On a cloudy, windy Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, a crowd of about 150 fans and media representatives gathered outside Barn 33, anxiously awaiting presumed Kentucky Derby American Pharoah to emerge for his final pre-Derby workout.
Cell phones and cameras flashed as Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert came out first on foot, followed by his assistant Jimmy Barnes on his pony and finally the Arkansas Derby winner walked out of the barn with jockey Martin Garcia aboard at approximately 8:30 a.m. More fans, reporters and some familiar names and faces of the Churchill training colony lined the concrete path to see last year’s champion 2-year-old male make his way to the track.
It was a calm and cool Saturday morning at Keeneland Race Course when multiple Grade 1 winner Carpe Diem logged his final Kentucky Derby workout, covering a half-mile in :48.60 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
A crowd of around 50 quietly gathered to watch the Todd Pletcher trainee take to the dirt on his own at approximately 5:40 a.m. under a light drizzle Saturday morning. That crowd included Keeneland officials, camera crews from several local TV stations, newspaper reporters and plenty of WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable representatives, including WinStar’s Elliot Walden and Stonestreet’s John Moynihan.
Materiality was one of four Todd Pletcher trainees to put in a final breeze in advance of the Kentucky Derby and his half-mile work Friday at Churchill Downs was the latest step on a pretty remarkable trip to next week’s spring classic.
The son of Afleet Alex has made tremendous strides to get to this point – in the last two months in particular, going from maiden winner to stakes winner to Grade 1 winner – yet is progress shouldn’t be a total shock. Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to state it isn’t that big of a surprise to Nick de Meric, who sold the colt at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-olds in training sale.
A lot of races in a lot of places, but Saturday, April 25, 2015 will always be known as the day the greatest of them all retired. AP McCoy rides for the final time at Sandown. The 20-time champion, winner of more than 4,000 jump races, yes, 4,000 jump races, rides two races on the final day of the jump season. We bid him farewell.
The last Saturday in April might not have the Thoroughbred ring to it as the First Saturday in May, but it’s been a big deal in steeplechase racing for more than a century.
The Irish foxhunter jigged, jogged, walked sideways, snatched at the reins. The retired racehorse did the same. The racehorse, the favorite for the oldest steeplechase in North America, merely set a good example – walking along, sneaking a bite of grass, waiting for a cue from his rider. And that is what it’s like to ride out with a Maryland Hunt Cup winner.
Spring is in full swing. The Grand National and Middleburg Spring Races are in the books, the Maryland Hunt Cup right around the corner. The Kentucky Derby a little more than a week away. The pace is picking up all over the country and in New York they welcome a new chairman to the NYRA board and rolled out plans for the Belmont Stakes Festival.
Adena Springs Farm's Ghostzapper was the lone North American stallion to sire multiple stakes winners last weekend with two of his sons taking graded stakes races within an hour span Saturday.
There are some circumstances in life that are far too poetic to be mere coincidence – like the idea of a song that foretells a racehorse’s life.
Sweetwhiskeybrown is a 5-year-old bay gelding by Capitalimprovement out of La Vita’s Infinity, by Timeless Native. “Whiskey,” as he’s nicknamed, was born and raised on Peach Lane Farm in Opelousas, La. Peach Lane owner Lora Pitre has been raising the foals belonging to owner and breeder Marcia LaMarche for 20 years, and witnessed nearly all stages of Sweetwhiskeybrown’s life.
When Eric Guillot talks about Moreno, the trainer says things like this: “If you’re in front of my horse early, you’re going too fast,” and “I told my jockey to ride him like he stole him and the posse is chasing you,” and even “I’m here for two reasons, to pass out lollipops and win big races and I’m fresh out of lollipops.”
Jack Fisher tells it straight. Always has. In the paddock before the Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey at Glenwood Park in Middleburg, Va., April 18, the eight-time champion trainer looked around at his four jockeys and offered brief instructions. He saved four-time champion Paddy Young for last.
“He’s been off two years,” Fisher said. “If you can win, win. But if you can’t, take care of him.”