Oaklawn Barn Notes Feb. 20

Feb. 21, 2013

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

All Or Nothing Derby Shot Likely for Heaven’s Runway

An unexpected entry, a rolling thunderstorm and a wet track combined to give Heaven’s Runway a surprising third-place finish behind Super Ninety Nine in Monday’s Southwest Stakes (G3), but those unique circumstances are tempering any Derby Fever among his connections. The 3-year-old colt will likely make an all-or-nothing play to get into the Kentucky Derby (G1) by racing next in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn April 13.

With a new points system in place to gain entry into an oversubscribed Kentucky Derby, by holding on for the show spot at nearly 60-1 in Monday’s race Heaven’s Runway managed to make only a small blip on the radar screen. The three points he earned for owners Dr. K.K. Jayaraman and his wife Dr. Devi Jayaraman and trainer Joe Martin won’t help much in May. But rather than chase points in a race like the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) here next month, the team will rest up and aim for the season finale in April.

“The Doc seems to be really planning on going straight to the Arkansas Derby,” said Martin Wednesday morning. “I know he would need points, but right now he seems pretty convinced. We’d have to win the Arkansas Derby, I know, but Doc seems pretty sure this is what he wants to do.”

Jayaraman is best known for campaigning Summer Bird to a championship season in 2009 with wins in the Belmont Stakes (G1), Travers (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Famously demanding of his trainers, he has hired and fired dozens of conditioners in 25-plus years in racing – including himself, he often adds with a chuckle. Martin credited Jayaraman for entering Heaven’s Runway at the last minute despite three previous disappointing races on natural dirt. His last win came in the Fitz Dixon Memorial Juvenile on a synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs last September.

“He’s doing good and we’re so happy with the way he ran [Monday],” said Martin. “It’s always great to run like that and show up at big odds. This colt, when he won the Presque Isle race, he was a big price (16-1) and I won that race last year with another horse (Big Wednesday, 22-1) also at a big price.  So I know strange things can happen in races like that. And that mud can change a lot of stuff.”

Other thoughts on the Southwest:

Trainer Steve Hobby, Big Lute, 7th: “He’s tired. He made those two runs at him and it took a lot of him. He did everything professionally though. We’ll give him the chance to tell us what’s next.”

Trainer Tim Ice, Brown Almighty, 8th: “That was our last race on dirt. He’s trained really well on the dirt, but he was just climbing Monday. We could blame the track, but the owners and I don’t like excuses. He’s already proven himself on the turf, so hopefully we’ll have a really nice turf horse this year. His next race will actually be the OBS Sales Stakes on the Polytrack (March 11), but then we’ll nominate to all the big turf stakes.”

Trainer Danele Durham, Texas Bling, 9th: “God Bless him, he never even ran hard enough to get a work out of it. He’s doing great. We’ll send him back to track tomorrow and get ready for the Rebel. You hate to blame the track because they all had to run over it, but our horse just didn’t handle it. Kudos to the winner.”

Trainer Lynn Whiting, Officer Alex, 10th: “He should be alright. He took too long in one place. We’ll shorten him up and look for a little different competition.”

Borel Picks Up Ride on Top Filly Rose To Gold

Jockey Calvin Borel, sitting on the brink of the 5,000-win milestone, will be riding Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Fantasy Stakes (G3) prospect Rose to Gold when she races next in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn March 9.

Owned by Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti, Rose to Gold is coming off a runner-up performance in the Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 9 in what was her first start of the year and her first race since winning the Delta Princess Stakes (G3) in December. Trainer Sal Santoro confirmed Wednesday morning Borel would pick up the mount, replacing three South Florida-based jockeys who had been aboard in her previous five starts.

“We wanted to get a jockey that was familiar with the local scene and with the national scene,” said Santoro. “Our goal is to keep going from the Honeybee to the Fantasy and hopefully that gets us to Churchill Downs. Borel is the jockey to have if your goal is to win big races in these places.”

Borel is best known for his three Kentucky Derby (G1) wins in four years from 2007-2010 and was the regular jockey on 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, riding her to wins in the Fantasy, Kentucky Oaks and the Preakness Stakes (G1) that spring. That year he became the most recent of seven jockeys to win the Oaks and the Derby in the same year, following Rachel Alexandra’s win the next day with a 50-1 upset on Mine That Bird.

Santoro said Rose to Gold, a daughter of Friends Lake, will likely use “two-minute licks” to stay on edge for the Honeybee, where she is expected to get a rematch with Martha Washington winner Sister Ginger.

“She doesn’t need to do much,” said Santoro. “She definitely wants to be out there on the track, but she got a lot out of her race and we need to keep our eye on the whole series. The distances get longer here too, and that’s part of our thinking in how we train her over the next few months.”

Borel broke his wrist two days before the Oaklawn meet opened last month. He returned to riding Saturday and has missed with his five mounts so far in his quest to become the 25th jockey to win 5,000 races. If and when the Louisiana native gets that win, commemorative trading cards will be given out to all fans in attendance. He has one mount scheduled for Thursday.

Gut Feeling Kept Cheery From Trying Spring Fever – Regroups for Carousel

American Beauty Stakes winner Cheery was a healthy scratch from Sunday’s Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn when trainer Al Stall Jr. didn’t want to start from the inside post in the 5 ½-furlong sprint contest.

“He told me his gut feeling was telling him not to do it,” said assistant trainer Glen Brookfield of the call from Stall Sunday morning. “It was one of those things where it just didn’t feel right with the big field and the shorter distance.”

Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider Cheery was the 2-1 favorite on the strength of a comfortable 1 ½-length win going six furlongs in the American Beauty here last month. The Distorted Humor homebred has won four of her last five starts and finished first or second in her last seven races. While Sunday’s attempt was scuttled, Cheery’s goal remains the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day and Oaklawn’s $100,000 Carousel Stakes April 11 will be the path to get there.

“That’s the goal – the Humana,” said Brookfield. “That race at the end of the meet suits her just as well.”

Brookfield added Apropros, another blue-blooded distaff sprinter for Claiborne and Dilschneider, is close to making her 2013 debut. An open-length winner of a maiden race at Keeneland in October, the 4-year-old is the full sister to Carve, who moved his record to 2-for-2 with a 3-year-old allowance win Saturday. Her equine uncle is Blame, the winner of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and the only horse to ever defeat the great Zenyatta.

“I’m sure you’ll be writing about her soon,” said Brookfield. Apropros breezed a half-mile Monday morning in 49 seconds. “She’s a stone, cold sprinter but she’s just about ready to go.”

 

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