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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• O’NEILL HAS ‘TEAM PITINO’ ON COURSE FOR KENTUCKY DERBY
• PUYPE HOPES TO DOUBLE HIS PLEASURE IN LAS CIENEGAS
• ROBBINS, TRAINER OF HORSE OF THE YEAR TIZNOW, CALLS IT A CAREER
TEAM O’NEILL BACK FOR ‘GOLDEN’ RUN TO KENTUCKY DERBY
While most trainers never get to run in the Kentucky Derby, let alone win it, Doug O’Neill is three weeks away from doing the former in the hopes of accomplishing the latter.
His meal ticket this year for the $2 million race at Churchill Downs on May 4 is Goldencents, who, like I’ll Have Another in 2012, won last Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. I’ll Have Another went on to shock the world by capturing the Run for the Roses. If Goldencents stays healthy, he’ll have his chance to do the same.
The brownish chestnut won the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut, weakened to fourth after a controversial pace duel in the San Felipe, but rebounded beyond expectations (of bettors, anyway) to win the Santa Anita Derby with authority under Kevin Krigger, who has ridden the son of Into Mischief in each of his six starts.
Now, it’s on to Louisville for Team O’Neill.
“He came out of the Santa Anita Derby great,” O’Neill said. “He’s doing super but it’s one day at a time. He was back on the track for the first time today, jogging, and at this point, we would work him nine days out (at Santa Anita, where the colt is based) and fly him (to Kentucky) seven days out. That’s the tentative game plan.”
O’Neill is on record as saying how last year’s experience with I’ll Have Another benefited the barn, specifically in the knowledge that it can win the Kentucky Derby with the modus operandi it used in 2012. O’Neill doesn’t intend to deviate much, if at all, this year.
“Those are all pluses,” he said. “Just having been there is a huge plus, that and the confidence and calmness everyone gained. But it’s all about the horse. The fact that he’s traveled to New York, traveled to Louisiana, and he’s a pretty well-seasoned 3-year-old, has us pretty excited as well.”
Prominent in the Goldencents story is the fact that Rick Pitino owns five percent of the colt. Glenn Sorgenstein and Joshua Kaplan of Santa Monica, who race as W.C. Racing, own 75 percent and David Kenney of Yorba Linda owns 20 percent, but Pitino is the mainstream name that draws national headlines and exposure on ESPN and network TV. He is head coach of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team, which won the NCAA title last Monday night.
The 60-year-old Pitino also was elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on Monday and with Louisville’s victory over Michigan, became the first coach to win the NCAA crown with two different teams, having done so with Kentucky in 1996.
“We’ve been texting back and forth,” O’Neill said. “Rick’s all fired up. He’s on Cloud Nine, which he should be. What a great run he’s been on, and we’re just glad to be part of Team Pitino. I feel like I’m the luckiest man alive.”
MIZDIRECTION HAS OPTIONS FOR SATURDAY’S LAS CIENEGAS
Not that she needs any, but Mizdirection has options from her outside post position in a field of six for Saturday’s Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
“It’s a good draw,” trainer Mike Puype said of the No. 6 stall. “You can do whatever you want from out there.”
A virtual win machine with nine victories from 14 career starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint against males at Santa Anita last Nov. 3, Mizdirection will be seeking her fourth straight triumph. The gray daughter of Mizzen Mast has earned $1,094,621 for her owners, sports talk icon Jim Rome, who races as Jungle Racing LLC; William Strauss, Daniel Grohs, Kevin Nish, Michael Kramek and Boris Beljak.
Puype also sends out Schiaparelli in the Las Cienegas. The gray daughter of Ghostzapper will be seeking her first stakes win for owners Robert Naify of San Francisco and Jan Van de Bos of Sausilito.
“We expect a good race from her as well,” Puype said. “She ran well with blinkers last out and they stay on Saturday.”
The field for the Las Cienegas: Purim’s Dancer, Tyler Baze, 5-2; Schiaparelli, Joe Talamo, 4-1; Dancingtothestars, Kevin Krigger, 15-1; Givine, Martin Pedroza, 20-1; Bench Glory, Brice Blanc, 10-1; and Mizdirection, David Flores, 3-5.
JAY ROBBINS RETIRES; TRAINED HORSE OF THE YEAR TIZNOW
Jay Robbins figured it was time to smell the roses while both he and the flowers were still above ground.
The only trainer to win back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Classics, the 67-year-old Pasadena native officially called it a career Wednesday after more than four decades on the job. He will go down in racing history as the only trainer to send out a repeat winner of the Classic, having done so in 2000 and 2001 with the California-bred Tiznow, who was named Horse of the Year in 2000.
“I’ve been thinking about retirement for a year or so,” said Robbins, who saddled his first winner with Kenavo in 1971 at Hollywood Park. “The uncertainty of the industry was more of a concern to me than anything else. I don’t handle what’s going on here that well.”
Another difficult but less important transition for Robbins will be adjusting to new sack- time hours. “The hard part will be learning how to sleep in,” he said. “All these years I’ve been used to getting up at 3:15 to be at the barn by 4:45.”
Agent Scott McClellan, who represented Tiznow’s jockey, Hall of Famer Chris McCarron, recounted a memorable incident during his long association with Robbins.
“Chris was scheduled to breeze Tiznow a mile before the 2001 Classic but the horse was getting smarter in his old age,” McClellan recalled. “A week before the mile breeze, McCarron was on Tiznow to break off at the wire but the horse wouldn’t break off.
“He goes into the turn and he’s stopping, refusing, won’t break off. Now he’s over by the gate, still won’t break off. He finally got to the half-mile pole--this is 40 minutes later, mind you, not 10--so I suggested to Jay, ‘Why don’t we see if we can get him in the gate?’
“He says, ‘That’s a good idea,’ and just then, Tiznow broke off at the half-mile pole. He worked a mile, from the half-mile pole, all the way around back to the half-mile pole, in 1:35 and change.
“Now I’m thinking, Jay ain’t gonna ship and run this horse. He won’t even work. Sure enough, a week later, he wins the Breeders’ Cup.”
TOM LUDT JOINS THE STRONACH RACING AND GAMING GROUP
The Stronach Group has announced that Tom Ludt has agreed to join the company as a Senior Vice President of the Racing and Gaming Group. Ludt has been President of Vinery Farm since 2004. In that role he oversaw significant breeding operations Vinery owned in Kentucky, Florida and New York. During his tenure, he recruited numerous stallion prospects to stand at all three locations. Tom also led the Racing Division, which produced numerous Grade I winners including a Breeders’ Cup champion and an Eclipse Award winner.
Ludt currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Breeders’ Cup. He sits on numerous other Breeders’ Cup sub-committees: Governance, Compensation, Finance & Audit, Racing and Nominations, Marketing, and Race Day Medication Committee. As a condition of his employment with the Stronach Group, Ludt has agreed he will not stand for re-election as Chairman of the Breeders’ Cup although he will continue to serve as a Director. To ensure there will be no conflict of interest, Ludt will recuse himself from any vote of the Breeders’ Cup Board, which involves future host sites for the event.
Alon Ossip, CEO of the Stronach Group said, "We are extremely pleased to have a person of Tom's knowledge and stature as a key part of our team. He will be a great asset to us as our Group continues to expand within the industry.”
Added Ludt: “I am really excited about this new position and honored that The Stronach Group has the confidence in my knowledge and ability to assist them in advancing the sport of Thoroughbred racing and gaming. My passion for the Thoroughbred industry has led me through many doors and this great opportunity is too good to pass up. I can’t wait to get started.”
Ludt is a former member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, served as chairman of the International Wagering Hub for KHRA and a board member of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
Having been involved with many aspects of the industry through ownership, insurance, farm management, developing racing partnerships and stallion syndications and with his service on various boards, Ludt has helped achieve significant changes with integrity and safety issues. He brings a diversified perspective to the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry.
The following statement was issued from Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel on Tom Ludt:
“On behalf of the Breeders’ Cup Members and our Board of Directors, we congratulate Tom on his new position with The Stronach Group and thank him for his outstanding work as Breeders’ Cup Chairman. Tom's remarkable leadership, accomplishments and his desire to make the Breeders' Cup World Championships the best event in sports will be difficult to replace. We wish him well in his new endeavor and look forward to his continued service to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Ludt will serve the remainder of his term as a Breeders’ Cup Director but will not be standing for re-election as Chairman. The Breeders' Cup Members will elect new Directors to the Board in July. When the new Board is seated, the Directors will elect the new Chairman.
FINISH LINES: Moving closer to a start in the Kentucky Derby on May 4, Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday under Martin Garcia in company with stablemate Brannaman in 48.20. “He went very nice,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He went out (five furlongs) in a minute and change.” Brannaman was clocked in 48.60 . . . Agent Brian Beach reports that Corey Nakatani rides at Keeneland tomorrow and Saturday, namely Mr. Commons for John Shirreffs Friday in the Maker’s 46 Mile against Horse of the Year Wise Dan, and on Saturday 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready for Steve Asmussen in the Shakertown and Undrafted for Wesley Ward and owner Wes Welker of the Denver Broncos in the Blue Grass Stakes . . . Former Major League pitcher Brad Penny is owner/breeder of Tribal Syn, a 3-year-old daughter of Tribal Rule who debuts for trainer Howard Zucker in today’s sixth race.