Tag: jennie rees

Doug O’Neill will try to keep up his lofty stats in graded stakes at Indiana Grand. The California-based trainer had never run a horse here when he finished a close second in last year’s Indiana Oaks with Mopotism and immediately afterward won the Indiana Derby with Irap.


Blame the Rider, utilizing an exercise rider from the Brad Cox Stable, made his first trip to Indiana Grand’s oval Thursday, July 12 in preparation for the Indiana Derby. (Photo by Jennie Rees)

Now the two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer is back for Saturday night’s $500,000, Grade 3 Indiana Derby with Blame the Rider, who like Mopotism and Irap is owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam. Like Irap, Blame the Rider will break from post 2 as O’Neill goes for his third Indiana Derby triumph, the first being at Hoosier Park in 2003 with Excessivepleasure before Indiana Grand existed.

 Blame the Rider went 0 for 5 on dirt to start off his career, albeit one of those starts was the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis. Moved to the turf, his form has been very good, ripping off victories in a maiden race and Sara Anita’s mile Singletary Stakes and then second in that track’s 1 1/8-mile Rainbow Stakes a month ago. In those grass races, he showed speed that was largely missing on the dirt, and O’Neill is candid that he’d be delighted to have Blame the Rider on the lead in the colt’s return to the main track.

 “He’s always displayed a lot of talent in the mornings, and we just did not see any of it in the afternoon on the dirt,” O’Neill said by phone. “I think a lot of it was maybe the game was too quick for him, and on the turf, everything slowed down a little bit. So now we’re hoping he’s mentally ready to try the better dirt horses. It is an experiment. But the purse is huge, he’s doing great and we thought we’d take a chance.


Story by Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award winning turf writer

Growing up in Lexington, Ky., as the son of a trainer, Rusty Arnold developed a strong respect and appreciation for the titans in horse racing and breeding. In a career that started in 1970, Arnold has been fortunate enough to train for some of them.

Funny Duck and Brian Hernandez Jr. rally through the rain and mud to win the Pat Day Mile on KY Derby Day at Churchill Downs. (Photo by Coady Photography)

Most recently that includes iconic Calumet Farm, for whom he’ll saddle Funny Duck in Saturday night’s $500,000, Grade 3 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand. Calumet Farm — winner of a record eight Kentucky Derbys as an owner and nine as a breeder — is now owned by Brad Kelley, the Franklin, Ky., native who amassed a fortune in discount cigarettes and ranks among the largest land-owners in America. The Calumet silks no longer are devil’s red and blue but Kelley’s black with gold chevrons. But Kelley’s investment in Calumet and horses illustrate his commitment to playing at the top end of the sport.

“I took a bus trip to Calumet Farm when we were in grade school,” Arnold reflected recently in a phone interview. “We got to see the (horse) graveyard, the farm. To come back 40, 50 years later, training for them and winning graded stakes, it’s special. It’s not a whole lot different than training for Mr. (G. Watts) Humphrey or Mr. (Will) Farish. These old-time farms, I’ve been blessed to train for several of them. It’s very nice to do what I do and have horses for them.

“Calumet Farm looks unbelievable when you drive by now. He’s preserved history, and not many people are going to do that.”


by Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award Winning Turf Writer

The connections of  Lookin At Lee are hoping the 4-year-old colt can carry over his First Saturday in May form to the second Saturday in July in the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial on Indiana Grand’s showcase Indiana Derby card.

Lookin At Lee was nominated to the 2017 Indiana Derby, but didn’t make the trip to Indiana. He will make the trip in 2018 for the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile. (Photo by Coady Photography)

Lookin At Lee was a fast-flying second in last year’s Kentucky Derby won by Always Dreaming. This past Derby Day, Lee won an allowance race at Churchill Downs, his first victory since taking the Ellis Park Juvenile at age 2.

In between, however, he’s been steady and consistent enough to collect checks contributing to a $1.13 million bank account. That includes second in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, third in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Preakness Stakes. So off his allowance victory May 5, which made Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen only the second trainer to win 8,000 races, there was optimism that Lookin At Lee would start turning those on-the-board finishes into winner’s circle appearances.

Instead he was an uncharacteristically lethargic eighth in Churchill Downs’ Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. The Schaefer is a reset.


By Eclipse Award winning freelance writer Jennie Rees

Trainer Dale Romans long has said that King Zachary is as good as any 3-year-old in his large Churchill Downs-based stable.

 Owner Tom Conway has been talking up his homebred son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin long before King Zachary ever ran. 

King Zachary comes into the 24th running of the Grade III $500,000 Indiana Derby off a win at Churchill Downs in the Matt Winn. (Photo by Coady Photography)

 Now King Zachary takes another step toward backing up their beliefs when the strapping chestnut runs in Saturday night’s $500,000 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand, where he’ll likely be one of the favorites after taking Churchill Downs’ Grade 3, $100,000 Matt Winn in his last start.

 “Tom and I talked about it (Sunday) night,” Romans said Monday. “It just made a lot of sense. A half-million dollars is a lot of money, and the timing is good to try to make the Travers at Saratoga with him. This is a really good horse. You know the (handicapping) number he ran in the Matt Winn is the same thing that (Triple Crown winner) Justify has been running.”

 Especially being a longtime Louisvillian, the 80-year-old Conway was very much hoping to run King Zachary at his hometown track the first Saturday in May. He did, just not in the Kentucky Derby, with King Zachary winning of an entry-level allowance that went off as the 13th race.

 “He got some ‘shins’ at a bad time last year and had a few little issues that kept him from getting into the Derby,” Romans said. “But he’s ready to run now.”

 Conway bred King Zachary in partnership with a lifelong friend, buying the colt outright for a bid of $550,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale, albeit having to put up only half that.

 “I’ve liked him since he was a baby,” said Conway, who is an attorney. “You know how sometimes a horse stands and its ears are up; and they’ve got a wandering eye, they’re looking around to see who’s watching them? Taking everything in. This horse has presence. I think he’s a classy individual.”

King Zachary started his career with a pair of thirds before winning March 18 at Gulfstream Park. But Conway says it was the second start, when King Zachary was a late-running third, that convinced jockey Robby Albarado that the colt was the real deal.


by Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award winning freelance writer

John Gunther’s Tiger Moth earned her first stakes victory, rallying late to take Indiana Grand’s $100,000 Mari Hulman George by 2 1/2 lengths over Mo d’Amour. Big World, a Grade 1 winner two races earlier who was the even-money favorite, finished another neck back third, with pacesetting Improv another two lengths back while nosing out the stakes’ 2016 winner Brooklynsway.

Tiger Moth and Florent Geroux begin their descent down the track en route to victory in the $100,000 Mari Hulman George Saturday, July 15 at Indiana Grand. (Photo by John Engelhardt)

The victory with a horse who paid $17.20 to win took some of the sting out of trainer Brad Cox finishing fourth in the Warrior Veterans a race earlier with strong favorite Chocolate Ride.

Four horses stretched across the track coming to mid-stretch, and that didn’t include Tiger Moth, who was a bit farther back. But the 5-year-old daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense was charging hard on the far outside under Florent Geroux, blowing past to win comfortably while covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.32. 

“That was good,” Cox said, adding with a laugh, “There was no pressure with this one. But she ran well. I like this race. It set up really good for Call Pat two years ago. She just narrowly was beaten, it was a stepping stone. She went on to win three graded stakes. This was her first stakes win; she’s graded stakes-placed. This obviously will help her. She’s obviously got some pedigree (being by Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and out of the Sir Cat mare Saratoga Cat). This is a big win for her and the Gunthers.


by Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award winning freelance writer

James Graham shot up the hedge with 13-1 shot Beauly, holding off favored Linda for a victory in the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff at Indiana Grand. It was the first stakes victory for Rebecca and Stephen Hillen’s 4-year-old filly, who was making her third start in the United States after racing last year in her native England.

Beauly rallies to the wire for the win in the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff over the turf, the first of six stakes races on the card during Indiana Derby Night at Indiana Grand. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

 Beauly, a daughter of Sea The Stars, won one of seven starts overseas before taking her American debut off a seventh-month layoff in a first-level turf allowance race at Churchill Downs May 26. A month later she was fourth in another allowance race.

 “Jimmy gave her a fantastic ride,” said winning trainer Brendan Walsh, who is based in Kentucky. “It couldn’t have worked out any better. They (Rebecca and Stephen Hillen) bought her last December at Newmarket. They’re very good friends of mine, have been for a long time. He’s a bloodstock agent. They said she was plenty talented but that she was tricky mentally, that if we could get her right. She ran great at Churchill the first night (a May 26 allowance victory). The second night (June 28 allowance fourth-place finish) she got no cover, which wasn’t anybody’s fault. Tonight Jimmy dropped her out. They were going quick enough, got a lovely run up in the inside. She has a good kick. She’s obviously very talented. It’s great to get that done. I guess we’ll go for something bigger.”


By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award Winning freelance writer


Don’t tell trainer Kenny McPeek that he’s swinging for the fences by running Brockton George in Saturday night’s $500,000 Indiana Derby. To hear the ever-confident McPeek lay out his thinking, running in Indiana Grand’s signature stakes is more like a well-timed bunt.

Brockton George enjoys a bath following a workout at Churchill Downs. (Photo by Jennie Rees)

Never mind that Brockton George hasn’t raced in 7 1/2 months. And that was only his second start, coming in a mile maiden race on grass at Churchill Downs. McPeek has always been extremely high on the colt, a son of the late Harlan’s Holiday, with whom the trainer won the 2002 Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

“I don’t agree,” he said when it was suggested he was going for some serious power-hitting in this spot. “There’s one top horse in the race. Irap’s a good horse, no question, but he broke his maiden in the Blue Grass. Good horses will handle any jump. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the horse unfortunately had a little setback in January. When it happened, it was like, ‘Darn, there goes my best 3-year-old.’ He’s easily the most talented.”


by Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award winning freelance writer


Wild Shot is no wild shot in Saturday’s $500,000 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand. Never mind his seventh-place finish in his last start, when he lost Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Woody Stephens by 16 lengths. 


Wild Shot, shown winning the Pat Day Mile, looks to get back on track in the Indiana Derby Saturday, July 15. (Photo by Coady Photography)

Trainer Rusty Arnold is not predicting that Calumet Farm’s son of Trappe Shot will win the 23rd running of Indiana’s richest Thoroughbred horse race. But he thinks Wild Shot has an outstanding chance if he replicates his four-length victory in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Wild Shot went off at 8-1 that day, the same as his morning-line odds for the Indiana Derby.

 “He’s got a lot of talent,” the Keeneland-based Arnold said by phone. “We’re not sure of his distance limitations yet. His two races as a 2-year-old that maybe made you think he didn’t want a distance, heck, he got beat by the champion 2-year-old (Classic Empire) in Breeders’ Futurity and then McCraken beat him at Churchill. He beat everybody but them.”


Colonelsdarktemper (inside) and Jon Court rally home for a win at Churchill Down in late May. (Photo by Coady Photography)


by Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award Winning freelance writer


Of course trainer Jinks Fires was going to point Colonelsdarktemper toward Saturday’s $500,000 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand.

 For instance, there was a nice race for 3-year-olds last week at Prairie Meadows, the $250,000 Iowa Derby. But A.J. Foyt Jr.’s legend as the world’s greatest race driver — as Sports Illustrated declared him in 1981 — wasn’t fashioned by winning the Iowa Corn 300. Once the Foyt-owned Colonelsdarktemper finished second in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes won by the highly-regarded McCraken, it was a no-brainer to point the colt to the signature race at the track located 33 miles — a mere 13 laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway — from the home of the fabled Indianapolis 500.


By Jennie Rees, Eclipse award winning freelance writer

Trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Mike Langford are waiting for their 3-year-old colt Untrapped to come up with a signature victory. Saturday’s $500,000, Grade 3 Indiana Derby would be an excellent time.

Untrapped galloped out after his final work at Churchill Downs Monday, July 10 to prepare for the Indiana Derby Saturday, July 15. (Photo by Jennie Rees)

Untrapped won on his second attempt last November at Churchill Downs, but in six stakes appearances since, he has two seconds and pair of thirds. His out-of-the-money starts were a sixth in the Arkansas Derby in what proved a one-race experiment with blinkers and 12th in the Kentucky Derby.

“He’s a talented horse. He’s had a lot of adjustments this year, starting off with being stuck in quarantine in New Orleans,” Asmussen said, referring to horses being restricted to the Fair Grounds after an outbreak of equine herpes virus. “So you start off your year not getting to do exactly what you want. He’s had a productive year, but we’ve not seen the best of him.

“We need to get into a good rhythm with him. I thought he ran solid in the Ohio Derby. I didn’t think the race unfolded ideally for him, and he still ran on valiantly. I think he’s capable of a better trip than he got on multiple occasions this year, and when it comes together he’s going to win a good race.”