WIN WILLY FINALLY GETS HIS CHURCHILL DOWNS CHANCE ON FRIDAY – Trainer McLean Robertson was just three days away from having his first Kentucky Derby (Grade I) starter in 2009 with Jer-Mar Stable’s Win Willy.
However, on the day of entry, Robertson saw something he did not like on an x-ray of the colt’s left front ankle.
“I didn’t think he was right after the Arkansas Derby,” Robertson said of Win Willy, who had finished fourth in the race at Oaklawn Park. “I was going to vet him out even if he had worked a hole in the wind.”
The x-ray revealed a small line.
“We walked him for 30 days and then twice a day for another 30 days,” Robertson said. “I don’t think he would have been this good if he had run.”
Win Willy has been good enough in the past 14 months to earn a shot at his first Grade I victory in Friday’s $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare. Win Willy will break from post position eight under Cliff Berry, who has been aboard six times during Win Willy’s career that shows a record of 5-3-1 in 13 races with earnings of $507,952.
Robertson has no regrets about missing the Run for the Roses.
“I don’t feel bad for doing the right thing,” Robertson said. “I was disappointed for the owner rather than for me, but he’s a good horse now. I am glad I did it. He is better now than he ever has been.”
Win Willy comes into the Clark off a victory in the Brandywine at Delaware Park on Oct. 30. Earlier this year, Win Willy ran second to Clark Handicap rival Duke of Mischief in the Oaklawn Handicap (GII) at Oaklawn Park.
A good showing in the Clark could alter Robertson’s plans with the son of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos in 2011.
“If he runs first or second on Friday, I’d be in no hurry to run in a $50,000 at Oaklawn,” Robertson said. “That would change things.”
REGAL RANSOM TO GET HIS SECOND CD CHANCE IN FRIDAY’S CLARK HANDICAP – Although Win Willy did not make the 2009 Run for the Roses, one of his Clark Handicap opponents on Friday did: Regal Ransom.
The Godolphin Racing runner pressed the pace in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track before fading to eighth, 14 ¾ lengths behind Mine That Bird. On Friday, Regal Ransom makes his first run at Churchill Downs since that soggy day nearly 19 months ago.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Regal Ransom will be ridden in the Clark by Freddie Lenclud and break from post position nine in the field of 11.
“He had some time off after the Derby and then after he ran in the Breeders’ Cup last year, we took him back to Dubai,” said Ian Grant, who is overseeing the 4-year-old colt’s preparations at Churchill Downs. “He does not do well on Polytrack or synthetics and he came back over here in the spring.”
Regal Ransom has won once in three starts this year, with the victory coming in an allowance race at Saratoga.
“He has had an up and down season,” Grant said. “His first race (the Grade II Suburban on July 3) we knew was a tough spot going in and then he won the allowance easily. Then came the Kelso.”
In the Grade II Kelso at a mile at Belmont Park on Oct. 3, Regal Ransom ran sixth as the even-money favorite in a field of seven, beaten 19 lengths.
“We have never had a horse train that well and then run like that,” Grant said. “It was a real head scratcher. He has been training great since then.”
Regal Ransom enters the Clark off two bullet, five-furlong works at Belmont Park, the most recent being a :59.80 move on Sunday.
Regal Ransom has compiled a record of 4-2-0 in 11 races with earnings of $1,801,900, a figure that is second only to Brass Hat ($2,167,921) among Clark entrants. One of the victories came in the last year’s UAE Derby (GII) at Nad Al Sheba and another in 2009 Super Derby (GII) at Louisiana Downs. In the latter, he defeated Blame, who would win the Clark Handicap two races later and return to Churchill Downs this year to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and Stephen Foster Handicap (GI).
In the UAE Derby, Regal Ransom turned the tables on stablemate Desert Party, who had beaten him twice before. Desert Party, now retired, was injured when finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby last year.
“I had been with Desert Party when (trainer) Eoin (Harty) had him in Chicago,” Grant said. “He was a nice horse. He broke his maiden going 4 ½ and then won the Sanford beating Vineyard Haven. I was surprised that Regal Ransom beat him in the (UAE) Derby.”
BARN TALK – Julien Leparoux maintained a four-win lead over Robby Albarado in the race for leading rider after each rider notched a victory on Wednesday. Leparoux, who is seeking his fourth consecutive Fall Meet title and seventh overall, has a 23-19 edge on Albarado. Leparoux is named on 11 mounts today; while Albarado is scheduled to ride eight horses. …
After 17 days of racing, there still has not been a two-time winner at the meet. Eleven previous winners have tried for the second victory, but none has succeeded with four runner-ups and four third-place finishers. On today’s card, seven horses, including Distinctive Dixie and Striking Dancer in the Falls City Handicap (GII), will bid for their second victory of the month beneath the Twin Spires.