05/07/2012 1:41PM

Trip Notes: Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Kentucky Oaks, and more

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Churchill Downs
La Troienne Stakes (race 6)

Juanita, already a Grade 2 , used her speed she stalked heavy favorite Plum Pretty, moved up nicely to challenge that rival into the lane, really had no trouble going on past and drew clear. With Havre de Grace gone, Royal Delta still recuperating from Dubai and having beaten nice rivals here there’s no reason she shouldn’t try deeper waters. St. John’s River, 2nd in the Grade 1 Ky. Oaks here a year ago to Plum Pretty and making her first start since finishing a dull 5th in the Grade 1 Alabama last Aug. 20, bided her time and put in a steady rally. She never really was a threat to the winner but the effort was a good one and a nice promise of things to come. Plum Pretty, the overwhelming favorite off her big Grade 1 Apple Blossom win, set the pace but had little fight when the real racing began. Could be the April 13 Apple Blossom took more out of her than first thought or the turnaround was a bit quick for her. Absinthe Minded stalked the pace but never mustered a run.
 

Churchill Downs
Eight Belles Stakes (race 7)

Contested had an awkward start but recovered nicely, moved up easily to stalk pacesetter Good Deed, had no trouble surging past that rival into the lane and drew clear to win easily, setting a stakes record. With no sign of My Miss Aurelia, and with Princess Arabella going to the breeding shed, this girl can make an immediate impact. Good Deed broke smartly, went right out to a clear lead, set fast fraction, was no match for the winner but stayed on nicely to be much the best of the rest. Always Here Too was last to the far turn and finished well though she was no factor.

Churchill Downs
Alysheba Stakes (race 9)

Successful Dan, gone for over 16 months before posting a nice comeback sprint win last month, showed he’s as good as ever, dismantling a good field and setting a track record while winning his 5th straight. He lagged back early, swung wide into the lane and powered home to get past a stubborn Fort Larned. Fort Larned stalked the pace, moved nicely to the lead into the lane, doggedly kept to his task but couldn’t quite fend off the winner while much the best of the rest. Mucho Macho Man, favored off a monster win in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, stalked the pace, loomed ominously into the lane but died on his run. Nates Mineshaft, who won the Grade 2 New Orleans at Fair Grounds with a 113 Beyer, chased pacesetter Plutonium but was done by the top of the lane.

Churchill Downs
American Turf (race 10)

The race was delayed due to a severe storm. After the delay, Silver Max may have stamped himself the top 3-year-old turfer around. He was initially 2nd behind Blueskiesnrainbows but soon took command, set brisk splits while opening up, and was never really appeared in any danger the rest of the way. Travel Advisory lagged far back early and finished strongly, though he was never really on the winner’s radar. Howe Great, at one time considered a potential Ky. Derby horse, sat back early after smacking the gate at the break, bided his time and finished well but wasn’t really a danger. Finnegans Wake was last much of the way and finished strongly. Blueskiesnrainbows had the initial lead but then stalked the eventual winner before giving way. Star Channel was well back when he swerved out on the far turn, losing his rider.

Churchill Downs
Kentucky Oaks (race 11)

Believe You Can had been flourishing here all week and it showed as she put up a gutty performance to help make history as her rider Rosie Napravnik became the first female jockey to win the Oaks. Believe You Can, coming off a game win in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, dogged pacesetter Broadway’s Alibi from the start, moved up to challenge that rival at the quarter pole, finally got the better of her in the final yards and edged away. Broadway’s Alibi, who came with distance concerns, put those worries to rest with a super performance as she set the pace under pressure, battled back gamely when hooked by the winner turning for home and only succumbed in the final yards. Surely the wet track helped her. Grace Hall stalked a few lengths off the pace, moved up nicely turning for home seemingly poised to pounce but never really punched it in. Summer Applause sat back and finished with good energy but was never really a threat. On Fire Baby stalked the pace inside, like Grace Hall seemed poised to pounce on the leaders turning for home but never made a move. Eden’s Moon broke poorly, moved up to be seemingly in a good spot but then had to check sharply going into the first turn and gave way.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Belmont Park
Beaugay Stakes (race 7)

Winter Memories made her first start of the year and looked good as ever, dominating her opposition. Now 4 for 4 here she sat 4th early, cut her deficit in just a couple strides down the backstretch, again was taken in hand, waited to midstretch and showed her amazing top gear to blast past her rivals and win going away. Gitchee Goomie stalked the pace, made a nice run to the lead in midstretch but was no match for the winner. English raider Principal Role was last early, still last into the lane and finished well. Federation set a comfortable pace but weakened once headed.

Belmont Park
Fort Marcy Stakes (race 9)

Boisterous stalked the early pace, pulled back a bit going to the backstretch, bided his time, made a smart wide run on the turn, moved up to challenge Desert Blanc in the lane and got the better of that foe in the final half-furlong. Desert Blanc is a scary new shooter in the division as the Group 3-placed French raider sat back, made a strong run to grab the lead in midstretch but couldn’t quite finish with the winner while well clear of the rest. Top Surprize, making his first start since finishing 3rd in a stakes here last October, was to the top of the lane and made steady headway though he was never a threat to the top 2.

Churchill Downs
Twin Spires Turf Sprint (race 6)

Great Attack bided his time behind fast splits, swung out into the lane and blasted home in the final furlong to roar past Bridgetown. Bridgetown, making his first start since last August, set hot splits while on the inside and being hounded by a couple rivals, got rid of them into the lane, spurted clear as if he would win but then had no answer for the winner’s charge. Cactus Son was well back early and came with a nice run. Great Mills pressed the pace from the start, couldn’t keep up with Bridgetown when that foe sent for home but kept on steadily.

Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs Stakes (race 7)

Shackleford, winner of last year’s Preakness, and Amazombie, winner of last year’s Grade 1 BC Sprint and champion sprinter, put in a wonderful display with the former getting the hard-earned decision. Shackleford pressed the pace of Will’s Wildcat and Amazombie, moved up between those 2 on the far turn, engaged in a long hard battle with Amazombie and got the better of that foe edging away in the final yards. Amazombie did nothing wrong in defeat. He dogged Will’s Wildcat from the start while staying off the rail and in the clear. It seemed his rider Mike Smith allowed room for Shackleford to come up between he and the tiring Will’s Wildcat, maybe giving Amazombie a target. He went right after Shackleford, battled hard but just couldn’t quite get past. Gantry chased the pace, kept on well but could make no impact in what was basically a 2-horse race. Smiling Tiger lagged back, pitched wide on the turn into the lane and tried to make a run but came up empty. This was a tough for his first start since last August.

Churchill Downs
Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (race 8)

Hungry Island showed she has top-class potential with a smart win. The filly bided her time early while staying wide (overnight rains probably made the inside lanes a bit softer than the outside ones), came with a nice wide run into the lane and powered home to win going away. And it didn’t hurt when key contender Aruna scratched. Tapitsfly stalked the pace of Daisy Devine while staying outside, moved up smartly to challenge, couldn’t quite finish with the winner but stayed on well. La Reinne Lionne was just behind the winner early, swung wide on the turn to launch her run, couldn’t accelerate as quickly but got going late to finish well. The 2 fastest finishers were widest of all. Marketing Mix moved up inside Daisy Devine early to press that foe through solid splits, came off the rail and moved up to that foe’s outside but then appeared to bobble turning for home, moved to the inside (worst part of the course) and couldn’t threaten.

Churchill Downs
Humana Distaff Stakes (race 9)

Groupie Doll left no doubt that right now she’s the queen of the distaff sprint set. Coming off a super win in the Grade 1 Vinery Madison at Keeneland (on synthetic) she was even better here on dirt, blasting her rivals and setting a track record. She showed good speed to come out and dog pacesetter Mildly Offensive from the start, took over under her own power going to the far turn and just ran off and hid from there as she .62 seconds faster than male Shackleford did winning the Churchill Downs earlier. Musical Romance, who won the BC F&M Sprint here in the fall on her way to being named distaff sprint champ ran superbly. She bided her time, came with a nice run from between horses to go after the winner and stayed on well to be much the best of the rest. Magical Feeling wasn’t far off the early lead while saving ground and kept to her task decently though she was never a threat. Switch was making her first start since running second to Musical Romance in the Breeders’ Cup, but the layoff proved too much as she stalked the pace but never mustered a run. Sassy Image, the defending champ but who hadn’t run since last August, was never a factor.

Churchill Downs
Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (race 10)

Great ride by Joe Bravo to steal this with speedster Little Mike. Despite ample other speed in the race, including defending champ Get Stormy and Turbo Compressor, Little Mike broke alertly from the rail and immediately grabbed the lead. Cleverly, Bravo let him drift right, ending up 4 or 5 lanes off the rail, not only pinning his rivals behind him but getting on a firmer part of the course. From there he dictated tempo, shot clear into the lane and had more than enough to keep the closers at bay. Slim Shadey bided his time and finished well along the rail, though he never really scared the winner. Brilliant Speed set midpack while staying quite wide throughout, had to steady on the far turn which cost him position, but got going again and finished nicely between horses.

Churchill Downs
Kentucky Derby (race 11)

Validation for the California horses as they go 1-2-5-6-8. I’ll Have Another got a dream trip and beautiful ride from Mario Gutierrez. From a tough post (19) he was able to get over to the 2 path by the clubhouse turn to avoid getting hung out to dry. He relaxed perfectly while Bodemeister set sizzling splits, steadily advanced without being asked, doggedly went after Bodemeister in the lane and reeled in that tiring runner. Bodemeister almost smashed the longstanding burden of no horse unraced at 2 winning the Derby since Apollo in 1882. He came out smoking, outrunning the other speed to set dizzying splits, still looked the winner turning for home when he opened up a sizeable lead but tired in the final furlong and couldn’t fend off the winner. Dullahan sat back, swung wide on the turn, got pushed out wider into the lane but finished well. Went the Day Well was far back early after significant traffic issues, came very wide on the far turn and into the lane and finished strongly. Creative Cause was midpack, made a threatening move on the turn but couldn’t keep pace in the lane. Liaison was outside the winner much of the way, came under a ride on the far turn, stayed on well but just wasn’t good enough. Union Rags got pinched at the start to be far back, had more trouble going to the far turn when steadying sharply, but he was still miles out of it. He put in a strong rally after that that brutal trip, though he may well be overrated. Hansen, very washy pre-race, was eager to go, couldn’t keep up with the hot pace and faltered in the lane. Gemologist sat a few lengths off the hot pace but gave way badly, as did Take Charge Indy (who suffered an ankle chip) and Irish invader Daddy Long Legs.

Hollywood Park
Senorita Stakes (race 5)

A terrific display by Bobina turned to tragedy. The filly, unbeaten in 2 starts prior, sat last early here, remained there to the far turn, swung out for the stretch drive, closed furiously, bumped very late with My Gi Gi, still got the narrow win but broke down just past the wire. Sadly, she had to be euthanized. My Gi Gi stalked the pace, surged to the lead in midstretch, battled with the winner late, bumped with that foe (stewards rules bumping was mutual) and just missed. Byrama sat back, started to make a move into the lane, had to steady to lose her momentum but got going again and finished strongly but steadied again late. Graser, the favorite, stalked the pace, got shuffled back in the lane and was unable to recover.

Hollywood Park
Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (race 10)

Morning controlled the race start to finish. He went right to the lead, set solid splits and gamely kept the others at bay in his first start for trainer John Shirreffs and first in California. Prayer for Relief was just behind the winner early, pulled back a bit to sit 3rd, but came at him again, was cutting into the margin late but just couldn’t quite get there while well clear of the others. Kettle Corn, making his first start since winning the Grade 3 Native Diver over this track Dec. 3, sat back and finished well, signaling he could be a danger in the California. Awesome Gem, the old warrior who went favored, sat midpack but then gave way in an unusually dull run.