Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Asmussen Loaded As He Seeks His First Kentucky Derby Victory

Arkansas Derby winner Creator completed major preparations for the Kentucky Derby with a half-mile breeze over a fast track Monday morning at Churchill Downs and walked the shedrow Tuesday.

Creator made his last three starts at Oaklawn, breaking his maiden Feb. 27 before running third in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 and winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.

Ricardo Santana Jr., Oaklawn’s leading rider the last four years, will again have the mount on Creator, a late-running gray son of Tapit. In his only Kentucky Derby appearance, Santana, 23, finished 15th aboard the Asmussen-trained Tapiture in 2014.

“Ricardo had a very strong belief in the horse last fall,” said Asmussen. “I think we got a little off track this winter in New Orleans with the horse. And then, we reunited him with Ricardo and the strong belief Ricardo's had the horse the whole time, we've been rewarded for it. So, it's been a good match for both rider and horse.

“(Santana) knows Creator, and it's quite obvious Creator has responded for him. That's what we're looking for. We're trying to win the Derby with Creator. You're working with the tools you have, and that's what the match is here.”

Asmussen is 0 for 13 in the Kentucky Derby, finishing second with Nehro in 2011 and third with Curlin in 2007.

“I’ve not ever won the Derby,” Asmussen said. “I’ve run enough to know it’s an event, and however it unfolds, it does.”

Curlin, in just his third career start, won the Arkansas Derby by a record 10 ½ lengths en route to 2007 Horse of the Year honors. Nehro was a fast-closing second in the Arkansas Derby, beaten a neck by Archarcharch, four years later.

Post positions for Saturday’s 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby will be drawn at 4:30 p.m. (Central) Wednesday. The draw will be televised live by NBCSN.

In Other Kentucky Derby News:

Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel, aboard his new stable pony Rudy, led Southwest Stakes winner Suddenbreakingnews to the track to train during the special 8:30 a.m. training time. As been the usual routine, the Mineshaft gelding stood quietly for several minutes and then proceeded to gallop 1 ½ miles under regular exercise rider Ramiro Gorostieta.

“He's handled things really well,” said Von Hemel. “He schooled well yesterday (in the paddock). If you're been here for a while, you have the advantage of being able to get used to the craziness little by little.”

Whitmore went to the track during the special 8:30 a.m. training time and proceeded to have an easy 1 ½ mile gallop under Laura Moquett, wife of trainer Ron Moquett. Unlike the past few days, Whitmore went to the track to gallop by himself and without a stablemate.

“I remain very confident,” said Ron Moquett, who is also co-owner of the gelding with Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta. “I know just how much extra ground he covered in his last two races and how inefficiently he ran. All he needs in the Derby is a clean trip.

Whitmore suffered wide trips in both the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) when finishing second and third, respectively.

Steve Landers Racing LLC's Dazzling Gem continues to impress trainer Brad Cox with his training, but the trainer has still not made a decision on whether or not enter the Kentucky Derby as an also eligible in hopes of making the actual field if there were some defections.

“He looks unreal right now,” said Cox. “He's not going to get in, but he looking really good right now. I'll talk it over with Mr. Landers and see what he wants to do as far as entering.”

Cox said that Dazzling Gem remains under consideration for either the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) at Belmont May 14 or the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico May 21.

The Kentucky Oaks

A full field of 14, including the 1-2 finishers in Oaklawn’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies, was entered Tuesday morning for Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Terra Promessa and Taxable, both trained by seven-time Oaklawn leader Steve Asmussen, were side-by-side in the starting gate for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9 in Hot Springs, but that won’t be the case Friday.

Terra Promessa, the Fantasy winner, drew the rail for the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks, with Taxable drawing post 14. Terra Promessa (post 2) beat Taxable (rail) by a neck in the Fantasy.

Four-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. retains the mount on Terra Promessa, who is seeking her fifth consecutive victory. She was a three-time winner at Oaklawn, capturing a Feb. 5 allowance race and the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 12 before the Fantasy.

Taxable, who will be ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, won a March 11 allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn in her 3-year-old debut.

Terra Promessa is 10-1 on the morning line for the Kentucky Oaks, the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies. Taxable is 20-1.
The lone also-eligible, Dothraki Queen, wintered at Oaklawn and is 30-1 in the program for trainer Kenny McPeek.

Probable post time for the Kentucky Oaks is 4:49 p.m. (Central), with NBCSN providing live coverage.

Ice, Ice Baby

Toews On Ice, in his first start since finishing sixth as the 3-5 favorite in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn, won the $100,000 William Walker Stakes Saturday night at Churchill Downs.

A son of 2011 Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch, Toews On Ice finished two lengths ahead of Entertainer in the 6-furlong race for 3-year-olds. Entertainer ran five times this year at Oaklawn, breaking his maiden Feb. 13 and running second in the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes March 26 for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.

Cinco Charlie won last year’s inaugural running of the William Walker for seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen and four-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr.

Toews On Ice became the second 2016 Smarty Jones graduate to capture a stakes race. Eighth-place finisher Shogood won the $50,000 WEBN Feb. 20 at Turfway Park in his next start.

Finish Line

Jon Court, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000, won the first two races Saturday on the opening card of Churchill Downs’ spring/summer meeting. Court, 55, was Oaklawn’s sixth-leading rider this year with 29 victories. … Four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance had two winners Saturday at Churchill Downs. … Alex Birzer has eight victories to top the jockey standings through the first four days of racing at Prairie Meadows. Birzer was Oaklawn’s fifth-leading jockey this year with 30 victories. Three-time Oaklawn training champion Kenny Smith is in a first-place tie at Prairie Meadows with five victories. … D R C’s Pretty Sky won the $65,000 Goldfinch Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters Saturday at Prairie Meadows. She was an allowance/optional claiming winner March 17 at Oaklawn for trainer Federico Villafranco and owner Danny Caldwell. Caldwell has been Oaklawn’s leading owner the last three years. Ramon Vazquez, Oaklawn’s second-leading rider the last two years, was aboard D R C’s Pretty Sky in the Goldfinch.

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