- Road to the Kentucky Derby
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John Asher's Kentucky Derby 136 Update for March 1
DUBAI / BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE WINNER VALE OF YORK SET FOR RETURN – The only horse to finish in front of 2009 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky has been mostly invisible on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) while spending the winter in Dubai, but Godolphin’s Vale of York is near his return to the spotlight.
The upset winner of the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita is set to return to racing on Thursday in the $250,000 Al Bastakiyah, the second jewel of the UAE Triple Crown, over the synthetic Tapeta surface at the new Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. His performance in the 1,900 meter (nearly 1 3/16 miles) race could determine whether trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s colt will prepare for a bid for the Kentucky Derby or focus on a campaign aimed at the British classics.
If the former is the choice, the next logical step for Vale of York would be a run in the $2 million UAE Derby on March 27.
“Vale of York has been a bit behind schedule but runs in the Al Bastakiya to start him off,” Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford told the Blood-Horse.. "He will need the race and we will see how he gets on before deciding about the UAE Derby."
Crisford said earlier that a European campaign is being considered because of Vale of York’s inexperience on dirt. The son of Invincible Spirit has won three of six starts in England, Italy and the United States.
The Al Bastakiyah is one of six stakes races scheduled on Thursday’s “Super Thursday” program at Meydan.
FLORIDA / RADIOHEAD IMPRESSIVE IN FIRST RACE ON DIRT – British import Radiohead, a troubled seventh in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, picked up his first U.S. victory and made a successful debut on dirt in an easy win in a one-mile allowance race on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The son of Johannesburg led a 1-2 finish for trainer Rick Dutrow as he defeated Champagne (GI) winner Homeboykris by 3 1/2 lengths under jockey Edgar Prado. The chestnut colt is owned by IEAH Stables, Pegasus Holdings, Carmen Burrell and Jonathan Harvey.
Radiohead, winner of the Group Two Norfolk Stakes last June for trainer Brian Meehan, covered the distance over a “fast” track in 1:35.90 in his first race for Dutrow, who won the 2008 Kentucky Derby with Big Brown.
Earlier on the Saturday card, Robert LaPenta’s Miner’s Reserve scored an impressive
one-mile maiden win in 1:35.87 for two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito.
SOUTH / BACKTALK RETURNS WITH A WIN – Gold Mark Stable’s Backtalk snapped a two-race losing streak when he returned from a layoff to win the $75,000 Sportsman’s Paradise Stakes on Friday at Louisiana’s Delta Downs.
The Tom Amoss-trained son of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones overcame early traffic problems and wore down the pace-setting Royal Express to win by a half-length under jockey Miguel Mena. Backtalk, winner of the Bashford Manor (GIII) at Churchill Downs and Saratoga’s Sanford (GII) enjoyed a successful debut at a two-turn distance as he covered the one-mile course in 1:40.36 over a sloppy track.
Backtalk’s win snapped a two-race string of off-the-board finishes in the Three Chimneys Hopeful (GI) at Saratoga and the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (GI) in October at Keeneland.
WEST / SHAM WASHED-OUT, POSTPONED; STORMIN SAINT WINS BORDERLAND VIA DQ – The $150,000 Sham Stakes (GIII) at Santa Anita was postponed after heavy rain and ongoing drainage problems with the synthetic Pro-Ride racing surface prompted the cancellation of Saturday’s racing at the Arcadia, Cal. track. The 1 1/8 mile Sham was rescheduled for next Saturday, March 6.
Trainer Mike Machowsky, who had entered the promising Nextdoorneighbor in the Sham, was critical of track management for failing to consider running the postponed race on Wednesday or Thursday rather than waiting a full week.
“I think they should have thought of the horsemen and the horses a little more,” said Machowsky, who also trains Robert B. Lewis (GII) winner Caracortado. “Every day matters with these young horses and we want to have some time between races.”
STORMING SAINT ELEVATED TO BORDERLAND WIN OVER MINE THAT BIRD TEAM – Lathrope Hoffman’s favored Storming Saint finished second to maiden Raise the Bridle following a rugged stretch run in Saturday’s $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park, but found his way to the winner’s circle when the latter was disqualified by track stewards.
Storming Spirit had finished a neck behind Raise the Bridle, who is owned by the Mark Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch and Dr. Leonard Blach’s Buena Serte Equine – the team that owns 2009 Kentucky Derby winner and Borderland Derby runner-up Mine That Bird.
Neither of the top two finishers is nominated to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown.
KENTUCKY / VOW TO WAGER TAKES BATTAGLIA VIA DQ – Donegal Racing’s Vow To Wager finished second to Codoy in Saturday’s John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park, but was elevated to the win after track stewards disqualified the latter for interference in the stretch.
John McKee rode the Dale Romans-trained Vow to Wager, who was coming off of a maiden victory over the synthetic Polytrack surface at the Northern Kentucky track and went off at odds of 23-1. Favored Kera’s Kitten finished last after battling for the early lead.
The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia, Turfway’s final prep for its Lane’s End Stakes (GII) on March 27, was 1:48.94 over the track’s synthetic Polytrack surface.
EAST / DONT BLAME THE CAT TAKES MIRACLE WOOD – Mary Raymond’s Dont Blame the Cat edged clear in the stretch for a one-length victory in Saturday’s $50,000 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park. The Rick Dutrow trainee notched his third victory in four career starts.