Friday Barn Notes for Indiana Derby
By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award-winning freelance writer
Cherry Wine, the tepid 5-2 favorite over 3-1 Cupid for Saturday’s $500,000 Indiana Derby, has yet to win a stakes. But trainer Dale Romans has no doubt his colt belong with the best of this 3-year-old crop.
“Yes. He was second in the Preakness and he beat the Kentucky Derby winner,” Romans said, referring to Nyquist. “He definitely, so far, until he shows different, belongs in this group.”
While Romans has won bigger races than the Indiana Derby, winning the 1 1/16-mile stakes would be extra special because of his long-time association with co-owners and breeders Frank Jones of Louisville and William Pacella of Chicago. Plus, Romans trained Cherry Wine’s mother and grandmother and also his sire, Paddy O’Prado, third in the 2010 Kentucky Derby and who proved a superior grass horse.
“To win a big race for Frank and the Pacellas would be good,” he said. “They’ve been two of our biggest clients, Frank has been around my entire life, with my father (the late trainer Jerry Romans Sr.) and now me, and the Pacellas have been with me the last 20 years. They’ve had some decent horses, but it’s time to step up and win a big race for them with a colt. They’ve had a Grade I filly, but it would be nice to do it with a colt and a home-bred. I trained his mother and his grandmother and his father. He’s like part of the family.”
Romans, who ranks No. 2 all-time in wins at Churchill Downs behind Hall of Famer Bill Mott, has never won the Indiana Derby, though he was second in 2011 with Preakness winner Shackleford when the race was held at Hoosier Park and run in the fall.
There’s literally a lot of gray area to handicapping this race, as like Cherry Wine, 3-1 second choice Cupid also is a beautiful light gray. Cupid could give trainer Bob Baffert a record fourth Indiana Derby.
As winner of Oaklawn Parks’ Grade II Rebel Stakes, Cupid is one of two graded-stakes winners in the field. But Romans has a lot of respect for the competition, believing there are potential stars in the dozen 3-year-olds entered. He knows about later-developing horses, with Shackleford’s first stakes victory in a $3 million career coming in the Preakness.
“It’s a good group of horses, a big field. A lot of things can happen in a race with a big field,” Romans said. “Rusty Arnold’s horse (Star Hill) is a nice horse coming out of a tough race at Belmont (the Woody Stephens). Buff Bradley’s horse (The Player) is a good horse coming off a good allowance race. He could have a breakthrough race. This is where some horses will step up and start looking like the top horses for the last half of the year.”
Whateverybodywants: A win of course!
Jockey Robby Albarado, seeking a record fourth Indiana Derby victory when he rides Whateverybodywants for the first time, agrees with Romans’ assessment of the field. Whateverybodywants, for instance, has raced only three times, winning his last two.
“You get a lot of lightly raced 3-year-olds who really don’t have many options this time of time of the year,” Albarado said. “The Indiana Derby this year seems like it’s going to be pretty tough. I’m looking forward to it. Whateverybodywants is a nice horse. I watched his replays. It seems like he does it pretty easy, within himself. I worked him last weekend in Lexington, and he worked really, really well. I don’t think they know the depth of him yet. So he could be a promising horse for the rest of the year.”
The Illinois-bred Whateverybodywants was third in his first race, last fall at Indiana.
“Last year he was kind of discombobulated, an immature 2-year-old,” said Lexington-based trainer Kellyn Gorder. “But we got him a start, and he came up with a little tiny issue that if we kept going it could have become something bigger. So we just gave him the time, didn’t have to do any surgery or anything. He came back to me this year bigger and stronger.”
Whateverybodywants rallied to win sprinting over Arlington Park’s Polytrack and a month later captured Iowa’s Prairie Mile around two turns while “green as grass,” Gorder said.
“Kind of looking around, survived an inquiry when he ducked out from the light shining on the finish line,” he said. “He’s had nice works coming up to this race. We’re excited and confident for him.”
Gorder was third in the 2009 Indiana Derby with Karama when Giant Oak was second by a half-length to the Baffert-trained Misremembered. Giant Oak, a two-time Grade I winner and $1.48 million-earner, is the sire of Whateverybodywants.
“I remember being in the (post-race) test barn, cooling my horse out and getting a really good look at Giant Oak,” Gorder said. “This horse kind of reminds me of Giant Oak. A different color, but a big, good-looking horse.”
Tom Rinaudo, owner of Whateverybodywants, became an accidental breeder. He was racing horses when he had a filly named Bella Gardella. The daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun was well-bred but had a breathing problem that kept her from racing and she wound up having a tracheotomy, Rinaudo said.
“The trainer at the time suggested I breed her, without me knowing how expensive or how costly everything was going to be,” he said. “I bred her to Giant Oak, the mare ended up having a tracheotomy. None of the equine services wanted to take the time or risk of having her try to produce a foal.”
But veteran horsemen Barney and Ann Gallagher in downstate Illinois thought it was doable, and Bella Gardella delivered a healthy foal by Giant Oaks.
“Barney said, ‘This is a horse like everybody wants,’” Rinaudo recalled. “I said, ‘That’s a great name for a horse.’ It was a miracle the mare ever had a foal, now she’s had four.”
However, about a year ago Rinaudo decided the breeding business was too much for him and he gave Bella Gardella to the Gallaghers. When Whateverybodywants started looking like a good horse, Rinaudo wanted to buy the mare back.
“Ann said, ‘Mr. Rinaudo, you gave us this mare. You can have the whole mare back,’” he said. “I said, ‘You guys have been so great to me, so nice, what if you give me half the mare back?’
“… And here we are. For me, for like a small-time owner, this is an exciting race. And we’re all really excited about the story of the horse.”
Gorder also is running Torrontes in the Indiana Derby. He’ll be ridden by Albin Jimenez, last year’s Indiana Grand champion rider who is tied for second in the standings heading into Friday’s card. Torrontes has gotten his camp’s hopes up with big allowance efforts but has been dusted in three prior stakes attempts, though in the Pat Day Mile, he came out with heat stroke, the trainer said.
“He worked really well last week,” Gorder said. “We’re kind of giving him one more shot here. We thought he was a really good horse early on. He’s thrown us a couple of bad races, but we’re swinging for the fences a little bit.”
Wishing upon a Star
Trainer Rusty Arnold has loved Star Hill since the day he received the Elusive Quality colt from owner-breeder Calumet Farm.
“He’s a big, beautiful horse, shown quite a bit of ability,” said the Keeneland-based Arnold. “It took him four races to break his maiden. But since he got that done, he’s been in nothing but graded stakes. I’ve been thinking he’s wanted to run long the whole time, but he hasn’t done it yet.”
In fact, Star Hill’s best performances have come at shorter distances around one turn. In his last start, he was a late-running third in Belmont Park’s seven-furlong Woody Stephens, won by Tom’s Ready. Runner-up Fish Trappe Road won last week’s Dwyer in New York, so Arnold is thinking the Woody Stephens could prove a “key” race, launching other stakes-winners.
“I think that race will stand up good,” he said. “The way he trains suggests he wants to race longer. But he hasn’t done it yet. But he’s also drawn the 13 hole in three straight races. That’s almost impossible to do. First, you don’t get three straight 13-horse field.”
Star Hill couldn’t get 13 this time because only 12, the capacity that can run at Indiana Grand, entered. But he did draw No. 12. Corey Lanerie, fresh off his 11th riding title at Churchill Downs, will be aboard for the third straight race. He also was third on Star Hill in Churchill’s Grade III Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
“If he can tuck in behind the early speed, I think he will go long,” Arnold said. “He’s run against the best. We’ve been aggressive with him, and we’re going to stay aggressive with him. Because my plan is to run him back in the King’s Bishop,” the Grade I race at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. “Of course I could change that (to a longer race), depending on how he runs.
“When I took him to Belmont, I thought he was sitting on a huge race. He didn’t have a good trip, wasn’t anybody’s fault. Maybe Corey, not riding Belmont a whole lot, he might have just gotten hung out there and moved a touch quicker than you want on that racetrack. But I just thought the horse had done terrific. He came back home and we thought about waiting on him until opening weekend at Saratoga and run in an allowance race. I thought he was training so well that I didn’t want to take him to an (entry-level allowance) right now.”
Discreet Lover arrives
Discreet Lover, third in the Ohio Derby, arrived at Indiana Grand late Thursday night from trainer Uriah St. Lewis’ Philadelphia base at Parx Racing.
Discreet Lover (his sire is Repent and his dam is Discreet Chat) hasn’t won since taking a Parx maiden race by eight lengths 10 races ago at age 2. But he’s never been worse than third in four two-turn races over a fast track. “Since he started going long, he’s just gotten better,” St. Lewis said.
The three-week turnaround from the Ohio Derby would not seem an issue, and Discreet Lover is something of an iron horse in this era. The spacing between his races this year have been 2 1/2 weeks, two weeks, a week, two weeks and then a fat five weeks until the Ohio Derby.
“He recovers pretty quick, and he’s a good traveler,” St. Lewis said.
Martinez seeks second Indiana Derby with Cocked and Loaded
Willie Martinez rode Cocked and Loaded for the first when fourth in Thistledowns’ Ohio Derby. The jockey, whose riding base is Presque Isle in Pennsylvania, liked what he saw and felt that day, and is excited about shooting for a second victory in the Indiana Derby. Martinez won 12 years ago on the Buff Bradley-trained Brass Hat.
Cocked and Loaded, trained by Larry Rivelli, is trying to regain the form that saw him win last year’s Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs and to finish a respectable fifth in a very tough Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Martinez believes cutting back to 1 1/16 miles will help Cocked and Loaded, who was part of a moderate pace in the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby before fading late.
“He’s a very nice horse, very nice to ride,” he said. “He’ll put me anywhere he wants me to. I have to try to nurse him, but he’s fine. He’ll relax. He did run a good race in the Ohio Derby. The track was a little deep, and it was closers all day and the winner, Mo Tom, was the best horse.
“But this horse, I watched him train all winter in Tampa. He trains like a really good horse. He lives up to his name in the mornings.”