Barn Notes -- Monday, April 7

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About 12 hours before the University of Kentucky plays for the NCAA championship in men’s basketball, a Thoroughbred at Keeneland with UK connections turned in his final work for Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1). All American Horses’ Casiguapo, a Sightseeing colt who was bred by UK, worked three furlongs in a bullet :34.80 with Hector Salazar up for Calder-based trainer Mario Morales. (Click here to watch a video of the work.)

Watching the move were four representatives from UK’s Equine Research Unit, which is based at Maine Chance Farm on Newtown Pike: Dr. Laurie Lawrence, a professor of equine nutrition; Bryan Cassill, the animal resource manager; and students Jamie Riordan and Courtney Schneider.

The program, which relies on donated mares and donated stallion seasons, will have about 24 foals this year, Lawrence said. Casiguapo played an important role in the curriculum.

“He was raised as part of our teaching and research program, so students who work at the farm are involved in breeding, foaling, getting them ready to go to the sale,” Lawrence said. “But the main thing we use them for is our teaching and our research. That’s why we have them.”

Casiguapo is the second foal out of the unraced Buddha mare Emerald Buddha, who participates in research into the nutritional requirements for gestation. Lawrence said the colt was involved in a project to understand how the microflora of the GI tract develop in normal foals, and was used in demonstrations for class.

With earnings of $287,655 from one win, seconds in the Hopeful (G1) and Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) and a third in the Frank Gomez Memorial at Calder, Casiguapo has given the UK equine program something besides basketball to follow.  

“We have a lot of students who work at the farm and students in the program that really don’t have any connection with Thoroughbreds before they come here,” Lawrence said. “To have a horse come out of the program that they can actually identify with, I think it really gives them a big interest in the Thoroughbred industry.”



With jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson aboard, Bear Stables’ Asserting Bear worked a half-mile in :48 in company after the Monday morning renovation break. (Click here to watch a video of the work.)

“I was very happy with that,” Wilson said of the work that culminated in a three-length advantage over Pageantry, a 3-year-old maiden filly. “I think he enjoys the change of scenery up here.”

Wilson will have the mount in Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass (G1) and it will be the first time for her to ride Asserting Bear in a race.

“I worked him a few times in Florida at Palm Beach Downs for Mr. (Reade) Baker,” Wilson said. “That was on dirt. He loved it out there today (on the Polytrack) and traveled well over it.”

Wilson plans to remain at Keeneland this week and hopes to pick up a few rides prior to the Toyota Blue Grass.

“I called an audible and canceled my plane reservation last night,” said Wilson, who has ridden here sparingly.

Also pleased with the work was Martine Pare, assistant to Baker.

“I liked it very much,” Pare said. “He galloped a mile before he worked, which is something Mr. Baker normally does.”

Asserting Bear has been at Keeneland since shipping here March 24 after a fourth-place finish in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral (G3) at Turfway Park.

Baker is scheduled to arrive at Keeneland Saturday to saddle Asserting Bear in the Toyota Blue Grass.



Trainer Justin Nixon never has started a horse at Keeneland, a stat he hopes to change Saturday with Cabernet Racing Stables’ Coltimus Prime in the Toyota Blue Grass (G1).

However, Coltimus Prime has to get in the gate first, which could be problematic.

“You can’t worry about that,” Nixon said. “If he does not get in the Blue Grass, he’ll go in the (Coolmore) Lexington (G3 on April 19).”

The Toyota Blue Grass is limited to 14 starters with preference given to graded stakes winners and then highest earnings. Coltimus Prime stands 16th in earnings among horses being considered for the race.

Monday morning after the break, Coltimus Prime worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 on his own with Melanie Pinto, a jockey at Fort Erie, in the saddle. (Click here to watch a video of the work.)

“I was happy with it and he seemed comfortable on it,” Nixon said. “I caught him galloping out in 1:14 and 2 and ‘Mel’ was happy with it. He had a good work at Palm Beach Downs last week (:58.40 on March 30) and didn’t have to do much today.”

“I thought he went super,” Pinto said as she gave the move a thumbs up. “I have been getting on him this winter in Florida.”

Nixon said Pinto has worked with him for the past four or five years in the winter before Fort Erie opens.

Coltimus Prime finished ninth in his 2014 debut in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) after making his three starts in 2013 over the Polytrack at Woodbine.

“We decided to stay away from the dirt after Tampa,” Nixon said. “He never really looked comfortable on it during the race.”

The Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 points toward the Kentucky Derby (100-40-20-10), but Nixon said the Derby is not a consideration now.

“That could change if he gets 10 points in the Lexington and be 22nd on the points (list) to get in the (20-horse) Derby,” Nixon said. “But the Queen’s Plate (July 6 at Woodbine) is the ultimate goal. I’d like to win this. Staying on the synthetics down the road has been the plan.”

Alan Garcia, who won the 2010 Toyota Blue Grass on Stately Victor, will have the mount Saturday.



Listed in order of preference

The maximum number of starters for the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) on Saturday will be limited to 14. In the event that more than 14 pass the entry box, the 14 starters will be determined at that time with preference given to graded stakes winners (in order 1-2-3) then highest earnings.

Post positions for the Toyota Blue Grass will be drawn on Wednesday. TVG will carry live coverage of the draw from 11:30 a.m.-noon. The draw will be hosted by Tom Leach and Todd Schrupp.



Trainer (Barn)

Last Race

Last Work (@ KEE unless indicated)

Bobby’s Kitten

Javier Castellano

Chad Brown (12)

Won 3/8 allowance @TAM

5f in 1:00.20 on 4/5



Mario Morales (22)

5th 2/2 AOC @GP

3f in :34.80 on 4/7

Asserting Bear

Emma-Jayne Wilson

Reade Baker (6)

4th Spiral (G3) @TP on 3/22

4f in :48 on 4/7

Dance With Fate

Corey Nakatani

Peter Eurton (22)

2nd El Camino Real Derby (G3) @GG on 2/15

5f in 1:01.40 @ SA on 4/5

Vinceremos (K)


Todd Pletcher (6)

2nd Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on 3/8

4f in :49.25 @Palm Meadows on 4/6

Harry’s Holiday (K)

Rosie Napravnik

Mike Maker (30)

2nd Spiral (G3) @TP on 3/22

5f in 1:01.60 @Trackside on 4/5


Julian Pimentel

Michael Trombetta (19)

8th Gotham (G3) @AQU on 3/1

4f in :46 on 4/6

Coastline (K)

Stewart Elliott

Mark Casse (1)

3rd Spiral (G3) @TP on 3/22

5f in 1:00.40 on 4/4

Mr Speaker*


Shug McGaughey (33)

2nd Palm Beach (G3) @GP on 3/2

4f in :46.20 on 4/6

So Lonesome

Joe Rocco Jr.

Tom Bush (35)

9th Palm Beach (G3) @GP on 3/2

5f in :59.50 @Palm Meadows on 4/2

Gala Award (K)


Todd Pletcher (6)

Won Palm Beach (G3) @GP on 3/2

4f in :49.25 @Palm Meadows on 4/6

Big Bazinga (K)

Brian Hernandez Jr.

Katerina Vallieseva (22)

5th Spiral (G3) @TP on 3/22

4f in :47.60 on 4/6

Scotland (K)


Anthony Dutrow

Won maiden @PARX on 3/22

5f in 1:01 @Fair Hill on 4/5

Pablo Del Monte


Wesley Ward (47)

3rd Hutcheson (G3) @GP on 2/1

6f in 1:13 on 4/4

Danza (K)


Todd Pletcher (6)

3rd AOC @GP on 3/1

4f in :49.05 @Palm Meadows on 4/6

Coltimus Prime

Alan Garcia

Justin Nixon (23)

9th Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on 3/8

5f in 1:01.20 on 4/7

Divine Oath (K)


Todd Pletcher (6)

Won AOC @GP on 2/22

4f in :50.60 @Palm Meadows on 4/6

(K) = Keeneland sale graduate




Keeneland’s Military Day at the Races presented by Marathon on Sunday turned out to be more than two families bargained for on a sun-splashed afternoon at the track. The McSpadden and Johnson families of Central Kentucky each received $750 Marathon gift cards in appreciation of their sacrifices.

The families were told they would be recognized in the Keeneland Winner’s Circle but were unaware they had been selected to receive the gift cards.

“It was like, ‘Wait, we just won?’ ” Heather Johnson said. “It was kind of cool.”

Johnson’s husband, Tyler, is part of the U.S. Army’s 2/238th unit that has been stationed in Kuwait since July 2013. Tyler Johnson, who is in his second deployment to the Middle East, is expected to return to the family’s Versailles, Ky., home in late May. His 4-year-old daughter, Lexie, and niece Nicole also were at Keeneland on Sunday.

Stephanie McSpadden’s husband, Daniel, has been stationed in Afghanistan with the Army’s 103rd since July 2013 and is expected to return in April. His wife and three children, Meghan (16), Lilly (11) and Trey (7), were thrilled to share the day with other military families.

“We don’t live on a military base and his unit is kind of all spread out, so we don’t have that connection like you do if you live on a military base,” McSpadden, who lives in Lexington, said. “It’s nice to have this where you can get together with people who understand what it is like. It’s a really nice gesture. It’s very much appreciated.”



The Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale begins at 4 p.m. in the Keeneland Sales Pavilion.

First held in 1993, the April Sale has produced more classic winners than any other 2-year-old sale, the most recent being 2013 Belmont (G1) winner Palace Malice.

The sale, which is open to the public, will be streamed live on Fans can follow sale activities via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@keenelandsales, using #KEEAPRIL)



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