Major updates to both Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course by the Maryland Jockey Club are expected to be completed this week.
At Pimlico, one of the updates will include instilling a new HD, LED board that will measure out to 21 by 32 feet. The update is expected to be a boon for viewers making their way to the course to take in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) on May 21st.
Laurel Park will be getting a brand new 142-stall barn, their second, which should be completed by the end of this week, and it will be ready to be occupied. The barn is one of many improvements to Laurel Park, which cost $20 million as part of a renovation and improvement program.
Other upgrades include: expanding the Surfside Terrace by 450 seats (ready by Preakness Week), installing new carpeting, installing flat-screen television sets (for grandstand upper box reserved seats), installing a main booster pump, and a number of new concessions will be added as well.
“We continue to try and enhance the live experience at our facilities and also make it easier for fans to watch our races through our off-track betting sites,” said Maryland Jockey Club President Sal Sinatra. “We look forward to more renovations at Laurel, the Preakness meet at Pimlico, the 141st Preakness, and our continued investment in Maryland Thoroughbred racing.”
Brody’s Cause has finally come through, winning the 2016 Blue Grass Stakes after fending off a 14-horse field at his home track of Keeneland. The seldom run three-year old out of Albaugh Family Stables fought hard to cross the wire first, cashing in as a 4/1 outside shot ahead of the two favorites. Cherry and My Man Sam – who each shared 9/2 odds – finished tightly behind.
Bettors held their breath for much of the race as Laoban led much of the way as the pace setter, while the majority of the favorites stayed well behind the pack. Laoban slotted in a 20/1 longshot and was able to keep upstarts like Twizz and Zulu from getting out in front of him early on.
The fight to the finish was a thriller as Laoban continued to press hard on the inside rail as Brody’s Cause came up through the middle of the pack and ate up the track like a wood chipper devouring an oversized log. Cherry Wine and My Man Sam were essentially glued to each other the entire way, and pressed vigilantly to overtake Brody’s Cause on the outside but came up just short by the time they all reached the wire.
Curiosity has always surrounded Brody’s Cause, a third place finisher at last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He made his much anticipated 2016 debut at the Tampa Bay Stakes, a race which was dominated by Destin who ended up setting a track record. The outing was crushing for Brody’s Cause, who finished in seventh.
So it was fair for the son of Giant’s Causeway to enter the 2016 Blue Grass Stakes as a 4/1 take. He hadn’t won a race since last October’s Breeders’ Futurity and his training times hadn’t blown anyone off the charts. That type of effort has to be a sign of relief for Dale Romans and his team as they point Brody’s Cause towards a Triple Crown berth.
This will be a dense field of competitors during the three legs, and only the toughest will survive. If Brody’s Cause can continue to string performances like this together, he will be a hard competitor to shake. He may not blaze, but he can grind. That’s sure to entice somebody looking for an under-the-radar play.
Outwork took over in the stretch and then held off a strong challenge from 81-1 longshot Trojan Nation to win the $1 million Wood Memorial Saturday on a rainy and chilly day at Aqueduct. The victory cemented Outwork’s spot into the Kentucky Derby.
Outwork, a 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo who missed winning the Wood five years ago, battled Matt King Coal on the front end head to head with a 46.4 half mile as favorite Shagaf remained seven lengths behind. As they raced to the far turn, Shagaf started to move but didn’t have the closing kick as Outwork pulled to the lead and held off a furious rally on the rail from Trojan Nation, who the track announcer had confused with Adventist.
Adventist actually finished third, followed by Matt King Coal, Shagaf, Tale of S’avall, Flexibility and Dalmore.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Outwork went off as the 5/2 second choice and paid $6.80 to win, $4.80 to place and $3.90 to show. Trojan Nation paid $40.60 to place and a $2 exacta returned $319.50. Outwork ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.92 on a muddy, sealed track, with a final furlong in a slow 14.02 seconds. He earned $590,000 for his third win in four starts, raising his total to $701,800 for Repole Stable.
Pletcher had words with his rider before the race about the inexperienced Outwork. “I had mentioned to Johnny that if he made the lead, he might idle a bit, and he did,’’ he said. “But I loved the performance, a great run. To win the Wood with a son of Uncle Mo is a pretty cool story.’’
A liver ailment kept Uncle Mo out of the Kentucky Derby five years ago, and Outwork’s New York Owner Mike Repole always has believed he would have worn the blanket of roses if he had been healthy.
“You did it for dad, didn’t you? You did it for dad, didn’t you?” Repole yelled, inches from Outwork’s face.
Now it’s on to the Kentucky Derby for Outwork, who will try to upset another son of Uncle Moe in Nyquist, who won the Florida Derby April 2 and will be Derby favorite.
“Two big Derby preps, both winners by Uncle Mo,’’ Repole said. “I hope on Derby Day I have the best son of Uncle Mo.’’
Shagaf is the Favorite in Final New York Prep to the Kentucky Derby
Shagaf is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct. The 3-year old bay colt will try to stay unbeaten and make it 4-for-4 when the field of eight breaks from the gate in race No. 10 at the Big A. Post time is 5:30 pm ET.
Shagaf will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s second-leading rider in earnings.
The 1 1/8 mile race will be run on the main track that encircles the inner dirt and the turf course.
Shagaf, won his last start March 5 in the Grade III Gotham Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. But trainer Chad Brown says his Bernardini colt has room to improve. “He has already made a lot of progress…and is proven to have a tremendous amount of stamina. His speed figures haven’t been super-impressive or really fast…but I do see room for improvement.”
Flexibility, the stablemate of Shagaf also trained by Brown, won the Jerome Stakes in his 3-year old debut after finishing second to Mohaymen in two stakes races last year. He finished fourth in the Withers, two lengths back in his recent start.
Adventist has only raced at Aqueduct and finished third behind Shagaf in the Gotham and also third in the Grade III Withers. He’ll be pressing the lead.
Matt King Coal has been in the money in all four starts with two wins. He’ll be the one to catch in front.
Outwork is making his first start in a race longer than three-quarters of a mile. His front-running style will be tested as he tries to get towards the lead from the outside post No. 8.
The Wood Memorial is also part of the BigApple/Bluegrass Pick 4. The all graded-stakes sequence spans both Aqueduct and Keeeneland. Two races from Aqueduct, the G3 Bay Shore and the G1 Wood; and two from Keeneland, the G1 Madison and the GI Blue Grass comprise this quartet. The wager (Bay Shore, Madison, Wood, Blue Grass) will have a fifty-cent base and a 19% takeout rate – the same as Keeneland’s pick fours.
The Wood Memorial, as well as the Gazelle, are also part of a $500,000 guaranteed all graded-stakes pick four at Aqueduct. That wager is solely from Aqueduct (Gazelle, Bay Shore, Wood, G1 Carter), spans races 8-11, and carries a fifty-cent base. You can wager on all the races at Twinspires.com.
NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will provide live televised coverage of the Wood Memorial from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm ET.
Santa Anita Park is scheduled to be a crowd drawing attraction this weekend, even with rain in the forecast, but the biggest draw is likely the $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes (gr. IIIT).
The mile-long race was able to attract five graded winners, including three grade I winners: Finnegans Wake, What A View, and Texas Red.
While Texas Red is scheduled to make his first grass start, as long as the race stays on turf, trainer Keith Desormeaux is adamant that this is not foreshadowing a potential turf campaign. Texas Red is only competing because he needs a race, surface be damned.
“I’m not entering him for the purpose of trying turf,” said Desormeaux. “We’re just looking for a race and the meet is over. I don’t mind running at Los Al, and I’d run in an allowance there if one fit, but there’s not one race there for him.
“I can’t express that sentiment enough. This is a means to an end.”
The plan for Desormeaux and Texas Red is to compete in at least two races before the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (gr. I) on June 25. The $200,000 Californian (gr. II) on May 22 would be the second targeted race.
Finnegans Wake trainer Peter Miller also views Thunder Road as a prep, but rather for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT). “He’s doing good and training fine,” said Miller. “He’s just like his old self.”
What A View might be the only horse of the three looking for more than a training test. He’s coming off three straight wins and would like to keep his streak going.
Below is the full field of 14 for the Thunder Road Stakes:
3. Si Sage
4. Cool Green
6. Decisive Edge
8. Texas Red
9. Finnegans Wake
10. De Treville
11. Soul Driver
12. What A View
13. Play Hard to Get
A Coast-to-Coast handicapping contest and fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockey’s Fund (PDJF) is part of a big weekend of racing.
Fans of the Preakness Stakes will enjoy competing for a chance to win a signed and framed photo of Oxbow winning the 2013 Preakness Stakes. The contest is free to participate, but only those who donate at minimum of $10 will be eligible to win the contest prize and signed photo by Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens. You may make your donations here.
You can’t blame trainers, owners and jockeys for wanting to avoid Songbird, but it would probably be better for the sport overall if there were more highly regarded horses running in this wekeend’s Santa Anita Stakes. Instead we’re left with a small field of challengers vying for second place. The more talented fillies in the country are searching for glory elsewhere.
Songbird absolutely crushed the field at the San Ysabel Stakes, a 1 1/16th mile race from a month ago. Land Over Sea placed second in that race, finishing behind the Two-Year Old Filly of the Year for the fifth time in her career. In an effort to avoid Songbird, and the inevitable, Land Over Sea took to the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 26th and earned her first graded stakes victory overall. It was a much deserved breath of fresh air for the talented daughter of sire Bellamy Road, who remains pointed firmly at the Kentucky Oaks for the ultimate shot at redemption.
Also making concerted efforts to avoid Songbird this weekend are Cathryn Sophia and Rachel’s Valentina, who will instead compete at this weekend’s Ashland Stakes in a much anticipated head-to-head battle. It will be the 2016 debut for Rachel’s Valentina, who hasn’t competed since placing second to you-know-who at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Cathryn Sophia has also done well to avoid Songbird throughout the balance of her career, and has managed to go 4-0 in as many races with wins at the Davano Dale, Forward Gal and Gin Talking along with her maiden. The pair will open as the presumed favorites at the Ashland Stakes.
That leaves a scattered and somewhat empty field to compete at the highly coveted Santa Anita Oaks. She’s A Warrior placed third at the previously mentioned San Ysabel, and is an excellent choice to place or show. However Mokat will also be in the field after showing at the Las Virgenes Stakes in February behind both Land Over Sea and Songbird.
Bellamentary, another filly sired by Bellamy Road, will make her stakes debut at the Santa Anita Oaks as well. She is trained by Phillip D’Amato. Forever Darling will round out the field after winning the Santa Ynez, but falling to ninth at the Rachel Alexandra.
Considering all of the contenders that have chose to avoid Songbird this weekend, the strongest plays to box with are She’s A Warrior and Mokat and if you’re looking to cash in large with a bigger play. Betting on the winner will require a heavy wager when it comes to the Santa Anita Oaks.
The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), which will run this weekend, features two prizes that is attracting the best of the best race horses to compete: a $1 million purse and 170 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
One of the main contenders in the field of 16 horses is Zulu, who has been installed as the 5-2 favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. Zulu will represent Stonestreet Stables and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He drew post four.
Zulu’s first three starts have been nothing short of extraordinary: two wins and a second-place finish to Mohaymen (Fountain of Youth Stakes).
“You can never be disappointed with that, runner-up to a very good horse,” said Charlie O’Connor. “We’re very happy with our spot, very happy with the draw, and we’ll go in with no excuses.
“I think he’s a very tough horse; he broke his maiden very impressively, his allowance was very good, his third race was very good. He’s a big battler, which you need for these kind of races.”
Closing in on Zulu as the second favorite in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes is Brody’s Cause, who has been given 4-1 odds. His jockey will be Luis Saez, and they will run out of the gates from post six.
Below is the full field of competitors:
1. Looking for a Kiss
2. Donegal Moon
3. Cherry Wine
5. Crescent Drive
6. Brody’s Cause
9. Goats Town
10. American Dubai
11. Cards of Stone
13. Star Hill
14. My Man Sam
16. Hint of Roses
At 23/1, nobody was giving Oscar Nominated a chance of winning the 2016 Spiral Stakes. Turns out that a random gamble on the Ramsey Stables product would’ve churned out a huge payday. With the absolutely stunning victory, Oscar Nominated paid out $49.20, $18.00 and $11.00.
Azar came in second at 8/1 to give his backers a $9.00 and $6.40 pay out, while Surgical Strike showed at third to return $5.40 on 8/1 odds as well. There was also a bounty of 50-20-10-5 points on the derby trail for the top-four horses at the 2016 Spiral Stakes.
It was a tough day for the favorites. Kasseopia was the lead horse at 7/2 but finished 8th while Airoforce was a 2/1 lead horse at the window and barely showed up, finishing a disappointing 10th. Jensen and Don’t Be So Salty were 5/1 and couldn’t crack the top-three.
Ironically, Oscar Nominated’s surprising 2016 Spiral Stakes victory puts owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey in a tough situation. Oscar Nominated was not submitted as an entrant in to this year’s Kentucky Derby. He has missed the late entry nominations by a few weeks. If the Ramsey’s are so inclined, they can pay a supplemental entry fee at the cost of $200,000 to break in to the Kentucky Derby. Paying the supplemental entry fee would also make Oscar Nominated eligible for the other two Triple Crown races.
That rather large price tag isn’t deterring ownership. “He’s going in one way or the other,” said Ken Ramsey, who has nominated eight other horses to theKentucky Derby. The Ramsey’s missed last year’s Kentucky Derby when International Star was scratched at the last minute. It seems that the illustrious breeder and owner isn’t taking any chances this year and you can hardly blame him. It would be almost insane to think that Oscar Nominated could upset the field at the Kentucky Derby in a month, but his running at the 2016 Spiral Stakes was downright competitive and impressive.
Oscar Nominated has now won gone 2-1-0 in three races this year, having placed at the Keith Gee Memorial Stakes in January prior to winning the Black Gold at Fair Grounds in late February.
Nyquist Beats Moyahmen Convincingly to Win Florida Derby
Nyquist improved to 7-for-7 lifetime with a convincing wire-to-wire win in the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby Saturday.
Nyquist became the first Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old to capture the Florida Derby since Fly So Free in 1991, and the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero to follow up in the Florida Derby since Unbridled’s Song in 1996.
“We had this plan from after the Breeders’ Cup of what we wanted to do and it’s all unfolding perfectly,” trainer Doug O’Neill said following the race.
Nyquist has now earned $2,322,600 on the track for the Reddam Racing, LLC after collecting $589,000 in the Florida Derby plus an additional $1 million bonus for the Florida Derby win from the auction company Fasig-Tipton as a graduate of its Florida 2-year old in training sale.
The 10-horse field for the Florida Derby was hyped as the bi-coastal battle between the best from the West Nyquist and the East Coast undefeated champion Mohaymen. But after making a move towards the leader at the top of the stretch, Mohaymen had no additional gear this day while fading to fourth and beaten 8 1/4 lengths over a main track that had taken rain intermittently during the 14-race program.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had more mixed emotions Sunday after his star colt and multiple Grade II winner Mohaymen (Tapit) suffered his first career loss when finishing fourth behind Nyquist. Though disappointed in the Shadwell Stable runner’s result, McLaughlin was pleased with how the horse emerged from the race, both mentally and physically.
“He came out of the race in good shape,” McLaughlin said as he overlooked Mohaymen’s stall outside his barn office at Palm Meadows. “He’s never been beaten and we thought he was invincible going in so, yeah, we’re a little down about the result. But, we’re moving forward. We’re happy that he’s happy this morning and we can move forward to the Kentucky Derby.”
“Basically it was very wet and we were very wide. We ran 54 feet further than the winner, but congratulations to Nyquist and their team. They had to run over the same racetrack under the same conditions and they did it better than us. Congratulations to them, because it was a big showdown. We’ll regroup and point for the Kentucky Derby and hope for the best.”