory, who would finish fifth behind Big Brown on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.
“He’s a big, tall, narrow horse that doesn’t take a whole lot of training, so I can get away with missing some training,” Carroll said. “He’s been out there jogging around. He galloped today and we plan to gallop tomorrow and then we’ll do a little work on Monday. We won’t do a whole lot, but then we’ll get more serious with him.”
Denis of Cork won his first three starts and will be looking to snap a two-race losing streak in the Belmont. Carroll’s colt could be bidding to stop a bid for the Triple Crown by Big Brown, the heavy favorite in today’s Preakness (GI) at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course.
“It’ll be very interesting to watch the Preakness today and if Big Brown can win the race it’ll lead to a great Belmont. We’ll have a horse going for the Triple Crown, and (Grade II Peter Pan winner) Casino Drive in the race. We’d be happy to be a part of it.”
The Kentucky Derby run by Denis of Cork marked Carroll’s first participation in the Triple Crown as a trainer – but he has had some luck in the Belmont. The Irish-born trainer was the regular exercise rider for Easy Goer, the runner-up to Sunday Silence in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1989. The Shug McGaughey trainee avenged those Triple Crown losses to his rival with an easy victory in the Belmont Stakes.
ELITE SQUADRON WORKS, EYES ARISTIDES ‘CAP – Tom Walters’ Elite Squadron, a romping winner of the $250,000-added Churchill Downs Stakes (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day, continued to display sharp form on Saturday with a work that trainer James Baker described as an “easy half-mile.”
The four-furlong move over a “fast” surface by the 4-year-old son of Officer actually turned out to be one of the fastest moves of the day. He covered the distance under exercise rider Mick Jenner in :48.40 – which ranked as the third-fastest out of 50 works during the morning at that distance.
“I guess that counts as ‘easy’ for him,” said Baker. “I told Mick to sit on him as much as possible.”
The fast work is further testament to the talent displayed over the winter and spring by the 4-year-old colt, who won the seven-furlong Churchill Downs by 4 ½ lengths under jockey John Velazquez. Elite Squadron had just missed in his prior start when he was caught on the wire by Rebellion in the Commonwealth (GII) at Keeneland. Prior to that outing Baker’s colt had finished a distant third to the brilliant Commentator in the Richter Scale at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s always been fast and good,” said Baker. “I think he relishes the cooler weather. I think that and maturity have helped him develop this year.”
Baker has decided to keep Elite Squadron at home at Churchill Downs – where the colt has won four of six career starts – and run next in the $125,000-added Aristides (GIII) at six furlongs on May 31. That race is expected to draw such horses as Summerplace Farm’s Kelly’s Landing, winner of the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (GI) in 2007 and a track record-setting winner of the Aristides in 2005, and Maggi Moss’ Indian Chant, the current holder of the six-furlong record who defeated Kelly’s Landing in an allowance race here last Sunday.
If all goes well, Baker could end up pointing Elite Squadron toward the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI), which will be run at Oak Tree Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
“We’ll keep him here for the Aristides because he really loves this track,” said Baker. “We’ll look at the Breeders’ Cup if he shows he’s good enough. We think he could be. He’s doing well and he ran a big race on Derby Day. He’s run well on Polytrack and any kind of track.”
Santa Anita currently has a Cushion Track surface, although that could change by the time the Breeders’ Cup rolls around as the track assesses the performance of that course during its winter meet.
His victory in the Churchill Downs was the first graded stakes win of Elite Squadron’s career. He had won a minor stakes race on the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs in September. His overall record now stands at 5-1-1 in 12 races with earnings of $433,706.
BRASS HAT FIRES ‘BULLET’ WORK, SET FOR TURF RUN IN LOUISVILLE ‘CAP – Fred Bradley’s homebred millionaire Brass Hat tuned up for a run in next week’s $150,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) on turf with a sharp breeze over the main track on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The 7-year-old gelding, who has been something shy of an outstanding work horse throughout his career, covered five furlongs over a “fast” surface on Saturday in 1:00. Jockey Calvin Borel, who will ride Brass Hat in the 1 ½-mile Louisville, was aboard for the move that was the fastest 50 workouts at the distance.
“He started out nice and easy – he went the first eighth in :13 – so he picked it up pretty good,” said trainer William “Buff” Bradley, the owner-breeder’s son.
Brass Hat has run most of his best races on dirt, including a victory in the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park in 2006, the New Orleans Handicap (GII) and Massachusetts Handicap last year, and runner-up finishes in the 2007 Clark Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs and the $5 million Dubai World Cup (GI) in 2006. He was disqualified from the latter because of a medication violation.
The veteran has yet to win in four races on the grass, but he finished a good third to Dancing Forever in the $200,000 Elkhorn (GII) at Keeneland last time out.
“We put him on the grass trying to change things up with him,” said Bradley. “He can run on grass or dirt, it doesn’t really matter. It just kind of looked like this was the next spot for him, and then we’ll go from here. We just feel like he likes the grass and we want to prove that he can run on the grass.”
Brass Hat has yet to win in three races this year and his run in the Louisville will end a string of 18 races in which he had been ridden by jockey Willie Martinez, who is spending the summer at Delaware Park. Brass Hat’s career record stands at 8-5-1 in 24 starts with earnings of $1,753,819.
The veteran gelding has raced twice on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course. He ran fourth as a 3-year-old behind eventual turf champion Kitten’s Joy in the 2004 renewal of the Crown Royal American Turf (GIII). He then finished seventh in a November, 2005 allowance race that marked Brass Hat’s return to racing following a 13-month layoff because of a leg injury.
BARN TALK – Two fillies who competed in the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI) won by Brereton C. Jones’ Proud Spell turned in workouts on Saturday at Churchill Downs. Koolmen Racing Stable LLC’s A to the Croft, seventh in the Oaks, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 for trainer Ken McPeek. Lloyd DeBruycker’s Rasierra, eighth in the Oaks, covered the same distance for trainer Ray Tracy, Jr. in 1:05.60. … Leading jockey Julien Leparoux left Louisville with a 20-17 lead over Miguel Mena in the race for riding honors in Churchill Downs’ 52-day Spring Meet. Leparoux is at Pimlico on Saturday to ride Derby Trial winner Macho Again in the Preakness. Mena, a 21-year-old native of Peru, was scheduled to ride in nine of Saturday’s 10 races at Churchill Downs. Mena collected one victory on Friday’s racing program, while Leparoux was shut out. … Nominations close at midnight (EDT) on Saturday, May 17 for a trio of stakes races to be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 31. Those races are the $125,000-added Aristides (GIII) at six furlongs for 3-year-olds & up, the $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, and the $100,000-added Opening Verse for 3-year-olds & up at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Information is available by calling Churchill Downs Racing at (502) 636-4470 or on the Web at www.churchilldowns.com.
2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through Friday, May 16
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Julien Leparoux 108 20-17-19
Miguel Mena 91 17-13-16
Shaun Bridgmohan 64 14-10-7
Robby Albarado 70 14-7-8
Calvin Borel 106 13-14-19
Jesus Castanon 73 13-6-4
Jamie Theriot 65 7-5-5
Kent Desormeaux 31 5-8-6
Larry Sterling, Jr. 31 5-4-5
Brian Hernandez, Jr. 51 4-8-5
John McKee 46 4-7-9
Steve Asmussen 39 9-6-6
Tom Amoss 23 9-5-4
Ken McPeek 20 9-2-1
Mike Maker 17 6-2-1
Greg Foley 28 6-5-1
Eddie Kenneally 24 5-6-5
Ian Wilkes 16 5-4-3
Ronny Werner 14 3-4-3
Bill Mott 20 3-3-4
Steve Margolis 15 3-3-3
Nick Zito 12 3-2-1
John Fahey III 7 3-1-2
Robert O’Connor 7 3-1-2
Bobby Frankel 10 3-1-1
Mark Casse 10 3-0-0
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 19 7-2-2
Maggi Moss 8 5-1-2
Padua Stables 5 4-0-0
Four (4) owners tied with three (3) wins