Bobby Frankel's dry run for the Kentucky Derby came off exactly as planned. All that's left now for the Hall of Fame trainer is pulling off a repeat next Saturday in the actual event.
Frankel saddled and Jerry Bailey rode Midas Eyes to an easy, 2 1/2-length victory over Champali in Saturday's $150,000 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. The Touch Gold colt ran with Champali through the first quarter, then edged clear and won with only mild encouragement.
Frankel, who has never won the Derby, will send out heavy Derby favorite Empire Maker in the main event. Empire Maker won the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct en route to his chance for Triple Crown glory.
Midas Eyes came into the Derby Trial off a victory in the 7-furlong Swale Stakes at Gulfstream. He tacked on a furlong in the Trial without any apparent problem, finishing in 1:36.22 on a track rated fast.
Frankel said he missed some training with Midas Eyes in California and was afraid "he might slow up at the eighth pole. But his class took over. Jerry told me he really wasn't handling the track too well. But he's just a better horse than those other ones."
Bailey added that Midas Eyes "had to work a little harder on this track," as do many horses over the quirky Churchill Downs surface. "Other than that, we had no problems."
Frankel said the Met Mile in New York might be the next stop for Midas Eyes.
At least 18 horses remain under consideration for Saturday's Run for the Roses. The favorites include Empire Maker, Illinois Derby winner Ten Most Wanted and Blue Grass winner Peace Rules. The first four finishers from the Santa Anita Derby – Buddy Gil, Indian Express, Kafwain and Atswhatimtalkinbout, are expected to run, as are the second-, third- and eighth-place finishers from the Blue Grass – Brancusi, Offlee Wild and Ten Cents A Shine. Sir Cherokee comes to Louisville off an impressive, late-running win in the Arkansas Derby.
Also expected to enter the Churchill Downs starting gate after hearing "My Old Kentucky Home" are the 1-2 finishers from the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland – Scrimshaw and Eye of the Tiger. Funny Cide, who finished a close second to Empire Maker in the Wood, is readying for the Derby, as is Senor Swinger, who finished a disappointing fifth in the Wood.
A few current candidates might defect before Wednesday' entry deadline. Outta Here was fourth in the UAE Derby in Dubai last time out. Lone Star Sky was fourth in the Illinois Derby and his trainer is considering the Lone Star Derby in Texas as an alternative. Supah Blitz hasn't won since last November.
In other weekend racing:
The 2003 World Series Racing Championship kicked off Sunday with Eishin Preston scoring an off-the-pace victory in the HK$14 million Audemars Piguet QE II Cup at Sha Tin. Sent off favorite, the defending champion in the event made a bold move in the stretch to take the win. Elegant Fashion, winner of the Hong Kong Derby, got home second. German standard-bearer Paolini loomed boldly in the late going but could not hold off the best finishers and got home third.
"I am very happy to win today in such a hard time for Hong Kong," said trainer Shuji Kitahashi, referring to the SARS virus that has disrupted life in the special administrative district and discouraged foreign participation in the race. Kitahashi said he is disappointed the next leg of the Series in Singapore has been canceled but said he hopes to send Eishin Preston to future Series races "if we have some chances in the rest of the season....I am very hoping that his last career start should be the Hong Kong International Races," the trainer added. The Hong Kong Cup in December is the final stop on the Series schedule.
Paolini's trainer, Andreas Wohler, said his horse "got a good postion from the outside draw but he got no cover and wouldn't settle. When he got through to the front, he thought he had done enough." Elegant Fashion's conditioner, David Hayes, commented, "No complaints. The winner was too good."
Hawthorne Race Course
Jockey Rene Douglas didn't want to take the inside route with Bare Necessities in Saturday's $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap. But when running room developed along the rail, he made the most of it, taking his mount through and on to a 2 1/2-length victory over Jaramar Rain. Lakenheath was third under the wire. "I rode a race earlier," Douglas said, "and it seemed like the rail was a little tiring. I was concerned but I had no choice" about taking the inside path. "Once I got there, I gave it all I had. She's a nice filly." Amy Dollase saddled the winner for her father, Wally Dollase. "She did what we expected and I'm very happy with this race," she said. The 9 furlongs took 1:52.84.
Lone Star Park
Bluesthestandard shipped in from California to take Saturday's $300,000 Texas Mile, drawing off I the stretch to win by 4 lengths over Bonapaw in 1:35.68. "He's such an intelligent horse and such a competitor," said trainer Ted West Jr. "He just thinks he's supposed to win. He doesn't care who he runs against – Kona Gold, Bonapaw or all of these horses today. He just thinks he's that much better than them." So did the punters, who sent the 6-year-old, Georgia-bred gelding off at 3-2 odds. More surprising was Bonapaw's performance. Normally a speed merchant, he sat off the pace for jockey Gerard Melancon and closed well to take place money. "He's been speed-crazy since he was a 2-year-old," Melancon said. "Now, at 7, I think he's really starting to realize what we need to do."
Ninebanks worked through a hole on the inside turning for home in Saturday's $200,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile, took the lead and then just held on to win by a nose over a late-running Nicobar. National Anthem was third and the odds-on favorite, Ladies Din, could do no better than fourth. Ninebanks, a 5-year-old Smokester gelding, finished in 1:37.20 over turf rated yielding. "I had an absolute dream trip," said winning jockey Ron Warren Jr. "I felt really good when the rail opened up." Despite the narrow margin, Warren said Ninebanks wasn't giving any quarter. "We could have gone around again and he wasn't going to get by my horse," the rider said. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he will wait a while before scheduling Ninebanks' next race.
Chief Planner stalked the early pace in Saturday's $250,000 Citibank Snow Chief Stakes for Cal-bred 3-year-olds before taking charge in the stretch. At the wire, he was a 7-lengths winner over Excessivepleasure, with Tiza Coup third. With David Flores up for trainer Bob Baffert, the General Meeting colt ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.12. Flores said he had been looking forward to sending Chief Planner around two turns. "He definitely has a future," he added.
In other events for Cal-breds on Saturday's card:
--Bartok's Blithe came from far back to win the $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3/4 length over pace-setting favorite Princess V. Bartok's Blithe, a daughter of Bartok, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.87 under Victor Espinoza.
--Joey Franco collared Bonus Pay Day in the late going to win the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes by 1 length, covering 7 furlongs in 1:28.04 with favorite Commander's Flag finishing third.
--Sea to See came from last to win the $150,000 TVG Khaled Stakes by a neck over favorite Native Desert. Sea to See, a 5-year-old Al Mamoon (haven't written that name in a while!) gelding, raced the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.60. Lily's Lad was third.
-- Shalini was just up at the wire to take the $150,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes by a neck over Blind Ambition, who held on for second-place money by a head over Sunset Serenade. Shalini, a 4-year-old daughter of Urgent Request, ran 1 1/16 mile on the grass in 1:41.41.
-- Cee's Elegance rallied in the stretch to win the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes by 3/4 length over Jetinto Houston, with Real Paranoide third. Cee's Elegance, a 6-year-old Cee's Tizzy mare, covered the 7 furlongs in 1:21.70.
--Jockey Mike Smith had a tough afternoon. In the Snow Chief, he was aboard Bold N Broke, who fell approaching the second turn while racing at the back of the pack. In the Khaled, he was leading the field on Prized Friend when that one ducked in, went over the rail and dropped Smith.
Sunday, Dublino raced in mid-pack during the first half of the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap for fillies and mares, then took charge in the stretch run to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Southern Oasis. Final Destination was third as the favorite after being bumped hard into the fence on the turn. Dublino, a 4-year-old Lear Fan filly, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.62 under Kent Desormeaux.
In Friday's $100,000 Hawthorne Handicap for fillies and mares, Keys to the Heart opened a daylight lead in the stretch and held on to win by 1/2 length over Riana. Se Me Acabo finished third but was set down behind fourth-place finisher and favorite Alexine for interference in the stretch. Keys to the Heart, a 4-year-old daughter of Wild Again, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.97 for jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. and trainer Beau Greely.
Calder Race Course
After rain storms forced a switch from turf to the main track for Saturday's $150,000 Calder Breeders' Cup Handcap, Stormy Frolic frolicked home first, 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Win's Fair Lady. Redoubled Miss was third while the favorite, Cellars Shiraz, was well back in fourth. Stormy Frolic, a 4-year-old Summer Squall filly, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:46.74 for Jose Santos. "I was doing a rain dance all night," said trainer Marty Wolfson, who entered the filly to run only in the event of a surface switch. "She loves an off track."
Saturday's $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap also came off the turf onto a sloppy main track and also produced an upset. Saint Verre shot quickly to the front and coasted home first by 8 1/2 lengths over Windsor Castle. Judge's Case was third and the favorite, Classic Endeavor, finished last of eight after a bad break. Nine horses scratched when the race was taken off the turf. Saint Verre, a 5-year-old Saint Ballado horse, ran 1 mile in 1:33.77 for jockey Jose Espinoza. "That was a surprise," said winning trainer Allen Jerkens. "He really likes firm ground and this was the fastest track he's seen in a long time. He could run well on firm turf, also. We have a lot of options with him."
Sunday, Grey Comet held off Raffit to win the $150,000 Times Square Division of the New York Stallion Stakes by a head. Uncle Camie was third. Grey Comet drifted very wide on the backstretch and trainer Gary Contessa said he is concerned enough about that behavior to remove the colt from consideration for the May 17 Preakness. "I'll just do some work on him and wait for the next New York-bred race," he said.
In the $150,000 Park Avenue Division for fillies, Hanselina posted an upset win, rallying from the middle of the eight-horse field to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Hot Golden Jet. Golden Damsel was third and the favorite, Beautiful America, was an ugly fourth after being bumped and pinched back at the start. Hanselina, a daughter of Hansel, ran 1 mile in 1:36.35 under Edgar Prado. Trainer Dominic Galluscio said Prado "rode a great race for us and kept Beautiful America pinned inside."
Wake At Noon got a new set of blinkers for Saturday's $150,000 Vigil Stakes as trainer Abraham Katryan tried to put a bit more early foot into the 2002 Canadian Horse of the Year after a disappointing first start of the current campaign. The tactic worked, aas Wake At Noon jumped right into an early, four-horse battle for the lead before taking command. Then, the son of Cure the Blues drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Shaws Creek was second and Cheap Talk third as the 7 furlongs went in 1:23.25. "He's a champion and he has a lot to live up to," said winning jockey Emile Ramsammy. Katryan said he now will try Wake At Noon in longer races.
Dusty Spike came from the rear of the field to upset Saturday's $100,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Handicap, winning by 1 length over odds-on favorite Cowboy Stuff. The 4-year-old, Oklahoma-bred son of Harriman swung four-wide entering the lane and wore down the leaders in the final furlong and a half before edging clear. He finished the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:43 3/5.
Grace Bay surged to the lead turning for home in Saturday's $75,000 Caesar's Wish Stakes and drew off to win by 5 1/2 lengths over stablemate Demetra's Love. The Maryland-bred daughter of Waquoit finished the 1 1/16 mile on a muddy track in 1:45.47 and trainer Dale Capuano said the effort was good enough to move the filly along to the $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan on May 16. "This race has been in our plans as a stepping stone to the Black-Eyed Susan. She finished up well today and her running style suits the distance," he said.
On Sunday, Love Sam dueled No Strings into submission early in the $60,000 Star De Naskra Stakes for 3-year-old Maryland-breds, then blazed off to win by 7 1/4 lengths. Attainable, the favorite, got off poorly and rallied to finish a distant second. No Strings held on for third. Love Sam ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.
House Party hit the front as the field turned into the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Legal Light Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drove home all alone, winning by 8 1/2 lengths over Ladyecho. Valley of the Gods was third. House Party, a Florida-bred daughter of French Deputy, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.29. "My filly was push-button," said winning rider Joe Rocco Jr. "When I asked her, she really took off." Trainer Allen Jerkens sent House Party down for the race.
Don't Countess Out took the lead on the turn for home in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Rose Stakes, then turned back challenges from a pair of rivals before winning by a head over Princess Jen. Wasted Wisdom was third. Don't Countess Out, a 4-year-old daughter of Take Me Out, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.28. The favorite, For Rubies, never reached serious contention, gave way after a half mile and finished next-to-last in the field of seven fillies and mares.
The Downs at Albuquerque
Curve Ball needed to moves on the leaders to win Sunday's $40,000 Camino Real Handicap. After being checked at the three-eights pole during the first run at the leaders, the 6-year-old Ghazi gelding came back again in deep stretch to catch pari-mutuel favorite Funny Meeting and win by 1/2 length. Sneaker Mike was third. Curve Ball ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.57.
Free Corona (a popular item in the press box!) rallied to the lead on the turn for home in Sunday's $35,000 Wildcat Handicap and bested Pittsburgh Star by 3/4 length after a stretch battle. Playing It Cool was third in the 11-furlong turf test, timed in 2:15.17. Free Corona is a 5-year-old gelding by Free At Last out of Mona Corona.
Colterkind got through traffic to finish first in Sunday's $35,000 Seattle Handicap, 1/2 length ahead of Road Afleet. But the stewards didn't like the way Colterkind got the job done. After watching the replay, they set Colterkind down to second and promoted Road Afleet to the big check. Turban's third-place finish was allowed to stand. Road Afleet is a 5-year-old Adventure Road gelding. The 6-furlong race, run on a fast track, went in 1:07 4/5.