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Barn Notes: Wild Shot will try his luck against McCraken, Tapwrit and Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass

The past performance lines for Calumet Farm’s Wild Shot prominently display the names of Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) rivals McCraken and Tapwrit.

On Saturday, the Rusty Arnold trainee will try again against the two race favorites on the morning line.

“I thought we would make our stand here where he ran his best race,” Arnold said of Wild Shot, who finished third to champion Classic Empire in last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) here.

“I could have ducked them (at Tampa), but Mr. (Brad) Kelley (owner of Calumet) has horses running all over,” Arnold said. “He has Sonneteer, who was second in the Rebel (G2) and going to the Arkansas Derby (G1), the horse that was second in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) (Patch) and he’s got one (True Timber) running in the Wood (Memorial on Saturday). I had nowhere else to run.”

After the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, Wild Shot finished second to McCraken, beaten 1¼ lengths, in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs and then finished 3½ lengths behind McCraken and two behind Tapwrit when fourth in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

In the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Wild Shot finished third, six lengths behind Tapwrit. In both Tampa races, Wild Shot sat off the pace, a tactic that is not expected to be employed Saturday.

“He will be on the lead,” Arnold said of Wild Shot, who will be ridden by Corey Lanerie. “I’m done piddling around trying to get him to go a mile and a quarter.”

Wild Shot returned to the track Wednesday morning for the first time since a half-mile work Monday and galloped before the break under Jozefat Calvo.

The other five Toyota Blue Grass entrants at Keeneland galloped Wednesday morning. The seventh entrant, J Boys Echo, is stabled at Churchill Downs and has to be at Keeneland by noon Thursday.

Whitham Thoroughbreds’ McCraken galloped 1½ miles before the renovation break under exercise rider Yoni Orantes and, as he has done the past few days, returned to the barn via the Paddock.

Not only is McCraken the 7-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass, the undefeated colt also is the favorite in the final futures pool for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

“You have to enjoy it,” trainer Ian Wilkes said of the buildup to the Toyota Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby. “How often does a horse like this come along? You have to have fun with it, but you can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to take it one day at a time.”

Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta’s Tapwrit visited the starting gate and galloped 1 3/8 miles under Romain Techer for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“He got an A plus at the gate this morning,” said Ginny DePasquale, the longtime Pletcher assistant who is overseeing his Keeneland string. “He is coming around at the right time considering his first time at Saratoga he got a D minus.”

Tapwrit schooled in the Paddock later in the morning after training hours.

With Fernando Rivera aboard, Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Practical Joke visited the Paddock before he galloped 1 3/8 miles for trainer Chad Brown.

For trainer Kenny McPeek, Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Magdalena Stable’s It’s Your Nickel galloped 1½ miles in the first set with Pablo Portes aboard.

Reddam Racing’s Irap galloped a mile on the main track after the break with jockey Julien Leparoux hopping aboard for the first time prior to partnering in Saturday’s race.

Seeking to become the first maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass, Irap is trained by Doug O’Neill. Overseeing the colt’s preparations this week is Jack Sisterson, who was here last spring for nearly a month with Nyquist before that colt went on to Churchill Downs and won the Kentucky Derby.

“That was a good time,” Sisterson said. “They had had a good experience here in 2015 for the Breeders’ Cup and if the weather got bad we could go to the (all-weather) training track and not miss a day.”


Kenny McPeek holds the distinction of being the only trainer to have a horse in both the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) on Saturday, opening Saturday of Keeneland’s 2017 Spring Meet. He has two victories in the Toyota Blue Grass (Harlan’s Holiday in 2002 and Java’s War in 2013) and two wins in the Central Bank Ashland (Take Charge Lady in 2002 and 2014 dead-heat winter Rosalind).

His Toyota Blue Grass contender this year is Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Magdalena Stable’s It’s Your Nickel, who drew the inside post in the field of seven and will be ridden by James Graham. It’s Your Nickel is 20-1 on the morning line.

His Central Bank Ashland hopeful is the race’s 5-2 morning-line favorite, Normandy Farm’s homebred Daddys Lil Darling, who will break from post six with Robby Albarado aboard.

It’s Your Nickel is coming off a 6½-length victory in his most recent race in the John Battaglia Memorial on March 4 over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park. He also has wins on dirt and turf.

“We went into that race real confident, and he ran huge,” McPeek said about the John Battaglia Memorial. “Now we’re ready to find out how good he is. Up to this point, I don’t think we really know.

“We have some bears to run against, but if he can’t run third or better against this group, then he really, legitimately doesn’t belong in the Kentucky Derby (G1),” he added. “He’s had everything set up for him; he’s had plenty of time between races. He’s been here (training at Keeneland with works on March 20 and March 27) the whole time. The question is ‘Is he good enough?’ ”


Keeneland’s Jockey Garden adjacent to the Saddling Paddock features 11 statues commemorating winners of the track’s most prestigious races such as the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2), which will be run for the 93rd time on Saturday.

Each jockey is painted to replicate the winning owner’s silks, including Dennis Albaugh’s Albaugh Family Stable, which won the Toyota Blue Grass last year with Brody’s Cause. The blue and gray colors will remain on the statue if Albaugh’s J Boys Echo wins this year’s Toyota Blue Grass.

J Boys Echo is trained by Dale Romans, who also trained Brody’s Cause.

“Having won the race last year with Brody’s Cause, it really was not a hard decision to run in the (Toyota) Blue Grass again,” Steve Castagnola, bloodstock manager for the Albaugh operation, said. “It is incredible to be back. We know how hard this game is. We are very fortunate and we have a great team.”

J Boys Echo comes into the Toyota Blue Grass after winning the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on March 4. His resume includes a victory in a Keeneland maiden race last year.

The owners were familiar with the Mineshaft colt’s lineage when they saw J Boys Echo at Keeneland’s 2015 September Yearling Sale and purchased him for $485,000. They raced his half-brother, Unbridled Outlaw, a Keeneland September graduate who became a graded stakes-placed performer.

“When we went to see J Boys Echo at the sale, he had a lovely way of walking and a lot of presence and class,” Castagnola said.
J Boys Echo is named for Albaugh’s son-in-law Jason Loutsch, who often is called “J Boy.” The second part of the moniker is a nod to the colt’s dam, Letgomyecho.


Green Lantern Stables’ A. P. Indian, a two-time Grade 1 winner in 2016, returned to Keeneland Tuesday morning with an eye on a Saturday start in the $250,000 Commonwealth (G3).

“He was on the track this morning and it’s all good,” trainer Arnaud Delacour said.
Winner of the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) here last fall, A. P. Indian closed 2016 with a run in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in which he was placed third.

“He was turned out for 45 days after the Breeders’ Cup and then he was at Classic Mile in Ocala (Florida) where I have a barn,” Delacour said. “When his training picked up, he moved on to Tampa and this is the race we pointed to (to start the year).”

In the Breeders’ Cup, A. P. Indian had a six-race win streak ended when he finished 4½ lengths behind Drefong.

“It was a strong pace and he was chasing those horses and I don’t think he likes to run that way,” Delacour said. “They were going (the first quarter-mile) in :21 and he is not used to that. He can do :22s comfortably, but chasing those horses took away from his closing kick.”


A Cajun-themed benefit for two seemingly disparate charities will be held at Castle Post – the famous castle – on Versailles Road near Keeneland on Sunday, April 23. Proceeds from “Ragin’ Cajun At The Castle” will raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) and The Simunye Project in South Africa.

Longtime Saddlebred breeder Bridget Parker of Parker View Farm in Versailles established The Simunye Project in 1986 after several visits to the region indicated critical need for humanitarian aid. Simunye (“we are one” in Zulu) is an impoverished town in the KwaZulu-Natal province in west South Africa. To learn more, visit www.thesimunyeproject.org.

Former jockey Shane Sellers, jockey Gary Stevens and Keeneland Clerk of Scales Javier Torres are Simunye Project board members.
Founded in 2006, the PDJF provides financial assistance to 61 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries such as paralysis or traumatic brain injuries. For more information, visit www.pdjf.org.

Tickets are $75 per person and include dinner, entertainment, two drink coupons, dancing/karaoke and an auction of racing memorabilia. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a Cajun BBQ buffet dinner from 6-8 p.m. Tickets are limited and may be purchased at https://pdjf.org/purchaseTickets.php.
Auction items include a halter worn by champion Arrogate; a two-day trip to New York City featuring dinner at Bobby Flay’s restaurant Bar Americain; and lunch and fashion advice from TV personality, author and horseman Carson Kressley.


$150,000 ADENA SPRINGS BEAUMONT (G3) (Entries close Thursday; Race Sunday, April 9) – Dancing Rags (Graham Motion), Laney (Eddie Kenneally), My Miss Chiff (Al Stall Jr.), My Sweet Stella (D. Wayne Lukas), Promises Broken (Phil Sims), Sine Wave (Ben Perkins Jr.), Sweet Loretta (Todd Pletcher), Tapped (Jerry Hollendorfer), Treble (Ron Moquett).

From Keeneland Communications

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