Barn Notes -- Thursday, April 17

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VANMETER MAKES KEENELAND DEBUT WITH PEARL TURN

Pearl Turn represents a number of firsts for her 30-year-old trainer, Will VanMeter. On March 14 at Oaklawn, the 4-year-old Bernardini filly became his first winner when she captured an allowance race by five lengths. On Friday, she will be VanMeter’s first starter in a stakes and first starter at Keeneland when she breaks from post three in the $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) with Rosie Napravnik.

Asked why he decided to run Pearl Turn against the likes of Emollient in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare, VanMeter said the filly “made the decision. She was doing so well and acting like she wanted to step up. She’s been acting very, very confident coming off her last race.”

VanMeter, who has four horses at Keeneland, is the son of successful horseman Tom VanMeter, who owns Pearl Turn with Brad Grady. The elder VanMeter, a former practicing equine veterinarian who is a prominent sales consignor, bought Pearl Turn for $200,000 at the 2014 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale.

After graduating from Lexington’s Sayre School, VanMeter spent two years in the Army. He then attended the University of Louisville and earned a degree in equine business. Soon after, he went to work for Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas at Oaklawn, an experience he likened to “going to college and receiving a doctorate.”

VanMeter expects a large turnout of family and friends to watch Pearl Turn.

“It’s an honor to start a horse at Keeneland,” he said. “It feels extra special to bring such a nice horse here. She’s 50-1 (in the morning line), but she doesn’t know she’s 50-1. I think she’s sitting on a big race.”

 

GOLD MEDAL DANCER BRINGS VON HEMEL BACK TO KEENELAND

It has been 2½ years since Donnie Von Hemel has been at Keeneland during a race meet, and that streak should end Friday when he sends Pin Oak Stable’s Gold Medal Dancer postward in the 20th running of the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3).

“I don’t believe we have been there since Caleb’s Posse,” Von Hemel said from Churchill Downs. Caleb’s Posse did his major prep work at Keeneland for the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), which he won by a widening four lengths.

In Gold Medal Dancer, who will be ridden Friday by Luis Quinonez, Von Hemel has a filly that won her career debut on Polytrack at Arlington in September 2012 and has an allowance victory at Oaklawn to start 2014.

“I don’t think she has a preferred surface; she has won on all of them,” Von Hemel said.

Gold Medal Dancer closed her 2013 campaign with runner-up finishes in the Remington Park Oaks and Zia Park Oaks before returning to the races March 20.

“With the winter we had at Oaklawn Park, we did not get as much done as we had hoped,” Von Hemel said. “We looked at races there and some races back this way and this race fit in nicely.”

A homebred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Gold Medal Dancer has compiled a record of 9-4-3-0 with her only off-the-board finishes coming in graded stakes.

“In the Eight Belles (G3) which was her third career start, we probably asked her to do too much too soon,” Von Hemel said. “She only got beat about five lengths, was surrounded by horses the whole way and never really got going.

“In the Iowa Oaks (G3), she was in against Fiftyshadesofhay, but I thought she would be there with the rest of them. I was disappointed. It was not her best day and she got a break after that.”

 

BATTLE-TESTED FRAC DADDY RETURNS TO POLYTRACK FOR SATURDAY’S BEN ALI

Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy, a participant in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Belmont (G1), has won races on dirt, turf and Polytrack in his career, but the Polytrack score here during the 2013 Fall Meet may been the most impressive.

“That was a monster race,” trainer Ken McPeek said of the 3½-length allowance victory that was completed under wraps.

McPeek is hoping for a similar effort Saturday when he sends Frac Daddy to the gate in the 84th running of the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3) at 1 1/8 miles.

“I think he needs to run at a certain distance,” McPeek said of Frac Daddy, who finished second in his 2014 debut on dirt in the Maxxam Gold Cup going 1 1/8 miles at Sam Houston on March 1. “Right now he is probably a Grade 3 horse until he proves to be more competitive.”

Frac Daddy earned his trip to the Kentucky Derby with a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby and 14th in the Belmont.

“We put him in some ambitious spots last year,” McPeek said. “(Owner) Carter Stewart might like those spots better than me. He said when he played quarterback that sometimes you’ve just got to go deep.”

McPeek said that Rosalind, dead-heat winner of the Central Bank Ashland (G1) on April 5, is scheduled to work here Saturday morning as she prepares for an engagement in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

Rosalind is expected to ship to Churchill next week and have one work there prior to the Oaks.

 

50 TO 1 MOVIE TOUR STOPS AT KEENELAND ON FRIDAY

Keeneland celebrates the arrival on Friday of the 50 to 1 Movie Tour with a special appearance by Mine That Bird.

The movie “50 to 1,” which chronicles Mine That Bird’s improbable journey to victory in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1), opens in theaters in Lexington and across Kentucky on Friday.

Lexington is the final stop on the 1,700-mile, cross-country promotional tour that began in mid-March at Sunland Park near El Paso, Texas.

Friday’s events at Keeneland will kick off at 1 p.m. ET with a fan meet-and-greet with the connections of Mine That Bird and members of the movie cast and crew. Expected to attend are Mine That Bird’s owners, Mark Allen and Leonard “Doc” Blach; the movie’s director, Jim Wilson; writer, Faith Conroy, and actors Skeet Ulrich and Todd Lowe.

Mine Than Bird will be paraded in the Paddock around 2:30 p.m., and the connections and cast will be recognized in the Winner’s Circle at 2:50 p.m.

 

ENJOY AN EXCLUSIVE EVENING WITH KENTUCKY DERBY-WINNING CONNECTIONS AT “IT’S MY DERBY” ON FRIDAY AT KEENELAND

Racing fans are invited to rub elbows with Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning owners, trainers and jockeys at “It’s My Derby,” a once-in-a-lifetime event presented by the Kentucky Derby Museum on Friday evening at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion.

It’s My Derby, a fundraiser for the Kentucky Derby Museum, features an evening of laughter, bourbon tastings, big personalities and the best stories in racing. The event kicks off with a VIP reception presented by Four Roses, followed by a panel discussion hosted by Racing Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas will swap Derby stories with Stuart Janney, co-owner and breeder of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb; Orb’s trainer, Shug McGaughey, and jockey, Joel Rosario; Barclay Tagg, trainer of 2003 Derby and Preakness (G1) winner Funny Cide; and Derby-winning jockeys Chris McCarron and John Velazquez.

Kentucky Derby winners Mine That Bird and Funny Cide will be at the event to greet fans.

A live auction of unique, one-on-one Derby experiences hosted by racing celebrities also will be held. Among the packages fans can bid on: a private tour and brunch at the home of Wayne Lukas during Derby Week; a morning on the Churchill Downs backside during Derby Week with Chris McCarron; Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Derby seats; accommodations for an afternoon at the races at Saratoga capped by a private dinner with Shug McGaughey; and several VIP experiences on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

For more information, or to buy tickets for the event, visit It’s My Derby.

 

HUGE FIELDS EXPECTED FOR CLOSING-WEEK STAKES

Keeneland Stakes Coordinator Scott Jones is anticipating huge fields for two turf marathon stakes at 1½ miles to close the 2014 Spring Meet on Thursday, April 24, and Friday, April 25.

Jones has 12 fillies and mares deemed as probable starters for Thursday’s 53rd running of the $150,000 Bewitch (G3) with the marquee name being Juddmonte Farms’ Romantica (GB).

Trained by Bill Mott, Romantica finished second in her most recent start, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita in November in her North American debut. The 5-year-old mare won three group races in Europe, including the Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet last year at Deauville.

Also considered as probable for the race are Aigue Marine (GB), Always Kitten, Angel Terrace, Caroline Thomas, Freedom Reigns (IRE), I Dazzle, Inimitable Romanee, Meri Shika (FR), Stick to Your Guns, Street of Gold and Viva Rafaela (BRZ).

Entries for the Bewitch will be taken Monday.

Stella Perdomo’s Grade 1 winner Forte Dei Marmi (GB), who last week won a Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion turf male performer of 2013, heads a list of 10 runners deemed probable for the 29th running of the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) on Friday.

Other runners expected to land in the entry box Tuesday are Amen Kitten, Eagle Poise, Hangover Kid, Lucayan (FR), Optimizer, Suntracer, Temeraine, Tricky Hat (CHI) and Unitarian.

 

GALLOPING OUT

With a victory in Friday’s Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3), Emollient will become the third horse to win three stakes on Keeneland’s Polytrack. Last year, she won the Central Bank Ashland (G1) and Juddmonte Spinster (G1). The three-time Polytrack stakes winners are Informed Decision (2008 Lexus Raven Run-G2, 2009 Vinery Madison-G1 and 2009 Thoroughbred Club of America-G2) and Wise Dan (2010 Phoenix-G3, 2011 Fayette-G2 and 2012 Ben Ali-G3). …

Tom McCarthy, who owned and trained 2009 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) winner General Quarters, scored his first Keeneland victory since that race when he sent out Greek Bird to win the fourth race on Wednesday. Florent Geroux rode the 4-year-old Monarchos filly to a 1¾-length win in the
1 1/16-mile claiming race in 1:47.05. McCarthy trains Greek Bird for the Run For The Hills Stable of Jerry Hills, Ron Growe and Tim McCarthy. …

Lee Pokoik’s Stick to Your Guns arrived at Keeneland early Thursday morning for an expected engagement in next week’s Bewitch (G3). Trained by Gary Contessa, Stick to Your Guns finished fifth in the Orchid (G3) on March 29 in her most recent start that served as her graded stakes debut.

 

SPRING MEET LEADERS

Through April 16 (9 days of racing)

Jockey

Starts

Wins

2nd

3rd

Purses

Julien Leparoux

58

12

4

9

$494,152

Stewart Elliott

37

8

2

3

$240,124

Javier Castellano

32

7

6

6

$596,260

Joe Rocco Jr.

40

6

8

5

$320,650

Alan Garcia

28

6

3

3

$407,391

Rosie Napravnik

47

5

8

4

$230,395

Shaun Bridgmohan

27

5

0

2

$380,366

 

Trainer

Starts

Wins

2nd

3rd

Purses

Mark Casse

30

6

3

5

$343,439

Ken McPeek

26

5

1

4

$406,016

Wesley Ward

17

5

2

3

$386,326

H. Graham Motion

21

3

3

3

$161,207

Christophe Clement

13

3

2

1

$206,764

Chad Brown

10

3

1

2

$245,666

 

Owner

Wins

John C. Oxley

3

Drake Racing Stables (Shirley and Tim Girten and Karol Germany), Muirfield Farm (Doug and Len Labuda) and Mike Lobalzo

2

Gary Barber

2

Gary L. and Mary E. West Stables Inc.

2

Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey

2

Klaravich Stables Inc. (Seth Klaman) and William Lawrence

2

Wesley A. Ward

2

 

UPCOMING SPECIAL EVENTS

Thursday, April 17

Jockey Colony Autograph Signing. Meet retired and current jockeys from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. for an autograph signing adjacent to the Paddock. The riders will autograph Jockey Colony Photos, and proceeds will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

Hartack Memorial Award. Jockey Joel Rosario will receive the 2013 Hartack Memorial Award from the Bill Hartack Charitable Foundation. The annual award honors the memory and lifetime achievements of the five-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. Through its philanthropic arm, the Foundation annually contributes to Thoroughbred racing industry charities such as the Winners Foundation, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the Racing Employees Assistance Program. The event at Keeneland’s Sales Pavilion is free and open to the public and begins following the ninth and final race (post time is 5:13 p.m. ET). The award will be presented at 6 p.m.

 

Friday, April 18

The “50 to 1” Movie Tour celebrates Mine That Bird’s implausible journey from El Paso, Texas, to Churchill Downs and victory in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The story is documented in the feature-length film “50 to 1.”  Activities include an appearance by Mine That Bird and a fan meet-and-greet with trainer Chip Woolley and other connections to the gelding and the movie. Click here for more about the movie, which opens the same day.

The Keeneland Gift Shop Presents a trunk show by Dorfman Pacific from 11 a.m -6 p.m.

The Hill. Keeneland’s official tailgate lot, which is adjacent to the Keene Barn, features food trucks, a jumbo television screen, wireless wagering and wagering terminals, race-day programs, a Keeneland Gift Shop kiosk and free shuttles to the track. BETologists, Keeneland’s wagering experts, will be available to answer fans’ questions.

Craft Beer Tent. A special selection of craft beers is available on the North Terrace patio and includes Country Boy, Kentucky Ale Kolsch, Land Shark, Shock Top, Sierra Nevada and Sweetwater.

It’s My Derby. Racing fans are invited to the evening event in the Keeneland Sales Pavilion to rub elbows with some of Thoroughbred racing’s most recognizable people. The fundraiser for the Kentucky Derby Museum features a panel discussion and VIP reception with such accomplished horsemen as 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb’s co-owner and breeder Stuart Janney and trainer, Shug McGaughey; trainer Barclay Tagg, winner of the 2003 Derby and Preakness with Funny Cide; and two-time Derby-winning jockey Chris McCarron. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will moderate the panel. For more information, click here.

 

Saturday, April 19

Sunrise Trackside sponsored by LEX18, the Lexington Herald-Leader and Dunkin’ Donuts offers activities for all ages beginning at 7 a.m. ET.  Fans can enjoy Breakfast With the Works, a Southern-style breakfast and trackside commentary during the morning workouts (until 8:30 a.m.); children’s activities in the Kids Club Corner (7-9 a.m.); a show-and-tell with the Kentucky Horseshoeing School; guided walking tours of Keeneland (8-10 a.m.); trackside handicapping seminar (11:30 a.m.); and a Q&A session with current leading rider Julien Leparoux in the Paddock (12:05 p.m.). Keeneland Bugler Steve Buttleman also will be on hand to take photos with fans.

Easter Egg Hunt. As part of Sunrise Trackside, the Keeneland Kids Club will host an Easter Egg Hunt on the North Terrace Lawn at 9 a.m. Children will be able to see baby chicks and bunnies and other animals from Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

The Hill. Keeneland’s official tailgate lot located adjacent to the Keene Barn, will feature food trucks, a jumbo television screen, wireless wagering and wagering terminals, race-day programs, a Keeneland Gift Shop kiosk, free shuttles to the track and live bluegrass music. BETologists will be available to answer fans’ questions.

The Keeneland Gift Shop Presents a trunk show by Dorfman Pacific from 11 a.m -6 p.m.

Craft Beer Tent. A special selection of craft beers is available on the North Terrace patio and includes Country Boy, Kentucky Ale Kolsch, Land Shark, Shock Top, Sierra Nevada and Sweetwater.

 

Easter Sunday, April 20: Keeneland is closed

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