SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / HOME TEAM HOPE ARCHARCHARCH RALLIES TO WIN ARKANSAS DERBY AS THE FACTOR FIZZLES – Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (Grade I) turned out to be both a win for the home team and a family affair as 25-1 longshot Archarcharch closed from 10th to grab the lead in the stretch and then held off the late charging Nehro to win by a neck before 62,634 fans at Oaklawn Park.
Southern California-based The Factor, the 4-5 favorite who loomed as the possible favorite for the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) with another lopsided win, failed to grab his customary early lead and faded to finish seventh in the field of 13 3-year-olds. The Factor was pushed early by J P’s Gusto, who rushed to the front out of the starting gate, and Dance City. The former faded to eighth, while Dance City held on for third.
Owned by Arkansas residents Robert and Loval Yagos, Archarcharch is trained by William ‘Jinks’ Fires, an Arkansas native and veteran of the Arkansas and Kentucky racing circuits. The winner was ridden by Jon Court, who is married to Fires’ daughter Krystal. Court also won last year’s Arkansas Derby aboard Line of David.
Archarcharch, a son of Arch, had earlier won the Southwest Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn and finished third behind The Factor in his previous start in the Rebel (GIII). He covered 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.34.
“This horse is something special,” said Robert Yagos, who owns a salvage yard in Jacksonville, Ark. “Jon and Jinks have done a great job with Archarcharch. This a big thrill for the family and everyone involved.”
The winner earned first-place prize of $60,000 and secured a spot in the field for Kentucky Derby 137. The maximum field of 20 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Derby is determined by earnings totals in graded stakes races.
"This has just been a dream come true,” said Court. “Winning for Mr. Yagos and my father-in-law makes it all that much sweeter. Kentucky Derby, here we come!”
The rapidly improving Nehro’s runner-up effort followed a hard-charging runner-up finish in the Louisiana Derby. The Steve Asmussen-trained son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft has only one victory in five starts, but now has $400,000 in graded earnings and a spot in the field for Derby 137.
Sway Away led in upper stretch, but faded to fourth. He was followed by Alternation, J W Blue, The Factor, J P’s Gusto, Elite Alex, Saratoga Red, Brethren, Caleb’s Posse and Truman’s Commander.
Earlier, Oaklawn Park owner Charles Cella enjoyed a personal highlight when his 3-year-old gelding Uncle Brent held off Albergatti to win the one-mile $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes.
The winner is trained by Lynn Whiting, who won the 1992 Kentucky Derby with Lil E. Tee.
“It was the kind of race that gives you bigger aspirations,” said Whiting. “Obviously, the Derby is out because we don’t have any graded earnings, but we will start looking at more lucrative opportunities very soon.”
Joe Rocco Jr. rode the winner of the Northern Spur, a race named in honor of one of Cella’s finest horses.
MIDWEST (Illinois, Kentucky) / BRILLIANT SPEED CHARGES LATE TO NIP TWINSPIRED IN TOYOTA BLUE GRASS UPSET – Live Oak Plantation owner Charlotte Weber was disappointed earlier this year by an injury that knocked her highly regarded To Honor and Serve out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby, is again making plans for a trip to Churchill Downs after an upset victory by 19-1 longshot Brilliant Speed in Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI).
The homebred son of Dynaformer launched a furious rally from last on the far turn and ran down Twinspired to win by a nose under jockey Joel Rosario in the 1 1/8-mile race over the synthetic Polytrack course at Keeneland.
The result was also a major boost for trainer Tom Albertrani, who entered last year’s Toyota Blue Grass with high hopes for Odysseus, who ran poorly in the race and was discovered a few days later to have suffered a career-ending bone chip in his knee. Albertrani also trains West Point Thoroughbred’s third-place finisher King Congie, who finished third and was beaten a little more than a head in the thrilling Blue Grass finish.
The victory lifted the career record for Brilliant Speed to 2-2-2 in eight races with earnings of $515,750 – a total that includes $450,000 in graded stakes earnings. The latter should be more than enough to secure one of the 20 spots in the Kentucky Derby 137 starting gate.
Still unknown is whether the Toyota Blue Grass winner can offer an effort similar to his Blue Grass run on traditional dirt. His first two races came on dirt and results in lopsided losses by a combined margin of 40 ¼ lengths. His next five races came on grass courses before he turned to the synthetic course in Lexington for Saturday’s run.
“Some horses take to the Polytrack and some don’t,” Albertrani said. “We thought these two would make the transition to Polytrack. The transition from Polytrack to dirt remains to be seen.”
Runner-up Twinspired’s heart-crushing loss left him on the Derby 137 bubble in terms of graded earnings eligibility. Trainer Mike Maker hopes to run Alpha Stables, Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Racing’s son of Harlan’s Holiday in the Kentucky Derby, but must wait and see if his $197,500 in graded stakes earnings is enough to get him in the starting gate. As of Sunday, the colt was on the outside looking in.
Twinspired’s two wins in eight races include a Polytrack victory in the WEBN Stakes at Turfway Park.
Kentucky Derby prospects are now uncertain for Tom Walters’ Toyota Blue Grass favorite Santiva, who finished a troubled ninth after breaking from post three in the 12-horse field.
“A bad trip,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally. “(He was) down on the inside, no running room.”
Santiva, who scored his only career win in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) in November at Churchill Downs, is another on the Derby bubble with $242,397 in graded stakes earnings. The son of Giant’s Causeway will move to Kenneally’s barn at Churchill Downs later this week.
Meanwhile, the field is taking shape for next week’s $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (GII) at Keeneland, one of three remaining opportunities for Kentucky Derby hopefuls to pick up graded stakes earnings before the May 7 Run for the Roses.
Trainer Bob Baffert still hopes to make the Kentucky Derby with Jaycito, who is set to run in the Coolmore Lexington after missing the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (GI) with a foot abscess. Other possible Coolmore Lexington contenders include Silver Medallion, fourth as the favorite for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Santa Anita Derby; Courtlandt Farm’s Prime Cut, who defeated the highly regarded Bind in a Fair Grounds allowance; and Magdalena Racing’s Casper’s Touch, a winner last week in a Keeneland allowance race in his first outing since a disappointing run behind Derby 137 contender Soldat in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth (GII).
CHURCHILL DOWNS / UNCLE MO, MUCHO MACHO MAN SCHEDULED FOR MONDAY ARRIVALS – Repole Stable’s Uncle Mo, who is expected to seek redemption in Kentucky Derby 137 for his upset loss to Toby’s Corner in Aqueduct’s $1 million Wood Memorial (GI), and Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Risen Star (GII) at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds but third in an upset loss in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII), are scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Monday, April 18 to continue their preparations for the May 7 “Run for the Roses.”
Reigning 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo, who won last fall’s Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Churchill Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher, is scheduled to board a New York-to-Louisville flight that will also carry E. Paul Robsham Stable’s R Heat Lightning, the winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (GII) and possible favorite for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
The plane carrying the Pletcher stars is scheduled to touch down at Louisville International Airport at 8:45 a.m. (all times Eastern) and the van carrying Uncle Mo and R Heat Lightning from the airport is expected to arrive at Pletcher’s barn approximately a half hour later.
The Kathy Ritvo-trained Mucho Macho Man was scheduled to travel from Florida by van and is expected to pass through the Churchill Downs stable gate around 6 a.m. The bay son of Macho Uno is owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing Stable.
Mucho Macho Man worked seven furlongs in 1:23.60 on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
DECISIVE MOMENT, STAY THIRSTY SHARP IN SUNDAY WORKS – Repole Stable’s Stay Thirsty and Just for Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment tuned up for planned runs in the Kentucky Derby with strong workouts on Sunday morning at Churchill Downs.
Each horse worked a half-mile and their respective works were the two fastest training moves of the day over the one-mile traditional dirt oval.
Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (GIII) runner-up Decisive Moment, ridden by jockey Jesus Castanon, worked his half-mile in a “bullet” :47.40 over a muddy track. The effort left rookie Derby trainer Juan Arias smiling.
“It was very impressive – he’s not really a ‘morning horse,” Arias said. “He never worked this good before. I don’t know if he just liked this surface better or the weather, but I wasn’t expecting him to breeze this good this good.”
The Todd Pletcher-trained Stay Thirsty, working with stablemate and Swale (GIII) winner Travelin Man, covered the distance in :48, a time that tied as the second fastest work on a cool, breezy spring morning.
The work by the son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini was his first since a disappointing seventh-place run in the Florida Derby (GI) behind the victorious Dialed In. Assistant trainer Michael McCarthy said Stay Thirsty has fared well since his arrival at Churchill Downs.
“It was a textbook work,” McCarthy said. “The horse is doing well. He’s had a good couple of weeks here. He’ll have a few more works before the Derby, but everything is going the right way right now.”
DERBY 137 TALK – Although he has won an unprecedented three of the last four runnings of the Kentucky Derby, Calvin Borel has no firm mount for this year’s race with less than three week’s remaining before the 2011 renewal. Borel has ridden Elite Alex through winter and spring, but that colt’s Kentucky Derby hopes evaporated on Saturday with a ninth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby. … As of Sunday, April 17, the Derby 137 contender in the 20th and final spot on the graded stakes earnings list was the Bob Baffert-trained Jaycito with $250,000. The next five horses on the Derby 137 “bubble” are Santiva ($242,397), Watch Me Go ($235,500), Shackleford ($212,000), Twinspired ($197,500) and Silver Medallion ($184,334). … Team Valor International’s Vinery Racing Spiral (GIII) winner Animal Kingdom worked a quick five furlongs in :59.20 on Saturday over Keeneland’s Polytrack course. Working in company with stablemate Senor Dehere, Animal Kingdom galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.20 and seven furlongs in 1:24. Animal Kingdom has never run on traditional dirt, but the Graham Motion trainee is expected ship to Churchill Downs late this week and work over the Louiville track’s dirt course on Saturday. … Trainer Mike Maker, who lost the heartbreaking photo finish in the Toyota Blue Grass with Twinspired, won a similar last-gasp photo in Sunday’s 7th race at Keeneland. In an ironic touch, the name of Maker’s winner for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey is Derby Obsession. … While the Kentucky Derby and American Triple Crown picture appears to be wide open and in some disarray, Prince Khaled Abdullah’s unbeaten Frankel looms as the heaviest favorite for the opener of the British Triple Crown series since Nijinsky became the last horse to sweep that three races in 1970. Frankel won his 2011 opener for trainer Sir Henry Cecil in Saturday’s Greenham Stakes at Britain’s Newberry. The son of Galileo is named in honor of the late American Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, whose closest brush with a Kentucky Derby victory came in his runner-up finish with Empire Maker in the 2003 Derby won by Funny Cide. British bookmakers say Frankel’s odds could be as low as 2-5 when the colt runs in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday, April 30.