Among the many interesting racetrack expressions is, "He's one of the ones." It usually means the horse is a contender but.... well.... there are still some question marks.
The expression fits the winners of both of the top weekend Kentucky Derby preps -- the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields outside San Francisco. After each race, the winning trainer seemed pleased.... but not convinced.
Repent, runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was all out to win the $750,000 Louisiana Derby by a nose over Easyfromthegitgo. The colt ran a game race and overcame a slow pace that hurts his late-running style. But he left some doubts by drifting out in the stretch and showing reluctance to change leads.
"He needs to learn the right lead down the lane," said Repent's new rider Jerry Bailey, "because a left lead at Churchill Downs will not cut it. Hopefully, he learns this real soon. Sometimes it takes a 3-year-old a while to learn it. But the time for him to learn it is now."
Trainer Kenny McPeek agreed. "He's not on cue yet. I still think he needs to work through some of these things. But, over time, he will get better at it."
Bailey's last Louisiana Derby winner was Grindstone in 1996. The duo went on to win the Kentucky Derby that year.
In the weekend's other major Triple Crown prep, Yougottawanna ran down Danthebluegrassman in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields and edged off to win by ¾ length. Lusty Latin was third with a late run.
Yougottawanna, a Cal-bred son of Candi's Gold, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.48 under Jason Lumpkins and probably ran his way into the April 6 Santa Anita Derby.
"Jason talked to me about this horse and suggested the horse would finish strongerif we could get him to relax early," said winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. But Hollendorfer also had some question marks about his colt.
"This horse had run some dull races and he had developed a rash....I've said all along that at this stage in a 3-year-old's career, funny things happen and they don't run consistent. All you can do is not give up and try to make little changes."
Hollendorfer also trains Cappuchinio, who struggled home eighth Saturday with no apparent excuse. "I haven't given up on him," the trainer said. "I know he's very talented."
Next weekend: The Florida Derby at Gulfstream and the Gotham at Aqueduct headline the action.
In Florida, Booklet and Harlan's Holiday will renew a budding rivalry that so far has gone Booklet's way twice. Harlan's Holiday will be ridden for the first time by Edgar Prado. Other likely starters include Blue Burner, High Star, Stephentown, Nokoma, D'Coach and Personal Reward.
The Gotham will be the first graded stakes experience for Saratoga Blues, winner of the Whirlaway in his last start and undefeated in three trips to the track. Also expected are Saarland and Mayakovsky, who would ship in from California if he starts.
The 3-year-old filly division heated up during the weekend, with You and Habibti finishing 1-2 in the Santa Anita Oaks, Take Charge Lady living up to her name in the Fair Grounds Oaks and Bedanken capturing the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
You, a Kentucky-bred daughter of You and I, ran a virtual repeat of her Feb. 10 victory over Habibti in the Las Virgenes, coming around the field on the turn for home and easing clear. Saturday's margin was ½ length as Habibti closed from a little farther back along with her rival.
The final time for the 1 1/16 mile was 1:42.70. You now has won five of eight starts. Her only off-the-board finish was a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall.
Winning rider Jerry Bailey said You "runs better with a target and that filly that won impressively in New Orleans today (Take Charge Lady) is all speed. So we should have something to run at (in the Kentucky Oaks)."
Bobby Frankel trains You; Bob Baffert, Habibti. Both said they expect to hook up again at Churchill Downs on May 3.
Take Charge Lady was all of that at Fair Grounds. After leading the pack through reasonably paced fractions, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Dehere opened the throttle and won off by 5 lengths over Lake Lady. Chamrousse was third. The 1 1/16 mile was run in 1:43 1/5.
Take Charge Lady has won five of her seven starts, finishing off the board only when sixth in the Juvenile Fillies.
Owner Jerry Bach said he and trainer Kenny McPeek "were concerned all week that somebody would go with her. But when I saw that 24 (first-quarter time) on the board, I was happy."
McPeek said he will nominate Take Charge Lady to the Arkansas Derby but more likely will run her in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 6.
Bedanken ran her winning streak to four straight in the Honeybee. With Don Pettinger up, the Geri filly rated behind the early speed, took command a furlong out and won by 2 ½ lengths over Cozy Susie. Sarah Jade was third. Bedanken ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.41.
Asked about the April 12 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn, for $200,000, winning trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said, "We've got to step up and give it a try."
In other weekend racing:
Azeri ran her way into Breeders' Cup Distaff contention with a stretch-running, 2-length victory in Sunday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational. The victory came over Spain, winner of the 2000 Distaff and runner-up in last year's edition. Azeri, a 4-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter, saved ground into the second turn, came three-wide into the stretch and outfinished Spain in the final furlong. Printemps was third. The 1 1/8 mile went in 1:49.01. Trainer Laura DeSeroux, who won her first Grade I event, Azeri "looks like a Breeders' Cup filly. I think we should count backwards from there and maybe give her a bit of a break now and plan to have her spot on for the Breeders' Cup.
Bosque Redondo dueled with Reba's Gold throughout Saturday's $75,000 Tokyo City Cup, hanging on to win by a head. Discreet Hero was third. Bosque Redondo, a 5-year-old son of Mane Minister, ran the 1 mile in 1:35.54 under Chris McCarron.
Dream Run relaxed through the early furlongs of Saturday's $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship, surged to the lead turning for home and won by 1 ½ lengths over late-running Binthebest. Burning Roma was third. The favorite, Hook and Ladder, challenged for the early lead, then was eased in the stretch after stopping badly. Dream Run, a 4-year-old son of Cherokee Run, got the 7 furlongs in 1:22.30. "This horse settled nicely for me today, which was nice because before he was somewhat one-dimensional," said winning rider Pat Day. Day said trainer Paul McGee "has really done a nice job with him because they set kind of a rapid pace today." McGee said he will "keep him going one turn and preferably at 7 furlongs."
Sunday, sentimental favorite Hal's Hope took the lead in the $100,000 Crème Fraiche Handicap and held on easily to win by 2 ¼ lengths over American Halo. Windsor Castle was third and the favorite, Rize, checked in fourth. Hal's Hope, a 5-year-old son of Jolie's Halo, owned and trained by the venerable Harold Rose, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.40. Jockey Roger Velez said he and Rose looked at the race, saw little speed and decided the engine was the place to be. "He's a good mental horse and will do what you want him to," Velez said. Rose said after the race he had "more or less eliminated" the March 30 Gulfstream Park Handicap from his planning for Hal's Hope. "But now I'll have to think about it," he allowed.
Secret Romeo rallied in the final yards Saturday to catch Tic N Tin and win the $100,000 Lost Code Handicap by ¾ length. Bet On Joe was third as the favorite. Magic Doe struggled home last. The 6 furlongs was hand timed in 1:11.96 on a sloppy track as Chicago' weather continued to bedevil Sportsman's with rapidly falling temperatures into the 20s and howling winds. Jockey Terry Houghton flew in from Tampa for the winning ride. "I didn't get the weather report until I was on the plane," Houghton said. "I was told that it was going to be 58 degrees and pretty nice, so I really wasn't prepared for this." Secret Romeo, a son of Carson City, has won two of his three starts so far this year.
Ground Storm went by pace-setting favorite Duckhorn inside the furlong marker and went on to win Saturday's $100,000 Stymie Handicap by 2 lengths. Duckhorn held second and Pleasant Divorce was third. Ground Storm, a 6-year-old son of Summer Squall, raced the 9 furlongs in 1:48.89 under Javier Castellano. "I love this horse because he can go or he can come," said Castellano. "When he came to the top of the stretch, the leader spurted. But he kicked in nice and ran by." Seth Benzel, assistant to trainer Bill Mott, said Ground Storm may start next in the $200,000 Excelsior Handicap on April 6.
Quinton's Gold sat off the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup while Rio Oro and Freespool blazed through the first half mile. Then jockey David Essman found room on the inside for Quinton's Gold, took him to the lead and just did hold off a late charge by Profound Secret to win by a nose. Rio Oro held third, another ½ length back. Quinton's Gold, a son of Carson City, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:08.39. "I thought he caught me," Essman said of Profound Secret, who won this race two years ago.
In Saturday's $50,000 Cactus Flower Handicap for fillies and mares, extreme longshot Win a Feu rolled to the lead in the stretch and went on to win by 2 lengths over Ode to Elaine. Top Bracket was third and the favorite, a three-horse entry, could do no better than Cove Point's fifth-place finish. Win a Feu, a Canadian-bred, 5-year-old daughter of Feu d'Enfer, entered the event off optional claimer experience.
Ironman Dehere dueled with Mistakenly Special through most of the day's third stakes, the $35,000 Black Mountain Handicap, before scoring a ½-length victory. The winner, a 4-year-old son of Dehere, was clocked in 1:41.83.
Winter Leaf jumped out to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Conniver Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares and held the advantage all the way around, winning by ¾ length over Your Out. Case Of The Blues was third. Winter Leaf, with Larry Reynolds in the irons, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.18. "We intended to go to the front and she relaxed very nicely," said Reynolds.
Sunday, Shop Till You Drop, a 3-year-old daughter of Thunder Gulch, held off Spelling to win the $60,000 Wide Country Stakes by 1 length. True Sensation was third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:46.82, with the horses fighting a strong headwind down the stretch. Shop Till You Drop now has won three of her five starts.
Powder was first at the start and first at the finish in Sunday's $50,000 Spring Fever Stakes, beating odds-on favorite Spanish Glitter to the wire by 2 lengths. Southern Tour was third. Powder, a 4-year-old daughter of Broad Brush, ran 5 ½ furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.74. Winning trainer Jesse Wigginton said he expected a speedy effort. "Last spring here, she worked so fast, I was ashamed for people to know I'd work a horse that fast," Wigginton said.
You'llbeinmyheart led from gate to wire in Sunday's $75,000 Battler Star Handicap for Louisiana-bred, 3-year-old fillies. The 6-furlong win, in 1:10 3/5, was one of five on the card for jockey Robby Albarado.