As would be expected in another competitive Kentucky Derby, opinions on the backstretch are wide ranging. Here is a sampling:
CHANTAL SUTHERLAND (Jockey)—“I’ve been going back and forth between Union Rags and Bodemeister. Naturally, I’d love to see Bob Baffert win it (Bodemeister and Liaison), but Union Rags will be tough.”
JULIO CANANI (Trainer)—“Whoever (Calvin) Borel is riding (Take Charge Indy). All he does is win the Derby.”
JOE GRIFFIN (Agent for Eswan Flores)—“I don’t know. I’m just going to root for the Californians, I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause.”
VINCE DEGREGORY (Agent for Alonzo Quinonez)—“I like Bodemeister. His last Beyer figure shot up from 101 to 108 and he looks like the one who’s improving the most. I also like Alpha because he should like the distance.”
ALONZO QUINONEZ (Jockey)—“I like Bodemeister. Mike Smith knows what he’s doing.”
MARTIN PANZA (Vice President-Racing)—“Creative Cause. Mike Harrington has had a plan all along and he’s stuck to it. I think there’s more there than what we’ve seen.”
DEAN PEDERSON (Trainer)—“You have to get lucky in a field of this size. That’s why I’m going with Union Rags. He looks like he has the right style.”
SCOTT MCCLELLAN (Agent for Joe Talamo)—“I like Bodemeister. I’d like him even more if he wasn’t coming back so fast.”
MARK GLATT (Trainer)—“Gemologist, because of his gameness, and Bodemeister.”
ALEXIS BARBA (Trainer)—“Well, Gemologist is 5-for-5. That’s not bad.”
HECTOR PALMA (Trainer)—“I’ll try Gemologist. It’s a tough race, so I’ll go with the unbeaten horse.”
TOM KNUST (Agent for Pat Valenzuela)—“I’ll Have Another for Mr. (Doug) O’Neill and Mr. (J. Paul) Reddam.”
JACK VAN BERG (Trainer of 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba)—“There’s a lot of speed in the race and the winner could come from way behind. My three horses are Alpha, Gemologist and Union Rags.”
VLADIMIR CERIN (Trainer)—“I have a future book bet on I’ll Have Another at 30-1, so I’ll be rooting for him, but I also think Creative Cause will be tough. It’s a rematch between two great guys (O’Neill, Harrington) from Southern California.”
RUSS HUDAK (Morning Line Maker and Timer)—“Union Rags and Creative Cause.”
MARTIN PEDROZA (Jockey)—“Mario Gutierrez is right next to me in the jock’s room, so I have to go for I’ll Have Another. Win one for the little guy.”
BRICE BLANC (Jockey)—“Gemologist.”
KURT HOOVER (Broadcaster)—“I love Union Rags. I think he’s the best horse and he got a lot out of the Florida Derby.”
TRIO OF MILLIONAIRES AMONG 9 SET TOGO IN SATURDAY’S MERVYN LEROY
Three horses with earnings in excess of $1 million are ready to take the track in Saturday’s Grade 2 $150,000 Mervyn Leroy Handicap, a major steppingstone to the Californian and Hollywood Gold Cup.
Leading the parade with more than $2.7 million in earnings is 9-year-old Awesome Gem, winner of the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup. Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Awesome Gem has never been better, according to trainer Craig Dollase. “He’s doing great,” said a confident Dollase. “He had a nice comeback win at Golden Gate and he bounced back perfect. He worked well here May 1st (five furlongs in 59 seconds). (Martin) Pedroza came out to work him and he’ll ride Saturday. David Flores usually rides him, but he’s out of town.”
Morning Line ($1.1 million), a Grade 1 stakes winner last year, makes his return for new trainer John Shirreffs. The trainer has been more than satisfied with his new acquisition’s morning activity. Awesome Gem and Morning line are the morning line favorites at 3-1 and 7-2, respectively.
Prayer for Relief, who has banked $1,057,725, went off form early this year, but Baffert freshened him up and the 2011 Super Derby winner is good value at 8-1.
Returning Kettle Corn, winner of three of his last four, including the Native Diver Handicap here in December, and Gladding, a major threat on the front end, help make the ‘Leroy a great betting race.
Highlighting the undercard on the 11-race program are the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes and the $70,000 Cool Frenchy.
The fact Russ Hudak’s morning line has 4 of the 7 fillies in the Senorita pegged between 2-1 and 7-2, shows just how wide open the race is.
In the Cool Frenchy, Fanticola and Scardino’s Obviously, who moves from turf to synthetic off a victory, is the 5-2 choice, followed by Baffert-trained Flightofalifetime at 3-1 and Italian Rules, who had a brutal trip in the Tiznow Stakes 7 days ago, listed at 4-1.
Special first post Kentucky Derby Day is 11 a.m.
CLOSING STRIDES —Several members of the Betfair Hollywood Park jockey colony will be at Churchill Downs Saturday. Riding in the Kentucky Derby will be Mike Smith (Bodemeister), Joel Rosario (Creative Cause), Garrett Gomez (Daddy Nose Best), Mario Gutierrez (I’ll Have Another) and Martin Garcia (Liaison). Though not riding in the Derby, Rafael Bejarano has 5 stake mounts on the undercard, and David Flores will be aboard Slim Shadey in the Woodward Reserve Turf Classic. Other notable Southern California-based horses competing in Kentucky are Amazombie (Smith) and Smiling Tiger (Rosario) in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes, and Mildly Offensive (Rosario) and Switch (Smith) in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff…..Include Me Out, winner of the La Canada Stakes and Grade 1 Santa Margarita in her last two starts, is on schedule to make her next start in the Marjorie L. Everett Handicap May 19th, according to trainer Ron Ellis. “She worked a comfortable three-quarters in 1:14 2/5. Joe Talamo worked her and told me she went great.”
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