Updated on 09/17/2011 11:13AM

O'Connell makes rare road trip to Kentucky


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kathleen O'Connell has earned a terrific reputation in her nearly 20 years as a Thoroughbred horse trainer. After starting out in Detroit, O'Connell has become a longtime fixture on the Florida circuit, where she has her 65-horse stable split between Calder and Tampa Bay Downs.

Every so often, O'Connell will ship a horse north to run in a major race. One such memorable occasion came during the 1996 fall meet at Keeneland, when O'Connell ran her budding star Blazing Sword in the Breeders' Futurity.

"Got beat half a length by Boston Harbor," she recalled Thursday.

That race portended wonderful things for the top two finishers. Boston Harbor proceeded to win a divisional Eclipse championship that fall before his racing career was shortened by injury. Meanwhile, O'Connell developed Blazing Sword into an extremely useful horse who retired with earnings of more than $1.2 million.

O'Connell is hoping more good things evolve from her latest foray into Keeneland, which happens to be this weekend. Saturday, O'Connell will saddle Ivanavinalot as a major contender in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, a race that "will determine how we map out the rest of the year for the filly," she said.

O'Connell believes a big effort in the Ashland is well within Ivanavinalot's scope.

"I think a lot of it depends on how the race unfolds," said O'Connell. "My filly has a lot of speed but doesn't have to be in front. Probably the most important thing is how everything shakes out in the early running."

Ivanavinalot, to be ridden by Mark Guidry, has 6 wins and 2 seconds from 9 starts. In her latest start, she won the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream for owner-breeder Gilbert Campbell.

"This is a small but very select field she's a part of," said O'Connell. "It's definitely her toughest venture, but she's coming into the race great and hopefully she'll handle herself well."

Lukas: Watch out

D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Quick Draw for longtime client Overbrook Farm for the $100,000 Lafayette Stakes, a seven-furlong race that serves as the Sunday feature, but Lukas says he hasn't even thought about the Kentucky Derby for the colt.

But don't count Lukas out of the Derby yet. Although it may seem that he has no viable candidate for the May 3 Derby, he strongly hinted Thursday at his Churchill Downs barn that he might know some things that very few other people do.

"We're hoping to have something soon," he said with a wink. "We're under everybody's radar screen right now, but watch out."

The most logical inference is that Lukas may soon have a privately purchased, ready-made Derby contender in his barn, although he declined to further discuss the issue. Lukas has won the Derby four times and has had at least one starter in 21 of the past 22 runnings.

Meanwhile, Quick Draw, with Pat Day to ride, figures as one of the favorites for the Grade 3 Lafayette. Other 3-year-olds likely to run include Posse, Roll Hennessy Roll, Seek Gold, and Whywhywhy.

Day to ride Offlee Wild

At least six are expected for the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, to be run here April 12.

The likely favorites for the Grade 1 Blue Grass are Peace Rules and Badge of Silver, while their opposition is expected to include Brancusi, Offlee Wild, Crowned Dancer, and Lots of Sizzle. The connections of Region of Merit and Lion Tamer also are seriously considering the 1 1/8-mile race.

Doc Danner, agent for Pat Day, said Thursday that he has committed to trainer T.V. Smith to ride Offlee Wild in the Blue Grass. Day had a chance to ride Eugene's Third Son in the Arkansas Derby the same day, but now Shane Sellers will get that mount.

Awesome Humor could return work

Awesome Humor, who was one of the top 2-year-old fillies of last year, winning all four of her starts, recently had her first three-furlong breeze since recovering from surgery to remove an ankle chip.

"She could be ready to run by mid-May," said trainer Elliott Walden.

Awesome Humor recently arrived at Churchill Downs from Payson Park in south Florida. Walden's 68-horse stable is split between Churchill and Keeneland.

Walden said he expects to have a "quiet meet" at Keeneland this spring, but because of horses such as Awesome Humor and his newest star, Ipi Tombe, he cannot be blamed for being excited about the near future.

Ipi Tombe, the Zimbabwe-bred mare who was spectacular in defeating males last weekend in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free, is scheduled to arrive Tuesday at Churchill. A three-quarter interest in Ipi Tombe was purchased before the Dubai race by WinStar Farm and Team Valor. The Dubai Duty Free marked the 5-year-old Ipi Tombe's 11th win from 13 career starts. The Aug. 16 Arlington Million probably will be the primary summer goal, said Walden.

- If the landscape at Keeneland seems a little more barren than in previous years, well, it is. Hundreds of trees on the Keeneland grounds were lost or badly damaged by the devastating ice storm that struck the Lexington area in February. Tree lines along many of the scenic back routes that lead to Keeneland incurred similar damage, including along Old Frankfort Pike, a well-traveled route from Louisville.

- The Equine Drug Council of the Kentucky Racing Commission has scheduled a meeting for April 15 to address ongoing concerns about parameters of usage of legal race-day medications. The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Eastern at the commission offices at the Kentucky Horse Park. It is open to the public.