Barn Notes -- April 25

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PABLO DEL MONTE WORKS FOR POSSIBLE DERBY RUN

Toyota Blue Grass (G1) third-place finisher Pablo Del Monte has 20 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and is 22nd on the list of point earners vying for the 20 positions in the starting gate for the May 3 race. This morning, breeder, trainer and co-owner Wesley Ward worked the Giant’s Causeway colt six furlongs in 1:11.20 to prepare for a possible start in the race.

John Velazquez rode Pablo Del Monte, who worked in company with High Wire Kitten.

“We broke him off about 15 lengths behind (High Wire Kitten) today, and he kinda creeped up on her and got her at the wire,” Ward said. “The time was maybe a little quicker than I wanted, but he had a nice breeze.”

Clockers caught Pablo Del Monte in fractions of :47.60, 1:11.20 and out in 1:25.

Ward said Pablo Del Monte likely would ship to Churchill Downs Tuesday evening. If the connections of horses with more points opt not to enter Wednesday, Pablo Del Monte could find a place in the starting gate and become Ward’s first starter in the race.

“It looks like we are waiting for the Preakness (G1), still,” he said, “but you gotta be there and be ready. It would be an honor to be in the race, especially with a horse like him. He just ran a valiant race (in the Toyota Blue Grass). (Churchill is) sort of a speed-favoring track, so you gotta be ready. With him being a front-runner, he probably would be on the lead in the race. If you could win or run second or third in the Kentucky Derby, it would just be the thrill of a lifetime.”

Ward owns Pablo Del Monte in partnership with Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor. 

Also working for Ward this morning was his Judy the Beauty, winner of the Madison (G1) here on April 12. Velazquez was aboard the 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper, who breezed six furlongs in 1:12.

Ward said Judy the Beauty would make her next start at Churchill on Derby Day in the Humana Distaff (G1).

 

ROYAL BENCH JUMPS INTO DIXIANA ELKHORN

Today’s Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) marks the 2014 debut for Merriefield Farm’s Royal Bench (IRE), a 7-year-old millionaire with quite a record.

In 2010, the gelding by Whipper won a Group 2 race in France and was second in the $2 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (G1). That same year, he finished fifth in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard-Jacques le Marois (G1) at Deauville. Running second in that race was a horse who should be familiar to U.S. racing fans: Goldikova (IRE), who later that season would win her third consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and earn her second Eclipse Award as champion turf female.

Two years ago, noted flat racing and jump trainer Tom Voss purchased Royal Bench and brought him to the U.S. The gelding won the 1½-mile Cape Henlopen at Delaware Park in August 2013 and in the next race finished eighth in the 1½-mile Laurel Turf Cup behind two Dixiana Elkhorn rivals, Tricky Hat (CHI) and Eagle Pose, who ran 1-2, respectively, in the race.

Last November, Royal Bench made his jump-racing debut when Voss sent him out to win a 2¼-mile race in November at Charleston in South Carolina.

Voss died in January, and his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Gary Murray, continue to train horses at their Atlanta Hall Farm in Monkton, Md. Murray said Royal Bench turned in an impressive work, which included a few hurdles, on April 18 and soon was sent to trainer Brendan Walsh for the 1½-mile Dixiana Elkhorn.

“He’s ready to run, and we’ve got no race for him in Maryland,” Murray said. “He wants to go a mile and a half. He’s a brilliant horse (when) jumping and that’s probably where his future is.”

Murray said Royal Bench would probably make his next start on May 10 during the Iroquois Steeplechase races in Nashville, Tenn.

“We jump everything at home because horses enjoy it,” he said. “I can guarantee he’s as good a jumper as I’ve ever seen on Tom’s farm.”

 

ELLIOTT ENJOYS FIRST MEET AT KEENELAND

Named on seven horses today, the final day of Keeneland’s Spring Meet, jockey Stewart Elliott can consider his first full-time meet at Keeneland a success. Through Thursday, he has 12 victories to rank second to Julien Leparoux with 19 wins.

“It’s been great,” Elliott said of his Keeneland experience. “With the quality of racing here, it’s been great to get off to a good start. This is probably the toughest meet in the country right now.”

At the suggestion of his agent, Nelson Arroyo, Elliott moved from the East Coast to Kentucky this spring. His wife, Lilibeth, is from Springfield, Ky., and the family had been considering moving to the state. When Elliott rode trainer Mark Casse’s Coastline to a third-place finish in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral (G3) at Turfway on March 22, he decided the time was right to relocate.

Through Thursday, the team of Elliott and Casse has won seven races, putting them atop the list of the meet’s successful rider-trainer combinations. Together they won the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) with Sisterly Love on April 18 to give Elliott his first stakes win here.

“Hopefully, things keep going (well),” Elliott said. “I guess it’s some luck and getting on some good horses with Mark Casse. He has put me on a bunch of them to ride and some of the other trainers (have) too. Everybody has been really good to me.”

Elliott said he plans to next ride at Churchill Downs, where he won the 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1) aboard Smarty Jones. He is selling his Lambertville, N.J., farm and will move his wife and 8-year-old son, Christopher, to Kentucky after the school year ends in June.

He intends to return to Keeneland in October.

“This is a beautiful place,” Elliott said. “I had been here a couple of times in the jocks’ room and to ride but never on the backside. I realized (this spring) just how beautiful it is here with all the scenery.”

 

NARA STUDENT INTERNS WITH TRAINER MIKE MAKER

(Photo of, from left, Joe Sharp, Remi Bellocq and Chelsea Heery. Photo by Sarah Dudik of BCTC.)

College students are always looking for internships to gain real-world experience that will impress potential employers. Take 20-year-old Chelsea Heery, who is about to graduate from the North American Racing Academy (NARA), part of the Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Lexington. She has spent April working in trainer Mike Maker’s barn at Keeneland.

Founded by Racing Hall of Famer Chris McCarron, NARA is based at The Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike and prepares students for careers as jockeys, horsemen or racing officials. NARA has a new initiative called Keeneland Boot Camp, in which second-year graduating students are placed with Keeneland trainers. Heery is the first student to participate in the program.

“This saves the student the cost of travel and housing out of state and saves the trainer the cost of temporary housing and travel to bring an employee to Lexington for four to five weeks for the meet,” said Remi Bellocq, executive director of equine programming for BCTC.

Heery, who was born in New Jersey and grew up in West Virginia, said she always loved horses. While in high school, she began riding a few horses at a local equine rescue and later started galloping horses on a farm. She went to Keeneland to attend the races and worked several sales for consignors Nardelli Sales and Timber Town Stable.

Heery learned about NARA when she was searching for YouTube videos about galloping racehorses and other aspects of Thoroughbred racing.

While with the Maker operation, she has done everything, including galloping horses in the morning and taking horses to the Paddock for afternoon races. She said the experience has been “amazing. It’s been so awesome. It just makes me realize how much I love this sport and how much I want to be in this. I wake up every day happy and excited to come to work.”

Maker’s Keeneland assistant, Joe Sharp, has high praise for the NARA internship opportunity.

“You can teach it as much as you want in the classroom – and they’ve done a great job – but until you get out there and actually do it and live it and work with the people and work with the horses … that’s irreplaceable,” Sharp said. “I think it’s great to give kids an opportunity who wouldn’t have an ‘in’ or weren’t raised in (racing) to get out there and feel a part of it just as much and hopefully go on and be successful.”

“Chelsea is one of our hardest-working students, always in the barn first and last to leave, and it’s nice to see her getting a chance with a big barn,” Bellocq said.

 

RACING’S RICH HISTORY ON DISPLAY IN CENTRAL KENTUCKY

Two exhibits in Central Kentucky that feature items from the Keeneland Library should interest fans of history and Thoroughbred racing.

Through June 1, the Hopewell Museum in Paris, Ky., is hosting “Racing As It Was Meant to Be,” an exhibit in conjunction with the Keeneland Library that features nearly a century’s worth of rare Thoroughbred racing memorabilia.

The Hopewell Museum, located at 800 Pleasant St. in Paris, is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 2-4 p.m.

The Kentucky Horse Park is the site of “Equine Treasures of the Bluegrass” exhibit in the International Museum of the Horse.

The Lexington Bowl, a unique silver trophy that was awarded to the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes from 1937-1952, represents more than 20 artifacts from the Library. The exhibit runs through Nov. 9.  

 

KEENELAND REPRESENTED BY RACING HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

Keeneland sales graduates Ashado and Curlin and two horsemen who won Keeneland stakes, jockey Alex Solis and Gary Jones, have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Multiple champion Ashado is a graduate of the 2002 Keeneland September Yearling Sale who sold for $9 million at the 2005 November Breeding Stock Sale. Two-time Horse of the Year Curlin sold at the 2005 September Sale.

Solis’ four stakes wins here include two Grade 1 races: 1997 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Ryafan and 2012 Maker’s 46 Mile on Data Link.

Jones won the 1987 Fayette (G2) with Good Command.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Aug. 8.

 

SPRING MEET LEADERS

Through April 24 (14 days of racing)

Jockey

Starts

Wins

2nd

3rd

Purses

Julien Leparoux

93

19

7

12

$771,760

Stewart Elliott

66

12

6

5

$486,386

Alan Garcia

47

10

4

3

$709,758

 

Trainer

Starts

Wins

2nd

3rd

Purses

Mark Casse

39

9

5

6

$523,916

Ken McPeek

35

9

1

5

$593,441

Wesley Ward

28

8

3

4

$475,734

H. Graham Motion

39

7

4

5

$425,214

 

Owner

Wins

John C. Oxley

4*

Gary Barber

3

Magdalena Racing (Ken McPeek, et al)

3*

Maggi Moss

3

Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey

3

*Includes partnerships.

 

CLOSING DAY SPECIAL EVENT

Concert on the Lawn presented by Dixiana Farms will benefit the Markey Cancer Center. The event, to be held on the Clubhouse Lawn beginning at 6 p.m., features a free concert by Lexington’s own Laura Bell Bundy and Sundy Best.

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