Forced to play catch up on last year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby with Anothertwistafate, who was eventually rerouted to the Preakness Stakes, trainer Blaine Wright and owner Peter Redekop chose to plot a different course when blessed with another potential Triple Crown contender in Anneau d’Or
After runner-up performances in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) as a 2-year-old, the son of Medaglia D’Oro already has 12 points in the bank. With 50-20-10-5 points on the line in Saturday’s split divisions of Fair Grounds' Risen Star
(G2), a win, or possibly even a second would put him in a position to qualify for the May 2 Derby.
“That was probably the No. 1 factor in our decision to come to Fair Grounds,” Wright said. “Last year we were forced to ship all around the country to chase points. We decided we wanted to do our training at our home base (Golden Gate Fields in Northern California) and keep our group together if we could. The spacing between the Risen Star and the Santa Anita Derby (on April 4) is really nice. It allows us to travel across the country, come back and still get six weeks in between races. Those are the two races we’ve targeted, and hopefully the horse and I keep doing what it takes to get us where we want to go.”
Anneau d’Or is the first foal out of the Tapit mare Walk Close, who was a Grade 3 winner on turf. He RNA’d for $170,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and then sold for $480,000 as an Ocala 2-year-old in training in April.
“We knew right away that he was a pretty decent racehorse,” Wright said. “You could see in his early workouts he didn’t really want any part of sprinting. He’s kind of a horse you really have to ride hard -- one of those grinder types.”
Bet down to 6-5 favoritism in his Sept. 29 career debut going a mile on Golden Gate's turf, Anneau d’Or responded with an eight-length romp.
“You never expect them to come out and win as easy as he did,” Wright said. That race was a key race. It produced four or five next winners, so that is always nice to see.”
Was it good enough to take a shot at the Breeders’ Cup?
“At that time we wanted to get into the Juvenile Turf, but the way it played out, the Juvenile was going to have a smaller field," Wright said. "We figured if we can get into the dirt race, let’s just take a shot. Our horse was doing well and the race was in California. Here we are and hopefully we have a prospect to keep moving on with. It gave us a chance to find out early on.”
Dennis’ Moment, the 4-5 post time favorite, broke poorly and was never a factor; 3-2 second choice Eight Rings pressed the pace before faltering. Storm the Court won the Juvenile at 45-1 with Anneau d’Or, at 28-1, just a head back in second.
“As soon as I saw him get over the (Santa Anita) track the first day training there, his class, demeanor and the whole nine yards, there was no doubt in my mind he was going to outrun his odds,” Wright said. “With the favorites running as poorly as they did, even Mr. Redekop and I had questions about the quality of the race, but I really had a good feeling about how he tried and pulled up clean.
"We got home, and after coming up short on Derby points last year with Anothertwistafate, we thought running back in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a good idea.”
Sent off as the 6-5 favorite against just three rivals, Anneau d’Or lost another a narrow decision to the Bob Baffert-trained Thousand Words, who has since returned to win the Robert B. Lewis (G3).
“The track was a little weird that day,” Wright said. “They got a couple different rain storms and it was heavy and deep in spots and hard and fast in others. We got stuck on the inside, and a horse that is still undefeated outran us.”
By the time he enters the starting gate for the Risen Star, it will have been nine weeks since Anneau d’Or last raced, but Wright is not concerned at all with the 1 1/8-mile test off the bench.
“This horse was probably already ready to go a mile and a quarter in his first start,” Wright said. “That’s just the way he trained. We think the synthetic track at Golden Gate is to our advantage. It’s a terrific surface. The same every day. It’s a deep, demanding track and horses come fit off of it. If I’ve done my job right then I hope I got him fit enough to run nine furlongs.”
For Saturday’s Risen Star, Anneau d’Or will change equipment and rider.
“I think that we are going to add some blinkers to him.” Wright said. “In my opinion, we were a head and a neck away from winning an Eclipse Award. We have to find a way to get past horses. Joel Rosario is going to ride our horse. He flew up and worked him last week and got to know him. Hopefully the changes will work out to our advantage.”
A former assistant to Fair Grounds-based trainer Grant Forster years ago, Wright is looking forward to his first trip to New Orleans.
“I’m bringing my wife and daughter,” Wright said. “It is my daughter’s birthday and of course Valentine’s Day, so the timing works out well. We get in Tuesday and will stay almost a week so we can do a bit sightseeing on the days we’re not working. The horse will get in Wednesday afternoon and will stay in Grant’s barn. Hopefully he’ll get a jog and a gallop over the racetrack and be ready to roll.”