Back in the late summer of 2004, trainer Eoin Harty unveiled a promising son of AP Indy in Southern California, and he thought the colt owned by Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum had the potential to be any kind of horse.
That colt, named Rosberg, finished fourth in his racing debut at Del Mar, then returned to romp to a five-length victory under Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone in his next outing in a six-furlong maiden race that fall at Oak Tree at Santa Anita. The colt ran six furlongs in a rapid 1:08.05, which did nothing to diminish Harty’s enthusiasm.
Rosberg went back to the Maktoum’s base in Dubai after that and Harty didn’t see him again until a few weeks ago. That’s when Rosberg, racing now under the colors of Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable, returned to Harty’s care at the age of seven.
The veteran is scheduled to make his first start for Harty on Saturday at Churchill Downs in the fifth running of the $100,000-added Opening Verse at 1 1/16-miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
“He went to Dubai and kind of fell off the radar for a couple of years,” said Harty, who spoke by telephone from California. “I just got him back about 30 days ago. We’ve kind of come full circle. It’s been a long time in between, but I’m glad to get him back.”
After that flashy maiden victory at Santa Anita, it would be more than three years before Rosberg would run again. He finally returned to competition in a third-place effort at Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba in November, 2006. Since then he has raced nine times – all over dirt at either Nad Al Sheba or Jebel Ali race courses – and won three races.
Rosberg’s most recent effort was a fifth-place run to U.S.-based Diamond Stripes in the $1 million Godolphin Mile (GII) on Dubai World Cup (GI) undercard.
“He’s been running well,” said Harty. “His first couple of works (for me) were a little disappointing, so I changed things and I started swimming him. He seems to have turned around real quickly and he came back with a super work last week.”
That work – a May 22 breeze of :59 over Keeneland’s Polytrack – was so encouraging that it helped convince Harty to pay $5,000 to make Rosberg a supplemental entry to Saturday’s Opening Verse. The race will mark the turf debut for Rosberg, whose pedigree suggests that he should handle the new footing.
“He’s out of a mare (Bosra Sham) who was a multiple champion on the turf in England, then I looked back on his [past performances] and saw that he’s never run on the turf,” Harty said. “He’s out of conditions and he was doing good, so I thought I might as well run him. This looked like a nice spot for him – a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf is not too far. I don’t know whether he’ll handle the surface or not, but he’s out of a fantastic turf mare, so I’m kind of experimenting here.”
Rosberg brings a career record of 4-0-2 in 12 races and earnings of $183,359 into the Opening Verse. Harty is waiting to see if the high hopes he had for Rosberg back in the summer of 2003 can be realized now that the horse has made an unexpected return to his barn five years later.
“I loved him – he did nothing wrong and he had a great temperament, and he still seems to have that,” said Harty. “I always felt he was very talented and he’s run some good races in Dubai.”
NOMINATIONS DEADLINE FOR “FOSTER SUPER SATURDAY” RACES LOOMS – Nominations for the 27th running of the $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) and its five supporting stakes races on the June 14 “Stephen Foster Super Saturday” program are due this weekend.
A total of $1.775 million in purses will be available on the day. Nominations close a midnight (EDT) on Saturday, May 31.
The Stephen Foster Handicap, which is for 3-year-olds and up, is run on the main track at 1 1/8 miles.
Other races on the “Super Saturday” schedule include the $300,000-added Fleur De Lis (GII) for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles; the $200,000-added Jefferson Cup (GII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf; the $200,000-added Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies on turf at 1 1/8 miles; the $175,000-added Northern Dancer (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt; and the $150,000-added Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
ALBARADO LEADS TIGHT THREE-WAY RACE FOR LEADING RIDER – Jockey Robby Albarado, still searching for his first title as “leading jockey” at Churchill Downs, held a narrow lead in the race for Spring Meet riding honors as an abbreviated four-day, post-holiday racing week opened on Thursday.
Albarado had 28 victories out of 111 mounts heading into Thursday’s nine-race program at Churchill Downs. That total gave him a narrow, single victory advantage over two-time defending Spring Meet riding leader Julien Leparoux and two more than Miguel Mena, who is also searching for his first riding title at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby.
Calvin Borel and Shaun Bridgmohan were tied for fourth at 22 wins each, while Jesus Castanon was next with 17 victories.
Ken McPeek maintained a firm grasp on the lead in the race for leading trainer of the 52-day spring racing session as he entered Thursday’s racing with 17 wins. McPeek had a three-win advantage over defending Spring Meet leading trainer Steve Asmussen, who had 14 wins. Tom Amoss, who won Monday’s $100,000-added Winning Colors (GIII) with Graeme Six, was third with 13 victories.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who have a record 12 “leading owner” crowns to their credit, led Maggi Moss by a margin of 8-6 in the race for the meet’s top owner. Zayat Stables of Ahmed Zayat was next with five victories. A trio of owners was tied at four wins and that group included Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein; Satish Sanan’s Padua Stable; and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable.
BARN TALK – Lewis Lakin, IEAH Stables and Pegasus Holding’s Pure Clan, third to Proud Spell in the Kentucky Oaks, breezed five furlongs over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course on Thursday. The 3-year-old daughter of Pure Prize worked five furlongs over “firm” footing for trainer Robert Holthus in 1:03.20 in a tune-up for an expected run on turf in the $200,000-added Regret on “Stephen Foster Super Saturday.” Pure Prize won her first two starts on the grass at Ellis Park and Keeneland before she shifted to the dirt at Churchill Downs to win last fall’s Pocahontas (GIII) and Golden Rod (GIII). … Also breezing on the turf on Thursday was Aegon Turf Sprint (GIII) winner Mr. Nightlinger, who breezed a half-mile in :54. … Zayat Stables’ Massive Drama made an appearance on the main track on Thursday as the son of Kafwain breezed five furlongs in 1:01 for trainer Dale Romans. The work ranked as the fourth-fastest of 17 at the distance and was the fourth breeze for Massive Drama since his ninth-place run behind Honour Devil in his debut for Romans in the $2 million UAE Derby (GII) on March 29 at Nad Al Sheba. Massive Drama, then trained by Bob Baffert, won the Hollywood Prevue at two and finished third this year in both the San Rafael (GIII) and San Vicente (GII) at Santa Anita.
2008 SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through Monday, May 26
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Robby Albarado 111 28-11-15
Julien Leparoux 156 27-27-30
Miguel Mena 154 27-20-22
Shaun Bridgmohan 99 22-19-12
Calvin Borel 162 22-23-24
Jesus Castanon 121 17-11-11
Jamie Theriot 104 11-15-9
Brian Hernandez, Jr. 75 7-13-9
Elvis Trujillo 27 7-5-7
Corey Lanerie 95 6-16-8
John McKee 67 6-10-11
Larry Sterling, Jr. 45 6-5-7
Kent Desormeaux 31 5-8-6
Tracy Hebert 61 5-3-5
Ken McPeek 38 17-5-4
Steve Asmussen 60 14-11-10
Tom Amoss 38 13-6-5
Mike Maker 28 8-5-2
Ian Wilkes 22 8-5-3
Dale Romans 60 6-13-10
Greg Foley 39 6-7-5
Five (5) trainers tied with five (5) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 25 8-3-4
Maggi Moss 15 6-2-3
Zayat Stables, LLC 26 5-5-5
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 19 4-4-2
Padua Stables 6 4-1-0
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 7 4-0-0
Four (4) owners tied with three (3) wins