Tampa Bay Derby winner King Guillermo went to the track for the first time since arriving Thursday afternoon at Oaklawn, jogging the wrong way after the surface renovation break Saturday morning for trainer Juan Carlos Avila in advance of the $750,000 Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles May 2.
Owned by five-time major league All-Star Victor Martinez, King Guillermo and stablemate Trophy Chaser will represent the first local starters for the Florida-based Avila, who amassed roughly 3,000 victories in his native Venezuela before saddling his first United States winner in March 2018. Trophy Chaser, who is owned by Avila, is pointing for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses May 2.
King Guillermo, a son of champion Uncle Mo, is coming off a 4 ¾-length victory in the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 7 at Tampa Bay Downs. Avila said he originally planned to train King Guillermo up to the Kentucky Derby, but like numerous horsemen across the country called an audible because of Covid-19. King Guillermo will still be running May 2, just not in the Kentucky Derby after it was moved to Sept. 5.
“I didn’t have to change my training schedule,” Avila said after King Guillermo returned to the Heavenly Prize barn. “He worked very well Wednesday, very nice, at Gulfstream. He’s ready to run.”
King Guillermo covered a half-mile over a fast track in :48.18, his third published work at Gulfstream Park since winning the Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 49-1. King Guillermo won the Tampa Bay Derby in 1:42.63 for 1 1/16 miles, the third-fastest time in race history. King Guillermo and Trophy Chaser were vanned to Oaklawn, arriving at 2 p.m. (Central) Thursday, Avila said.
“He’s a nice horse,” Avila said of King Guillermo. “The perspiration, the aerobic, it’s very nice. He seems like he can run two miles. It’s excellent. It’s amazing, this horse. I’ve only been in the United States three years. I worked for 30 years in Venezuela. I’ve never seen one horse like this. I have 3,000 wins and many won many stakes internationally. This is an amazing horse.”
Overall, King Guillermo has a 2-0-1 mark from four lifetime starts and earnings of $240,350. Martinez purchased the colt for $150,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
A late Triple crown nominee, King Guillermo has 50 points to rank 10th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The Arkansas Derby will award 170 total points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Post positions for the Arkansas Derby will be drawn Sunday. The Oaklawn racing department listed at least 17 probables Saturday morning: Amen Corner for trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer, Anneau d’Or (Blaine Wright), Basin (Steve Asmussen), Blackberry Wine (Joe Sharp), Charlatan (Bob Baffert), Farmington Road (Todd Pletcher), Fast Enough (Rafael Becerra), Gouverneur Morris (Pletcher), King Guillermo (Juan Carlos Avila), My Friends Beer (O’Dwyer), Nadal (Baffert), Shooters Shoot (Peter Eurton), Silver Prospector (Asmussen), Sole Volante (Patrick Biancone), Strom the Court (Eurton), Taishan (Richard Baltas) and Wells Bayou (Brad Cox).
The race is limited to 14 starters, based on total earnings.
Blackberry Wine completed major Arkansas Derby preparations by working a half-mile in :48 over a good track Saturday morning. Shooters Shoot also breezed Saturday morning, covering 5 furlongs in 1:00. It was the fastest of 10 works recorded at the distance.
After the Kentucky Derby was moved to the fall, Oaklawn responded by shifting the Arkansas Derby from April 11 to May 2.
Kaylee Crotchett, an exercise rider for trainer Wayne Catalano, said Saturday morning that she hopes to make her riding debut before the meeting’s scheduled end, May 2.
Crotchett, 21, was raised in Henryville, Ind., about 25 miles north of Churchill Downs and has been galloping horses for approximately five years.
“I grew up with horses, just trail riding,” Crotchett said. “The race horses have always kind of been in and out of my life. I always knew I wanted to do something with it, so I started galloping when I was 16. Just been here ever since.”
Crotchett said she began galloping horses at a small training center in Indiana before moving to Churchill Downs to work as an exercise rider for trainer Buff Bradley. She spent approximately a year as an exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas before joining Catalano a couple of months ago.
Crotchett said she galloped Grade 3 winner Warrior’s Club for Lukas. Crotchett is a regular morning partner of Manny Wah, who finished third in the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses April 18.
“I’m very excited,” Crotchett said. “I’m hoping I can get in. I’m trying to talk to Lukas and see if he’ll put me on one before the end of the meet, but we’re running out of days.”
Crotchett said if she doesn’t make her career debut at Oaklawn, it will be in Kentucky, possibly at the Churchill Downs spring meeting.
“Hopefully, I can get at least one ride here, just so I don’t have to get OK’d again and go talk to the stewards,” Crotchett said.
It was a violent late daily double Friday as sons of Grade 1 winner Violence scored sparkling 6-furlong allowance victories as heavy favorites. In his 4-year-old debut, Volatile ($4.40) was a 7 ½-length winner of the ninth race in a meet-best 1:08.48. Ricardo Santana Jr. rode Volatile (3 for 4 overall) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. In the 10th race, No Parole ($4.20) was a front-running 2 ¾-length winner under Joe Talamo, covering 6 furlongs in 1:09.34. The Tom Amoss-trainee was cutting back to a sprint after finishing eighth in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 14. … Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert moved to 6 for 10 at the meeting when Ragtime Blues ($6.60) broke his maiden in Friday’s seventh race under Martin Garcia. … K J’s Nobility, probable favorite for the $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes May 1, worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 Saturday morning for trainer Cecil Borel. The track was rated good.