By Ryan Martin —-
• Wonder Gadot, Heavenly Love To Meet Again In Rachel Alexandra
• Three-Year-Olds Clash In Salty Saturday Allowance Event
• Familiar Foes Face Off In Saturday’s Sixth Race
WONDER GADOT, HEAVENLY LOVE TO MEET AGAIN IN RACHEL ALEXANDRA
Trainer Mark Casse’s assistant David Carroll, who oversees the conditioner’s string of horses at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, reported that Silverbulletday contenders Wonder Gadot and Heavenly Love would both likely return for the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 17 (50-20-10-5), which is the next local prep on Churchill Downs’ Road To The Kentucky Oaks
“Both came out of the races very well and are on target for the Rachel,” Carroll said.
Wonder Gadot was second in Saturday’s event when she was beaten a neck as the 2-1 favorite behind longshot Stronger Than Ever, while stable mate Heavenly Love was fifth. Both graded stakes-winning fillies are currently second and sixth on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with 16 and 10 points, respectively. Prior to acquiring 6 points from a runner-up effort in the Silverbulletday, Wonder Gadot earned 10 points from her victory in the Gr. II Demoiselle at Aqueduct. Heavenly Love did not acquire any points in the Silverbulletday, but earned 10 from her Gr. I Darley Alcibiades win at Keeneland in October.
THREE-YEAR-OLDS CLASH IN SALTY SATURDAY ALLOWANCE EVENT
Last Saturday, the Gr. III Lecomte Stakes produced numerous horses with strong potential for the Gr. I Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and there is a chance that one could also see Derby potential lout of the field of 3-year-olds assembled for a Saturday allowance event on the main track.
Breaking from the rail as the 2-1 morning line favorite, L and N Racing’s Retirement Fund broke his maiden at first asking over the Fair Grounds main track in wire-to-wire fashion by 7¼ lengths on Dec. 22 where he went off at 12-1. The son of Eskendreya is a half-brother to graded stakes winner Barbados and could give Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen another hopeful contender for the Kentucky Derby. He will be guided by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.
“We’re hoping he runs as impressive as he did the first time,” Asmussen said.
Donegal Racing’s Ciaran scratched out of the Lecomte to compete in Saturday’s race, which trainer Tom Morley believes is a “much more viable spot”.
“It’s not as deep a field as the Lecomte was,” Morley said. “There are some horses that have just broken their maiden and some just coming out of maiden claiming races. It’s what allowance races around here are supposed to be like and we’re about to find out what we’re going to be in the pecking order of the three-year-old class.”
The son of Malibu Moon was a $210,000 purchase from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016 and is the second progeny out of multiple graded stakes winner Bizzy Caroline, a half-sister to multiple Grade I winner Lady Eli. Ciaran made his first start a winning one over the Keeneland main track in October defeating maiden claimers by four lengths before finishing a well-beaten sixth behind Principe Guilherme at the Fair Grounds last time out.
“He’s in super form and it does look like a race that, on paper, has plenty of speed,” Morley said. “I’m not sure if (Retirement Fund) will go from the rail, but certainly (Last Drop of Wine) and (trainer) Louie Roussel’s horse (Boyfriend Material) have both been showing a lot of speed in their races so we’ll probably sit in the box seat behind them and we’ve picked up an extremely good rider around here (Florent Geroux) and I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets in.”
FAMILIAR FOES FACE OFF IN SATURDAY’S SIXTH RACE
Tom Durant’s Floroplus and John Mentz’s Wynn Time will meet again in Saturday’s sixth race after finishing one-two in a Fair Grounds allowance event on Nov. 30.
A son of City Zip, Floroplus won the November event after being placed on the shelf for just over one year. Prior to that, he was fifth at Churchill Downs in October 2016 against allowance company, where he was beaten by stakes-placed St. Louie Guy.
“The horse had trained really well,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “He had been ready prior to the meet opening. We had him at Evangeline Training Center for a while just waiting on the Fair Grounds to open so we were just waiting to get him going off the layoff and he ran huge. He ran basically, how we were expecting. Now he’s got plenty of time to recover and I don’t think we have to worry about the bounce. He’s training very forwardly and we’re looking for a big race out of him.”
Calhoun had Floroplus entered on Dec. 23, but was scratched out of the race. Coincidentally, Wynn Time won at the Fair Grounds on the same day, but in a different race earlier on the card.
“(Wynn Time) has been impressive most of his career,” Calhoun said. “I felt very fortunate to have beaten him off the layoff that day. For us to beat him off the layoff does give you some confidence because I know we were kind of at a disadvantage coming off the layoff. He should move forward.”
Bred in Illinois by his owner, Wynn Time made his career debut a winning one last August over Arlington Park’s Polytrack before romping to victory at Hawthorne by 5¼ lengths. He breaks from post eight for trainer Hugh Robertson.
“He came back and he worked fine,” Robertson said. “I’m glad that we’re toward the outside it seems like he runs best when he’s outside of horses.”
Marcelino Pedroza, who piloted the 4-year-old gelding last out, will return to the saddle.