J Paul Reddam’s Square Eddie, who started the year near the top of almost anyone’s list of contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), makes a late return to the road to Churchill Downs when he faces 10 rivals in Keeneland’s $300,000 Coolmore Lexington (GII).
The 1 1/16-mile race on the synthetic Polytrack surface will be the first start for Square Eddie since January. Twelve 3-year-olds were entered in the Coolmore Lexington, but Team Valor’s Barry Irwin was unhappy with the outside post draw by Hull and said that colt would scratch and run in next week’s Derby Trial (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The Doug O’Neill-trained Square Eddie won last fall’s Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland before he turned in a strong runner-up finish behind eventual 2-year-old champion Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) over the Pro-Rid surface at Santa Anita. Square Eddie opened the year with a runner-up finish to the then-unknown The Pamplemousse in Santa Anita’s San Rafael (GII).
But Square Eddie went to the sidelines with sore left front shin and his chance to run in the Kentucky Derby appeared slim as he was out of training for a month. But he bounced back quickly and Square Eddie comes into the Coolmore Lexington off a pair of strong six-furlong works at Hollywood Park.
“Three months ago, I would not have been surprised to be here; two months ago, yes,”
said O’Neill. “His past two works have been exceptional, signaling to us that he is ready to get back at it.”
Edgar Prado will ride Square Eddie, who will carry co-high weight of 123 pounds with El Crespo, winner of the Palm Beach (GIII) on the Gulfstream Park turf. They are the only graded stakes winners in the field.
O’Neill hopes that Square Eddie will run well enough in his return to racing to earn at trip to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby in two weeks.
“I would want to see a really good effort and have him come out of it in good shape,” O’Neill said. “Then we would huddle with Team Reddam.”
The field for the Coolmore Lexington, from the rail out, includes: Jeranimo (Brice Blanc, 117 pounds), Omniscient (Robby Albarado, 117), Pitched Perfectly (Alan Garcia, 117), Brave Victory (John Velazquez, 117), His Greatness (Rene Douglas, 117), Masala (Eibar Coa, 117), Conservative (Kent Desormeaux, 117), Square Eddie (Prado, 123), El Crespo (Javier Castellano, 123), Parade Clown (Julien Leparoux, 117), and Advice (Garrett Gomez, 117).
The race will be telecast from 5-6 p.m. (all times EDT) on ESPN2.
OLD FASHIONED UNDERGOES SURGERY, RETIRED FROM RACING – Fox Hill Farm’s Old Fashioned, at one time the early favorite for Kentucky Derby 135, was retired from racing this week after undergoing knee surgery.
The Larry Jones-trained son of Unbridled’s Song suffered a slab fracture in a runner-up finish to Papa Clem in last Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. He underwent surgery this week at Rood & Riddle equine hospital near Lexington.
Old Fashioned won his first four races, a string that included easy wins in the Remsen (GII) and Southwest Stakes (GIII). He suffered his first loss in a runner-up finish to Win Willy in the Rebel (GIII) at Oaklawn Park, and followed that effort with his run in the Arkansas Derby.
I WANT REVENGE WORKS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – Wood Memorial (GI) winner I Want Revenge, who could be the betting favorite in the May 2 Kentucky Derby, got a feel for the Churchill Downs track on Tuesday when the colt worked an easy four furlongs for trainer Jeff Mullins.
The son of Stephen Got Even covered the distance in :50 over a muddy surface under 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo, who flew in from California for the move.
“I think it was pretty much what we wanted,” said Talamo. “He didn’t really need much coming out of his last race and he’s plenty fit. He handled it great. Actually, for all the rain we had I thought it felt pretty good.”
“He just needed to do enough to keep himself safe,” said Mullins. “He’s been tearing the barn down and we had to do something with him. If they get to feeling too good, they might get themselves hurt.”
Several Kentucky Derby contenders entered the grounds at Churchill Downs this week, including Thursday’s arrival of Pioneerof the Nile and Chocolate Candy, the 1-2 finishers in the Santa Anita Derby (GI). Papa Clem made the trip from Oaklawn Park to Churchill Downs on Tuesday. Other Kentucky Derby contenders at Churchill Downs include Toyota Blue Grass (GI) winner General Quarters; Illinois Derby (GII) winner Musket Man; Wood Memorial (GI) runner-up West Side Bernie; the Dubai-based duo of Regal Ransom and Desert Party, the 1-2 finishers in the $2 million UAE Derby (GII); and Churchill Downs-based Flat Out, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn.
Before his departure for Kentucky, Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile turned in an impressive four-furlong work on Wednesday at Santa Anita. The Bob Baffert-trained son of Empire Maker covered the distance in :46.20 – the fastest of 29 moves at the distance.
“I didn’t think he went that fast,” said Baffert. “It’s probably the best he’s ever worked.
MAFAAZ CHANGES BARNS, WILL NOT RUN IN DERBY 135 – Mafaaz, winner of the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Britain’s Kempton Park, will remain in the United States but will not compete in the Kentucky Derby.
The win at Kempton earned Mafaaz a first-ever guaranteed spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, but his status for the Derby became cloudy after he finished eighth to General Quarters in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland. Late in the week the colt was moved from the care of British trainer John Gosden to Kiaran McLaughlin, but his new trainer said Thursday that plans were uncertain for Mafaaz, but the colt would not run in the Kentucky Derby.