â€¢ DIVINING ROD TOPS FIELD OF SEVEN FOR SATURDAYâ€™S COOLMORE LEXINGTON â€¢ EVENLY MATCHED FIELD ENTERED FOR SATURDAYâ€™S BEN ALI
DIVINING ROD TOPS FIELD OF SEVEN FOR SATURDAYâ€™S COOLMORE LEXINGTON
Lael Stablesâ€™ Divining Rod, runner-up in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and third-place finisher in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), tops a field of seven 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for Saturdayâ€™s 34th running of the $250,000 Coolmore Lexington (G3).
The 1 1/16-mile main track test serves as the final chance in Kentucky for horses to earn points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). The race offers 17 points on a 10-4-2-1 scale. None of Saturdayâ€™s entrants is expected to compete in the Run for the Roses.
The Coolmore Lexington will go as the 10th race on Saturdayâ€™s 11-race program with a 5:18 p.m. ET post time. First post Saturday is 12:35 p.m.
Trained by Arnaud Delacour, Divining Rod set the pace in the Tampa Bay Derby in which he finished 7Â½ lengths behind Carpe Diem, who won last Saturdayâ€™s Toyota Blue Grass (G1).
Julien Leparoux has the mount on Divining Rod and will break from post position one. Invading from California for the race is Juddmonte Farmsâ€™ Fame and Power, trained by Bob Baffert.
Fame and Power broke his maiden in his most recent start going seven furlongs at Santa Anita on March 8. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount on Fame and Power, who will exit post position six.
The field for the Coolmore Lexington, from the rail out, is as follows: Divining Rod (Leparoux, 118 pounds), Comfort (Javier Castellano, 118), Quimet (Jose Lezcano, 118), Tiznow R J (Robby Albarado, 118), Henry Jones (Paco Lopez, 118), Fame and Power (Ortiz Jr., 118) and Donworth (Joel Rosario, 118).
EVENLY MATCHED FIELD ENTERED FOR SATURDAYâ€™S BEN ALI
Sumaya U.S. Stablesâ€™ Protonico, winner of the Discovery (G3) and runner-up in the Clark (G1) to close 2014, will carry top weight of 120 pounds in a field of six entered Wednesday for the 85th running of the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3) for older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The Ben Ali will go as the fifth race Saturday afternoon with a 2:38 post time.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who won the race in 2011 with Exhi, Protonico was eased in his most recent start in the Donn (G1). Since arriving at Keeneland, Protonico worked a half-mile in 47.20, the fastest of 86 times at the distance, on Sunday.
Javier Castellano, a two-time Ben Ali winner, has the mount on Protonico and will break from post position five.
The lone Grade 1 winner in the race is Magic City Thoroughbred Partnersâ€™ Golden Ticket. Dead-heat winner of the 2012 Travers, Golden Ticket is trained by Ken McPeek. Third in the Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn in his 2015 debut, Golden Ticket will break from post position four and be ridden by Joel Rosario.
The field for the Ben Ali, from the rail out, is as follows: Neck â€˜n Neck (Julien Leparoux, 118 pounds), Amiâ€™s Holiday (Robby Albarado, 118), Farhaan (Irad Ortiz Jr., 118), Golden Ticket (Rosario, 118), Protonico (Castellano, 120) and Irish You Well (Florent Geroux, 118).
AGELESS VS. FREE AS A BIRD TAKE THREE IN SATURDAYâ€™S GIANTâ€™S CAUSEWAY
Lael Stableâ€™s Ageless and Elizabeth Valandoâ€™s Free as a Bird met twice at Keeneland in 2014 with the net result being a split decision between the mares.
Ageless won the Giantâ€™s Causeway by three-quarters of a length over Free as a Bird with the latter turning the tables in the Fall with a 1Â½-length victory over Ageless in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County.
On Saturday, the two will hook up again along with 10 other fillies and mares in the 19th running of the $100,000 Giantâ€™s Causeway at 5Â½ furlongs on the grass. The Giantâ€™s Causeway will go as Saturdayâ€™s seventh race with a 3:40 p.m. post time.
Arnaud Delacour trains Ageless, who is trying to become the first repeat winner of the Giantâ€™s Causeway. Ageless will be making her 2015 debut with her most recent start being a fourth-place finish against the boys in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
Julien Leparoux has the mount Saturday and will break from post position four. Free as a Bird, trained by Ian Wilkes, has won all six of her races since last yearâ€™s Giantâ€™s Causeway. She won her 2015 debut three weeks ago in the Captiva Island Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
Regular rider Joel Rosario has the call Saturday and will break from post position 11.
The field for the Giantâ€™s Causeway, from the inside out, is as follows: Richies Party Girl (Albin Jimenez, 123 pounds), Jewel of a Cat (Paco Lopez, 118), Henny Jenney (Corey Lanerie, 118), Ageless (Leparoux, 123), Gal About Town (Dylan Davis, 118), Runway Ready (Javier Castellano, 118), Believe in Charlie (Rajiv Maragh, 118), Katieâ€™s Eyes (Florent Geroux, 120), On the Backstreets (Rafael Hernandez, 118), Sweet Nkosi (Brian Hernandez Jr., 118), Free as a Bird (Rosario, 123) and Fioretti (Jack Gilligan, 118).
SUMMER FRONT RETURNS TO KEENELAND FOR FRIDAYâ€™S MAKERâ€™S 46 MILE
Fridayâ€™s $300,000 Makerâ€™s 46 Mile (G1) will mark the third Keeneland start for Waterford Stableâ€™s Grade 2-winning millionaire, Summer Front. Christophe Clement trains the 6-year-old son of War Front, who concluded his 2014 campaign with a fourth in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Mile (G1) and began 2015 with a second to Ring Weekend in the March 7 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.
â€œHeâ€™s really good. He feels like a million dollars,â€ Clement assistant Lee Vickers said after galloping Summer Front around the main track Wednesday morning. â€œAll systems go.â€
At Keeneland, Summer Front was second in the 2012 Coolmore Lexington (G3) on Polytrack. In 2013, he was seventh here in the 2013 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). Overall, the horse has three seconds and two thirds in Grade 1 races.
â€œHe needs to capture that elusive Grade 1,â€ Vickers said about the Keeneland sales graduate. â€œHeâ€™s actually been unlucky. He should have had a couple in the bag.â€
On Saturday, Clement will send out Speedway Stableâ€™s Hard Not to Like in a bid for her second consecutive victory in the Jenny Wiley (G1). A year ago, the daughter of Hard Spun won the 1 1/16-mile race on the turf course for her previous connections: owner Hillsbrook Farms and trainer Michael Matz. Finishing second by a half-length in that race was Discreet Marq, a filly trained by Clement.
Last yearâ€™s Jenny Wiley marked the final race of 2014 for Hard Not to Like, who was back here less than six months later. At Keenelandâ€™s November Breeding Stock Sale, she sold for $1.5 million to Speedway Stables, Peter Fluor and K.C. Weiner.
Now 6, Hard Not to Like opened her 2015 career at Tampa Bay in the Jan. 31 Lambholm South Endeavour (G3). She crossed the finish line first in the 1 1/16-mile race on turf but was disqualified for interference and placed second.
â€œSheâ€™s done everything right since then,â€ Vickers said, â€œand she deserves to line up against a top field again.â€
With a victory, Hard Not to Like will join champion Intercontinental (GB) as the only two-time winners of the Jenny Wiley. Intercontinental won the race in 2004-2005.
CASSE HOPING FOR FIRM TURF FOR ZA APPROVAL IN MAKERâ€™S 46 MILE
Toward the end of 2014, trainer Mark Casse received a surprise addition to his barn in millionaire Za Approval for Charlotte Weberâ€™s Live Oak Plantation.
â€œI have trained for them for a couple of years and have five or six horses for them. One day they called and said theyâ€™d like us to train him,â€ Casse said. â€œThe thing is that we race in California and he likes it in California. You never complain when you get one like him in the barn.â€
Now 7 and the oldest entrant in Fridayâ€™s $300,000 Makerâ€™s 46 Mile (G1), Za Approval comes to Keeneland off a fourth-place finish in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) and a runner-up finish in the Arcadia (G2), also at a mile. Mike Smith, who was aboard both times, has the mount Friday. What concerns Casse about Fridayâ€™s race is the possibility of soft turf.
â€œI have been looking back at his past performances and the only race I see on yielding turf was back in 2012 and he finished eighth,â€ Casse said. â€œWe will wait and see what happens (with the weather), but as long as it isnâ€™t really soft, weâ€™ll run.â€
One of the other Live Oak horses Casse has is Za Approvalâ€™s half-brother, World Approval.
â€œHe just won a stake Saturday at Tampa (the Sophomore Turf Stakes) and we are going to run him next in the ($250,000) American Turf (G2 at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs) on Derby Day,â€ Casse said.
Pin Oak Stableâ€™s homebred Donâ€™t Leave Me, the three-quarter length winner of the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway on March 21 in her most recent start, will not be pointed to the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
â€œShe was never on the Oaks trail,â€ trainer Malcolm Pierce said Wednesday morning of Donâ€™t Leave Me, who earned 50 qualifying points for the Oaks that would be enough to earn a spot in the 14-horse starting gate.
Donâ€™t Leave Me has won three of four starts with all races coming on grass or all-weather surfaces. Pierce did not consider supplementing the filly to Sundayâ€™s $125,000 Appalachian (G3) Presented by Japan Racing Association at a mile on the turf.
â€œShe just ran a huge race off a (six-month) layoff and I want to give her plenty of time,â€ Pierce said. â€œI will nominate her to the ($150,000) Edgewood (G3 on May 1 at Churchill) as a consideration but probably she will go next in the Selene (a Grade 3 race for $150,000 at Woodbine on May 24).
â€œIt is a long year, and as long as you get the money it doesnâ€™t matter if it is in the spring or the fall.â€
UPCOMING STAKES PROBABLES
$250,000 Adena Springs Beaumont (G2) (Entries taken tomorrow, race Sunday, April 12) â€“ Delightful Joy, Divine Dawn, Fantastic Style, Majestic Presence, Taylor S, Zeven. Possible: Harlanâ€™s Destiny.
$125,000 Appalachian (G3) Presented By Japan Racing Association (Entries taken tomorrow, race Sunday, April 12) â€“ Asia, Lady Eli, Lady Zuzu, Leading Edge, Lismore, Mizz Money, Tiger Ride. Possible: Quality Rocks.