Wow, what a week. Hopes and dreams springing to life, aspirations and goals coming up short, and no, we’re not talking about the wild that was the first four days of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
We’re of course talking about racing and what a weekend it was as Todd Pletcher put another colt squarely on the road to the Kentucky Derby and Doug O’Neill might have added a contender of his own.
The week also saw another memorable edition of the Cheltenham Festival, handfuls of wins by a couple jockeys on cards over the weekend and so much more.
Here’s you’re Monday recap, as always in our style.
Todd Pletcher ran three horses in last year’s Kentucky Derby and won it with Always Dreaming. He’s one of three trainers to run five in the race, doing so twice in 2007 and 2013, and along with Jimmy Rowe is just one of two to run four in the race.
It’s still too early – despite being less than seven weeks now until the Derby – to know how many Pletcher will run this year but he bolstered his potential draft when Magnum Moon stayed unbeaten with a workmanlike victory in Saturday’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Magnum Moon, a $380,000 son of Malibu Moon who races for Robert and Lawana Low, now sports victories at Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn. He won the Rebel by 3 1/2 lengths over the somewhat traffic-riddled Solomini and Combatant with last year’s Hopeful winner Sporting Chance fifth in the field of 10.
Magnum Moon earned 50 points for the win and goes into this week ranked fifth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, tied with Quip and only behind Bolt d’Oro, Enticed, Bravazo and Promises Fulfilled.
Ironically he’s also the only Pletcher runner right now in the top 20. Holy Bull winner Audible is 22nd, Noble Indy is 26th and Vino Rosso is 28th. Audible goes next in the Florida Derby March 31 at Gulfstream, while Risen Star third Noble Indy is entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
The other points race on the weekend was the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park, which went to California shipper Blended Citizen. The 3-year-old son of Proud Citizen pulled a mild upset in the $202,400 race formerly known as the Spiral Stakes – among other names – to earn 20 points toward a spot in the Derby field.
Trained by two-time Derby winner Doug O’Neill, Blended Citizen is 15th on the list with 22 points but is not nominated to the Triple Crown by the early deadline. He can still be nominated for $6,000 before the late nomination period closes Monday.
Only 10 races remain on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series and two are this weekend – the first 100-point race in Saturday’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and Sunday’s 50-point Grade 2 Sunland Derby.
By the Numbers
1.61: Fatal injuries per 1,000 starts in 2017, according to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database, a slight increase from 1.54 per 1,000 starts in 2016. The increases in injuries came on turf and dirt surfaces, with 1.36 per 1,000 starts in 2017 (compared to 1.09 in 2016) on turf and 1.74 per 1,000 starts in 2017 (compared to 1.7 in 2016) on dirt. The rate on synthetic surfaces remained stable at 1.1 per 1,000.
4: Victories at the Cheltenham Festival for Irish jockey Davy Russell, the meeting’s leading rider
4: Winners for jockey Nik Jaurez Sunday at Gulfstream Park
4: Winners for apprentice jockey Wes Hamilton Saturday at Laurel Park, including three of the first four races on the card.
5: Winners for jockey Javier Castellano Saturday at Gulfstream, including the Grade 2 Inside Information aboard Ivy Bell.
8: Lengths separating Sounds Delicious and runner-up Spicy Lady in Saturday’s $100,000 Correction Stakes at Aqueduct. The 4-year-old daughter of Yes It’s True improved to 5-for-6 for trainer Linda Rice and owner Stud El Aguila.
8: Winners for Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham to help propel him to his second straight Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award. Elliott topped Willie Mullins by one win.
37,500: Record crowd at Oaklawn Saturday for the Rebel Stakes.
66,610: Attendance for Opening Day at the Cheltenham Festival, second best ever and up from 66,019 last year.
70,684: Sold-out attendance figure for Friday’s final day of Cheltenham.
262,637: Total attendance for the four days at Cheltenham, a record
Quote of the Week
“The credit has to go to the owner, Jeff Nielsen. I didn’t want to run the horse today. I wanted to run in a grass race and Jeff said, ‘No, no, let’s give it another shot.’ So if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be standing here today.”
Trainer Phil Schoenthal after winning the $100,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park Saturday with Everest Stables’ V. I. P. Code
The Best of The Saturday Special
We wrote: Fair Grounds. Race 3. 3:03. Silla Manila comes off freshening for Tom Proctor in 5 1/2-furlong turf maiden. Daughter of Majesticperfection finished a good fourth in similar spot on yielding ground last September at Kentucky Downs. Lynah Rink and firster Sirenusa should also factor.
Sirenusa factored in her debut, tracking the speed early and turning in game performance to win by three quarters of a length over Lynah Rink and Silla Manila. Trained by Joe Sharp, the 3-year-old daughter of Tiznow paid $10.20. The $1 trifecta with the three we mentioned paid $37.55.
We wrote: Laurel. Race 7. 4:10. Jose Corrales said he felt like Bob Baffert after saddling Something Awesome to victory in the snow during the Winter Carnival last month. He looks to do an impersonation of some other Hall of Famers when he tries to stretch out some of Awesome Again from 7 furlongs to 9 furlongs in the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial.
No snow this time but another victory for Something Awesome. The 7-year-old Ontario-bred gelding won by 2 1/4 lengths, returned $6.60 and gave Corrales a moment of pride with his mother on hand at the races.
The Worst of The Saturday Special
We wrote: Aqueduct. Race 6. 3:54. Irish Creed. It’s St. Patrick’s Day isn’t it?
The fact Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day didn’t help Irish Creed, who finished seventh of eight in state-bred maiden as the 2-1 favorite. No more hunch plays.
We wrote: Turfway. Race 12. 7:07. Don’t dash off just yet for a 3-way at Skyline; finale is 6-furlong maiden for 3-year-old fillies. Alter Issues should win for Mike Maker and Three Diamonds Farm.
Hopefully you checked out, went to Skyline, tuned into the NCAA tournament. Alter Issues beat only four of her opponents at 8-5.
Foal Patrol Kids!
From the National Museum of Racing:
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will play host to a special family-friendly event in celebration of Foal Patrol Thursday, April 5 from 10 a.m. to noon. The event is free to attend and everyone will receive a complimentary copy of the Museum’s new Foal Patrol Coloring Book, which features artwork by Sharon Crute.
In addition to the unveiling of the Foal Patrol Coloring Book, there will be various fun and educational activities for children, including interactive opportunities to explore the Museum’s Foal Patrol website via iPads and high-definition televisions in the Museum lobby.
There will also be complimentary food and drink and giveaways. All guests in attendance are also encouraged to explore the Museum and its many exhibits, including the Hall of Fame.
“We hope families join us at the Museum to learn more about Foal Patrol and all of its entertaining and educational aspects,” said Cathy Marino, director of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. “The Museum has been thrilled to work with a great artist in Sharon Crute in developing the Foal Patrol Coloring Book and we’re excited to share it with everyone. This promises to be a fun event and we look forward to showing off all of the wonderful things both the Museum and Foal Patrol offer.”