VASSILIEVA ARRIVES FOR BIG BAZINGA’S TOYOTA BLUE GRASS BREEZE
At 9 a.m. Sunday, Derby Dreamers Racing Stable’s Big Bazinga worked four furlongs in :47.60 with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard as he continues to prepare for Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1). (Click here to watch a video of the work.)
“I just told (Hernandez) to do a nice maintenance work,” trainer Katerina Vassilieva said. “He’s a pretty good work horse. He’ll just kind of naturally do it on his own; he doesn’t need to be asked. (I wanted him) just to finish off stronger than the first part and gallop out strongly, which he did. He loves the Polytrack, and he traveled really well over it today. I’m really pleased with him.”
Vassilieva said Big Bazinga’s earlier success on Polytrack was key to making the Toyota Blue Grass a target. The gelding, a Keeneland sales graduate, opened his career last September at Woodbine, winning his first race over the surface and next finishing second in the Grey (G3). After a seventh in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3), an 11th in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream and a grass start at Gulfstream, he returned to Polytrack in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral (G3) at Turfway Park on March 22, beaten 2½ lengths in finishing fifth.
“He ran really well in the Spiral (G3), so we thought this was the logical next spot for him,” she said.
Vassilieva’s assistant, Amber Mayers, and Big Bazinga arrived at Keeneland a few days after the Spiral.
“(Mayers) says he’s training brilliantly, better than she’s ever seen,” Vassilieva said. “He seems happy. He’s traveling over the surface really well. It’s a surface he already knows and likes, so I think he’s in good shape.”
Hernandez will ride Big Bazinga in the Toyota Blue Grass. Vassilieva said she met the rider at Fair Grounds, where she began her training career in 2011.
Vassilieva drove from Toronto to Lexington yesterday and at 7 a.m. arrived at Keeneland for the first time.
“I’ve just been walking around admiring beautiful Keeneland,” she said. “I’m so excited and grateful to be here. I feel blessed and humbled. It’s only my fourth year of training on my own, so to have a horse like this, to be able to have this experience, is so amazing to me.”
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.
EXTRASEXYHIPPZSTER SHARPENS UP FOR TOYOTA BLUE GRASS
Kirwan Equine Group and Ed Hipps’ Extrasexyhippzster completed his major work for Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) by working a half-mile in company in :46 before the morning renovation break Sunday at Keeneland.
With Stewart Elliott up, Extrasexyhippzster posted fractions of :11.40, :22.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.60. Extraasexyhippzster started even with workmate Allwewanttforxmas and finished two lengths in front.
“I thought it was a good work and Stewart liked it,” trainer Michael Trombetta said. “Allwewantforxmas is going to run in the Giant’s Causeway (on April 19).”
The work was the second at Keeneland for Extrasexyhippzster, who covered five furlongs in 1:00 last Sunday.
The Pennsylvania-bred son of Stroll never has raced on Polytrack, but he has all-weather track experience.
“He has trained on the synthetic at Fair Hill (Training Center),” Trombetta said. “But it is hard to tell how they will do on it until they race on it.”
Julien Pimentel, who has ridden the colt in his past four starts, will have the riding assignment in the Toyota Blue Grass.
Also working toward possible Toyota Blue Grass starts Sunday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida were four horses for trainer Todd Pletcher going a half-mile. Comprising the quartet were Danza (:49.05), Divine Oath (:50.60), Gala Award (:49.25) and Vinceremos (:49.25).
McGAUGHEY TRIO WORKS FOR GRADE 1 TESTS THIS WEEK
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey fine-tuned his arsenal of runners for possible Grade 1 engagements this week with Reload prepping for Friday’s Maker’s 46 Mile, Abaco for the Jenny Wiley and Mr Speaker for the Toyota Blue Grass.
Reload was first up before the break, working a half-mile in company in :48. Working with Reflecting, Reload posted fractions of :12 and :24 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.40.
“I thought he worked well,” McGaughey said of the 5-year-old who is 2-for-2 on grass. “I put him on grass last winter and didn’t like the way he went. He kind of got a new life on Polytrack here last spring and this winter I decided to try him on the turf again and he was a different horse. His allowance race was good and he ran big when he won the Canadian Turf (G3).”
Next up was Mr Speaker, winner of the Dania Beach (G3) and runner-up in the Palm Beach (G3). Working on his own, Mr Speaker covered a half-mile in :46.20 and galloped out five furlongs in :59.60.
“He worked a little faster than I wanted,” McGaughey said. “I am still on the fence about the Blue Grass. I do not want to run him in a big field, but I have not eliminated it yet.”
Abaco, who was sixth in the Jenny Wiley last year, worked a half-mile in company with Scampering in :47.80, galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.40.
“She is doing very well and she worked good this morning,” McGaughey said.
In addition to Abaco, plenty of other candidates for Saturday’s Jenny Wiley (G1) posted workouts Sunday. Hard Not to Like worked five furlongs in 1:01, Somali Lemonade (1:01.80 for five furlongs) and Emotional Kitten (1:12 for six furlongs).
Working toward Saturday’s Madison (G1) was Eden Prairie, who blitzed a half-mile in :45.60 under jockey Robby Albarado.
Zinzay, pointing to the April 17 Appalachian (G3) Presented by Japan Racing Association, worked a half-mile in :48.40.
CENTRAL BANK ASHLAND WINNERS EXIT RACE IN GOOD ORDER
Rosalind and Room Service, who provided the first dead heat in a Grade 1 race in Keeneland history on Saturday in the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland, emerged from the race in good order, according to trainers Ken McPeek and Wayne Catalano, respectively.
The two fillies finished seven lengths in front of third-place finisher Thank You Marylou.
“I thought we had won it,” McPeek said of Rosalind. “That’s the third dead heat I’ve had in stakes and I don’t think I’ve had three other dead heats in my life.”
McPeek’s Golden Ticket shared the 2012 Travers (G1) and in the 2002 Louisville Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs, his Pisces finished in a dead heat for second but wound up sharing the win when the first horse under the wire was disqualified.
Saturday’s victory secured Rosalind a spot in the starting gate for the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 2 at Churchill Downs, where she finished third in last September’s Pocahontas (G2).
McPeek said Rosalind would remain at Keeneland for a couple weeks before going to Louisville.
Catalano said that Room Service also would remain here for a while.
“We will let her catch her breath and then go over,” Catalano said. “Before we came here, (co-owner) Mr. (Gary) West said to see how she trains here and if she does OK, go to the Ashland. It is the same thing here; we will go to Churchill Downs and see how she handles the dirt and make a decision (about the Oaks).”
DEAD-HEAT FINISH MAKES KEENELAND HISTORY
When Room Service and Rosalind couldn’t be separated at the finish of Saturday’s Central Bank Ashland (G1), the fillies produced the first dead heat in a Grade 1 race at Keeneland. The Central Bank Ashland is the fifth stakes in recent history to result in a dead heat for the win.
Keeneland stakes that ended in a dead heat for the win
2014 Central Bank Ashland (G1)
Room Service and Rosalind
2001 Valley View (G3)
Chausson Poire and Cozzy Corner
1997 Beaumont (G2)
Make Haste and Screamer
1992 Ben Ali (G3)
Loach and Profit Key
1983 Fayette (G3)
Cad and Frost King
STEWARDS REPORT, PHOTO FINISH FEATURED ON KEENELAND.COM
Keeneland.com offers two new features – a Stewards Report and a Photo Finish archive – designed to provide fans with up-to-date racing information during the Spring Meet.
Fans can access both pages from Keeneland.com/racing by clicking on “Entries, Results and Scratches” on the drop-down menu.
The Stewards Report provides an explanation of any inquiries and objections that occur during a race day at Keeneland.
The official finish photo from each of the day’s races is posted in the Photo Finish archive. Fans can view the same photo used by Stewards to determine the outcome of close races, such as the dead heat finish of Room Service and Rosalind to win Saturday’s Central Bank Ashland (G1) (pictured).
TEAM MAKES SUCCESSFUL KEENELAND DEBUT
Trainer Tyler Wolbert and jockey Nathan Chaves teamed to win their Keeneland debut on Saturday when Nordic Bull won the third race at odds of 31-1. A 4-year-old Flashy Bull colt, Nordic Bull won the seven-furlong maiden claiming race by one length in 1:11.57.
Nordic Bull also gave his owner his first Keeneland win. The colt races for Bojangles Stables LLC of Gordon Doerle of New Iberia, La., who joined his horse in the Keeneland Winner’s Circle.
“It was definitely a goal of mine to run a horse at Keeneland and another goal to win a race at Keeneland,” Wolbert said. “I told the guys, ‘Let’s just go ahead and get them both in one race.’ ”
Wolbert, who said he worked for Ken McPeek at Keeneland in 2005, and Chaves have their racing roots in the Northwest. At Emerald Downs near Seattle, Chaves rode Sabertooth to win the 2002 Longacres Mile (G3) and set a 6½-furlong world record of 1:13 in the 2005 FSN Handicap.
Chaves, 38, is named on two horses at Keeneland on Wednesday, April 9.
Millionaire Grade 1 winner Boisterous returned to Keeneland Saturday to win the fifth race, a 1 1/8-mile allowance on turf that included other millionaires Forte Dei Marmi (GB) and Up With the Birds. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Boisterous defeated Tricky Hat (CHI) by a neck in 1:50.86 to earn his first victory since July 13, 2013, when he won the Man o’ War Stakes (G1) at Belmont.
Boisterous was sold for $350,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. He made his 2014 debut on Feb. 9 at Gulfstream, in which he was eighth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1).
Gary Barber now owns Boisterous, a 7-year-old son of Distorted Humor who is trained by Todd Pletcher.
Sunday, April 6
Military Day at the Races, presented by Marathon. Keeneland is honoring all active and inactive members of the military and their families with free general admission with a military ID at any pass gate. The North Terrace has become Military Family Zone with free food, live music, children’s activities and more. Keeneland will welcome a special guest, U.S. Army Sgt. Dallas Robinson, for a meet and greet with fans. Robinson, a Kentuckian, was a member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team that competed in Sochi, Russia.
Monday, April 7
Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. 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, begins at 4 p.m. in the Keeneland Sales Pavilion and will be streamed live on Keeneland.com. Fans can follow sale activities via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@keenelandsales, using #KEEAPRIL).