How other SoCal trainers see the Derby

Here’s how some of the trainers based at Hollywood Park see Saturday’s 135th running of the Kentucky Derby, courtesy of Hollypark publicity man Steve Schuelein:

Jesse Mendoza — “I’ve got to go for (trainer Jeff) Mullins’s horse (I Want Revenge). He was so impressive in his last race, getting left at the gate and overcoming trouble to win.”

Paul Aguirre — “There are so many X-factors, but I like Pioneerof the Nile. Any time a horse can change his style as often as he has and still win, he has to be an outstanding horse.”

John Sadler — “Emotionally, I’m rooting for Papa Clem. It’s bigger than (trainer) Gary Stute. It’s Clement Hirsch (the late icon after whom the horse was named by his son and owner, Bo), Warren Stute, Mel Stute and California racing. I think all the California horses — Papa Clem, Pioneerof the Nile, Chocolate Candy and Mr. Hot Stuff — will run well. It’s a strong group. Chocolate Candy, owned by Jenny Craig: what a story that would make.”

Mark Glatt — “You’ve got to like Mullins’s horse (I Want Revenge).”

Barry Abrams — “Dunkirk. He’s a fresh, up-and-coming horse, and has got the right style for this race.”

Steve Knapp — “I like Baffert’s horse (Pioneerof the Nile). He’s done nothing wrong, and Baffert has won the race three times before.”

Mike Harrington — “I Want Revenge.”

Julio Canani — “It’s going to be a long shot. Bet the field.”

David Hofmans — “I Want Revenge.”

Eric Guillot — “Baffert’s horse is a proven commodity, but I’d like to see Mullins’ horse win.”


Papa Clem is worth watching in Derby

Hey, don’t ignore Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby … the son of Smart Strike is 20-1 on the morning line, which shocks trainer Gary Stute.
He’s right … there are some very good reasons why the colt should not be 20-1, and we cover them in Friday’s column. I had a long telephone conversation with Gary on Wednesday and he’s upbeat going into the race.

We’ll also let you know how his father, Mel Stute, is going to bet the race. He’s looking to hit it big quickly!! Make sure you pick up the paper tomorrow and check it out.


Kentucky Derby betting propositions

Check these out, courtesy of … I mean, the Kentucky Derby is getting to be like the Super Bowl. You can bet on just about anything!!!

Will any Horse win the 2009 Triple Crown?

Yes +600

No -1100

2009 Kentucky Derby vs. Ricky Hatton/Manny Pacquiao – 135th Kentucky Derby Winning Margin vs. Number of Knockdowns in the Fight

135th Kentucky Derby Winning Margin -3 (+170)

Number of Knockdowns Pacquiao/Hatton +3 (-250)

Will NBC best its previous Kentucky Derby Nielsen rating high of 9.3 achieved in 2001 with its presentation of the 135th Kentucky Derby?

Yes +155

No -225

How many different horses will race caller Tom Durkin (NBC) call as the race leader?

Over/Under 5

How long will it take LeAnn Rimes to sing the national anthem at the 135th Kentucky Derby?

Over/Under 1 minute and 54 seconds (1:54)

2009 Kentucky Derby – What color will Leann Rimes hat be at the 135th Kentucky Derby?

Blue 5/6

White 5/2

Grey 4/1

Red 6/1

Black 8/1

Purple 10/1

Any Other Color 3/1

How long will the it take to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” at the 135th Kentucky Derby?

Over/Under 2 minutes 17 seconds (2:17)

Will the winner of the 135th Kentucky Derby be bred in Kentucky?

Yes -2500

No +1250

Will the crowd attendance exceed that of the 157,770 of 2008?

Yes +125

No -165

How many lengths will the winner of the 135th Kentucky Derby win by?

More than 2 lengths 6/5

2 lengths 7/1

Less than 2 lengths 1/1

Will a horse win the 135th Kentucky Derby wire to wire?

Yes (Horse Wins 135th Kentucky Derby Wire to Wire) +550

No (Horse Wins 135th Kentucky Derby Wire to Wire) -1100

Who will NBC Horse Racing Analyst Gary Stevens pick to win the 135th Kentucky Derby?




Any Other Horse 2/1

Odds to finish LAST in the 135th Kentucky Derby





















Rachel Alexandra is some kind of filly

The superlatives keep pouring in for 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra, the 3-5 morning-line favorite in Friday’s $500,000 Kentucky Oaks — the filly version of the Kentucky Derby.

Here’s what D. Wayne Lukas had to say about the Oaks drawing only eight fillies:

“Two words: Rachel Alexandra. I think she’s the strongest favorite since Winning Colors’ year (1988) if she had raced in the Oaks.”

Winning Colors was trained by Lukas and became only the third filly to win the Kentucky Derby. She’s also the last filly to do it.

He was asked why he’s running three fillies in the race if he thinks Rachel Alexandra is such a strong favorite.

“If you could guarantee me second place right now I’d be a happy man,” he said.

Lukas, who’s won the Oaks four times, will saddle a trio of long shots this year — Be Fair, Stone Legacy and Tweeter.

Neal McLaughlin, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s brother and assistant trainer, had this to say about Rachel Alexandra:

“She’s an amazing filly. You hear a lot about fillies taking on the boys in the Derby. This filly is probably that caliber,” he said. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us, but if we have our best day and she doesn’t, who knows? If we both have our best days, we might be in trouble.”

The McLaughlins are running Justwhistledixie, the 7-2 second choice who has won five consecutive races.


Dubai horses not my cup of tea

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who heads up the Godolphin Stables, has this dream of winning the Kentucky Derby by preparing his colts in Dubai and then traveling to the States before the race. He’s failed in four previous attempts and has two chances this year — Regal Ransom and Desert Party. I know some experts who give both colts a big chance Saturday, but I just can’t see it. I think he’ll be 0 for 5 after this weekend because it’s just too taxing on a young horse to travel this far and then have to beat 19 others in a grueling 1 1/4-mile race.

Read the Tuesday report on Sheikh Mohammed’s two colts released by the Churchill Downs publicity folks and then participate in our poll and let us know what you think.

DESERT PARTY/REGAL RANSOM – Shortly before dawn and well before rain arrived, trainer Saeed bin Suroor sent the two Godolphin colts out to gallop a mile and a quarter.

Bin Suroor said the colts are happy, healthy and in good form.

After starting their careers in the United States last summer, the colts were sent to Dubai for the winter racing season. Desert Party beat Regal Ransom in the first two of the preps for the $2 million U.A.E. Derby, but Regal Ransom won the main event by a half-length.

“One week before the race, I told the boys in the stable “Listen, there might be a surprise in the UAE. Derby,’ ” bin Suroor said. “I was right.

“At the same time, Desert Party, who is always happy and does everything you ask him in a professional way, wasn’t really happy when I saddled him for the race. He was really quiet before the race. I thought that wasn’t his day. I checked him for two days after the race and he was very quiet, but later it seemed that he was coming back really good to his form. Now he’s really a different animal.”

Bin Suroor said his colts have flourished in the month since their most recent race.

“When they were in Dubai they improved all the time, but since the last race they look much better than ever,” bin Suroor said. “We come here with some confidence. We’re looking to see our horses run a big race.”

This is the fifth time that Godolphin – the racing operation headed by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum – sent horses to Louisville for America’s biggest race. The top finish was a sixth by China Visit in 2000.

“This is the hardest race in the world,” bin Suroor said, “and the best race in the world, a mile and a quarter for 3-year-olds. It’s hard to win. You need a special horse. Tough. Class. Speed. Everything in one horse.

“We tried coming from Dubai four times. Now, I think we have better horses than what we saw in Dubai. We’re trying this year and it looks to me that our horses are doing much, much better than ever.”

Hollywood Park cancels Thursday card

Hollywood Park was forced to cancel Thursday’s live racing because there were not enough horses to fill the eight-race card. The racing office was working Tuesday to fill Friday afternoon’s card — the only afternoon Friday card of the spring-summer meet. Hollywood Park will be open Thursday for simulcast wagering.

This may not be the only time this happens this year. There is a severe horse shortage in California, and Golden Gate Fields was forced to cancel a card earlier this month when the Northern California track could not fill its races.

Kentucky Derby doings

The latest from Louisville …

* Square Eddie, runner-up in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a colt who was attracting a lot of attention after his big effort in the Lexington Stakes on April 18, is out of the Derby. He re-aggravated a cannon bone injury and is sidelined indefinitely. Trainer Doug O’Neill doesn’t think the injury is serious, but it should lay him up for a while.

* I Want Revenge (pictured), impressive winner of the Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, turned in his final Derby work Tuesday morning, moving four furlongs in 47.34 seconds with jockey Joe Talamo aboard.

* With Square Eddie out, the Todd Pletcher-trained Take the Points, a disappointing fourth in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4, is now in. Who knows, maybe he doesn’t like synthetics and will fire big on Derby Day. Remember, Charismatic finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby and then won the Run for the Roses and Preakness in 1999.

* Dunkirk, who many onlookers pick to win the 135th Derby despite the fact he’s raced only three times, arrived at Churchill Downs today and is scheduled to hit the track Wednesday morning. Pletcher, despite all his Eclipse Awards as the nation’s outstanding trainer, is 0 for 21 in the Derby.


Final Kentucky Derby Top 10

I submitted my final Kentucky Derby Top 10 rankings to The Paulick Report last night. Here is the way I see it:

1. I Want Revenge — Talamo rides this colt with confidence
2. Pioneerof the Nile — Looks like he’s taking to dirt at Churchill
3. Friesan Fire — Has the talent to stage quite a show on Derby Day
4. Chocolate Candy — Hollendorfer confident Candy Ride colt will fire on dirt
5. Papa Clem — Stute not worried about Saturday’s subpar work
6. Dunkirk — Many think this guy is talented enough to win in only fourth lifetime start
7. Square Eddie — Looked like a colt that needed a race in the Lexington
8. Musket Man — Candidate for a minor award
9. Hold Me Back — See Musket Man
10. General Quarters — Might be the story of the week

Update on Derby contender Pioneeerof the Nile

Each afternoon the Churchill Downs publicity crew e-mails a report to turf writers around the country wrapping up that morning’s activity of all the horses expected to start in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Here’s their report this morning on Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile, who had his final Derby work Monday morning:

PIONEEROF THE NILE – Regular exercise rider Joe Steiner guided Pioneerof the Nile through a five-furlong work in 1:01 moments after the track reopened at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break.

Trainer Bob Baffert watched the work from the front side of the track and, as is his custom, was in touch with the rider via radio. Pioneerof the Nile, owned by Zayat Stables, cruised through fractions of :11.80. :23.80, :36 and :48.60. He was allowed to gallop out a long way and was timed in 1:13.40 for the six furlongs.

“He went really nice,” Baffert said. “There was a lot of wind. He left the half-mile pole, went five-eighths and he galloped out pretty strong all the way around there. He was moving really well and looked comfortable over the track.”

Pioneerof the Nile has won all four of his starts on synthetic surfaces in California since being moved to Baffert’s care late last year. The son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Empire Maker has trained well on dirt, but the Derby will be his debut on dirt.

“He’s got a long stride as it is, but he really moves better over the dirt, I think,” Baffert said. “His stride is just tremendous.”

Baffert was pleased with the way the colt performed in his final breeze before the Derby.

“He did it pretty effortlessly,” Baffert said. “I think he wanted to go a little faster; I wouldn’t let him. I was really happy with the work. I’m really excited about the work.”

Steiner gave the Santa Anita Derby winner high marks, too.

“It was a comfortable, smooth move,” Steiner said. “He just kind of coasted around there and we let him gallop out on his own. He felt perfect.”

Steiner, who has been a jockey for nearly 25 years, said he likes the way the colt is approaching the race.

“Mentally, he’s focused, he’s confident, he’s calm,” Steiner said. “The way you want a horse to act, he’s shown everything. He’s like a dream to gallop. He’s very kind.

“I think the key at this point is being focused and confident. He’s handling all the media and all that stuff around him. It doesn’t faze him. And physically, he’s right on. With the combination of the two, now it’s up to luck.”

Steiner said Pioneerof the Nile feels the same way to him on the dirt track at Churchill Downs and the synthetic surfaces in California. The Derby will be Pioneerof the Nile’s first race on dirt.

“You couldn’t ask a horse to be doing any better than this.” Steiner said.