The Monday Special – April 2

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The day after Easter – and April Fool’s Day – and no joking around now that a quarter of the year is through and plenty of major stuff is on tap for the days, weeks and months ahead.

Before we go too far ahead we’ll recap a bit, from Dubai to Aqueduct, Santa Anita to Gulfstream. Here’s your weekly recap for Monday, April 2. Enjoy.


New Derby favorite?

How good is Mendelssohn? That’s the question many asked around the world after his destruction of the UAE Derby field on Saturday’s Dubai World Cup undercard. They’ll continue to ask it over the next few weeks as we countdown to the May 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Based in Ireland at Ballydoyle with Aidan O’Brien, Mendelssohn already made a good impression in the U.S. last fall winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. He won the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby in a gallop by 18 1/2 lengths and some European bookmakers made him the favorite for the Kentucky Derby off that victory.

Mendelssohn is a half brother to multiple champion Beholder and he sold to his Coolmore connections for $3 million at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. He’s obviously a colt that’s always been held in high regard and his UAE Derby win was his third straight following the Breeders’ Cup and the 32red Patton Stakes on Dundalk’s synthetic surface March 9.

The UAE Derby is often difficult to gauge from an American standpoint, even though it’s run on dirt, because many of the participants are typically turf horses or South American-bred horses that are nearly 4-year-olds. That wasn’t completely the case this year with one American runner in the field – the Candy Ride colt Reride who finished third – and no South Americans and no participants coming off turf races.

Rayya, a daughter of Tiz Wonderful who won the Group 3 UAE Oaks in her previous start, finished a distant second and just ahead of Reride. She’s reportedly headed to the U.S. with new trainer Bob Baffert and designs on the Kentucky Oaks.

But back to the Kentucky Derby.

Last week in this space we mentioned Todd Pletcher and WinStar Farm bolstering their stock for the Derby after Noble Indy won the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. They added another Saturday at Gulfstream Park when Audible won the Florida Derby.

Campaigned by the partnership of WinStar, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing, Audible improved to 4-for-5 in the Florida Derby with a 3-length win over Hofburg.

Audible earned 100 points for his win and is tied with stablemate Noble Indy atop the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard at 110. Mendelssohn is next with 100, followed by Bolt d’Oro (64), Enticed (63), Bravazo (54), Promises Fulfilled (52), Magnum Moon (50), Runaway Ghost (50) and Quip (50). That’s the top 10 and it’s worth noting that there are only 19 spots up for grabs this year based on points, with automatic qualifier Gronkowski locking in his spot with a win in Friday’s listed 32red Burradon Stakes at Newcastle.

So who’s 21st and 22nd and just out if the race were today? Free Drop Bill, winner of the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity last fall, and Catholic Boy, winner of the Grade 2 Remsen last fall, are tied at 24.

Finally, some of the coolest news to come out of the weekend was audiobook company Audible Inc. donating $15,000 to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on behalf of Florida Derby winner Audible. Read more here

Stable Tour Archives

Did you see our Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with Bill Mott in the Aug. 26 (Travers Day) edition of The Saratoga Special? In case you missed it we wrote:

Hofburg: Unraced Juddmonte homebred has posted seven works at Saratoga. “This is a Tapit 2-year-old, he’s a half-brother to Emollient. He’s breezing well, he could run the last week of Saratoga. He’s got some talent. She broke her maiden on the dirt, won on the synthetic and the turf, she was a Grade 1 winner on the synthetic and the turf. He’s not a real bulky horse but he seems to handle the dirt, he gets over the ground beautifully.”

Hofburg, making the jump from a maiden win March 3 when he paid $17, finished second to Audible in the Florida Derby and put his name in the Kentucky Derby picture. He wound up fifth choice at 8-1 and returned $7.20 to place and $4.40 to show.


Steeplechase Report

The second steeplechase meeting is in the books with the six-race card at Springdale Racecourse, including the Grade 1 Marion DuPont Scott Colonial Cup and $75,000 Carolina Cup, run Saturday.

Stonelea Stable’s Balance The Budget dominated the featured Colonial Cup, winning by 6 1/4 lengths under Mark Watts for trainer Julie Gomena. Last seen winning the Grade 2 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial last fall at Great Meadow, Balance The Budget improved his record to two wins and a second from four starts in Camden. The 9-year-old son of Bellamy Road also won the 2016 Carolina Cup.

Maggie Bryan’s Personal Start won this year’s Carolina Cup in his Springdale debut for jockey Barry Foley and trainer Richard Valentine.

Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard sent out two winners on the day in Iranistan in the $30,000 Raymond G. Woolfe, a 4-year-old restricted hurdle at 2 miles; and Pram in the $40,000 Life’s Illusion filly and mare hurdle at 2 miles. Sheppard also owns Pram.

Trainer Ricky Hendriks and owner Rosbrian Farm teamed for the day’s other two winners – Sail Ahoy in the $30,000 Dale K. Thiel maiden hurdle and Sixty Five in the 1 1/4-mile training flat.

As for the ST Handicappers, Joe increased his lead in the season standings with a pair of winners – Sail Ahoy and Sixty Five – while Sean unearted Sixty Five. Tom was blanked. Joe leads the series with five, two more than Sean and four more than Tom.


Worth Repeating

“No, please! I will need a blindfold because I will not go in to those gates again.”
Jockey Christophe Soumillon on potential Breeders’ Cup Classic bid at Churchill Downs for Thunder Snow. Thunder Snow bucked repeatedly after the break of last year’s Kentucky Derby and Soumillon pulled him up in the first 50 yards.

“We’ll run here.”
Bob Baffert on anticipated decision where to run Justify next. Here is the Santa Anita Derby Saturday.


By the Numbers

1:13.20: Six-furlong breeze time for top Santa Anita Derby contender Justify Monday morning at Santa Anita Park.

3: Updates needed for profiles on New York-bred championship finalists after racing Saturday. Mind Your Biscuits (finalist for male sprinter and older dirt male) defended his title in $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan, Therapist (2-year-old male) won the $127,500 Cutler Bay at Gulfstream and Control Group (3-year-old male) won the $90,000 Mr. Sinatra at Aqueduct. We’re hard at work on the program for this year’s NYTB Awards Dinner Monday, April 9.

5: Straight wins for Mobile Bay after Saturday’s Star Guitar Stakes at Fair Grounds, a race we previewed in The Saturday Special.

5 3/4: Thunder Snow’s margin of victory over West Coast in the featured $10 million Dubai World Cup.

7: Wins for Luis Saez Thursday at Gulfstream Park, his second seven-win day of the 2017-18 Championship Meet. Saez also won the meet’s riding title for the second straight year with 137 wins.

12: Wins each for Maggi Moss and Brad Grady, who tied for the owner’s title at the 2017-18 Fair Grounds meeting that ended Saturday.

54: Wins at the Fair Grounds meet for two-time leading trainer Brad Cox.

61: Meet-leading wins during the Aqueduct winter stand, which wrapped up Saturday, for jockey Manny Franco.

66: Wins at Fair Grounds for Shaun Bridgmohan, his second title after the 2009-10 meet.

69: Wins at the Gulfstream Championship meet for Todd Pletcher for his 15th straight training crown.

1,000: Training wins for trainer Rudy Rodriguez after he won the ninth race Friday at Aqueduct with Woundwithhereyes. Rodriguez won the Aqueduct winter meet training title with 38 wins.

$49.9 million: Total handle for Saturday’s Florida Derby card at Gulfstream Park, a record for a non-Breeders’ Cup Day at the track, surpassing Pegasus World Cup Day handle of $41.9 million.


Tweet of the Day

@JohnPanagot: Thunder Snow is that kid you teased growing up, back to let you know he’s doing way better than you 10 years out of high school. Good for him!


First and soon to be out

Kathy Howard celebrated an emotional victory last Thursday when Make Daddy Proud won a $12,5000 maiden claimer at Oaklawn Park.

Howard, the wife of the late Tom Howard of graded-stakes winner Ivan Fallunovalot fame, took over the training of her late husbands horses after his passing March 10. She told the Oaklawn publicity department that she “owed it to her husband and his owners to run the stable through the completion of the Oaklawn meet, adding the eight horses would then turned out or given to other trainers.”

Howard, a former jockey who also serves as owner Frank Fletcher’s racing manager, said she’s finished once the meet in Hot Springs closes April 14.

“Of course, it’s a great feeling, but I’m not going down that road without Tom,” she said.

Ivan Fallunovalot remains in training and is under consideration for the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap for older sprinters Closing Day at Oaklawn.


Best of The Saturday Special (Triple shot)

We wrote – Tampa Bay. Race 6. 3:17. Juddmonte spent $400,000 at 2016 Keeneland September sale for the Animal Kingdom filly Villamay, who makes debut for Bill Mott going 7 furlongs.
Trust Juddmonte and Mott. Villamay, the lone first-time starter in the field, vied for the lead and drew off to win by 1 ¾ lengths to return $10.80.

We wrote – Oaklawn Park. Race 1. 2:05. Lilt should start the day in Hot Springs with a win in 1-mile allowance for 3-year-old fillies.
Lilt showed she’s still one to watch with a half-length win, returning $6.

We wrote – Turfway. Race 6. 9:33. We mentioned Animal Kingdom in the sixth race at Tampa; here’s the $50,000 Animal Kingdom Stakes for 3-year-olds. Wesley Ward wins it with Hemp Hemp Hurray.
You didn’t make a ton of cash on $3.40 win mutual but a win’s a win.


The Worst of The Saturday Special (Double shot)

We wrote – Meydan. Race 9. 12:50. The headlining $10 million Dubai World Cup is as good as usual, with Americans West Coast, Forever Unbridled, Pavel, Mubtaahij and Gunnevera leading the way. Travers winner West Coast is 4-5 on the U.S. line, off a second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup. Forever Unbridled makes her first start against males and her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The plucky Gunnevera always flies a bit under the radar but has quietly made nearly $3 million and always runs well.
No mention of Thunder Snow? Weak.

We wrote – Turfway. Race 8. 10:33. Come on, one more. How about Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider with the Arch colt Inflate going two turns for the first time at 15-1 from the rail? That’s worth a look.
Hopefully you were tuned into the second game of the Final Four – which wasn’t so spectacular – and missed Inflate, sixth of 11 at 12-1.