SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / PANTS ON FIRE, SIZZLING NAPRAVNIK EARN KENTUCKY DERBY TRIP WITH LOUISIANA DOWNS UPSET – Pants On Fire, the more lightly regarded of two starters owned by George and Lori Hall, surged to the lead at the head of the stretch under sizzling jockey Rosie Napravnik, turned back favored Mucho Macho Man in mid-stretch and held off longshot Nehro to win Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (Grade II) by a neck.
The victory in New Orleans earned the Kelly Breen-trained son of Jump Start a trip to Churchill Downs for the 137th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May 7. The win by Napravnik, who rode Pants On Fire for the first time, could make her the first female jockey to compete in the Run for the Roses since Rosemary Homeister Jr. piloted Supah Blitz to a 13th place finish in 2003.
“He ran with as much heart as a horse can run with down the lane,” said Napravnik, who rode four other winners Saturday. “Mucho Macho Man came up next to us and he just dug in and he really finished with all heart.”
The victory improved the career record for Pants On Fire to 2-3-1 in eight races with earnings of $678,100. Pants On Fire covered 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.92.
“This horse is really blossoming,” Breen said. “You know it was like going to Disneyland, that sort of thing. We stamped our ticket. Hopefully the horse comes out of the race in good order and we’ll be on to Churchill.”
The other half of the Breen-trained entry, Nacho Business, finished eighth.
The race was a disappointment for Mucho Macho Man, who was favored off his strong debut victory at Fair Grounds in the Risen Star (GII), but he could have an excuse for his sub-par run. Mucho Macho Man lost a shoe just after the start of the race, but trainer Kathy Ritvo said her colt was fine Sunday and still Kentucky Derby-bound.
“We can’t win all the time,” Ritvo said. “We’d like to, but we can’t. We’ll just put what happened (Saturday) down as a learning experience, but you would think that when a horse loses a shoe right out of the gate it probably costs him two lengths, or at least one length.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen said surprise runner-up Nehro could run next in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI).
Elite Alex closed from last to finish fourth, and was followed by Machen, Wilkinson, Left, Nacho Business, Majestic Harbor, Le Mans, Mavericking and Liondrive.
Earlier, Courtlandt Farm’s Prime Cut and jockey Edgar Prado rallied to upset highly-regarded Bind in an allowance race at a mile and 70 yards. The latter dazzled local fans with a 9 ½-length win in a Feb. 19 maiden race.
MIDWEST (Illinois, Kentucky) / ANIMAL KINGDOM RALLIES IN VINERY RACING SPIRAL, EARNS DERBY SHOT – Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom, making just the fourth start of his career, rallied from last in a field of 11 to win the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (GII) at Turfway Park and appeared to earn a spot in the starting gate for Kentucky Derby 137.
Jockey Alan Garcia positioned the Graham Motion-trained Animal Kingdom well behind a strong three-way pace duel that softened up early leader and favorite Positive Response. When the favorite faltered at the top of the stretch, Decisive Moment assumed the lead and spurted clear, but the eventual runner-up could not hold off Animal Kingdom, who surged in the middle of the track to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
“I’m very excited,” Garcia said. “Wherever they want to go with this horse, I want to be there.”
Twinspired ran late to finish third, while John Battaglia Memorial winner Positive Response finished eighth.
The winner covered 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic Polytrack course in 1:52.32.
Both Animal Kingdom and Decisive Moment will apparently train up to their next starts in the May 7 Kentucky Derby. Team Valor International President Barry Irwin told Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee that Animal Kingdom, who has yet to run on the traditional dirt he’ll see in the Derby, would train over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland and travel to Churchill Downs to work over its dirt surface prior to the Derby.
Trainer Juan Arias said Decisive Moment would ship from Turfway Park to Churchill Downs early Monday. He will be the first Kentucky Derby contender to arrive on the grounds of the historic Louisville track.
Earlier at Turfway, Swift Warrior led throughout under jockey Javier Castellano to defeat Crimson China by two lengths in the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes. The winner was not an early Kentucky Derby nominee.
WEST (Arizona, California, New Mexico) / LONGSHOT TWICE THE APPEAL UPSETS ASTROLOGY IN SUNLAND PARK DERBY – Longshot Twice the Appeal, dismissed at odds of 25-1, rallied past favored Astrology in the stretch and inched away to a 1 ½-length upset in Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Park Derby.
The victory under jockey Christian Santiago Reyes probably put the son of Successful Appeal in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby, which uses earnings in graded stakes races to determine the maximum field of 20 horses for America’s greatest race. The $400,000 earned by the previously obscure Twice the Appeal in Sunday’s race vaulted trainer Jeff Bonde’s colt into the Top 10 in graded earnings by Kentucky Derby nominees.
Astrology, who was making his first start since late November for trainer Steve Asmussen, held on to edge Ruler on Ice for the runner-up spot..
Twice the Appeal, who is owned by Edward Brown Jr., Victor Flores and Henry Hernandez, covered 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:50.91 for Bonde, who has never started a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Bonde also trains San Vicente (GII) runner-up Sway Away.
DUBAI / KHAWLAH BECOMES FIRST FILLY TO WIN UAE DERBY – Godolphin’s Dubai-based Khawlah became the first filly to win the $2 million UAE Derby (GII) when the 3-year-old filly rallied late to edge the Irish-based Master of Hounds by a nose on Saturday at Meydan Racecourse.
French teenager Mickael Barzalona was in the saddle as the daughter of Cape Cross caught the Aidan O’Brien-trained Master of Hounds and jockey Ryan Moore in the final jump to become the first filly to sweep the UAE Oaks and Derby. The race was run over Meydan’s synthetic Tapeta surface.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who won the UAE Derby for a seventh time, said Khawlah would be sent to England and pointed toward the Group 1 Epsom Oaks.
Immediate plans for Master of Hounds, who made his first start of 2011, have not been finalized.
FLORIDA / UNCLE MO, STAY THIRSTY WORK FOR PLETCHER – Repole Stable’s Gotham (GIII) winner Stay Thirsty worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 in the company of a stablemate on Sunday at Florida’s Palm Meadows training center. Trainer Todd Pletcher worked Stay Thirsty in blinkers and indicated the colt would likely be wearing that piece of equipment when he runs in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (GI).
Pletcher also worked Repole’s Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo a half-mile in an easy :49.40 in the company of two workmates. Uncle Mo will run next in the $1 million Wood Memorial (GI) on April 9 at Aqueduct.