In a potentially wide-open Kentucky Derby year, the eventual winner could come from anywhere -- even an artificial-surface race won by a turf-oriented colt whose mission seemed to have veered away from the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs.
That race would be Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky -- an event that often has been a key Derby prep but this year seemed to have come up a bit light. And the colt would be Adriano, a well-bred youngster whose poor showing in the Fountain of Youth seemed to have sidetracked Derby hopes.
Saturday, the chestnut colt rallied from a stalking trip in the Lane's End, came four-wide to the lead in the stretch and drew off to win by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Halo Najib. Medjool was third. Adriano, a Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare, ran the 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.2. Edgar Prado rode for trainer H. Graham Motion.
Adriano came into the race with just one victory under his girth -- a maiden event on the grass last summer at Saratoga. Since then, he finished a promising fourth in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland but then a fading fourth in the Laurel Futurity. After winning a grassy allowance event at Gulfstream early in January, he showed nothing in the Fountain of Youth, getting home ninth, 17 lengths behind the winner, Cool Coal Man.
Asked about the Derby, Motion said he needs to consult with owner Donald Adams. "I think we all agree that he's probably more of a turf horse," the trainer said. "But the Lexington (April 19 at Keeneland) is something we will definitely consider."
Motion said the Fountain of Youth misstep may have resulted from Adriano's demeanor.
"He's very hot-blooded. In the Fountain of Youth, he kind of fell apart that day" in the paddock. "The fact that he was good today made a big difference."
In other 3-year-old races:
-- Big Glen rallied down the stretch to snatch victory in Saturday's $100,000 Rushaway Stakes for 3-year-olds at Turfway Park, winning by a neck over the favorite, Miner's Claim. Icabad Crane was third with a wide trip. Big Glen, a Kentucky-bred son of Cactus Ridge, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.55. Rene Douglas rode for trainer Frankie Brothers. "He's not Derby nominated," Brothers said. "We may take a look at the Lexington."
-- Double Or Nothing won his bet with a pace-stalking trip in Saturday's $60,000 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park in Maryland. After watching pedestrian fractions, jockey Abel Castellano Jr. sent the Florida-bred Double Honor gelding to the lead with five sixteenths to run and held on to win by 1/2 length over Regal Solo. Vanderkaay was third and the favorite, Cave's Valley, flattened out to finish fourth. Double Or Nothing, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.66. "When I went to the paddock, wow, I was really surprised because I had never ridden this horse before but here was a nice, big 3-year-old," said Castellano. "He broke a little sharp and relaxed pretty comfortable down the backside and when I asked him a little bit on the turn, he took off."
-- At Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Ide Like a Double drew off smartly in the stretch to win the $75,000 Crescent City Derby for Louisiana-breds by 7 1/4 lengths. Pantara Phantom finished second and the favored entry of Cubera and Grand Legacy finished third and fourth. Ide Like a Double, a son of Ide, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.66 under Kerwin Clark.
-- It was on turf, but Amazing Results got to the front entering the stretch run in Saturday's $60,000 Grindstone Stakes for 3-year-olds at Fair Grounds, then just held off the late run of Gangbuster to win by a neck. Texas Fever was only another neck back in third. Amazing Results, an Illinois-bred Grand Slam colt, finished the "about" 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:45.01. Shaun Bridgmohan rode for trainer Richard Scherer.
Kentucky Oaks preps
-- Maren's Meadow upset Saturday's $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway park, rallying from a pace-pressing position to take the lead on the second turn and drawing clear. At the wire, the Ontario-bred daughter of Meadowlake was in front by 1 1/4 lengths with Valentine Fever second and the favorite, A to the Croft, third. Maren's Meadow, with Gabriel Saez up, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.15. Trainer J. Larry Jones said Maren's Meadow likely will stay in the United States "through the Black Eyed Susan (at Pimlico), and look at going to Woodbine after that with her." But he said he is unlikely to run against Kentucky Oaks favorites Proud Spell and Eight Belles.
-- Go Atm rallied from well back to take the lead in the final yards of Saturday's $75,000 Crescent City Oaks for state-breds at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and went on to win by 1 length over the heavy, odds-on favorite, Hisse. Pinot Pals was third. Go Atm, a daughter of Fifty Stars, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.39 under Corey Lanerie.
Some 90 of the world's top horses are in the final stages of preparation for Saturday's Dubai World Cup meeting, highlighted by the $6 million World Cup itself, won last year by the now-retired American champion Invasor. This year's favorite is the reigning U.S. champ, Curlin. Also on the Saturday night card at Nad al-Sheba are the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic, won last year by Hong Kong's Vengeance of Rain; the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, taken in 2007 by Japan's Admire Moon; the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, won a year ago by U.S. invader Kelly's Landing; the $2 million UAE Derby, won last year by Asiatic Boy and the $1 million Godolphin Mile, won by the U.S. starter Spring At Last in the 2007 renewal.
The Japan Racing Association has announced it will launch the "Japan Autum Internaitonal" this fall. The festival, set between the October runnings of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Breeders' Cup and the Hong Kong International Races in December, aims to attract the top international horses to four consecutive Group 1 races. This year, the program will find the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup for fillies and mares at 2,200 meters on the grass on Nov. 16 at Kyoto Racecourse; the Mile Championship on the turf and the Japan Cup at 2,400 meters on the turf at Tokyo Racecourse on Nov. 30 and the Japan Cup Dirt at 1,800 meters on Dec. 7 at Hanshin Racecourse.
In weekend racing:
Boule d'Or jumped out to a huge lead in Saturday's $200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap then just held on at the end to win by 3/4 length over Porfido. Warning Zone got home third. Boule d'Or, a 7-year-old, Irish-bred son of Croco Rouge, ran the 1 1/2 miles on the unusually configured turf course in 2:25.48. Tyler Baze applied the well-conceived ride. Jeff Mullins trains the horse. Boule d'Or picked up his first stakes win since arriving in the United States a bit more than a year ago from England. Mullins claimed him two races back for $50,000. "Well, that was kind of the way we figured he'd run," Mullins said. "We didn't really expect him to be that far out in front, but the last eighth of a mile had us all nervous -- I think even the rider was." Also Saturday, Desert Code stalked the pace in the $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes, got to the lead after crossing the dirt and drew clear in the stretch to win by 2 lengths over Tenga Cat. Night Chapter finished third. Desert Code, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by E Dubai, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs down the firm hillside turf in 1:12.36.
In Sunday's $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for fillies and mares, Costume jumped right to the lead and held on at the end to win by a head over Immortelle. Lavender Sky was another head back in third, just a head in front of Foxysox. Costume, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Danehill, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.08. Garrett Gomez had the ride for trainer Bobby Frankel.
Rite Moment picked the right moment to make her move in Saturday's $150,000 Distaff Handicap, rallying to the lead in the stretch run to win by a length over pace-setter Your Flame in Me. Scatkey finished third and odds-on favorite Control System settled for fourth. Rite Moment, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Vicar filly, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:09.86 under Rajiv Maragh. "She has exceeded my expectations," said winning trainer Gary Contessa. "She never bounces. She comes back on two or three weeks rest and runs the same race. She's a big, strong filly … She eats like a colt, trains like a colt and runs against fillies. It's kind of cool."
Mitigation took the lead on the turn after stalking the early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Hansel Stakes for 3-year-olds and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over U.S. Cavalry. Stormin Yank was third as the favorite. Mitigation, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Cherokee Run, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.03 with Orlando Mojica up for trainer Paul McGee. "He was very impressive. Won easier than I thought he would," McGee said. "We'll find something at Keeneland for him next."
Pola's Place led from gate to wire in Saturday's $50,000 Queen Stakes for fillies and mares, holding on at the end to win by 3/4 length over Victorianna. Just for Keeps was another head back in third. Pola's Place, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Out of Place, finished the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.37. Thomas Pompell rode for trainer David Pate. "I was told to let her break and there was really nothing that could go with her if she did," Pompell said. "She relaxed very nicely and just kept on going. She's a very nice filly to ride."
Good and Lucky dueled for the lead in Friday night's $100,000 Gulf Coast Classic, got it after a half mile and finished well to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Crossword lost the pace battle but got place money and favorite Beta Capo made a late run to finish third, another head behind. Good and Lucky, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Wild Rush, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.19 under James Graham.
Unforgotten seemed a bit forgotten in the early stages of Friday night's $100,000 Goddess Stakes for fillies and mares. Running next-last in the early going, the 4-year-old, Florida-bred Northern Afleet mare kicked it in turning for home and won by 4 1/2 lengths. Kathleens Reel danced home second and Game for More had no more to give, running third. Unforgotten got the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.34 with James Graham posting the riding double.
Ceasers March hiked right out to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Lagniappe Sprint Stakes for state-breds and led the patrol all the way, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Myoldmansam. Mr. Porter finished third. Ceasers March, a 4-year-old Leestown gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.31 under Jamie Theriot.
Candy Ball stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Forlin Handicap for fillies and mares, took over the lead at mid-stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Elliecat. Platinee finished third. Candy Ball, a 6-year-old mare by Lemon Drop Kid, ran the "about" 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.25. Donnie Meche rode for trainer Andrew Leggio Jr.
Sunday, Grand Minit rallied from ninth of 12 to win the $60,000 Lagniappe Classic for Louisiana-bred by a neck over G.W.'s Silver. Jacob V and G A finished third and the favorite, Z Storm, was blocked at a critical juncture and then could do no better than fourth. Grand Minit, a 5-year-old son of Grand Slam, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.08 under Curt Borque.
Bold Chieftain allowed the favorite, Now Victory, to get out to a big lead in Saturday's $55,000 March Madness Handicap, then caught him nearing the sixteenth pole and went on to win by 1 length. Now Victory held second, 2 lengths to the good of Pass the Heat. Bold Chieftain, a 5-year-old, California-bred son of Chief Seattle, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.71 under Russell Baze.
Sam Houston Race Park
Goosey Moose sat off the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Spring Stakes for Texas-breds, moved to the lead near the 16th pole when asked by jockey Quincy Hamilton and won by 2 lengths. The early leader, Lil Jett, held on for second and Dreamsandvisions was third. Goosey Moose, a 6-year-old Shaquin gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.68.
Junior College waited behind a quick early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes, came four-wide to challenge with a furlong to run and easily drew off to score by 2 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Indian Chant. Lovango was third. Junior College, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Smithie, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.85 under Eusebio Razo Jr.
Peppers Pride -- a nice name for a New Mexico-bred -- rolled from a pace-stalking position to win Sunday's $100,000 Sydney Valentini Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares by 1 1/4 lengths over Theregoesdancer. Wild Gini led most of the way, then saved third. Peppers Pride, a 5-year-old daughter of Desert God out of the Chili Pepper Pie mare Laddy Pepper, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.13 under Carlos Madeira. The Joel Marr trainee went to the post as the odds-on favorite.