The Brock Talk

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Revolving Door Has Begun To Spin In Kentucky Derby

The revolving door into and out of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) has begun to spin rapidly and decisively starting with the Saturday defection of prohibitive favorite Eskendereya (photo) due to "filling" in his left front leg. Trainer Todd Pletcher said while announcing the decision that "the horse is not lame" and he's hoping the injury, which he likened to a sprained ankle in a human, isn't career-threatening. Eskendereya is receiving antibiotics while resting comfortably in his stall at Churchill Downs and will undergo a thorough examination when the swelling subsides according to reports.

Pletcher, who also trains Derby hopefuls Devil May Care, Discreetly Mine, and Mission Impazible also lost Rule from the Derby trail Monday in a joint decision with owner Bill Casner of WinStar Farms. Stressing there are no physical problems with the earner of $791,700 with wins in the Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot Stakes (gr. 3), Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. 3), and Jean Lafitte Stakes and a third in the Florida Derby (gr. 1), Casner said the decision was based more on Rule's unsatisfactory training this week at Churchill Downs.

Prior to the defection of Eskendereya, it is thought that Pletcher was on the fence about running the filly Devil May Care in the Kentucky Derby. However, Eskendereya's loss is apparently Devil May Care's opportunity as Pletcher confirmed Monday he is running Devil May Care against the boys. With Eskendereya out of the Derby, jockey John Velazquez will be free to ride Devil May Care which may have had an impact on the decision.

Only three fillies have won the Run for Roses, the last being Winning Colors in 1988. Regret (1915) and Genenuine Risk (1980) are the only two. The last filly to race in the Kentucky Derby was Eight Belles, who finished second behind Big Brown in 2008. Only four fillies have tried the Derby since Winning Colors' victory including Eight Belles, Serena's Song (16th in 1995), and in 1995 Excellent Meeting (5th), and Three Ring (19th).

Pletcher, a four-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's leading trainer, is looking for his first Kentucky Derby victory after trying with 24 horses in previous Derbies. Velazquez is 0-9 in Derby mounts in perhaps one of the most successful teams to have not yet won a Kentucky Derby. However, Pletcher and Velazquez teamed up in the 2007 Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) with the filly Rags To Riches to defeat eventual Horse of the Year Curlin. Rags to Riches was only the third filly to win the third jewel of the Triple Crown after Tanya in 1905 and Ruthless taking the inaugural Belmont Stakes in 1867.

Rule's Derby departure allows for Jackson Bend to qualify for the Derby with $230,000 in graded stakes earnings. Jackson Bend was second to Eskendereya in both the Wood Memorial (gr. 1) in April and the Fountain of Youth (gr. 2) in March and also gives trainer Nick Zito his second starter in this year's Derby along with Florida Derby (gr. 1) winner Ice Box.

Baffert: Then and Then.
So you think things get easier for the trainers and horses once they begin to arrive at Churchill Downs in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby? Three-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert (photo) summarized it during a interview on TVG's Saturday morning telecast of Morning Line by saying "You gotta come in here with a really good horse. Then he has to work well. And he has to be moving forward. Then he has to school well. And then you have to get a good post [position in the starting gate]. And then he has to get a good trip. There’s so many things involved. If all the things work, and you have the best horse. Then you can get the job done. But there are a lot of hoops they have to jump through. So until that gate comes open, I never relax."

Baffert may be just a little less worried now, however, after watching Looking at Lucky work five furlongs (5/8ths of a mile) over a sealed and sloppy race track in 1:00.38 seconds, the fastest of five Derby horses that also worked Monday morning.

Rachel Ready To Roll
Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra appears ready for her return to the races in Friday's $400,000 La Troienne Stakes after working a half-mile in 49.87 seconds over a sloppy track early Monday morning at Churchill Downs. After the work trainer Steve Asmussen told Daily Racing Form "The level of excitement for Friday, it's definitely there. I am very, very pleased with her."

The La Troienne will be no cake walk for the popular 4-year-old filly who will again meet Zardana, who upset Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes in March; Careless Jewel, winner of the grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last year and the beaten favorite in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. 1) at Santa Anita in November and three other possible starters.

Derby Fun Facts
Outside of the jeweled embellishments that were added to the Kentucky Derby Trophy to note special Derby anniversaries in 1949 (75th), 1974 (100th), and 1999 (125th), only one change has been made to the original design.

For the 125th Kentucky Derby in 1999, Churchill Downs officials decided to defer to racing lore and change the direction of the decorative horseshoe displayed on the 14-karat gold trophy. The horseshoe, fashioned from 18-karat gold, had pointed downward on each of the trophies since 1924. To commemorate Derby 125 the change was made and the horseshoe was turned 180 degrees so that its ends pointed up. The trophy now annually incorporates the horseshoe with the ends pointing up.

Racing superstition decrees that if the horseshoe is turned down, all the luck will run out.

Roses became the traditional way to honor the Derby winner during the early years of the 20th century. Dating back to 1906 Churchill Downs has photos of the winner with the garland. In 1925 that the late Bill Corum, a New York sports columnist, dubbed the classic the “RUN FOR THE ROSES.” Corum later served as president of Churchill Downs from 1950-1958.

The most popular color of Kentucky Derby winners is bay with 49, followed by chestnut (43), Brown (17), Dark Bay or Brown (11), Gray Roan (8) Black (4) and Dark Bay (3). In 1962, the Jockey Club merged the dark bay & brown color classifications to
dark bay or brown.

Speaking of Brown
No Kentucky Derby party is complete without a Mint Julep and some Kentucky Hot Browns.

I recommend the mini Hot Browns as described here for a Kentucky Derby party. For authenticity, pleasure and additional cholesterol, Ramsey's restaurant in Lexington has the best Hot Browns among the Kentucky establishments I have reviewed.

4 oz. butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 - 3 1/2 cups milk
1 beaten egg
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 ounce whipped cream, optional
Salt & pepper to taste
Slices of roasted turkey
8 - 12 slices of toast, trimmed
Extra grated Parmesan cheese
8 - 12 strips crisp, cooked bacon

Melt butter and add enough of the flour to make a reasonable thick roux (enough to absorb all the butter). Add the milk and Parmesan cheese. Add the well-beaten egg to thicken the sauce, but do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat. Fold in the whipped cream, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast in a metal or flame-proof dish. Cover the toast with slices of roasted turkey. Pour a generous amount of the sauce over the turkey and toast. Sprinkle with some of the additional Parmesan cheese. Place the dish under the broiler until the sauce is speckled on top and bubbly. Remove from the broiler; place two pieces of the bacon, crossed, on top and serve immediately.

For mini hot browns, substitute trimmed toast for snack size.

The Official Mint Julep Recipe From Churchill Downs
Make a simple syrup by boiling 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water for 5 minutes, without stirring. Fill a jar loosely with sprigs of fresh mint (uncrushed) and cover with the
cooled syrup. Cap and refrigerate 12-24 hours. Discard mint. Make one julep at a time.

Fill chilled julep cup with finely crushed ice, pour in half a tablespoon of the mint-flavored syrup and 2 ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whiskey. Frost cup, stick in a sprig of mint and serve at once. You can get a head start by putting the batch, without mint, in the freezer until ready for use.


John said...

Nice report, Brock. And by the way, I think you meant that Tanya won the Belmont Stakes in 1867. You're only 100 years off (LOL), but typos will happen. Interesting to that the oldest Triple Crown race had its first running won by a filly.

Very much looking forward to Rachel on Friday.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great post, you have a little of everything in here!

I thought it was interesting when you mentioned that Pletcher and Velasquez teamed up to win Pletcher's only classic victory with Rags To Riches in the Belmont Stakes. Now they team up again with Devil May Care, another filly. It would be an awesome story if they won yet again.

I love Bob Baffert and really hope he wins with Lookin At Lucky this year.

Rachel Alexandra looks ready to tear up the track again just like last year. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does.

Brock Sheridan said...

Thanks John. Yes, 100 years is somewhat significant in fact checking. Thanks for the catch.

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