U.S. Sumaya Stable’s undefeated Malagacy was doing great the morning after his mild upset in Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) on Saturday as he was walked around the barn before boarding an afternoon flight back to trainer Todd Pletcher’s South Florida base at Palm Beach Downs.
“He came out of his race just great,” said Adele Bellinger, who also saddled $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G3) runner-up Eskenformoney and $250,000 Essex Handicap 3rd place finisher Madefromlucky the day before and doubled as their exercise rider here all week.
Sent postward as the second choice at 3-1 in the Rebel field of 11 even though he was trying stakes company for the first time and had only before run in two sprints at Gulfstream Park, there was clearly a lot of confidence in the son of 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford.
The chestnut colt with the white blaze had signaled Bellinger throughout the week she galloped him up to the race here that he was sitting on a big effort. Even though he was coming in very lightly raced and with the questions of the class hike and the added distance, he was the equine equivalent of an Old Soul.
“The only time he stepped out of his ‘I’m an old horse’ mode and showed a little attitude was on Thursday when we went back to the gate. Other than that he trained so beautifully and was so laid back,” said Bellinger, who added the colder Arkansas morning weather really perked up the others during training. “He just galloped along. He ran so well yesterday and we’re so proud of him. It was a fun race to watch.”
After the race, Pletcher was especially pleased with and proud of Malagacy, who thus far has answered the bell loud and clear every time he runs. He certainly silenced his doubters where handling two turns is concerned.
Pletcher said that he thought Eskenformoney, who was hoping for her second graded stakes score, and Madefromlucky, who had to tangle with eventual 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharaoh in the the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his previous two tries here, both got caught wide in their races but both tried hard as always.
Both of those horses, who also came out of their races just fine and cleaned their feed tubs last night, departed with Malagacy for Florida in the afternoon.
There is still some uncertainty about the correct pronunciation of the Malagacy. Although there are several opinions on the matter, the two most commonly accepted ways now are mal-ah-gay-see and mal-ah-gaah-se.
“In the barn we have always called him mal-a-gay-see,” Bellinger said. “That’s the way Todd says it. But most of the time, he’s just ‘Gacy’ to us. That’s his pet name.”
When asked if Malagacy, who was acquired as a 2-year-old in training, is named for the Malagaese people who make up almost 100% of the ethnic majority on the Island of Madagascar off the African coast and for the Malagaese language they speak, Pletcher laughed and said, “I believe so. But we don’t know for sure, just like we don’t know the exact proper pronunciation of his name.”
Now that Malagacy vaulted all the way to 4th place on the Kentucky Derby leader board courtesy of the 50 points he earned with his Rebel win, there are certain to be a lot more people who learn how to say his name.
By the time he returns to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby April 15, as long as all goes according to plan, Malagcy may be the talk of the town.
Petrov emerged in good order from his fourth-place finish in Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds, co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Sunday morning. Beaten two lengths by unbeaten Malagacy, Petrov was part of a three-horse photo in the major 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby prep race, with two noses separating the gray son of Flatter from a fourth consecutive runner-up finish in a stakes race.
“When you think of the difference between $180,000 and $45,000 is less than a quarter of an inch, it really makes you hate to have to go around horses deep in the stretch … this is what I have to look it,” Moquett said.
Moquett then pulled out a picture of the photo on his cell phone.
“In the whole thing, we’re the horse in trouble,” Moquett said.
Moquett said Petrov will be considered for the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 8 at Keeneland and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn.
“I’m going to do what’s best for him,” Moquett said, adding he’d “like to stay here.”
Petrov had finished second in his previous three starts, including the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 at Oaklawn and $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20 at Oaklawn.
Rebel fifth Silver Dust will be pointed for the Arkansas Derby, trainer Randy Morse said Sunday morning, noting the 1 1/8-mile distance should benefit the gray son Tapit. Silver Dust was beaten 3 ¼ lengths under Corey Lanerie, who also rode the colt to a fourth-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20.
“He came back fine,” Morse said. “He’s real disappointing, that horse. He’s got way more in the tank. It’s what Corey said again. He said when this horse learns what he’s going to do, he’s got it. He runs in spurts.”
Silver Dust was making his 3-year-old, stakes and two-turn debut in the Southwest. The Southwest and Rebel were both 1 1/16 miles.
Calumet Farm’s homebred Sonneteer made his 9th start in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes as a maiden and still didn’t graduate. But, he came awfully close, missing by only 2 lengths to Malagacy as the 112-1 longest shot in the field of 11. The almost black son of champion Sprinter Midnight Lute got shuffled back at the start and raced wide, but then jockey Richard Eramia move him to the inside for the stretch run and he made a huge rally up the rail to gain runner-up status.
Reflecting on the race, Julie Clark, trainer Keith Desormeaux’s assistant, said,” We are definitely proud of our horse and the way he ran. I was talking with Rich and he said he’s still a little green. He’s still a maiden but he said he did everything right. When Rich asked him to do something, he followed through. He felt like he had a lot of horse under him. He (Sonneteer) was a little hesitant down on the rail, but he kept pushing through, and when the horse came to him about a sixteenth (of a mile) out, he pushed on. This was a big step forward for him, a giant step.
Around 6 AM on Sunday morning Sonneter departed the Oaklawn backstretch with stablemate and Essex Handicap runner Dalmore and vanned to the Little Rock airport for the flight home to Southern California.
The Bob-Baffert trained American Anthem, who was the 3-5 favorite in the Rebel field but finished next to last, and his stablemate and Essex winner Mor Spirit, plus 9th place Rebel finisger Royal Mo were on the same trip. The flight left Little Rock at 8:25 AM and touched down at Ontario, CA airport at 11:24 Am [CDT].
If all remains on schedule, Sonneteer and Malagacy, the winner by 2 lengths, will get their rematch in the Arkansas Derby April 15.
There’s a good chance he’ll be back for the Arkansas Derby. He ships really well, and obviously, the surface here agrees with him,” Clark said.
Uncontested will target shorter races after fading in the final quarter-mile to finish eighth in the Rebel, trainer Wayne Catalano said Sunday morning. Following a record-setting wire-to-wire victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes, Uncontested finished sixth as the Southwest favorite after surrendering the lead turning for home.
Both the Southwest and Rebel, in which Uncontested maintained a one-length lead through a :47.04 half-mile, were at 1 1/16 miles.
“I told Harry before the race that the jury is still out,” Catalano said, referring to co-owner Harry Rosenblum. “The verdict is in, I guess. He had the perfect setup yesterday. He went slower, he was comfortable, but he couldn’t quite get the distance.”
Catalano said Uncontested looked fine Sunday morning.
Rosenblum said he believes 7 furlongs is Uncontested’s optimum distance and the colt will be considered for summer sprint races like the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park and King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga. The colt has made his last four starts around two turns (a mile or 1 1/16 miles).
In his only sprint start, Uncontested teased Keeneland’s 6 ½-furlong track in a six-length debut score Oct. 19.
Untrapped, runner-up in the Oct. 19 race, finished third in the Rebel.
UNTRAPPED, LOOKIN AT LEE AND TERRA PROMESSA
On the morning after Rebel Stakes day at Oaklawn Park, the disappointment of how his three stakes horses performed in the pair of Grade 2 races on the card washed over the face of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
On the upside, he reported that Untrapped and Lookin At Lee, 3rd and 6th, respectively, in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2), and Terra Promessa, who was fifth in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) as the 1-5 favorite, all came out of their races in fine physical shape and looked good walking the shedrow in the morning.
Then he reflected on the day before.
“Untrapped ran okay,” said Asmussen. “He’ll need a little more time between races between now and the (Kentucky) Derby, so hopefully, he’ll respond to that. Obviously, he’ll need to find a little more. They both need to improve.”
Mike Langford’s Untrapped was third, but beaten just two lengths overall by the Todd Pletcher-trained and still undefeated Malagacy. Sonneteer, whose odds were 112-1 and was the longest shot in the field of 11 sophomores, and Untrapped appeared to hit the wire together but the photo finish determined just a short nose separated them at the conclusion of the 1 1/16 miles.
Malagacy’s win vaulted him into 4th place with the 50 points earned in the Rebel, while Untrapped’s 10 points for finishing third now have him in the 7th spot on the leaderboard with 34 points.
Lookin at Lee earned no points Saturday, and slipped to 19th place with his 12 points earned previously. There are 20 berths up for grabs in the Kentucky Derby starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
“We’re not out of the game, but like I said, they need to improve,” Asmussen said. “I’m a little disappointed with Lookin At Lee’s race yesterday. I thought he would run sharper because he had trained well.”
The plan as of now is for Untrapped to remain here and make his next start in the Arkansas Derby. Things are still up in the air for L and N Racing’s Lookin At Lee and among his next possible races is the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 8.
“Possibly, we’ll just change surfaces with him and go to the Blue Grass,” Asmussen said. “I don’t think he’s shown his best. We might do that but we’ll see how we train out of this race,” said the trainer, who is still undecided if he will try blinkers on Untrapped next time out.”
Untrapped’s owner was a little more upbeat when he went to visit his charge again at the barn in the morning.
“I came by the barn last night and he came back good,” Langford said. “He ate up and walked this morning. We didn’t expect this to be his best race. We wheeled back in three weeks [after finishing second in the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds February 25], and that’s asking quite a lot of a three-year-old. Plus, he moved from there to here. That was also asking quite a lot of him. But, he responded well and this morning he’s doing well. We expect to run him in the Arkansas Derby.”
Lankford, who entertained eight family members at the track Saturday afternoon, was philosophical.
“It’s a process, and I think a lot of owners don’t understand that,” he said. “We thought he could win the race, but we expect him to run better in his next race. We expected and hoped to get points and move forward. That’s the whole thing at this stage: to move forward, and I think we’re doing that. I told my son yesterday that they’re going to start separating themselves now. I think we’re going to be on the part that goes on. There are still lots of possibilities for us.”
Moreover, there is an added plus in the plan for Untrapped.
“With him staying here to run in the Arkansas Derby, I’ll get to come over here and see him all the time,” said Lankford, who first came to Oaklawn as a small child with his father and fell in love with horses and racing from the start.
As for Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Terra Promessa, her defeat in the Azeri was the multiple graded stakes winner’s first this year and first ever at Oaklawn, where she was a perfect 5-for-5. Her trip in the Azeri was far from ideal as the Equibase chart reads “steadied in the first turn, steadied again soon after, boxed into the far turn, continued to wait for room while under restraint…”
When it was mentioned that there are lots more dances down the road for his star 4-year-old daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, whom he also trained, Asmussen simply said, “Hopefully.”
The Bob-Baffert trained American Anthem, who was the 3-5 favorite in the Rebel field but finished next to last, beaten 13 ½ cumulative lengths according to the chart, didn’t seem to handle the racing surface.
Around 6 AM he was loaded onto a van headed to Little Rock Airport to board a flight back to Baffert’s base in Southern California. American Anthem was accompanied on the plane by stablemate Mor Spirit, who as the 1-5 favorite won the Essex Handicap in the fastest time run in the stakes in the past 30 years.
AZERI STAKES FOLLOW UP
Streamline will be pointed for the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 14 at Oaklawn, trainer Brian Williamson said Sunday morning. The five-year-old mare provided Williamson his biggest career victory with a one-length decision over Eskenformoney in Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles. The Azeri is the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom.
“She looks good,” Williamson said as he watched Streamline walk the shedrow Sunday morning. “She ate up and everything. So far, so good.”
The consistent Streamline – first, second or third in 16 of 17 career starts – is co-owned by Williamson’s mother-in-law, Nancy Vanier, 82, who also bred the daughter of Straight Line.
Williamson called the victory, “special.”
Streamline, who has earned $601,566, has run in Oaklawn’s last seven two-turn stakes races for older fillies and mares. She won the $100,000 Pippin last year before finishing third in the Azeri and second in the Apple Blossom.
Streamline ran third in Oaklawn’s $125,000 Pippin Jan. 14 and $150,000 Bayakoa (G3) Feb. 18.
Trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning that Azeri third Tiger Moth will be considered for the $600,000 Apple Blossom and the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) April 21 at Keeneland.
Tiger Moth closed well late to finish 1 ½ lengths behind Streamline in the Azeri.
“She ran well,” Cox said. “I kind of liked her time off between races. It was good.”
Tiger Moth was making her first start since winning an allowance/optional claimer Jan. 22 at Oaklawn.
“Does a lot for her broodmare career,” Cox said of Tiger Moth placing in a graded event for the first time. “That’s what it’s about for these fillies.”
ESSEX HANDICAP FOLLOW UP
Dazzling Gem, a two-time winner at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting, returned to Hot Springs to finish fourth in Saturday’s $250,000 Essex Handicap for older horses. He was beaten 4 ¾ lengths by Mor Spirit after looming boldly on the outside turning for home.
“No excuses,” trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning. “We’ll probably shorten him up a little bit.”
Dazzling Gem, owned by prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers, is not a candidate for the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 15 at Oaklawn, Cox said.
Cox said he doubts Dazzling Gem, fourth in last year’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), will run again at the meeting.
Source: Oaklawn Park