STATELY VICTOR WELL AFTER TOYOTA BLUE GRASS UPSET – Tom and Jack Conway’s Stately Victor is one of the newest entries to the Kentucky Derby 136 picture after his shocking 40-1 upset in Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) at Keeneland. Now it’s on to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) for the son of Ghostzapper, whose win was the biggest surprise in the history of the Kentucky Derby prep.
He broke the record held by Dust Commander in the 86-year-old race. That colt won the Blue Grass at odds of 35-1 in 1970 and he returned nine days later to score an upset victory in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Mike Maker said Sunday that Stately Victor was “absolutely perfect” in his stable at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Louisville training center on the day after just the second victory in his eight career starts.
“When you’re expecting good things from a horse and it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t happen and it finally does, you can’t say you’re surprised,” Maker said. “It’s not like we never felt the talent was there. He put it together and it’s great.”
Maker said most of the Kentucky Derby preparation for Stately Victor is complete. He said the colt would have one work before the “Run for the Roses,” probably on the Saturday or Sunday before the May 1 race.
The Toyota Blue Grass victory by Stately Victor gives Maker a pair of Kentucky Derby hopes in his Trackside Louisville barn. The other is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten, winner of the Lane’s End (GII) at Turfway Park in his most recent start.
The homebred son of Kitten’s Joy breezed five furlongs in 1.01.80 over a fast surface at Trackside on Saturday, April 10. The move ranked fourth of 12 on the morning. Maker said Dean’s Kitten would breeze on each of the next two Saturdays to complete his preparation for the Derby.
“He’s doing fine,” Maker said. “He’s not going to impress anybody in his works, but he just goes out and performs.”
Maker said both horses are doing very well in the quiet setting at Trackside, which is located a few miles east of Churchill Downs. Both are training well over the six-furlong course at the site of the former Louisville Downs harness track.
“The racetrack is, in my opinion, the best racetrack in the country to train on,” he said. “It’s not a mile, but it’s a very safe surface. Not as many horses train over it, and you can train your horses any time of the morning you want and not have to be worried.”
Toyota Blue Grass winner Stately Victor, who won Saturday on a synthetic Polytrack surface, will be looking for his first victory on traditional dirt in the Kentucky Derby. He is 0-for-three on the surface after running his previous two races on turf. He finished second to the highly regarded Winslow Homer in his off-the-turf debut in August at Saratoga and notched his only previous career victory on turf in his next start at that New York track.
Both Stately Victor and Dean’s Kitten have sufficient earnings to make the Kentucky Derby field. If one or both make the race, it will mark the first Kentucky Derby appearance by Maker, who is the son of the late George Maker, who was a veteran trainer at upper Midwest tracks, and a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas.
ON TO DERBY 136 FOR PADDY O’PRADO – The top two finishers from Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass are bound for the Kentucky Derby as trainer Dale Romans said he plans to run Donegal Racing’s runner-up Paddy O’Prado in the big race at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 1.
Saturday’s effort on synthetic Polytrack came on the heels of a victory in the Palm Beach Stakes (GIII) on grass at Gulfstream Park, which remains his only victory in six career races. But Romans liked what he saw at Keeneland and thought Paddy O’Prado was the winner until Stately Victor came rolling by in mid-stretch, and was also high on the effort by his third-place finisher, Donald Dizney’s First Dude.
“I’ll run Paddy in the Derby,” Romans said. “He trains well over the dirt here and has run well on both synthetic and Poly. I know that he’ll go the distance, so there are a lot of good things to like. I sure wish we could get First Dude in, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. He just keeps getting better with every start.”
Paddy O’Prado ranks 19th in graded stakes earnings ($250,950) for the Kentucky Derby, a race that is limited to 20 starters with preference to horses with the highest earnings in graded stakes races. First Dude ranks 37th on Churchill Downs’ earnings list with $97,500 after his Toyota Blue Grass run.
While Romans would like to have both horses in the starting gate on Kentucky Derby Day, he is comfortable with being represented by Paddy O’Prado.
“It seems this Derby is Eskendereya’s to lose – and all of the rest of us have a chance if he doesn’t fire,” Romans said. “My horse is very sound, is smart and will get the distance. Those are all factors that are going to be plusses for us.”
DERBY 136 NOTES – Robert LaPenta’s Florida Derby (GI) winner Ice Box galloped over the Churchill Downs surface late Sunday morning. Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito said the Pulpit colt would work on Thursday, April 15 … A Sutton Forwarding Co. flight from California to Lexington, with a stop in Arkansas, will bring Arkansas Derby participants Super Saver (runner-up) and Noble’s Promise (fifth as the favorite) to Lexington on Monday, April 12. Also on the plane will be Distorted Dave, who is bound for the Lexington (GII) for trainer John Sadler, who has Arkansas Derby winner Line of David and Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney’s Candy in his care … A flight from Ontario, Cal. to Louisville International Airport on Tuesday, April 13 will carry three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert’s 2-year-old champion Lookin at Lucky and Southwest (GIII) winner Conveyance to Churchill Downs.
KENTUCKY OAKS 136 NOTES
Four contenders for the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies that will be run on Friday, April 30 at Churchill Downs, turned in workouts at Churchill Downs over the past three days.
AGE OF HUMOR – The daughter of Distorted Humor, a narrowly-beaten runner-up to Orchestrator in Turfway Park’s Bourbonette (GIII) on March 27, worked a half-mile on Saturday, April 10 in preparation for a planned run in the Kentucky Oaks. The Mike Maker-trained filly covered the distance in :49 over a “fast” track in a move that ranked fourth of 15 at the distance.
JODY SLEW – Silverbulletday (GIII) winner Jody Slew, seventh in her most recent outing in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII), breezed four furlongs at Churchill Downs in :50.20 on Friday, April 9 and is on course for a run in the Kentucky Oaks.
Jody Slew’s dull run at Fair Grounds came after she had suffered a minor injury in her stall caused her to miss some pre-race trainer, but trainer Bret Calhoun said by telephone that he’s happy with her progress since she returned to Churchill Downs.
“She’s doing very well,” Calhoun said. “We knew we had a little problem heading into the race and Fair Grounds and she was just not a very happy horse that day. But running that day was a means to get her to the Kentucky Oaks. She just wasn’t quite there for the Fair Grounds Oaks, but I’ve got her back 100 percent fit and we’re looking forward to the next one.”
QUIET TEMPER – Trainer Dale Romans said Mark Stanley’s Quiet Temper is doing well following her victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) on March 26. The filly is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on each of the next two Fridays in preparation for the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks on Friday, April 30.
SHEER BEAUTY – Trainer and co-owner Bernie Flint said Sheer Beauty, a dead-heat third in the Fair Grounds Oaks at odds of 56-1, is doing well as she prepares for a planned run in the Kentucky Oaks. Flint said he was unsure when he would work the gray/roan daughter of Mizzen Mast, but said the filly would not do a lot before the race. Sheer Beauty won the Caressing Handicap on turf last fall at Churchill Downs.
SEEKING THE TITLE – The daughter of Seeking the Gold, a dead-heat third in the Fair Grounds Oaks, breezed four furlongs in :48.80 over a “fast” surface on Saturday, April 10 at Churchill Downs. The move ranked eighth of 45 at the distance for the filly trained by Dallas Stewart, who won the Kentucky Oaks in 2006 with Lemons Forever.
“She’s just doing great,”said Stewart. “We’re very happy with her and the way she’s progressed. She had a really good work (Saturday) and came out of it excellent. We’re just hoping that we get in the race.”
The Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters and, like the Kentucky Derby, preference is given to fillies with the highest earnings in graded stakes races.
Stewart said Seeking the Title would have two more pre-Oaks works, one at five furlongs and another at a half-mile.