Oaklawn Barn Notes April 4

April 5, 2013

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Manuka Honey Fantasy-bound; Falling Sky’s Arkansas Derby Decision Due Soon

Trainer John Terranova is gathering the owners of Sam Davis Stakes-winner Falling Sky in Louisville, Kentucky, this weekend to make a final decision on whether to run next in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn April 13 or the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland the same day. Regardless of that call, Terranova is planning his first-ever trip to Hot Springs to saddle Manuka Honey in Wednesday’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies.

Falling Sky exits a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) March 11 in his most recent start and shipped to Churchill Downs from Florida last week. Owners Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger will meet with Terranova and oversee training this weekend “to make sure we all agree” one where to head for their final Kentucky Derby (G1) prep.

Terranova said they had already secured California-based jockey Martin Garcia to ride Falling Sky if the group decides on the Arkansas Derby.

“He’s settled in at Churchill beautifully and we are all going to be there Saturday to make a firm deci-sion,” said Terranova by phone on his road-trip from Florida to Kentucky. “Everybody in the group wants to have input. I’d say we are leaning toward the Arkansas Derby, but the Blue Grass is still an option and we want the boys to get together and get a good look at him.”

Another factor in Terranova’s decision will be the continued progress of Gotham Stakes (G2) runner-up West Hills Giant, who has recovered from a respiratory infection and is likely for the Blue Grass with the Lexington Stakes (G3) or the Illinois Derby (G3) as back-up options.

No matter what the Falling Sky braintrust decides, Terranova will participate in the Racing Festival of the South when Curragh Stable’s Manuka Honey and jockey Edgar Prado seek their third straight win in the Fantasy – the major Arkansas stepping stone toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She’s been training in Florida since winning the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa in her last start.

“She’s had two great breezes since the Tampa race and the race was pretty easy for her,” said Terranova. “She’s 2-for-2 since we switched her back on the dirt. She’s always trained like a good horse. We just had been giving her chances on the grass. We decided to give her a chance on the dirt and we are obviously glad we did. She’s taken some steps forward and now we’re hoping she can do it again with the tougher competition. I know she’s been training very strongly.”

Terranova said he’s looking forward to visiting Oaklawn. His wife, Tonja, is a former exercise rider for Bob Baffert and the family is close to the Hall of Fame trainer who has made Oaklawn his personal happy hunting grounds. Terranova indicated it would be fun to catch up with members of Baffert’s team next week.

“We’ve always worked with Bob when he sends his horses to New York,” he said. “He’s always talked about how great it is at Oaklawn, and I’m sure we’ll see [assistant] Jimmy [Barnes] while we’re there. It should be great.”