Always Dreaming Confirmed for Preakness Stakes

After winning the 143rd Kentucky Derby (G1), Always Dreaming will now begin preparations for the 142nd Preakness Stakes (G1) on May 20 in his quest of competing for the Triple Crown.

The invitation for Always Dreaming to compete in the Preakness Stakes was officially sent to Always Dreaming’s trainer Todd Pletcher by Maryland Jockey Club President/General Manager Sal Sinatra on the morning of Saturday, May 7.

“I congratulated him on winning the race and extended him the traditional invitation to the Preakness, which he accepted,” said Sinatra. “We are thrilled to have the Derby winner and he is excited about coming. He’s going into the Preakness barn and putting Always Dreaming in stall 40, which is historically reserved for the Derby winner. He said he wanted to keep the mojo going.”

Always Dreaming, who is owned by a tandem of St. Elias Stables, MeB Racing Stables, Siena Farm, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, West Point Thoroughbreds, and Brooklyn Boyz Stables, will arrive at Pimlico Race Course on May 9. He will be joined by fellow Preakness contender Royal Mo.

Other notable horses who might compete in the Preakness Stakes includes Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and Classic Empire, if he is fully healed from a right eye issue. Girvin’s connections said they’ll consider the Preakness and Belmont Stakes (G1), while Gunnevera trainer Antonio Sano said a decision to run won’t be made until it’s discussed with majority owner Solomon Del-Valle.

One horse that likely won’t make the trip to Pimlico is Irish War Cry.

“I don’t see a lot of reason to go on to the Preakness at this point,” said Irish War Cry trainer Graham Motion. “He’s had a pretty good campaign this spring, so it’s likely we’ll skip that and make a plan to point for the Haskell (Invitational Stakes, G1).”

Always Dreaming Connections had a Kentucky Derby Plan and it Paid Off

Always Dreaming’s connections had a plan when it came to how to prepare for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and it all went down according to plan when he won the 143rd running of the roses. According to trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Vinnie Viola and Anthony Bonomo, they wanted Always Dreaming to peak in the Derby.

With only two races during his age-two campaign, everything had to go right leading up to the 2017 Derby, but most importantly, Always Dreaming had to execute. That’s easier said and done though, but Always Dreaming was up to the task.

First up was a maiden race at Tampa Bay Downs, and luckily John Velazquez, who rode Always Dreaming to Kentucky Derby glory, was in the area.

“We wanted him to go two turns, and he was ready to run,” said Pletcher. “On that particular day, Gulfstream had a seven-furlong race and a mile-and-an-eighth race. I didn’t want to run him a mile-an-eighth since he hadn’t run since August, and I didn’t really want to run him seven furlongs. Fortunately, Johnny had gone to OBS to ride for us and it worked out that he could be there the next day at Tampa. I said, ‘Hey, I think you’ll want to ride this horse.’ Everything just kind of fell into place.

“It was part of the plan that we had talked about, bringing him along instead of peaking too soon.”

Always Dreaming dominated the Tampa Bay assignment, winning by 11 and half lengths. Instead of racing in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) next, Always Dreaming’s connections decided an allowance race at Gulfstream to prepare for the Florida Derby (G1) would be better. They were right and Always Dreaming won that race by four lengths. Then the biggest test came next: the Florida Derby.

“The one thing that we wanted to do was have the horse peak [in the Kentucky Derby], not in the Florida Derby or not in the Fountain of Youth,” said Pletcher. “There was some risk with that plan. Because by not going in the Fountain of Youth, he had no [Derby qualifying] points at that stage of his career.

“But we felt like we were all comfortable taking our best shot at the Florida Derby as his only point‑eligible prep. And we all were comfortable with the fact that if something happened and he didn’t earn enough points, that we were willing to live with that decision.”

Always Dreaming would win the Florida Derby by five lengths and all that planning culminated in his eventual Kentucky Derby win.

Final Pre-Kentucky Derby Work for Irish War Cry

The 143rd annual Kentucky Derby (G1) is set for this weekend on May 6. All of the top contenders are putting in their final training sessions in preparation for this year’s Run for the Roses. One such contender is Irish War Cry. He final pre-Derby work took place at Fair Hill Training Centre on April 30, where he ran six furlongs in a time of 1:13 1/5 under the watchful eye of trainer Graham Motion.

The Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) winner ran under jockey Rajiv Maragh and in the company of Providence Road.

“I wanted him to have a decent work but not overdo it, and I think that’s exactly what he did,” said Motion. “Rajiv was anxious to see how he’d settle behind another horse, I thought it would be good for him to feel that himself, and he was happy with the way he did it. To be really corny, we ‘ticked all the boxes,’ pretty much.”

Maragh’s first time riding Irish War Cry was at the Wood Memorial and he was pleased with their final pre-Derby workout.

“I’ve never been on him directly behind another horse, so I just wanted to see if that was an option, how he would react,” said Maragh. “He was perfect, he did everything I was hoping he would. He didn’t react in any negative way at all.

“His workout was fantastic, he was in such a great flow and he did it well within himself. This horse is just such a fabulous horse to ride because he does anything you ask of him.”

Irish War Cry finished with the fifth-most Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points (110).

Kentucky Derby One to Watch for Potential Preakness Winner

Favorites get Headlines, but Derby Winner Won’t be Best Bet in Preakness

The Kentucky Derby field is set and the post-position draw and morning line odds has Derby fans dreaming for their winner. Always Dreaming is getting plenty of play as the co-second choice at 5-1 with McCraken, while Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champioin and Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire (4-1) is the favorite to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Classic Empire will break from post No. 14. He’s a 3-time Grade I winner. Jockey Julien Leparoux is a 9-time Derby loser trying for his first Kentucky Derby win.

Always Dreaming drew post No. 5 for the Derby. He won the Florida Derby by 5 lengths with a fantastic finish and the fastest Florida Derby time since Alydar in 1978. Not bad for his first stakes start. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is 1-for-18 in the Kentucky Derby, riding Animal Kingdom to victory in 2011.

McCraken will be in post No. 15 alongside Classic Empire. McCraken is 3-for-3 over the Churchill Downs track, but lost his recent start finishing 3rd in the Blue Grass Stakes. McCraken will try to become the first Blue Grass runner since 2007 to win the Kentucky Derby. Jockey Brian Hernandez will try to win his first Kentucky Derby in his second start.     

The other single-digit favorite in the Derby is Irish War Cry (6-1) breaking from post No. 17, where no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Jockey Rajiv Maragh will try to also snap that streak with his 1st Derby win in his fifth start.

Wednesday was the Derby Draw and a day of laying odds. But regardless of who wins the Derby, the next Triple Crown race in the Preakness Stakes will provide another test for Derby runners trying to circle back just two weeks later at Pimlico. A number of fresh new runners will take their shot against the Derby winner and likely four or five other Derby runners. And the odds of the Derby winner will be even lower at the Preakness, making them a tougher choice to support even if they come out of the Derby in good shape.

Last year Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby as the 5-2 favorite for his 8th straight victory. Second choice Exaggerator finished in 2nd place. When the two rivals went to the Preakness, Exaggerator turned the tables to win the Preakness while Nyquist finished 3rd as the over bet 3-5 favorite. Nyquist would never win another race and retire following his 11th career start. Newcomers Cherry Wine (17-1) finished 2nd while lightly-raced speedster Stradivari (8-1) finished 4th in his stakes debut at the 2016 Preakness.

So watch the Kentucky Derby with interest and find a favorite or two and a few long shots to include in your exotic wagers. Then plan your Preakness strategy and uncover some under-the-radar horses and value to profit in the Preakness.

Kentucky Derby field with post position, odds, jockey, trainer and most recent race finish.

Post Horse Odds Jockey Trainer Last Race
1 Lookin at Lee 20-1 Corey Lanerie Steve Asmussen 3rd Arkansas Derby
2 Thunder Snow 20-1 Chris Soumillon Saeed bin Suroor 1st UA Derby
3 Fast and Accurate 50-1 Channing Hill Mike Maker 1st Spiral Stakes
4 Untrapped 30-1 Ricardo Santana, Jr. Steve Asmussen 6th Arkansas Derby
5 Always Dreaming 5–1 John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 1st Florida Derby
6 State of Honor 30–1 Jose Lezcano Mark Casse 2nd Florida Derby
7 Girvin 15-1 Mike Smith Joe Sharp 1st Louisiana Derby
8 Hence 15-1 Florent Geroux Steve Asmussen 1st Sunland Derby
9 Irap 20-1 Mario Gutierrez Doug O’Neil 1st Blue Grass Stakes
10 Gunnevera 15-1 Javier Castellano Antonio Sano 3rd Florida Derby
11 Battle of Midway 30-1 Flavien Prat Jerry Hollendorfer 2nd Santa Anita Derby
12 Sonneteer 50-1 Kent Desormeaus Keith Desormeaux 4th Arkansas Derby
13 J Boys Echo 20-1 Luis Saez Dale Romans 4th Blue Grass Stakes
14 Classic Empire 4–1 Julien Leparoux Mark Casse 1st Arkansas Derby
15 McCraken 5–1 Brian Hernandez, Jr Ian Wilkes 3rd Blue Grass Stakes
16 Tapwrit 20-1 Jose Ortiz Todd Pletcher 5th Blue Grass Stakes
17 Irish War Cry 6–1 Fajiv Maragh Graham Motion 1st Wood Memorial
18 Gormely 15-1 Victor Espinoza John Shirreffs 1st Santa Anita Derby
19 Practical Joke 20-1 Joel Rosario Chad Brown 2nd Blue Grass Stakes
20 Patch 30-1 Tyler Gaffalione Todd Pletcher 2nd Louisiana Derby
Girvin injury quarter crack

Girvin Suffers Quarter Crack In Hoof

2017 Kentucky Derby contender Girvin has suffered a quater crack in his right hoof. While not considered an overtly serious condition, the injury could hamper his ability to compete at full strength over the brutal distance of 1 1/4 miles in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Joe Sharp offered more details as his trainer.

“He’s very sound on it now. It’s just one of those deals where we were just monitoring it. And every quarter crack is different,” Sharp began. “This one threw us for a little bit of a turn and we expected it be routine. And obviously, the last thing I wanted to do was throw up a red flag any earlier than needed.”

Girvin was last out winning the Louisiana Derby after claiming victory in the Risen Star as well.  With 17/1 odds right now to win the derby according to the KDFW Pool 4 results, the colt essentially factors in as a bit of a longshot despite his success. The quarter crack will definitely hinder his ability to train, but Joe Sharp told the media that he would still be able to get work out of the horse in the final days leading up to the derby.

“I wanted to see how it was going to go. I wanted to see which way it was going to go before I had to get asked about what I thought if we could make it. We are planning on breezing, and as long as he’s able to breeze and come out of it well, he’ll run in the Derby. But if he’s not sound enough to make the breeze, we’re not going to go into the Derby not having breezed in two weeks.”

Unfortunately, this is an injury that Girvin has experience with. The contender has suffered a quarter crack before. “When he popped the last quarter crack, he never missed a day. He was never sore on it. He was great,” Sharp said. “The long and short of it is the quarter crack wasn’t where we wanted it. On Tuesday we weren’t happy with it. So we took him to Raul Bras at Rood & Riddle, we utilized KESMARC’s hyperbaric chamber.”

No decision has been made about how severe the quarter crack will limit Girvin but we’ll keep you updated.

Can Girvin Get the Kentucky Derby Distance?

Girvin Not a Likely Derby Contender, but Preakness a Possibility

Girvin went to post in the Feb. 25 Risen Star Stakes at 8-1 odds. He had been training great and showed his improvement and speed with a strong closing kick to win the Grade II Risen Star race and secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate with 50 qualifying points on the Road to the Roses. Girvin was able to save ground along the rail, and his final time of 1:43.08 seconds at the Fair Grounds Race Course was the third fastest in the 1 1/16 mile Risen Star in the past 15 runnings of the race.

As Girvin prepares for his final Derby prep in the Louisiana Derby April 1, he’ll be asked to carry his jockey Brian Hernandez a bit further to the finish – 1 1/8 miles. From there, the questions will be asked as to whether Girvin can get the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles faster than his 19 rivals in the Kentucky Derby.

A look at the past and pedigree can provide us of his potential and whether we can profit from Girvin’s experience. We always want to project improvement for a 3-year old as he makes a bid in the Derby and on the Triple Crown trail. The Preakness Stakes could follow for Girvin, and that’s a distance of 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico.

Girvin’s sire is Tale of Ekati, who won the Belmont Futurity as a 2-year-old and was a top miler at age 3 and 4. He did win the 2008 Wood Memorial going 1 1/8, and followed with a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby as a big longshot. The Wood Memorial was his only win beyond a mile and the Canadian-bred finished his career with 5 wins and 1 place in 15 starts.

Girvin’s dam is Catch a Moon, and his damsire Malibu Moon was the son of A.P. Indy, who won 8 of 11 starts including the 1992 Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in his final race. Malibu Moon’s career was cut short by a slab fracture of his right knee, but Malibu Moon is a top-10 ranked sire by earnings.

Girvin’s pedigree indicates that 1 1/8 miles could be at the top of his scope, making a Kentucky Derby victory unlikely. Girvin is an average sized colt but does possess a running style and stride fit to stretch out. In the last nine years, four colts won both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, but only one placed in the Kentucky Derby and that was last year when Gun Runner finished third. For Girvin to get on the top of our radar to win or place in the Derby, he’ll have to show continued improvement and run a huge race against a stronger field in the Louisiana Derby.

McCraken Makes His Move to Win Sam F. Davis Stakes

McCraken Rallies in Track Record Time to win Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs

McCraken made another stride towards the Kentucky Derby Saturday. The rising, talented Kentucky-bred made a magnificent move down the stretch to win the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes in a track record time at Tampa Bay Down.

McCraken, the undefeated son of Ghostzapper, won his fourth straight race with a winning time of 1 minute 42.45 seconds. He picked up $120,000 as the top prize and broke Destin’s track record from last year which is the best 1 1/16 mile time in the Downs’ 91 year history.

Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. settled McCraken behind the pack five lengths off the pacesetter State of Honor, who set fractions of 23.63, :47.15 and 1:10.90 through six furlongs. When Hernandez asked McCraken to go, the strapping colt unleashed his big stride and flew home to win by 1 ¼ lengths over a late charging Tapwrit.

“Riding a horse like (McCraken) puts a lot of confidence in you, and you’ve got to go out there and ride him with the confidence we do … and he gets us there,” Hernandez said. “When I first got to the half-mile pole, I asked him for a run and he hesitated a bit. But I think it was him telling me, ‘Hey, jock, don’t worry. We’re going to get there when it’s my time.’ And he did.”

State of Honor held on for 3rd, while Wild Shot finished fourth after briefly taking the lead by a head in the stretch. Fact Finding, No Dozing, Six Gun Salute, Chance of Luck and King and His Court completed the finish.

McCraken went to post as the 3-2 favorite and paid $5, $3.60 and $2.80. Tapwrit returned $8.20 and $5.20, and State of Honor paid $6.20. The top four finishers received Kentucky Derby points on a sliding scale of 10-4-2-1.

Trainer Ian Wilkes knows has a special horse in his barn, and has been trying to downplay all the Derby talk about McCraken.

“If he’s good enough, he’ll take us there,” Wilkes said. “I don’t know how good (he is). But there have been some nice horses that have run a mile-and-a-sixteenth here.

“We’ve got a long way to go. This is not a one-race program. I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone, and we keep building.”

McCraken will build on his latest victory and success in his next race, the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Mastery Takes Final Derby Prep of 2016

In the final Kentucky Derby prep race for the calendar year, two-year-old Mastery put himself on the map. It was the third consecutive win in as many starts for the young contender who joins Mor Spirit, Dortmund and Shared Belief as a winner at the Los Alamitos Futurity. The only downside is that he faced a small field of just five total horses.

Those concerns should be wiped away considering that Mastery posted an absurdly fast time at the track. Winning in 1:41.56 puts him in the company of 2008 Los Alamitos Futurity winner Pioneerof the Nile, who would go on to finish second at the Kentucky Derby in 2009. You might know that name since ‘Nile’ sired American Pharoah. So it’s good news regardless of the small field opposing Mastery.

Trainer Bob Baffert was satisfied with the results after seeing Mastery take on two turns for the first time. “You never know how they are going to do going two turns for the first time until they try it,” Baffert said. “Turning for home, he hit a bit of a lull and I didn’t know if he was going to go on or flatten out. Mike said it was a good thing I put blinkers back on him, because he hit the brakes when he made the lead. The last part, he threw it in another gear.”

Of course, Mastery did not have a perfect run and was challenged by Irap in those final moments. There are still some kinks to work out. “I was worried when I saw the fractions, but he looked like he handled it pretty well. He withstood it and kicked on again at the end.”

Mastery paid $2.40 and $2.10 with the win while Irap delivered $9.40 to place. There was no show wagering due to the size of the field.


Gormley 2016 Frontrunner Klimt

Gormley Ready For Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

For most of this season, the juvenile age category was thought to have a clear – ahem – frontrunner. That was Klimt, who opened the 2016 Frontrunner Stakes as the overwhelming 1/5 favorite. Gormley had other plans in mind as he stole the race with a pulse pounding performance, unraveling the shroud of “unbeatable” off of Klimt.

The race opened with some unique weirdness of its own as Secret House busted from the gate without his rider. Thankfully, Secret House was able to trail off to the side and leave Gormley to take the early lead as the 11/1 longshot. Straight Fire, who was the second choice at 7/2, sat in the back. The late shooting Klimt was way in the back, patiently waiting to make his move.

Nobody, however, could’ve foreseen Gormley maintaining the pace he set early on with fractions :23.72 over the first quarter :47.18 for the half. Straight Fire made his move going around the second bend but couldn’t overtake him and Klimt turned on the jets way too late. Gormley cruised to a win of 3 1/2 lengths over the top choices on the Frontrunner Stakes betting board.

Victor Espinoza was actually the biggest winner of all, having ridden California Chrome and Stellar Wind to wins at the Awesome Again and Zenyatta Stakes earlier int he day. But Gormley provided him his biggest upset. Even the famed jockey was stunned by the results of the Frontrunner Stakes.

“I was really surprised. Like anything you go into it with a plan, but when that gate opens, everything can change,” Espinoza began. “I originally wanted to take back a little bit and let him run in the end. I was on the rail and didn’t want to take him back then, so I let him run. This horse can run well wherever he runs. He’s a very talented young horse and he’s going to improve for the future.”

Gormley was worth $23.60 to win, $5.00 to place, and $3.00 to show while Klimt still paid out $2.20 and $2.10 in second place. Straight Fire paid $2.20 to show.

Klimt is still the standard in the juvenile class and will get his rematch with Gormley at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in a month. The Frontrunner has produced the winner of the BC Juvenile, and also the winner of the following Kentucky Derby for the past two years. Is Gormley at the same level as Nyquist and American Pharoah were? We’ll see.


Ride On Curlin moves on to Pleasant Acres

Ride On Curlin Joins Pleasant Acres Stallions

The runner-up from the 2014 Preakness Stakes is heading to Pleasant Acres Stallions to join the stud roster. Daniel Dougherty announced intentions to move Ride On Curlin to the Florida based farm located in Morriston. He will partake in the 2017 breeding season.

Ride On Curlin earned $795,175 in his 22 career starts with highlights coming during his three-year old season where he placed 7th at the Kentucky Derby, 2nd at the Preakness Stakes and 11th in the Belmont Stakes. This was the same year California Chrome almost captured the Triple Crown. As a son of Curlin, the new five-year old horse never truly lived up to his potential and failed to win a stakes race. He stands with a 3-3-5 record over those 22 starts, having won a pair of allowances along with a maiden.

Even still, the bloodstook of Curlin is at an all time high since Exaggerator’s upset victory at the 2016 Preakness Stakes. It will be interesting to see if the other horses he sired garner as much attention from stallion farms across the country. Ride On Curlin moving to Florida is also a considerable move for thoroughbred racing within the state.

“It has been my goal since opening a stallion station in 2014 to bring new bloodlines to Florida,” Joe Barbazon said in a release. “Ride On Curlin fits our program by being the first son of Curlin   to come to our state and is out of a brilliant female family. I look forward to diversifying my broodmare band to complement this fine young stallion.”

“Ride on Curlin is a stunning individual,” Michelle Hemmingway said. Hemmingway is the bloodstock agent for Pleasant Acres Stallions. “Being a track record-setter in July of his 2-yr-old campaign will make him very attractive to Florida breeders. In my mind, Curlin looks to be an up-and-coming sire of sires, and we are so pleased to have the first son of Curlin to stand in Florida right here at Pleasant Acres Stallions.”