Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: Henley’s Joy gets Risen Star chance

February 13, 2019 02:33pm

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.

At 10-1 on the morning line, Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes contender Henley’s Joy offers horse players a nice price on a multiple stakes winner who has finished out of the exacta just once in six career starts.

The catch? He’s by Kitten’s Joy, and all of his previous races ran on grass.

“Statistically, his best races are going to come on the turf,” said trainer Mike Maker, “but there aren’t a whole lot of turf races this time of year. If we try and fail, we haven’t really missed out.”

Maker and Jeff Bloom, of the Bloom Racing Stable, are thinking the same when it comes to Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds feature on the main track.

“We’re taking a shot,” Maker said of trying the Kentucky Derby 2019 trail. “There’s a lot of upside.”

“Anytime you have a talented 3-year-old this time of year, you get excited about the idea of being a part of the Triple Crown,” Bloom added. “…If he takes to it, it opens up a lot of doors. If not, he’s still one of the best turf 3-year-olds in the country. The Risen Star is a great race to try something new.”

A bargain $50,000 purchase, Henley’s Joy has already racked up $372,000 in earnings with victories in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Stakes and Pulpit Stakes at age 2. The latter marked a rebound from his 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, in which the colt found himself mired in traffic before falling back through the far turn.

Bloom Racing Stable nearly won the Risen Star a year ago when Snapper Sinclair finished a nose behind Bravazo in a Kentucky Derby prep that pays out 50 points — enough to make the starting gate — to its winner. Snapper Sinclair has since run on both turf and dirt.

Henley’s Joy opened his season with a close defeat of his own in Gulfstream Park’s Jan. 5 Kitten’s Joy Stakes — that race at 7 1/2 furlongs.

“He shows up every time, and he’s a horse that really enjoys his job,” Bloom said. “He’s given us every indication that he’ll run well on dirt based on how he’s trained on it. If you look at a couple of his races where things didn’t go his way, he manages to overcome some bad circumstances.

“Last time at Gulfstream Park, he broke to the extreme outside, was compromised substantially and only had a near miss.”

Maker will saddle a second Risen Star contender, Dunph, a winner of the Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes last fall at Churchill Downs. Since then, he was ninth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) and third in the Springboard Mile.

“In the Jockey Club it didn’t feel like he handled the off going,” Maker said. “We came back in the Springboard — ran a credible third with a bit of a wide trip. He’s continued moving forward.”

Maker also can look forward to Friday night’s John Battaglia Memorial, a local prep for Turfway Park’s Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). Among the 10 entered is Somelikeithotbrown, who led until the late strides of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

“The timing worked out for us,” Maker said of the New York-bred son of Big Brown, “and we felt like he could benefit with a race over the track before the Jeff Ruby.”

Derby links

 HRN handicapper Reinier Macatangay believes Bill Mott-trained Country House poses the best threat to Risen Star favorite War of Will.


 Before the Risen Star, Fair Grounds has scheduled a number of stakes packed with familiar names, including 2018 Derby runners Lone Sailor and Flameaway. Preview the undercard.


 HRN’s Bryan Brinkmeyer runs down what we learned last week on the Derby trail, adding a few thoughts on some non-prep winners you should forget about, or maybe leave around on your short lists.

In case you missed it…

Monday’s Derby Daily report featured an interview with Blaine Wright, trainer of the potential El Camino Real Derby favorite Anothertwistafate, who owns a pair of open-length wins over the Golden Gate Fields synthetic entering Saturday’s race.


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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps all in once place.

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