After a successful debut in New York in the Gotham Stakes (Grade III) that bordered on effortless, David Lanzman and IEAH Stables' California invader I Want Revenge encountered nothing but trouble in last Saturday's Wood Memorial (GI). But the result in each was the same: a victory that enhanced his status as one of the major contenders for the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) at Churchill Downs on May 2.
In a performance that sent witnesses searching for superlatives, I Want Revenge and 18-year-old jockey Joe Talamo burst through an opening in the stretch on his way to a 1 ½-length victory over the stretch-running West Side Bernie. The Jeff Mullins-trained son of Stephen Got Even, who won just one of six races on synthetic tracks in California, improved his record on traditional dirt to two-for-two in a dazzling effort that boosted the colt into the role of 9-2 favorite in the third and last pool of Churchill Downs' 2009 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which ended its four-day run on Sunday evening.
"What he did today was really special," Mullins said after the Wood. "He had every trouble you could have in a race and overcame it. We've got one more show to go, and if he can win that one he's a pretty special animal."
I Want Revenge started from the rail post as the 1-2 favorite in the field of eight, but was flat-footed at the start and was last in the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile race. He gradually worked his way through the field, but became trapped behind horses on the far turn and remained bottled up and looking for an opening through most of the stretch run. A hole finally materialized and I Want Revenge accelerated quickly and drew clear. He covered the distance over a "fast" track in 1:48.48.
"To be honest, he only ran an eighth of a mile, so I don't think it took too much out of him" Talamo said. "That was the first time he got real dirt in his face, and he took it like he's had it before 100 times."
Just a Coincidence finished third. Imperial Council, the Gotham runner-up and the 5-2 second choice, was prominent in the stretch but faded to finish fifth.
Mullins will waste no time in getting I Want Revenge to Churchill Downs. The colt is scheduled to arrive at the Louisville track on Monday, April 5.
'Candyman' takes Bay Shore - Capt. Candyman Can, once considered a major contender for this year's Kentucky Derby, proved again that he is a major force at one-turn sprint distances when he rallied from just off the pace to score a 3 ½-length victory over Taqarub in the $200,000 Bay Shore (GII) at seven furlongs on the Wood Memorial undercard.
The Ian Wilkes-trained son of Candy Ride was ridden by Javier Castellano.
WEST/BAFFERT BACK WITH PIONEEROF THE NILE AFTER SANTA ANITA DERBY WIN - The Santa Anita Derby (GI) lost some of its luster when morning line favorite The Pamplemousse was scratched shortly before the race, but Zayat Stable's Pioneerof the Nile had no trouble grabbing the spotlight as he rolled to his fourth consecutive stakes victory in Southern California's major prep for the Kentucky Derby.
In a race that had little early speed in the absence of The Pamplemousse, Pioneerof the Nile - a stretch runner through most of his young career - pressed the pace under Garrett Gomez and cruised to a one-length victory over Chocolate Candy. Mr. Hot Stuff finished third as Pioneerof the Nile covered the 1 1/8 mile distance over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in 1:49.17.
It was a record fifth Santa Anita Derby win for Baffert, who will bring Pioneerof the Nile to Churchill Downs in search of the trainer's fourth Kentucky Derby win. That would tie him with Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas for second on the all-time win list for trainers in the "Run for the Roses." Calumet Farm legend Ben A. Jones leads all trainers with six Kentucky Derby wins. Baffert has not saddled a Derby starter since 2006.
"I'm glad to be back in the show," said Baffert, who won his Kentucky Derbies with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).
The Pamplemousse Is Off Derby Trail - When morning line favorite The Pamplemousse was scratched before Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, co-owner Alex Solis II said the colt had suffered a tendon injury in his left front leg - but he did not rule out a Kentucky Derby bid.
That tune had changed by Sunday morning, when Solis announced that concern over the soft tissue injury had ended the Kentucky Derby dream pf the winner of the San Rafael (GII) and Sham (GIII). Solis said Sunday that the colt would be sidelined indefinitely.
"He's going to run again," said Solis. "He's not finished, but he will not run in the Kentucky Derby."
Wagering on The Pamplemousse in Pool 3 of he Kentucky Derby Future wager was suspended upon word on the colt's defection from the Kentucky Derby scene.
MIDWEST/ MUSKET MAN EARNS RESPECT, TRIP TO DERBY 135 - A victory in the recent Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) had turned some heads, but an emphatic victory by Eric Fein and Vic Carlson's Musket Man in Saturday's $500,000 Illinois Derby (GII) earned the son of Yonaguska some respect and a trip to Churchill Downs for the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Musket Man, a late nominee to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown, rolled from off the pace under Eibar Coa to win the 1 1/8-mile race at Hawthorne Race Course by two lengths. Giant Oak was second and His Greatness was third. The winner covered the distance in 1:49.91 as he won for the fifth time in six career races for trainer Derek Ryan.
"He really ran a big race today," Ryan said. "Everybody has been questioning his ability to get the distance, but they don't know the horse like I do."
Musket Man arrived at Churchill Downs on Sunday following a van ride from Chicago.
TOYOTA BLUE GRASS, ARKANSAS DERBY LOOM - Two major Kentucky Derby preps loom on Saturday, April 11 when the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (GI) over Polytrack at Keeneland and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) will be run over traditional dirt at Oaklawn Park.