And the fickle fortunes of Thoroughbred racing still have two weeks to run before the remaining contenders line up in the Churchill Downs starting gate.
Trainer Nick Zito announced Saturday War Pass, last year's champion 2-year-old, has a minor fracture in his left front leg. The injury is not life- or career-threatening, Zito said, but War Pass definitely is out of the Kentucky Derby mix.
Zito said the injury may have happened during the running of last week's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, where War Pass ran a game second.
"The Wood was very tough on him," Zito told Daily Racing Form. "I think the injury must have happened in the Wood. He had a few good days when he first got to Kentucky, but then I had to back off on him."
Zito still has two candidates for the Run for the Roses -- Anak Natal and Cool Coal Man.
Pletcher, meanwhile, has worked out of a disappointing spring to find his best runners in the past two weeks.
In the final Kentucky prep for the Derby, Pletcher saddled Behindatthebar to rally from last in a field of 11 to win Saturday's Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland by 1 length, putting himself into the picture for the Run for the Roses.
After trailing by as much as 15 lengths, jockey David Flores got Behindatthebar rolling entering the second turn and he closed well despite drifting in twice in the stretch. The Kentucky-bred son of Forest Wildcat finished the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.14
Picking up his third win in five starts -- with all the wins on artificial surfaces -- Behindatthebar joined Monba and Cowboy Cal as trainer Pletcher's late-developing trio of Derby contenders.
He came into the race off an allowance win at Santa Anita, which followed a fifth-place finish in the El Camino Real at Bay Meadows -- his only off-the-board finish in his only race on real dirt.
"We've had a good couple of weeks," said Pletcher, referring to Monba's and Cowboy Cal's 1-2 finish in the Blue Grass two weeks ago.
Addressing Behindatthebar's erratic stretch route, Flores said, "When he passed those horses, he wanted to lug in and stay with the horses. But I just kind of let him gallop out," Flores said.
Looking forward to the Derby, he added, "It doesn't look like the distance is going to be a problem."
The weekend's other Triple Crown prep was in Baltimore, where excitement already is building for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
Icabad Crane, unhurried early, got through between horses on the turn and into the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, then won a long stretch duel with pace-setter Mint Lane to score by a head. Deputyville was 3 lengths farther back in third.
Icabad Crane, a New York-bred son of Jump Start, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.83 under Jeremy Rose in a race more often a prep for the Preakness Stakes than for the Kentucky Derby. It was his fourth race and third win. He was third in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park in his last outing.
"I was impressed at how game he was when I had him in a couple of tight spots," Rose said. "Luckily, it worked out for us. He's a game little horse."
Winning trainer Graham Motion already saddles Kentucky Derby contender Adriano but assistant Adrian Rolls said the conditioner will consider the Preakness for Icabad Crane. "This is only his fourth start, so it was a nice step up," Rolls said. "He has a great disposition and is easy to train."
With more than the maximum allowable 20 starters still hoping for a spot in the Derby field -- and graded stakes earnings the yardstick for measuring the contenders -- the final makeup of the starting field will depend on which horses remain as viable contenders after their next few workouts. War Pass had been ranked first on the list, with nearly $1.5 million in graded stakes earnings, so his departure moves every other contender up a spot on that list.
In other racing:
Hawthorne Race Course
Ryan's for Real lived up to his name in Saturday's $200,000 Bill Hartack Memorial. Leading right out of the gate, the 5-year-old, Florida-bred Sword Dance gelding was headed by odds-on favorite Fairbanks as the field turned for home. But with jockey Erick Rodriguez providing the encouragement, Ryan's for Real found more, retook the lead and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Fairbanks held second with Mr. Champ third, 5 1/2 lengths farther back. Ryan's for Real completed the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.18. "I was looking at the races earlier today and speed was pretty good," said Rodriguez. "That was the instruction and it worked. When I saw Fairbanks coming after us on the turn, I didn't want to move too early." Trainer Dale Capuano said that was the plan all along. "The farther he trains, the better he seems to go. So I thought he could get the mile and an eighth," Capuano said. Fairbanks' rider, Mike Smith, had no excuses for his mount. "I put a half length on him (Ryan's For Real) going into the far turn, and I thought I'd open up at that point, but that horse came back and I couldn't stay with him anymore," Smith said.
The race formerly was known as the National Jockey Club Handicap. Hawthorne Racing Secretary Gary Duch renamed the event in honor of the Hall of Fame jockey and former state steward at Hawthorne, who passed away in November. "Here is one of the greatest jockeys of all time and I didn't know any other tracks who were stepping up to the plate to honor him," Duch said.
In Saturday's companion $200,000 Sixty Sails Handicap for fillies and mares, Golden Velvet stalked the pace set by favorite Tessa Blue, took the lead on the turn and drew clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Tessa Blue held second and Kathleens Reel ran evenly to finish third. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Darley Stable and ridden by Eibar Coa, Golden Velvet completed the 9 furlongs in 1:51.31. "I was very confident today and I thought she was the horse to beat," Coa said. "My horse was sharp and I would say my horse was much the best even though she was playing around in the stretch."
Big Booster trailed the field until the third turn of Sunday's $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational, then bid four-wide down the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Warning Zone. Porfido was third. Big Booster, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Accelerator, ran the "about" 1 3/4 miles on firm turf in 2:45.5 with Rafael Bejarano doling out the energy. Mike Mitchell trains the winner. "I'm very happy," Bejarano said. "I saw in the (Racing) Form this horse likes to come from behind all the time. There was a lot of speed in the race and I just had to follow instructions."
Foxysox put a nose in front at the wire to post a mild upset in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap. Black Mamba was second, just another nose in front of I Can See. All three rallied in the final sixteenth past pace-setter Forest Melody, who held on for fourth, beating the favorite, Double Trouble, by a head. Only 5 lengths separated the field of eight fillies and mares. Foxysox, a 5-year-old, British-bred daughter of Triple Tricks, got the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:00.45 with Victor Espinoza handling the reins. "It was a question of distance," said winning trainer Carla Gaines. "But she settled and relaxed so much this year, we were thinking she could do it. So we were right." It was the first victory for Foxysox since December 2006, when she won the Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park. Overall, she has six wins from 20 starts.
Stoneside also came from off the pace to capture Saturday's $100,000 San Simeon Handicap, rallying along the rail to take the lead in the stretch. At the wire, the 4-year-old, Irish-bred son of Marchand de Sable won by 1 3/4 lengths over Night Chapter, who closed from last of 11 with a late rush that was just a bit too late. Tenga Cat was third and the lukewarm favorite, Giovanni, faded from the lead to finish last. Stoneside, with Martin Pedroza in the irons for trainer Julio Canani, ran the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12.54. "I had a perfect trip," Pedroza said. "Julio didn't want this horse on the lead today. He told me to lay about five or six lengths off the pace and to try and find somewhere to run at the top of the stretch."
Rite Moment stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Bed o' Roses Handicap for fillies and mares, seized control with a furlong to run and came home first, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Lady Marlboro. Cowgirls Don't Cry, the early leader, held third. Rite Moment, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Vicar, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.66. Rajiv Maragh took the mount for trainer Gary Contessa. "I had a lot of horse," Maragh said. "I thought we went kind of slow for these kinds of horses. We went pretty comfortable the first part of the race. That made me move a bit earlier, because I knew we had a lot left in the tank. This filly can flat-out run."
In Sunday's $75,000 Kings Point Handicap for New York-breds, R Clear Victory led all the way to a clear, 4-lengths victory with Shuffling Maddnes second and Prince of Peace third. The favorite, Naughty New Yorker, broke slowly, raced wide and finished last of five. R Clear Victory, a 5-year-old son of Victory Gallop, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.25 with Stewart Elliot riding.
Rumbling Cloud was quickly in front in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Woodstock Stakes for 3-year-olds, opened up a comfortable lead and held on at the end to win by 3/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Carson's Legacy. Matt's Broken Vow checked in third. Rumbling Cloud, a Florida-bred colt by Cloud Hopping, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.46 under Emma-Jayne Wilson. "He showed tremendous tenacity down the lane," Wilson said. "He's shown those kind of guts in the past."
In Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Whimsical Stakes for fillies and mares, My List rallied four-wide into the stretch and prevailed by 3/4 length over the favorite, Bear Now. Shot Gun Ela was third. My List, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Banker's Gold, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.71 under Eurico Da Silva. "Today wasn't her best distance," said winning trainer Nicholas Gonzalez. "She was having trouble getting up going three-quarters last year. When she goes a little farther, she'll still be good, too."
Sterwins, moving from turf to the all-weather track, rallied from last in a field of six to win Sunday's $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over odds-on favorite Go Between. Sir Whimsey finished third. Sterwins, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred gelding by Runaway Groom, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.53. Shaun Bridgmohan rode for trainer Pierce Malcolm. "He's always trained good over the Polytrack," Malcolm said of the surface switch. "We were just waiting for one of those turf races to get rained off one day, but it just never happened. We ended up entering him here and taking a shot." Danceroftherealm caught early leader Just for Keeps in the final jumps to win Saturday's $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length. Just for Keeps then was disqualified and placed fifth for stretch interference, promoting Kindling to second and Jazzy to third. Danceroftherealm, 5-year-old, British-bred mare by King of Kings, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.33. Miguel Mena rode for trainer Malcolm Pierce.
Jade's Revenge pressed the pace through the first mile of Saturday's $100,000 Fort Harrod Stakes, took charge when asked by jockey Edgar Prado and drew clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Save Big Money was second, a nose to the good of High Blues. Jade's Revenge, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Quiet American, got the 1 5/8 miles on the all-weather track in 2:42.69.
In Wednesday's $125,000 Appalachian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Alwajeeha rallied to the lead three-wide under jockey John Velazquez, then held off the late rush of Sweepstakes to win by a head. The pace-setter, I Lost My Choo, was but a nose farther back in third. Alwajeeha, owned by Shadwell Stable, picked up her second win in five starts, completing the 1 mile on the turf in 1:37.37. "She's a super filly," said Neal McLaughlin, assistant and brother to winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "We're going to have a lot of fun with her."
Carriage Trail led the field most of the way around in leisurely fashion in Friday's $125,000 Doubledogdare Stakes, then sprinted to the wire to post the 10-1 upset by 1 1/4 lengths over Say You Will. Indescribable was third. Carriage Trail, a 5-year-old Giant's Causeway mare, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather surface in 1:42.51 with Kent Desormeaux measuring out the speed. "We started running about the mile pole," Desormeaux argued. "It wasn't that much of a theft from there. She had to be a racehorse."
Hadavision saw the wire just in time in Saturday's $100,000 Peach Blossom Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, closing between rivals to beat Big Easy in the final yards by 1/2 length. True Intentions came from off the pace to take third. Hadavision, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Vision and Verse, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.79. Ramon Dominguez rode for trainer Mark Shuman.
One Lucky Buck dueled first with High Pitch and then, in the stretch run, with Rollicking Caller before winning Sunday's $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap by 1/2 length. Rollicking Caller held on for second and Broke Sharply was third. One Lucky Buck, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Thats Our Buck, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.94 with Ken Tohill up.
Powerful Touch came four-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Jim McKay Stakes to challenge, got to the front a sixteenth from the wire and won by 1 length over the favorite, Eddie C. Mint Slewlep was third. Powerful Touch, an 8-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Touch Gold, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.13 under Mario Pino. "He's a nice old horse," said winning trainer Justin Nixon. "Horses like this are always fun."
Ravalo survived some pace pressure early in Saturday's $75,000 Allen's Prospect Stakes, opened up in the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Cognac Kisses. Grand Champion got the bronze. Ravalo, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Mutakddim, "I thought Cognac Kisses would be right with me but he got left and it put me in a perfect spot," said winning rider Jeremy Rose. "That allowed us to dictate the race."
Lexi Star, the odds-on favorite, rallied on the outside in Saturday's $60,000 Geisha Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares and was just up in time to win by a head over Spectacular Malibu. Come Fly Away was third. Lexi Star, a 6-year-old daughter of Crypto Star, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.76 with Jeremy Rose up. "I love the way she overcame everything today and still got the job done," said Rose. "She is an impressive mare and I hope we can get to the million (dollar) mark with her as well."
Bewild Hennessey lunged at the start of Saturday's $130,000 Copper Top Futurity for New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, recovered quickly for jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. and jumped out to a big lead. At the wire, the chestnut son of Roll Hennessey won by 2 1/4 lengths over Ballado's Bullet. Waymore's Blues was third. Bewild Hennessey ran the 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 50.8 seconds.
Won Awesome Dude surged past pace-setting Play the Chimes halfway through Saturday's $50,000 Tony Sanchez Memorial Mile and drew off smartly to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Play the Chimes held second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Two Jays Secret. Won Awesome Dude, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred son of Awesome Again, ran the 1 mile on a fast track at the Austin, Texas, oval in 1:37.7 under Casey Lambert.
Expect Smoke stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Manor Downs Futurity, took over in the late going and won by 1 length over pace-setting Katesexpectations. Lakesoftheclouds finished third with an even run. Expect Smoke, a Texas-bred colt by Valid Expectations, got the 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 52.59 seconds with Roger Gomez up for trainer Cheryl Asmussen.
Reba is Tops put in her bid on the turn in Saturday's $55,000 Monterey Handicap for fillies and mares, split rivals in the stretch and was along in time despite some erratic running to win by 1 length over Royal Kleven. Coco Belle, the early leader, held on for third. Reba is Tops got the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 58.07 seconds. Russell Baze rode for trainer Bud Klokstad.
News and Notes
Breeders' Cup continues to expand. The latest addition is three European races added to the "Win and You're In" program for this fall's World Championships at Santa Anita. The newly blessed events are the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, Meon Valley Stud Fillies' Mile for 2-year-old fillies and the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes for 2-year-olds – all at Ascot Racecourse on Sept. 27. Those races join the Champions Mile at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on April 27 as automatic international qualifiers for the Oct. 24-25 Championships.