A “maiden,” in racing parlance, is a horse that has never won a race.
A Grade I stakes is the apex in class, attracting the game’s best
Thus it will be somewhat quixotic when trainer Jim Cassidy runs
the maiden Brother Francis in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on
April 7. The nine-furlong classic is the West Coast’s major
steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
In four starts, Brother Francis has two seconds and two thirds,
one second coming in the Grade III Hollywood Prevue Stakes and a close
third registered behind Santa Anita Derby contender Liaison in the Grade
I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last Dec. 17.
Owned and bred by Norman Cheng of San Gabriel, Brother Francis
was third by a head after leading into the stretch on March 10, in a
one-mile maiden allowance race on turf.
“He’s training really well,” Cassidy said of the Kentucky-bred
son of Lion Heart, who was second in the 2004 Preakness. “He’s been so
close in all his races, it’d be a shame not to run him. We tried to
break his maiden last time, but a bit of a slow break cost us the race.
Other than that, he ran great. I think the mile and an eighth of the
Santa Anita Derby will suit him.”
Take it as a plus that agent Tony Matos has booked two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez to ride Brother Francis.
“I don’t look at the fact that he’s a maiden,” said Matos, who
has represented Hall of Fame greats such as Angel Cordero Jr., Kent
Desormeaux and Laffit Pincay Jr. during a span in which they won the
Kentucky Derby five times: with Cannonade, Bold Forbes (Cordero), Real
Quiet, Fusaichi Pegasus (Desormeaux) and Swale (Pincay). Matos also was
agent for Victor Espinoza for 15 years. They won the Kentucky Derby in
2002 on War Emblem.
“I look at the horses he’s been running with and how he’s been
running,” Matos said. “He’s a fresh horse and a horse that‘s got a
chance to move forward.”
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner I’ll Have Another worked seven furlongs Friday on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track in 1:26.
“It was exactly what we wanted,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of the
Flower Alley colt owned by J. Paul Reddam. “He galloped out a mile in
1:39 and change and cooled out fine. We’re excited about running next
At Santa Anita, San Pedro Stakes winner Midnight Transfer worked
six furlongs under Mike Smith in a bullet 1:11.80 for Carla Gaines.
Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Brother Francis, Garrett
Gomez; Blueskiesnrainbows; Baby Blake; Creative Cause, Joel Rosario;
Liaison, Rafael Bejarano; Midnight Transfer, Mike Smith; I’ll Have
Another, Mario Gutierrez; Longview Drive; Paynter; and Senor Rain.