- Road to the Kentucky Derby
- Racing & Wagering
Java's War fine, but trainer 'exhausted,' following Blue Grass
"Java's War came out of Blue Grass fine. Trainer is exhausted. Thank You for opportunity Mr Fipke. Special winning in my home town Lexington"
So tweeted trainer Ken McPeek on Sunday morning about the victory by Charles Fipke's homebred Java's War in Saturday's Blue Grass before 37,161 fans, the second-largest crowd in Keeneland history. With Julien Leparoux aboard, the War Pass colt charged from last place to catch Palace Malice near the finish of the 1 1/8-mile race and win by a neck.
McPeek scored his second win in the race, joining Harlan's Holiday in 2002. Leparoux earned his first Blue Grass victory and his second Grade 1 win of the card, following Centre Court's triumph in the Jenny Wiley earlier on the day.
Java's War earned 100 points toward qualification to the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs. He has a total of 122 points to rank fourth on the list of leading point-earners, following Orb (150), Verrazano (150) and Goldencents (129).
Less than an hour after Java's War's performance, McPeek watched Frac Daddy finish second to Overanalyze in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He tweeted, "Frac Daddy punches his ticket too. Proud of his effort. We knew he had it in him. I was born in Arkansas so that race is on my bucket list."
For the performance, Frac Daddy earned 40 points and is 15th on the list of leading point earners for the Kentucky Derby with 44 points.
The field of 14 in this year's Blue Grass equaled the largest fields in history, in 1954 and 1974. On Sunday morning, the trainers or assistant trainers of other entrants stabled at Keeneland reported their horses came out of the race in good order.
Beaten favorite Rydilluc, who finished fourth after leading the field to deep stretch, came out of the race fine, according to Edward Fernandez, assistant to trainer Gary Contessa.
"He is good this morning. He ran a big race and only got beat less than two lengths," Fernandez said. "He will stay here until probably later this week and then go to New York."
Trainer Chad Brown said Balance the Books was fine the morning after his sixth-place finish.
"He got a perfect trip," Brown said. "He didn't have any excuses. He put in a decent run midway through the race. He just wasn't good enough."
Brown said Balance the Books and Samitar, third in the Jenny Wiley, would return to New York today with future races undetermined.
Seventh-place finisher My Name is Michael came out of the race well, said Rodolphe Brisset, assistant to trainer Bill Mott.
"We now have a new assignment," trainer Mark Casse said of the John Oxley-owned duo of Dynamic Sky and Uncaptured, who finished ninth and 10th, respectively. "They are both Queen's Plate horses and we can concentrate on that now. There is a million dollars out there to run at."
The $1 million Queen's Plate, for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown slated for July 7 at Woodbine going 1 1/4 miles.
Casse said both colts came out of the race fine.
"The only thing that was hurt was their pride -- and ours," Casse said with a chuckle. "Dynamic Sky will go to Woodbine, but I am not sure about Uncaptured. I thought Uncaptured had the perfect trip and Miguel (Mena) had him right where he needed to be.
"But Uncaptured ran so well in his first start back (a runner-up finish in the Spiral Stakes on March 23 at Turfway Park) that I was concerned he might regress a little bit. That might have been part of it."
"We were there. We gave it a try and now we go on to the next one," trainer Josie Carroll said about 11th-place finisher Tesseron.
Carroll said Tesseron was fine the morning after the race and would return to her Woodbine base. The Kentucky-bred isn't eligible for the Queen's Plate, which is restricted to Canadian-breds, "but there are other races for him," she commented.
Trainer John Terranova said 12th-place finisher West Hills Giant came out of the race fine and would be headed back to New York.
"He was hung wide most of the way and (jockey) Jose (Espinoza) said he didn't handle the track well," Terranova said. "He said when he asked him to run, he just kind of floundered on it."
The day was not a total blank for Terranova as his Falling Sky finished fourth, less than a length out of second, in the Arkansas Derby and picked up 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby. Falling Sky has accumulated 30 points, which might be enough to earn a spot in the 20-horse starting gate.
"I thought he ran a great race and it looked like the distance got to him a little bit at the end," Terranova said. "I thought Martin (Garcia) rode him perfect. He will fly back to Churchill Downs today. We will go over it (the Derby) with the partners in the next few days."
Trainer Wesley Ward said he likely would give Undrafted some time off following his 13th-place finish and that he and Gatewood Bell, racing manager for owner Wes Welker, would get together to determine the gelding's next race.
Footbridge, who finished 14th, is scheduled to return to California, according to trainer Eoin Harty.
"We are going to regroup and figure out why he ran the way he did," Harty said. "He looked comfortable and was moving well, but when the real running started he went backward."