Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Maiden Win the Space Takes Arkansas Derby Shot

Champion American Pharoah isn’t the only Southern California-based 3-year-old scheduled to run in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn. On the other end of the spectrum is Win the Space, winless in two career starts this year at Santa Anita. The Arkansas Derby, trainer George Papaprodromou said, is a Hail Mary attempt to reach the Kentucky Derby.

“The owner wanted to give it a shot,” Papaprodromou said Wednesday morning, referring to Rustin Kretz (Kretz Racing LLC). “That’s what we’re doing.”

Win the Space will represent the first Oaklawn starter for Papaprodromou, who scored his biggest career victory in last year’s $1.5 million Charles Town Classic (G2) with Imperative.

Win the Space, a gray son of Pulpit, will be making his two-turn debut in the Arkansas Derby after running third in his Feb. 22 career debut and third in a March 8 maiden-allowance event.

“He’s a nice 3-year-old,” Papaprodromou said. “I know my horse needs to go two turns. Hopefully, the two turns will benefit us. I’m running out of time and he [Kretz] wants to get to the Derby. Second we’re in, I think.”

The Arkansas Derby - as a Kentucky Derby qualifying race - offers 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. Points earned in designated races determine starting preference if more than the maximum 20 horses enter.

Papaprodromou said Win the Space didn’t run as a 2-year-old because he injured a hind leg when he kicked a wall.
 
Shock Talk

Multiple stakes winner Sugar Shock will be scratched from Wednesday’s $100,000 Carousel Stakes and run in Friday’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), the 4-year-old filly’s co-owner/trainer, Doug Anderson, said Wednesday morning.

“We want to try and get a Grade 1 on her resume,” Anderson said. “We got a good post position, so we’re going to take a shot and see what happens.”

Sugar Shock is scheduled to break from post 7 Friday under regular rider Channing Hill.

Sugar Shock was entered in the six-furlong Carousel as a backup plan in case the track came up sloppy for the   1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom.

Anderson said Sugar Shock doesn’t handle an off track well, but a favorable weather forecast Friday helped steer her toward the Apple Blossom, which has been her major spring objective.

Anticipating an off track, Anderson scratched Sugar Shock from the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14, the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. Sugar Shock is coming off a fourth-place finish behind Apple Blossom entrant Call Pat in a March 20 allowance race at a mile.

“It looks like it’s going to be a dry track,” Anderson said. “They keep knocking the forecast down, even tomor-row a little bit more.”

Sugar Shock, in her 4-year-old debut, won the $100,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 24. She recorded her biggest career victory in last year’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn. She  has only failed to cross the finish line first once in six career starts at Oaklawn. She was the co-3-1 second choice in the program for the Carousel.
 
Pearl’s Turn?

Trainer Will VanMeter is scheduled to saddle his first career Grade 1 starter, Pearl Turn, in Friday’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap for older fillies and mares. VanMeter, 31, said Pearl Turn will always hold a special place in his heart because she represented his first career winner, March 14, 2014, at Oaklawn.

“I like to say that she’s cloaked in class,” VanMeter said Monday morning.

VanMeter, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, said he seriously considered running Pearl Turn in last year’s Apple Blossom, but decided to send her to Keeneland for the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes (G3). Pearl Turn finished last of 10.

“I guess last year we learned a lesson,” said VanMeter, the son of prominent Kentucky sales consignor Tom VanMeter. “On paper, it looks likes last year’s race was tougher because there were about three horses that were really salty.”

VanMeter said the two horses to beat Friday, obviously, are Untapable and Gold Medal Dancer, who toppled the champion in the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 14. Pearl Turn punched her ticket to the Apple Blossom with a conditioned allowance/optional claiming victory about an hour before the Azeri. She also ran third in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 17 and fourth in the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 15.

“She’s eating well, training well, looks well,” VanMeter said. “She obviously loves running down here. I figured we would give her a shot to kind of step up.”

Pearl Turn is scheduled to break from post 3 under Jesus Castanon and carry 113 pounds. The 5-year-old daughter of Bernardini, co-owned by Tom VanMeter, has a 3-2-4 record from 16 lifetime starts and earnings of $139,534.

Untapable (121) and Gold Medal Dancer (117) are the two scheduled starting high weights.

Gold Medal Dancer Looks for Apple Blossom Glory

Gold Medal Dancer ran the best race of her career while becoming a first time graded stakes winner when she upset reigning 3-year-old filly champion Untapable last out in the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) here on March 14, but Donnie K. Von Hemel knows the waters get much deeper in Friday's rematch in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1).
 
“She's coming up to the race the best she can be and we're very happy with her,” said Von Hemel. “I know Untapable will be tough to beat (again) this time, but hopefully, we're a little tougher ourselves, too.”
 
The front-running Gold Medal Dancer, who has seven wins in 16 outings, fought off a challenge down the lane from Untapable, who was 1-9 in the Azeri field and tracked her the entire way, on a “good” track to prevail by one-half length. Von Hemel doesn't necessarily want to see the homebred daughter of Medaglia d' Oro set all of the fractions again.
 
“I don't think she has to be on the lead, but if it's a reasonable pace, then I think she will be again,” he said while noting that Sugar Shock, who won the pair of Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-old fillies here when she took the 2014 editions of the Honeybee and Fantasy Stakes, also has plenty of early foot.
 
Von Hemel has had the consistent and hard-trying Gold Medal Dancer, who has finished in the money 12 of 16 times, in his barn since the beginning.
 
“It's very gratifying that at this stage of her career she's at her best,” said Von Hemel. “We always thought that she was a very nice filly, but before, every time she stepped off into the deep water we'd get in trouble. It was good to see her get it done in a great stakes like the Azeri. This time, she'll have to be even better, and I'm sure Untapable will be a little tighter than she was last time (when coming off a long layoff).”
 
Gold Medal Dancer will have her rooting section on track on Friday as owner/breeder Josephine Abercrombie and a contingent from Pin Oak are attending the races.
 
“I've been with Pin Oak for a long time, since the 1980s, and it makes my job easier because they are very pa-tient with their horses. I had a lot of very nice horses for them over the years,” said Von Hemel, who trained Pin Oak homebred 2012 Razorback Handicap (G3) and Oaklawn Handicap (G2) winner Alternation.

Ivan Fullunovalot Looks to Turn Table in Count Fleet
 
Locally-based trainer Tom Howard would like nothing better than to capture Thursday's $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) with Ivan Fallunovalot at Oaklawn Park.
 
"We live here. This is home," said Howard, who is married to retired jockey Kathy Moore, one of the first women to be a regular member of the colony here. “It would be awfully nice to get his first graded stakes win here. Any win is nice, but this would be real nice.”
 
Howard, a former assistant to Cole Norman, has had his license since 1976 and has previously won one graded stakes race, the 2011 Arlington-Washington Lassie with Rocket Twenty-one. King Cotton Stakes winner Ivan Fallunovalot, pronounced “I've been falling off a lot,” will carry high weight of 121 pounds and is the 2-1 second choice in the field of eight that includes 8-5 favorite Gentlemen's Bet.
 
“He is spotting them quite a bit of weight and is one of the favorites, but we won't tell him that,” said Howard with a big smile. "He likes this track and runs good over it, that's for sure.”
 
After taking the six-furlong King Cotton on Feb. 7, the 5-year-old Texas-bred son of Valid Expectations was on the lead next out in the Hot Springs at the same distance on Mar 7, but was caught late by Gentlemen's Bet and finished in second, 1 1/4 lengths behind.
 
“I figure we'll be the pace again. Gentlemen's Bet's game plan will be what it was last time, so we'll have to see who's the fastest,” said Howard. “They all concern me, but no one scares me. We hope to have good racing luck and may the best horse win.”
 
Howard claimed the bay gelding for $25,000 last year for Pine Bluff, Ark. resident Lewis Matthews, Jr., who said this is the best horse he's owned in his 11 years in the game.
 
Off The Bench

Picko’s Pride is scheduled to make his comeback in Thursday’s $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for trainer Mac Robertson.

Robertson saddled Picko’s Pride to a runner-up finish in the 2013 Count Fleet, but the 7-year-old son of Cactus Ridge hasn’t started since winning a Sept. 27 allowance/optional claimer at Delaware Park. Robertson said his horse’s lengthy layoff is the result of having a knee chip surgically removed.

Picko’s Pride enters the Count Fleet with several eye-catching workouts, notably a six-furlong move in 1:12.60 from the gate April 1.

“He came out of the work as good as a 7-year-old could,” Robertson said Wednesday morning. “He’s been an overachiever his entire life. Hopefully, he’ll keep overachieving.”

Picko’s Pride enters the Count Fleet with eight victories from 26 lifetime starts and earnings of $348,907.

 
 
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