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Breeders Cup 2015
Kentucky Derby 2017

Imagining Ready for Hollywood Derby

mcgaughey main
Photo: NYRA

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who shipped Good Reward west for a 16-to-1 upset victory in the 2004 Hollywood Derby, hopes to spring another surprise with Imagining in the $250,000 Grade I test for 3-year-olds at 1 ¼ miles on grass at Hollywood Park Sunday.


The Derby climaxes the Turf Festival, five grass stakes for a total of $950,000 in purses to be run here Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Hollywood Park stable area took on the look of a mini-Breeders’ Cup Wednesday with the arrival of horses from England, Ireland, New York, Kentucky, Maryland and Florida for the rich races.


Imagining, a chestnut homebred owned by Phipps Stable, arrived here Monday on a Tex Sutton flight that originated in New York with stablemate Rescue Squad--ticketed for the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap here December 3--and was stabled with Jerry Hollendorfer in Barn 70 South.


“They settled in really well and both galloped for the first time this morning,” said Jennifer Patterson, assistant to McGaughey, accompanied by groom Jorge Molina.


Imagining, a lightly raced son of Giant’s Causeway, broke his maiden at third asking at 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont Park turf September 21 and finished fifth in an allowance race at one mile on the Belmont grass in his last start October 26.


“I think he’ll really like this distance,” said Patterson. “A mile was too short for him. A mile and a quarter should suit him really well.” Javier Castellano has the Derby call.


Imagining was accompanied on the flight by two other Derby candidates: Casino Host from New York for trainer Chad Brown, and Willcox Inn from Kentucky for trainer Michael Stidham.


Casino Host, who finished third in the Virginia Derby in July, arrived with groom Jose Pedro Morales and was stabled in Barn 70 North with trainer Humberto Ascanio.


Brown, 32, is one of the fastest-rising young trainers in the game and would love to win the race as a tribute to the late Bobby Frankel, who died two years ago.


Brown worked as an assistant for Hall of Famer Frankel for five years before going on his own in 2007 and credits Frankel as having the most influence on his career.


“Chad worked here and I could see he was smart and had a passion for the game,” said Ascanio, Frankel’s long-time chief assistant. Now Brown has shipped his first Hollywood starter to the barn Frankel long occupied while becoming the runaway all-time leader in Turf Festival wins with 17.


Another homecoming story involves Stidham, who shipped Willcox Inn with exercise rider Alfredo Alvarado to Barn 54 South with Mike Puype. “It’s always fun to come back,” said Stidham. “I started training in Florida, but within a year moved to California. This is basically where my career began from 1980 to the early 1990’s.” Stidham moved to Northern California before relocating in 1994 to the Midwest, where he still retains a circuit between Chicago, New Orleans and Kentucky.


Willcox Inn, to be ridden by Robbie Albarado, figures to be one of the favorites on the strength of victories in the American Derby and Hawthorne Derby. “This is a race we had been looking at for quite a while if he ran well in the Hawthorne Derby,” said Stidham.


Willcox Inn, named after a historical hotel in Aiken, S.C., is a Kentucky-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday and will have a new co-owner for the Derby. Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable, which won the 2006 Hollywood Derby with Showing Up, bought a 50 per cent interest from previous owner All In Stable, a large partnership.


“We have been high on him from the start,” said Stidham. “He won his first start with Animal Kingdom second and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf two races later.”


English invaders Western Aristocrat and Slumber, who both cleared quarantine Friday, each worked three furlongs, although on different surfaces.


Western Aristocrat worked three furlongs on Cushion Track in 35.40 seconds under Wayne Tanner, assistant to trainer Jeremy Noseda. “He was happy,” said Tanner of the colt who shipped to New York to win the Grade I Jamaica Handicap at Belmont in his last start.


Slumber breezed three furlongs on a turf course listed good in 38.40 seconds under exercise rider Heather Johnson to the satisfaction of foreman Geoff Snook. Trainer Charles Hills will be here to saddle the Juddmonte Farms colt before he is transferred to Bill Mott in Florida.


The probable Hollywood Derby lineup: Cloud Man (Mike Smith), Irish Art (Rafael Bejarano), Slumber (Garrett Gomez), Surrey Star (Chantal Sutherland), Western Aristocrat (Corey Nakatani), Ultimate Eagle (Martin Pedroza), Venomous (Joel Rosario), Cozy Kitten (Alonso Quinonez), Willcox Inn (Albarado), Imagining (Castellano) and Casino Host (Joe Talamo).




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