Oaklawn Trio Draw Outside Posts for Kentucky Derby

To locate the Oaklawn contingent at the start of the Kentucky Derby, look to the outside.The top three finishers from the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, including runaway winner American Pharoah, all drew far outside post positions for Saturday’s 1 ¼-mile race at Churchill Downs.
American Pharoah is scheduled to break from post 18 in the 20-horse field. Arkansas Derby runner-up Far Right drew post 20 and third-place finisher Mr. Z is scheduled to break from post 17.All three will be racing against history Saturday.
The only Kentucky Derby winner to break from post 18 was Gato Del Sol in 1982. Still, Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s Hall of Fame trainer, was relieved that his champion didn’t get the rail during Wednesday afternoon’s post position draw.
“It’s OK,” Baffert said. “It’s good. Anything but being down there. We talked about being on the outside. I feel like 20 would have been great for me. Out there at least you have a little bit of an option. He’s fast.”
Big Brown (2008) is the only horse to win the Kentucky Derby from post 20, but trainer Ron Moquett said he’s pleased to have the extreme outside with late-running Far Right, who finished eight lengths behind American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby.
“For us, it is actually OK because our running style won’t be affected,” Moquett said. “We’ll let everybody do that voodoo that they do and we’re just going to sit behind and watch them and come get them later.”
Majority owner Harry Rosenblum noted the post position may be a good omen for the multiple stakes winner.
“Fitting post,” Rosenblum said. “He drew to his name.”
Mr. Z will try to become the first Kentucky Derby winner to break from post 17. The spot is 0 for 36 since the use of a starting gate in 1930. But Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said 17 is a “great” for Mr. Z.
“Just being out there, not being in the gate very long, being able to just pop in there and leave,” Lukas said. “That’s a good spot, great spot.”
 
Against the Odds

Arkansas Derby winner American Pharoah (5-2) will try to become the third consecutive morning line favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, following Orb (7-2) in 2013 and California Chrome (5-2) last year. Orb and California Chrome also went off the betting favorite.
The buzz surrounding American Pharoah, an easy winner of his last four starts, could make him the shortest-priced Kentucky Derby favorite since Point Given went off 9-5 in 2001.The only horse to go off less 5-2 since then was 2008 winner Big Brown (2-1).
American Pharoah is also the third Arkansas Derby winner to be made the Kentucky Derby morning line favorite in the last decade.Curlin (7-2) ran third in 2007. Bodemeister (4-1) finished second in 2012.
Bodemeister (4-1) was the last Arkansas Derby winner to go off as the Kentucky Derby betting favorite.
Smarty Jones (4-1) was the betting favorite when he won the race in 2004, but not the morning line favorite.
In addition to American Pharoah, Mike Battaglia, Churchill Downs’ linemaker since 1974, installed Arkansas Derby runner-up Far Right 30-1 on the morning line. Third-place finisher Mr. Z is 50-1.
Morning line odds, which reflect how Battaglia believes the public will bet, were first published in the official Kentucky Derby program in 1949, according to Churchill Downs.
 
Workout Warrior

Arkansas Derby winner American Pharoah cemented Kentucky Derby favoritism with a dazzling workout Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, zipping 5 furlongs in :58.40, easily the fastest of 33 works recorded at the distance.
“I have been doing this for 35 years, and he might be the best horse I’ve ever seen,” said respected private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young. “He’s simply like Michael Jordan and stays in the air like he did in his rookie year. He stays in the air longer than any horse and you get the feeling that there’s not one gear left, but he may have two, three or four gears.”
American Pharoah was subsequently installed the 5-2 morning line favorite Wednesday by Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia. American Pharoah’s unbeaten stablemate, Dortmund, is the early 3-1 second choice. Both horses are trained by Bob Baffert.
Jaw-dropping works are the norm for American Pharoah, who launched his 2015 campaign with a runaway victory in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14.
American Pharoah completed major preparations for the Rebel with a 6-furlong bullet work from the gate – in company – March 6 at Santa Anita, where the champion 2-year-old male was based this winter.
American Pharoah toyed with stablemate Whiskey Ticket, covering the distance over a fast track in a blistering 1:10.40.
“He does things effortlessly,” owner Ahmed Zayat said.
Whiskey Ticket, who was under the whip to try and match strides with American Pharoah, went in 1:11.80.
A week after American Pharoah’s geared-down eight-length victory in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, Whiskey Ticket, also trained by Baffert, remained unbeaten in two lifetime starts with a nose victory in the $400,000 Illinois Derby (G3).
American Pharoah recorded another 6-furlong bullet (1:11.60) April 5 at Santa Anita. The maiden Win the Space, who would run sixth in the Arkansas Derby, went in 1:13.80 that morning at Santa Anita.
“American Pharoah looked awesome going by,” said Win the Space’s Southern California-based trainer George Papaprodromou. “I think he’s the real deal. I’ll say he’s maybe better than Dortmund. I can say that.”
 
Just a Fantasy

Include Betty will try to become the ninth winner of the Fantasy Stakes to capture the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) Friday at Churchill Downs.The Kentucky Oaks is the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.
Include Betty came from well off the pace to win the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 4 by a neck for trainer Tom Proctor.
The Fantasy, Oaklawn’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies, was the most lucrative career victory for jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr., one of the most successful female jockeys in history.
“I’m excited because I really believe I have a big chance in this race,” Homeister said. “Tom Proctor is one of the best trainers in the country, of all-time. I’ve ridden for him for 20 years and have so much confidence in him. And I have so much confidence in her, too. I believe we’re going to have a really good race.”
Include Betty is scheduled to break from post 3 in the 1 1/8-mile race. She is 20-1 on the morning line.
Fantasy runner-up Oceanwave (30-1), a Jan. 22 entry-level allowance winner at Oaklawn, is scheduled to break from post 10 under Rafael Bejarano.
Oceanwave also ran second in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7, Oaklawn’s final major local prep for the Fantasy.
“She’s not any different than her last two races, and if anything she’s better,” trainer Wayne Catalano said.

Sarah Sis (50-1) is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Fantasy, but gave trainer Ingrid Mason her first graded stakes victory in the Honeybee.
Sarah Sis is scheduled to break from post 11 under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.
Davona Dale (1979), Bold ’n Determined (1980), Heavenly Cause (1981), Tiffany Lass (1986), Lite Light (1991), Blushing K.D. (1997), Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Blind Luck (2010) are the only horses to win the Fantasy and Kentucky Oaks.
 
Remembering Roots

Far Right majority owner Harry Rosenblum said Jon Jazdzewski will be part of the celebrated walkover for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The walkover allows the connections to accompany their horses from the barn area to the Churchill Downs paddock to be saddled for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
A Kentucky equine dentist, Jazdzewski was the original owner of Far Right, purchasing the then-short yearling for just $2,500 at the 2013 Keeneland January Horse of All Ages Sale.
Rosenblum, a Little Rock, Ark., financial advisor privately purchased Far Right after the ridgling finished second in his first two career starts last year in Kentucky.
Rosenblum said he and Jazdzewski remained in touch as Far Right emerged as one of the country’s best 3-year-olds following victories in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 19 and the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 22.
“I told him after this horse broke his maiden, after one of his races, I said, ‘Look, I want you to be in the walkover if we go to the Derby,’ ” Rosenblum said. “He’s a really nice guy.”
Despite being the lowest-priced horse sold at public auction in this year’s Kentucky Derby field, Far Right has amassed $625,766 with a 3-3-2 record from nine lifetime starts.Rosenblum sold one-third interest in Far Right to Connecticut businessman Robert LaPenta before the Smarty Jones.
Far Right will carry Rosenblum’s silks in the Kentucky Derby after the owner won a coin flip with LaPenta shortly after the Arkansas Derby.
Blue Grass winner Carpe Diem ($1.6 million) is the highest-priced horse sold at public auction in the projected starting field of 20.
 
A War Story

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will mark the first meeting between Arkansas Derby runner-up Far Right and War Story, who finished third in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2) March 28.
Ron Moquett once trained both horses, saddling War Story to a Nov. 1 career debut victory at Churchill Downs.
Basing much of the decision on the son of Northern Afleet being a gelding, owner Harry Rosenblum sold War Story privately following the race and opted to keep Far Right, still trained by Moquett.
“It will be cool,” Moquett said. “They may leave your barn, but they never leave your heart. Not matter what, you want them to do good.”
Far Right and War Story were scheduled to meet in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 16, but trainer Tom Amoss, citing a far outside post (11) and the forecast of severe winter weather, decided not to run War Story and returned the gelding to his Fair Grounds base.
Far Right won the Southwest, which was delayed six days, while War Story ran second in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 21.
Now, both are running for the roses.
“I would like him to do real good – right behind us,” Moquett said.
Rosenblum purchased War Story for $51,000 as a 2-year-old and named the gelding because of his dam, Belle Watling.
Belle Watling is the name of a character from Gone with the Wind, the classic novel and movie set during the Civil War.