LEXINGTON, KY (April 20, 2017) – The most recent time trainer Jeff Mullins ventured from his Southern California base to race in Kentucky was eight years ago when he was preparing I Want Revenge for what would have been the trainer’s fifth Kentucky Derby (G1) starter.
However, on the morning of the Derby, I Want Revenge was declared from the race because of filling in his left front ankle.
“I haven’t been back to Kentucky to race since,” Mullins said Thursday morning prior to watching Red Baron’s Barn LLC’s Itsinthepost (FR) train on the main track.
Mullins has started six horses at Keeneland, none since 2009. On Saturday in the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) on the grass, Itsinthepost will attempt to give Mullins his first Keeneland stakes victory.
“I ran one here in the Shakertown,” Mullins said of his most recent stakes try here when Mighty Beau finished second in 2005.
Mullins took over the training of Itsinthepost when Darrell Vienna retired last spring. For Mullins, Itsinthepost has started nine times with three wins and five seconds. The most recent victory came in the 1½-mile San Luis Rey (G2) on March 25 at Santa Anita.
“There was nothing for him at home,” Mullins said of the decision to ship east. “There is a 1¾-mile race Saturday (the San Juan Capistrano-G3), but it’s only $100,000.
“It was either here or Charles Town (for Saturday’s $1.25 million Charles Town Classic-G3 at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt). He works on the training track at Santa Anita and loves it and it is a bullring (five-eighths of a mile) like Charles Town (which is 6 furlongs).
“I thought we might take a shot there, but I looked at the nominations and thought we’d better stay on the grass.”
With rain in the forecast beginning late Friday night and continuing Saturday, Itsinthepost might not encounter the fast and firm conditions he is used to in California.
“I haven’t looked back at his European form,” Mullins said of the 5-year-old gelding, who had his first five starts in France. “But he ran well in an off-the-turf race (the Grade 3 San Gabriel on Jan. 7) for us, finishing second.”
Regular rider Tyler Baze, who also is seeking his initial Keeneland stakes victory, has the mount Saturday.