Albaugh Family Stable's multi-dimensional colt Cozzetti dove right into his training in his first morning at Oaklawn Thursday. The trick now, according to his handlers, will be to take that energy, match it with his staying power and produce a big afternoon performance in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Trained by Dale Romans, the gray Florida invader arrived Wednesday a little bit late but without incident. The colt was already familiar with traveling around the country having jetted to Los Angeles last fall for the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. Throughout his young career, Cozzetti has had no problem adjusting and training like a good horse. He just hasn't put it all together in a race.
"He trains phenomenally and about as well as any of the good horses we have," said Terry Oliver, assistant to Romans who traveled with the colt. "We've always felt he had the talent. It's just a matter of him bringing it to the next level."
Cozzetti started his career on turf last September at Belmont Park, partially because of his grassy pedigree being by Cozzene out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare. He also made those initial starts because maiden dirt races at that time of year in New York are usually stocked with million-dollar babies cranked up to run right off the bat. The Romans team relied on their colt's class and versatility while trying grass, synthetic and sloppy dirt throughout his six races while still counting him among one of their best Triple Crown prospects.
Cozzetti's last race was a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10. The result was sparkling, but the progress he made trying a late-closing move was very encouraging.
"He won on the lead in the slop at Churchill and he had us leaning based on the way he was training that he was a front-running horse," Oliver explained. "In Tampa we wanted to take him back and get him to rate. A lot of this is a learning process, but I was really happy with the way he settled back and made a run on the leaders. He hopefully figured something out that will help in this race."
The 1 1/8-mile distance of the Arkansas Derby figures to be right up Cozzetti's alley as he breaks from the rail under Jose Lezcano.
"He wants to go farther. It's the time now where these races get longer and he's definitely going to fit them," Oliver asserted. "He will make a run for sure. If we can just get a little help with the pace, it should set up nicely for a horse like him."
Oliver will saddle the horse Saturday and the Albaughs will be on hand. Romans will be busy Saturday at Keeneland with Dullahan running in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes and recent Grade 2 Honey Fox Stakes queen Tapitsfly in action as well in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes.
In other Arkansas Derby news, contenders from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher were in good shape Thursday morning after arriving at various and sundry times from different points across the nation. Arkansas Derby runner Stat and stablemate Morrow Cove, who is entered in Friday's Instant Racing Stakes, got in Wednesday after a plane ride from Florida. Fellow Arkansas Derby starter Raconteur came Thursday morning via horse van from Keeneland.
Stat rolls off a 6 1/4-length win in a $75,000 optional claimer going one mile for Pletcher and Bortolazzo Stable at Gulfstream Park on March 17. Raconteur is Dogwood Stable's winner of the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park going the same distance on the same day.
"Everybody seems to have shipped in well," assistant trainer Michael Dilger said. "Stat and Morrow Cove went to the track for gallops today, and Stat and Raconteur will gallop tomorrow morning."
Trainer Bob Baffert's Arkansas Derby runners -- Bodemiester and Secret Circle -- galloped Thursday morning, as did Northern Spur contender Drill.