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Ministers Wild Cat primed for big race
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Across town from Santa Anita, trainers such as Neil Drysdale and Bobby Frankel train year-round at Hollywood Park, which at this time of year is a tranquil facility, without the daily maelstrom of hundreds of morning workouts and afternoon racing.
It is in this atmosphere that Drysdale's 3-year-old colt Ministers Wild Cat has developed this winter. He has raced four times since making his debut on Santa Anita's opening day Dec. 26, and has two victories and two second-place finishes, most recently a runner-up effort behind Ocean Terrace in the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 8.
Ministers Wild Cat will face his toughest test to date on Saturday, when he meets Ocean Terrace, Atswhatimtalknbout, Buddy Gil, and a trio of runners trained by Bob Baffert in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby. But Ministers Wild Cat appears to be coming up to a peak performance. While galloping Thursday morning at Hollywood Park, he had his neck bowed elegantly, as if demanding that exercise rider Marcelino Olguin let him do more.
"I think he's going to be very competitive in this race," Drysdale said. "He's been training very forwardly."
He also is adding blinkers, a piece of equipment Drysdale has considered for Ministers Wild Cat for his last couple of races. However, horses are not permitted to make a blinker change if they have won their most recent start, so Drysdale could not do it until Ministers Wild Cat lost the El Camino Real Derby.
"It's a very strange rule that you can't put blinkers on after a win," Drysdale said. "He's much more focused with blinkers."
Ministers Wild Cat is a bay colt with a small white dot on his forehead. He is a son of Deputy Minister, and is out of the mare Hollywood Wildcat, who won the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1993. Hollywood Wildcat is owned by Irving and Marje Cowan, who kept the mare to breed when she was done racing. She has done quite well. In addition to Ministers Wild Cat, Hollywood Wildcat has produced War Chant, who was second in the 2000 Santa Anita Derby and then won that year's Breeders' Cup Mile.
Outta Here Derby-bound?
Outta Here, who finished fourth in Saturday's 1 1/4-mile United Arab Emirates Derby, might make his next start in the Kentucky Derby, according to Bill Currin, who trains and co-owns the colt.
"He's coming home on Sunday. Everything will depend on how we feel after we look at him," Currin said Thursday morning at Hollywood Park. "I think the Lone Star Derby" - which is May 10 - "might be the more sensible place to go. But if we go to the Kentucky Derby, we'll be one of the few with a mile-and-a-quarter prep race."
Currin has another rooting interest in this year's Kentucky Derby chase. He owns and trains Vermeil, a 2-year-old colt by Touch Gold who is a full brother to Region of Merit, the Tampa Bay Derby winner.
Frankel spreads out his talent
Medaglia d'Oro left town on Wednesday for Saturday's Oaklawn Handicap. And in the next week, trainer Bobby Frankel will be sending a number of horses to Aqueduct and Keeneland for big races.
Empire Maker, who will run next in the Wood Memorial, and Peace Rules, who will run next in the Blue Grass Stakes - both on April 12 - are scheduled to work at Hollywood Park on Sunday morning. Empire Maker leaves for New York on Monday night. Peace Rules travels on Wednesday.
Joining Empire Maker in New York will be Aldebaran, who will run in that day's Carter Handicap, and Special Rate, who will run in the Bay Shore Stakes, Frankel said.
A larger group is going to Kentucky for stakes. You will run in Wednesday's Madison Stakes, Sea of Showers is going to the Jenny Wiley, and both Karsavina and Lilac Queen will run in the Bewitch.
Frankel also is taking the stakes-winning mare Nasty Storm to Kentucky. He obtained Nasty Storm after Frank Stronach purchased her at a sale in November. She may wait for the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 3, Kentucky Derby Day, Frankel said.
On Thursday, Nasty Storm worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds with jockey Patrick Valenzuela up.
* Also working for Frankel at Hollywood Park on Thursday was the highly regarded South American mare Miss Terrible, who is nearing her first start in this country. She worked six furlongs in 1:15.
McCann's Mojave plans undecided
McCann's Mojave is likely to reappear in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 26 after pushing his unbeaten record to three straight wins in a $66,080 allowance race over a mile on Wednesday.
Trained by Leonard Dorfman, 80, McCann's Mojave ran a mile in 1:35.94, and was one of three horses within a half-length of one another at the finish. McCann's Mojave finished a head in front of Seattlespectacular, who finished a head in front of Blazonry.
Dorfman and co-owner Mike Willman, a television host at Hollywood Park, Del Mar, and Fairplex Park, were at Dorfman's barn on Thursday, discussing plans for the 3-year-old colt.
The obvious choice is the Snow Chief Stakes over 1 1/8 miles for California-breds, but they have not completely ruled out the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19, one of the last prep races for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
Neither Dorfman nor Willman was dreaming of the Kentucky Derby on Thursday morning.
"He doesn't have the seasoning or the experience," Dorfman said. "I think that's the toughest race to win. The field is so big and I think that's because of the egos of some of the owners."
"That's why we're probably running," said Willman, laughing.
Then Willman said, seriously, "The race at Keeneland comes up pretty quick. It would be a longshot. The Snow Chief looks pretty logical."
Wednesday's race was McCann's Mojave's first start against open company and first at a mile. Close to the pace early, he took the lead on the final turn under Kent Desormeaux and pulled clear by a half-length at the eighth pole, but faced a late threat from Seattlespectacular.
"I thought he ran well, considering it was first time around two turns," Dorfman said.
Watch for Night Life in Kilroe
Night Life will be overlooked in Sunday's $150,000 Arcadia Handicap after a sixth-place finish in the $400,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on March 1, but trainer Kristin Mulhall is optimistic he can improve with better luck.
Mulhall was frustrated with Night Life's trip in the 11-runner Kilroe, stuck in traffic on the final turn of the one-mile turf race. Night Life had no clear path until the final furlong when the race was essentially over.
He finished 3 3/4 lengths behind Redattore, but only three-quarters of a length behind third-place finisher Decarchy. "He was left with too much to do," Mulhall said.
The Arcadia distance of 1 1/8 miles on turf is a concern to Mulhall, who considers Night Life to be best at a mile. In the past, however, Night Life has run well at longer distances. In 2000 in France, he won an allowance races over 1 3/16 and 1 5/16 miles on turf.
"In his works, when you work him farther, he's lazier," she said. "I think he's a great miler, but he might go farther."
Even though the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap carries a smaller purse than the Kilroe, it is far from an easy spot. Ballingarry, the winner of the Canadian International last September, makes his 4-year-old debut against a field expected to include Blue Steller, Century City, Decarchy, Gondolieri, Mananan McLir, Passinetti, and Sunday Break.
- additional reporting by Steve Andersen