LEXINGTON, KY (April 5, 2017) – The past performance lines for Calumet Farm’s Wild Shot prominently display the names of Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) rivals McCraken and Tapwrit.
On Saturday, the Rusty Arnold trainee will try again against the two race favorites on the morning line.
“I thought we would make our stand here where he ran his best race,” Arnold said of Wild Shot, who finished third to champion Classic Empire in last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) here.
“I could have ducked them (at Tampa), but Mr. (Brad) Kelley (owner of Calumet) has horses running all over,” Arnold said. “He has Sonneteer, who was second in the Rebel (G2) and going to the Arkansas Derby (G1), the horse that was second in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) (Patch) and he’s got one (True Timber) running in the Wood (Memorial on Saturday). I had nowhere else to run.”
After the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, Wild Shot finished second to McCraken, beaten 1¼ lengths, in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs and then finished 3½ lengths behind McCraken and two behind Tapwrit when fourth in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
In the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Wild Shot finished third, six lengths behind Tapwrit. In both Tampa races, Wild Shot sat off the pace, a tactic that is not expected to be employed Saturday.
“He will be on the lead,” Arnold said of Wild Shot, who will be ridden by Corey Lanerie. “I’m done piddling around trying to get him to go a mile and a quarter.”
Wild Shot returned to the track Wednesday morning for the first time since a half-mile work Monday and galloped before the break under Jozefat Calvo.
The other five Toyota Blue Grass entrants at Keeneland galloped Wednesday morning. The seventh entrant, J Boys Echo, is stabled at Churchill Downs and has to be at Keeneland by noon Thursday.
Whitham Thoroughbreds’ McCraken galloped 1½ miles before the renovation break under exercise rider Yoni Orantes and, as he has done the past few days, returned to the barn via the Paddock.
Not only is McCraken the 7-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass, the undefeated colt also is the favorite in the final futures pool for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
“You have to enjoy it,” trainer Ian Wilkes said of the buildup to the Toyota Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby. “How often does a horse like this come along? You have to have fun with it, but you can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to take it one day at a time.”
Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta’s Tapwrit visited the starting gate and galloped 1 3/8 miles under Romain Techer for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“He got an A plus at the gate this morning,” said Ginny DePasquale, the longtime Pletcher assistant who is overseeing his Keeneland string. “He is coming around at the right time considering his first time at Saratoga he got a D minus.”
Tapwrit schooled in the Paddock later in the morning after training hours.
With Fernando Rivera aboard, Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Practical Joke visited the Paddock before he galloped 1 3/8 miles for trainer Chad Brown.
For trainer Kenny McPeek, Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Magdalena Stable’s It’s Your Nickel galloped 1½ miles in the first set with Pablo Portes aboard.
Reddam Racing’s Irap galloped a mile on the main track after the break with jockey Julien Leparoux hopping aboard for the first time prior to partnering in Saturday’s race.
Seeking to become the first maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass, Irap is trained by Doug O’Neill. Overseeing the colt’s preparations this week is Jack Sisterson, who was here last spring for nearly a month with Nyquist before that colt went on to Churchill Downs and won the Kentucky Derby.
“That was a good time,” Sisterson said. “They had had a good experience here in 2015 for the Breeders’ Cup and if the weather got bad we could go to the (all-weather) training track and not miss a day.”