By Amy Owens —-
Keeneland’s 15-day Spring Meet runs through Friday, April 28, with racing
on Wednesdays through Sundays. Post time for the first race each day is 1:05 p.m. ET.
• TOYOTA BLUE GRASS WINNER IRAP SLATED TO WORK FRIDAY
• TOM LEACH INTERVIEWS TRAINERS IN UPCOMING STAKES
• PACO LOPEZ GETS FIRST KEENELAND STAKES VICTORY AND QUICKLY DOUBLES UP
• ITSINTHEPOST (FR) BRINGS JEFF MULLINS BACK TO KENTUCKY
• FORMER JOCKEY LIZ MORRIS FINDS HER NICHE AS AGENT
• SPRING MEET SPECIAL EVENTS
• SPRING MEET LEADERS
TOYOTA BLUE GRASS WINNER IRAP SLATED TO WORK FRIDAY
Reddam Racing’s Irap, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) on April 8, is scheduled to work Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET on the main track with Julien Leparoux aboard.
Trainer Doug O’Neill is slated to be on hand for the work as he seeks his third victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Leparoux was aboard for Irap’s victory here but Mario Gutierrez will have the Derby mount.
Irap had an easy morning Thursday, jogging twice around Keeneland’s 5-furlong all-weather training track with exercise rider Antonio Romero aboard.
Also scheduled to work at 8:30 a.m. Friday is Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tapwrit for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Owned by Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta, Tapwrit finished fifth behind Irap in the Toyota Blue Grass. Jockey Jose Ortiz is scheduled to be aboard for the work.
Baldo Hernandez, assistant to trainer Chad Brown, said Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Toyota Blue Grass runner-up, Practical Joke, is scheduled to work Saturday morning, but those plans might change because the Saturday weather forecast calls for rain. Brown is to return to Keeneland this afternoon.
Also watching the weather is Kenny McPeek, who trains Normandy Farm’s Central Bank Ashland (G1) runner-up, Daddys Lil Darling. He originally had planned to work the filly Saturday morning. However, he might move the work to Friday and send her out at 6:15 a.m. Robby Albarado is to be aboard.
TOM LEACH INTERVIEWS TRAINERS IN UPCOMING STAKES
Keeneland Racing Analyst Tom Leach, the “Voice of the Wildcats” for University of Kentucky football and men’s basketball, interviews these trainers about their horses entered in upcoming stakes:
Anthony Granitz on Lady Fog Horn in Friday’s Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3).
Charlie LoPresti on Dear Elaine in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare. LoPresti also talks about former stable stars Wise Dan and Successful Dan.
Brad Cox on Chocolate Ride in Saturday’s Dixiana Elkhorn (G2).
PACO LOPEZ GETS FIRST KEENELAND STAKES VICTORY AND QUICKLY DOUBLES UP
It has been a very good five days for jockey Paco Lopez.
The 31-year-old native of Mexico, who earned the Eclipse Award as North America’s top apprentice in 2008, made his way into the Keeneland records on Saturday by winning his first two stakes here.
Following a three-day break with his family in South Florida, Lopez again found the winner’s circle on his first mount Wednesday, Amberspatriot for John Hancock.
Lopez, who first rode at Keeneland during the 2012 Fall Meet, on April 15 won the Ben Ali (G3) on Watershed and topped off the day with the head victory by Dickinson over Lady Eli in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1).
“I could have gone inside or outside,” Lopez said of the stretch run. “Lady Eli got the jump on me, but I was confident Dickinson could run her down.”
Lopez has won all three times he has ridden the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee.
“The first time I saw her run was at Parx and she won really easily,” Lopez said of the Sept. 6 allowance race that Dickinson won by 4½ lengths in her grass debut. In that race, Lopez finished third, nearly 10 lengths back on another entrant.
Lopez picked up the mount on Dickinson for the Feb. 11 Suwannee River (G3) when previous rider John Velazquez was out of town for the day.
“She pulled away real easy that day at Gulfstream,” said Lopez, who followed that victory with a score in the Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11.
Dickinson is pointing to the $700,000 Just A Game (G1) at a mile at Belmont Park on June 10 and a possible rematch with Lady Eli, who is undefeated in four starts over the Belmont turf.
“A lot can happen with these fillies,” Lopez said about the possibility of meeting Lady Eli again. “But my filly, she is a very nice filly.”
ITSINTHEPOST (FR) BRINGS JEFF MULLINS BACK TO KENTUCKY
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.
FORMER JOCKEY LIZ MORRIS FINDS HER NICHE AS AGENT
Jockey agent Liz Morris had her career path perfectly plotted. She would combine her biology degree with her love of animals and become an equine veterinarian. Then she discovered horse racing.
“I ended up falling in love with the race track,” she said while taking time out from her busy schedule of fielding phone calls and making entries on behalf of jockey Jack Gilligan and trainers for whom he rides.
As an agent, Morris is constantly seeking the best mounts for Gilligan. She communicates daily with trainers so she can be organized when entries are taken three days before a particular race. She knows the routine exceptionally well from her own days as a jockey.
While growing up in San Antonio riding her Shetland pony, Morris was an animal-loving tomboy whose athletic skills earned her several soccer scholarships. After graduating from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Morris worked at an equine hospital in advance of attending vet school. A side trip to nearby Retama Park changed her course.
Soon she was riding Thoroughbreds at a farm, which led to a job as an exercise rider for trainer Steve Asmussen at Arlington Park near Chicago and Fair Grounds in New Orleans. She obtained her jockey’s license in 2003.
During Morris’ productive five-year career, other jockeys recognized her as a natural to become an agent and encouraged her to pursue that path. She followed their suggestion when she left race riding in 2008.
Morris thrives on her often-hectic schedule that includes watching races and making recommendations to trainers about upcoming races. Plans call for Morris and Gilligan to shift to Churchill Downs when Keeneland’s Spring Meet concludes April 28.
“There are so many things I love about being an agent,” she said. “I get to interact with people from all over the world. And I enjoy studying the races and pedigrees.”
Kentucky Oaks (G1) hopeful Wicked Lick worked a half-mile in :48 under trainer Brendan Walsh on the fast main track after the Thursday morning renovation break.
“It was a good work,” Walsh said. “She did it well on her own; sometimes she is a little lazy. She probably will go to Churchill Downs after this weekend and then, weather permitting, work one day next weekend.”
Owned and bred by Lee Mauberret, Wicked Lick finished second in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in her most recent start. …
Trainer John Ortiz earned his first Keeneland victory Wednesday when he sent out Thomas Julian’s Kirby’s Penny to win the sixth race Channing Hill rode the 4-year-old Macho Uno filly to win the 1-mile race by a nose in 1:37.06.
SPRING MEET SPECIAL EVENTS
Keeneland Library exhibit “Man o’ War: Images from the Keeneland Library Collections.” Exhibit features 16 shots of Man o’ War during his racing career and years at stud by Charles Christian Cook, Joseph Alvie Estes, Robert Lee McClure and Bert Clark Thayer. The Library is open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. During the 2017 Spring Meet, it also is open on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The Library’s online exhibit “Man o’ War: In Others’ Words” tells the story of Man o’ War’s life, accomplishments and influence through images from its collection that are accompanied by quotations from the horse’s connections, contemporary sports writers and modern biographers.
Friday, April 21
Official Keeneland Tour. Available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in April at 8:30 a.m. ET. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets ($8 per person; 12 and younger free).
Behind-the-Scenes Racing Tour. For an insider’s view of Keeneland, Tour Guides will lead guests to the track’s behind-the-scenes areas such as the Jockeys Quarters, where some of the world’s leading riders prepare for their race day; to the barns, where the race day begins, to the track to see morning workouts and through the picturesque Keeneland Paddock. A limited number of dates and tickets ($25 per person) are available for this exclusive experience. The two-hour tour begins at 9 a.m. and is limited to 10 people. Click here for more information.
Keeneland Shop’s Milliners Corner presents Polly Singer Designs and Dorfman Pacific adjacent to the Walking Ring from 9 a.m. to the last race.
Tailgating on The Hill. Keeneland’s popular tailgate lot, located adjacent to the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center, features local food trucks, a jumbo television screen, wireless wagering and wagering terminals, race-day programs, a Keeneland Shop kiosk and free shuttles to the track. BETologists will be available to answer fans’ questions.
Jockey Autograph Signing. Fans can buy these items to have signed by retired and active jockeys from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. adjacent to the Paddock to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund: Keeneland Spring Meet poster ($25), Keeneland hat ($15) and Keeneland program ($10). The PDJF also will sell PDJF T-shirts.
Among those scheduled to appear are two Hall of Famers: Keeneland’s all-time leading rider, Pat Day, winner of the 1992 Kentucky Derby (G1) with Lil E. Tee, and two-time Derby winner Chris McCarron; Jean Cruguet, who rode Seattle Slew to victory in the 1977 Triple Crown; Kaye Bell, Jamie Bruin, Carl Faulconer, Michael Heath, Mike Manganello, John Oldham, Suzie Oldham, J.R. Parsley, Craig Perret and Kaoru Tsuchiya.
Saturday, April 22
Sunrise Trackside Keeneland shares a special side of Thoroughbred racing that is worth getting up early to enjoy. Sponsored by LEX18, Sunrise Trackside is a free, family-friendly event with activities for all ages: Breakfast With the Works features breakfast ($8) and trackside commentary (7-8:30 a.m.) while Thoroughbreds train on the main track; children’s activities in the Kids Club Corner (7-9 a.m.); Keeneland tours (7:30-10 a.m.); Paddock demonstration by the Lexington Mounted Police Unit (9 a.m.); trackside handicapping seminar with Paddock Host Katie Gensler and racing analyst Tom Leach (11:30 a.m.); and Q&A session with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan in the Paddock (12:05 p.m.).
Bridgmohan scored the 3,000th victory of his career on April 1 at Fair Grounds.
Keeneland Shop’s Milliners Corner presents Polly Singer Designs and Dorfman Pacific adjacent to the Walking Ring from 9 a.m. to the last race.
Tailgating on The Hill. Keeneland’s popular tailgate lot, located adjacent to the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center, features local food trucks, a jumbo television screen, wireless wagering and wagering terminals, race-day programs, a Keeneland Shop kiosk and free shuttles to the track. One of Central Kentucky’s favorite bluegrass bands will perform from 12-4 p.m. BETologists will be available to answer fans’ questions.
Sunday, April 23
Keeneland Shop’s Milliners Corner presents Dorfman Pacific adjacent to the Walking Ring from 9 a.m. to the last race.
Military Day at the Races Presented by Marathon. All active-duty, reserve, veterans and military families receive free general admission with a military I.D., DD214, veteran I.D. or other form of Military I.D. at any pass gate. The Military Family Zone in the North Terrace will offer free food, live music and more from noon to 4 p.m. ET. In honor of Month of the Military Child, Keeneland will have activities for children throughout the day.
SPRING MEET LEADERS
Through April 19 (eight days of racing)
Jockey Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Joel Rosario 37 9 5 7 $919,703
Julien Leparoux 38 8 5 6 $1,013,919
Javier Castellano 21 7 2 2 $549,624
Corey Lanerie 37 5 7 5 $580,246
Robby Albarado 45 4 5 5 $515,091
Jose Ortiz 36 4 5 5 $447,040
Luis Saez 26 4 5 3 $254,627
Paco Lopez 16 4 2 0 $406,678
Trainer Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Wesley Ward 28 7 4 4 $310,641
Kiaran McLaughlin 12 6 2 0 $525,460
Mark Casse 25 5 3 3 $536,522
Chad Brown 13 5 3 2 $665,077
Brian Lynch 13 3 3 1 $230,885
John Hancock 15 3 2 1 $116,688
Brad Cox 11 3 1 3 $154,811
Eddie Kenneally 13 3 1 2 $387,180
Todd Pletcher 6 3 0 0 $342,547