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Ward's Derby past (and future?)
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - With memories of a Kentucky Derby past and hopes of a Kentucky Derby future dancing in his head, trainer John Ward put Monarchos and Booklet through workouts on a glorious Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park.
Booklet, a recent addition to the barn who is being pointed to Saturday's $100,000 Holy Bull Stakes, went five furlongs in 1:01.20, handily. Following the second track renovation break, Monarchos, last year's Kentucky Derby winner, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 under regular rider Jorge Chavez. Monarchos is being pointed to the Grade 1 Donn Handicap here on Feb. 9.
It was the second workout for Booklet since coming to Ward's barn on New Year's Day. John Oxley, the owner of Monarchos, purchased Booklet, a son of Notebook who has won four of five career starts, from Philip Cohen and Steve Klesaris.
Ward said Booklet worked in company with Dance Note, leaving that horse behind midway through the workout.
"He got a pretty good lead and loafed a little bit," Ward said. "When he saw a horse galloping out in front of him, he got back into the game."
Ward caught Booklet's last eighth in 11.60 seconds and timed him galloping out a mile in 1:44.
"I've really been impressed with his stride and his level of endurance and his understanding of how to sustain pace," Ward said. "For a young horse, he's got a lot of range as far as his ability to go long."
Ward also said that Eibar Coa, who had ridden Booklet to victory in his last two starts, would ride the horse on Saturday. Coa had a commitment to ride the horse for Cohen and Klesaris in the Holy Bull if the horse had remained with them.
"We didn't think it was a good idea to switch trainers, riders, barns all at the same time. So we're gong to honor the commitment to Coa," Ward said.
A short time after Booklet's work, Ward and Oxley watched from the grandstand as Monarchos drilled five furlongs in 1:01.80. Track clockers caught Monarchos in splits of 24.80 and 37.60 seconds and had him galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.20. Ward had Monarchos out seven furlongs in 1:29 and up the mile in 1:44.
Ward said Monarchos, who has not run since finishing a distant third in the Belmont Stakes last June, is scheduled to have three more workouts leading up to the Donn, his first major target of the winter.
"I think we're right on schedule," Ward said. "He had the work out of the gate the other day, he came back and did this nicely and galloped out strongly. As a matter of fact, we might have trouble holding him on the ground."
Ward updated the progress on some of his other handicap horses in his barn. Hero's Tribute, the Peter Pan winner, has just resumed galloping and may be pointed for a grass race.
Holiday Thunder has been suffering from a lung infection, which will delay his comeback until later this spring.
Snow Dance, a winner of three graded stakes, is being pointed to the Grade 3 De La Rose Handicap here on Jan. 25 while Forest Secrets, Ward's Grade 1 winning filly, could go in the Sabin Handicap on Feb. 8.
Duckhorn on comeback trail
Before Monarchos worked out, another good-looking gray came flying through the stretch Saturday morning. Duckhorn, winner of the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup last summer, worked six furlongs in 1:14.
Duckhorn, a 5-year-old son of Not for Love, has not been out since finishing third the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park on July 21. He came out of that race with a chip in his ankle that was surgically removed. According to his trainer, Pat Byrne, Duckhorn has been back in training for seven weeks.
"He's coming to hand fairly quick," Byrne said. "I haven't got anything in mind for him, it's a long year. I hope to get a race into him here before the end of the meet."
Raging Fever works for First Lady
Raging Fever worked a half mile in 47.60 seconds on Saturday in her final major prep for Friday's $100,000 First Lady Handicap.
Raging Fever, the dominant 2-year-old filly in the country in 2000 until her sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, proved she was back on top of her game when she closed out her abbreviated 3-year-old campaign by upsetting Dat You Miz Blue in Aqueduct's Garland of Roses Handicap.
It was her first start in more than seven months.
"I was very pleased with her last race, and more important, she came out of it really well," said trainer Mark Hennig. "She went off easily and finished strong, which is just what I was looking for this morning."
Hennig said he is taking things a race at a time with Raging Fever, who finished second behind Mandy's Gold in the Dame Mysterieuse Stakes here last winter in her only previous start over the track. Mandy's Gold is among the possible starters for the six-furlong First Lady.
John Velazquez, who rode Raging Fever to easy victories in the first two starts of her career, will have the mount again on Friday.
"John rode her as a 2-year-old but then got hurt and lost the mount," said Hennig. "So I wanted to give him the opportunity to get back on her again."
Raging Fever will share highweight of 118 pounds in the Grade 3 First Lady along with Cat Cay.
Two Item Limit back in training
Two Item Limit, who concluded her outstanding 3-year-old season by finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, has returned to training on the farm in Ocala and is expected to rejoin trainer Steve DiMauro at Calder early next month.
Two Item Limit won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and Grade 3 Comely last year, and finished second in the Grade 1 Gazelle and third in the Grade 1 Alabama.
"We haven't picked out anything for her first start, although she's undefeated at Aqueduct, so it's a good chance we'll look for something there in the spring," said DiMauro.
"Our obvious long-term goal is to get back to and win the Distaff this year."
* Maybry's Boy, winner of the Spectacular Bid Stakes here on opening day, worked a half-mile in 50 seconds on Saturday. He remains on target for the Hutcheson Stakes here on Feb. 2.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch