Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Story of the Day - Rags to Riches

1 Rags To Riches (Usa) 1'49"99
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Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher Jockey: Garrett K. Gomez
Owner: Tabor, Michael B. and Smith, Derrick
Sire: A.P. Indy Dame: Better Than Honour Age/Sex 3-year-old
Racing Career:
Date Purse Race Name Track Grade Finish
05/04/07 $500K Kentucky Oaks Churchill Downs 1 1
03/11/07 $300K Santa Anita Oaks Santa Anita Park 1 1
02/10/07 $250K Las Virgenes S. Santa Anita Park 1 1
01/07/07 $46K Maiden Special Weight Santa Anita Park 1
06/10/06 $50K Maiden Special Weight Churchill Downs 4
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Winner Rags to Riches, Rest of Field Exit Oaks in Good Condition
Rags to Riches came out of her easy 4 1/4-length victory in Friday's Kentucky Oaks (Grade 1) at Churchill Downs in good order and will soon travel to trainer Todd Pletcher's base at Belmont Park in New York. She'll be accompanied on the journey by stablemates Octave, who gave Pletcher the exacta in the Oaks, and Cotton Blossom, who finished ninth on Friday.

"They all came back well," the conditioner said on Saturday as he was preparing his Kentucky Derby (G1) contingent. "We were a little concerned about Cotton Blossom given the way she was cut off so badly (in the stretch by a tiring Dreaming of Anna), but she seems to be fine."

Rags to Riches returned to the site of her only loss when taking the Oaks, and now boasts three straight Grade 1 scores after capturing the Las Virgenes S. (G1) and Santa Anita Oaks (G1) in California.

"We don't have anything specific in the way of plans for any of them," Pletcher added. "We'll wait a while and then make some decisions."

Trainer Gary Hartlage will also be waiting before deciding where next to send his Oaks third-placer, High Heels, who came out of the race in good condition.

"She came out of it good and ate up good," Hartlage confirmed. "My biggest worry going in was how she'd do in the paddock, and when she came over good, I said 'Lookee here."

High Heels was the third choice in the wagering after taking the Fantasy S. (G2) in April by a dominating 6 3/4 lengths. She'll now get a short break before making her next start.

"I may give her six or seven weeks off and then look for a spot," Hartlage explained. "I may try her on the grass and see what we have and that will give us some options."

Wesley Hawley may also go the grass route with his filly, Dawn After Dawn, who ran fourth in the Oaks.

"I'd like to give her three to five weeks off," Hawley said. "She might run next in New York, or maybe the (June 16) Regret (Stakes, G1) here on the grass. I hope to get invited to the (July 7) American Oaks (G1) at Hollywood Park. Wait a While, who finished fourth (and was placed third) in the Kentucky Oaks last year, won the American Oaks, too."

Dawn After Dawn, who will be relocating to the nearby Trackside Louisville Training Center, came out of the 1 1/8-mile Oaks race as fresh as she entered, according to assistant trainer Bill Wilson. "She was biting and kicking this morning while getting a bath; she was very high on her herself," Wilson said.

Trainer Doug O'Neill also found himself with a handful of feisty filly on Saturday morning. "We had to put a lip chain on her shank to walk her around the shedrow. She was bucking and playing," O'Neill said of his Oaks fifth-place runner Mistical Plan. The bay lass battled with pacesetter and eventual sixth-placer Dreaming of Anna and took the lead for a brief moment in the stretch. She yielded, as did everyone else, to the winner, and will now head back to Hollywood Park.

Dreaming of Anna will ship to Chicago on Sunday for trainer Wayne Catalano, who said his charge will likely move back to the turf, over which she's scored two of her four lifetime wins.

Tough Tiz's Sis, seventh in the Oaks, came out of her effort "okay," according to trainer Bob Baffert, as did the Nick Zito-conditioned Autobahn Girl, who was eighth in the Oaks. Swift Temper will stay at Churchill Downs after her 10th place in the Oaks.

Cash Included, Sealy Hill, and High Again exited their respective 11th, 12th and 13th finishes in good order. Grace Happens, who was eased by jockey Willie Martinez after her saddle slipped, was no worse for wear on Saturday.
Rags to Riches slogs to Kentucky Oaks win
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Rags to Riches didn't mind getting dirty. Now, if Todd Pletcher's colts will only follow his superstar filly's lead.

Pletcher's 3-year-old filly dominated the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks on Friday, taking command at the top of the stretch and giving Pletcher his second Oaks victory.

The win, however, may put even more pressure on Pletcher to come through in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. The three-time Eclipse Award winner as North America's top trainer is 0-for-14 at the Derby, and has a record-tying five mounts in this year's race.

In addition to the other 15 horses in the field, Pletcher now has another obstacle: history. The last trainer to win the Oaks and Derby in the same year was Ben Jones -- in 1952.

Rags to Riches made it possible, however, by deftly slogging her way through the sloppy track to beat another Pletcher entry, Octave, by 4 lengths. High Heels, trained by Gary Hartlage, rallied for third.
The win was Rags to Riches' fourth straight and proved she's got the grit to handle whatever conditions are thrown her way.

"Unreal, just unreal," Pletcher said. "There was lots of adversity out there today, but she overcame it. The really good ones will do that."

Rags to Riches left little doubt she's among the best, holding her ground early then surging to the lead when jockey Garrett Gomez asked for more at the turn. The favorite paid $5, $3.80 and $2.80.

"When I turned for home and I picked her up, she gave me an acceleration that I didn't really expect," Gomez said. "A lot of times they don't really give you that burst. But she's a really good filly and she proved it today. She took a lot of things that she had never been faced with."

Rags to Riches had bolstered her resume during a sterling spring meet at Santa Anita, where she won three straight races, including the Santa Anita Oaks in March. That win was her last race before Friday, but she hardly seemed bothered by the eight-week layoff.

The half-sister of 2006 Belmont winner Jazil had plenty of juice for the stretch, covering the 1 1-8 mile course in 1:49.99.

"The one thing she never does is she never gets tired," Pletcher said. "She's bred for the distance, she's bred for more distance and that's one of the reasons she's so special."

Gomez said Rags to Riches fought him a little bit early in the race as he pushed her inside. But she relaxed quickly and when he asked for more at the turn, she obliged.

"Once I moved her to the outside, I almost felt her take a deep breath as like a sigh of relief because she was back in an area she was comfortable with," Gomez said. "I was surprised at the way she kicked in and reached in. She made me very proud."

Dreaming of Anna, who led wire-to-wire in winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill last fall, tried to repeat the feat on a muddy track. She controlled the pace until the far turn, but faded quickly in the stretch before finishing sixth.

"It looked like she was fighting, not relaxed," trainer Wayne Catalano said.

Cotton Blossom, Pletcher's third entry in the Oaks, was ninth.

Trainers Nick Zito, Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas -- who have combined for nine Derby wins but don't have a horse in this year's race -- had hoped to create some noise in the Oaks. But none of their fillies challenged. Baffert's Tough Tiz's Sis was seventh, Zito's Autobahn Girl was eighth and Lukas' Grace Happens did not finish.

For Pletcher, the win raises the stakes on the Derby, though he was encouraged by the way Rags to Riches responded despite the layoff. He hopes it bodes well for training partner Circular Quay, one of Pletcher's mounts in the Derby who hasn't raced since winning the Louisiana Derby in March.

"They've been on the same training program for several weeks now and her race makes me think that his race may be just as good," he said.

If it is, Pletcher may finally shed the label as the best trainer never to win a Derby, talk he knows won't die until one of his horses dons the roses after the Derby.

"We'll savor this one," Pletcher said. "But tomorrow's THE one."
Street Sense Wins Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A mile into the Kentucky Derby, all the other horses were motoring along in fourth gear when Street Sense kicked it into fifth. Then he zeroed in on his last challenger, Hard Spun, went wide, and burned up the final quarter-mile like a dragster.
'After that,' jockey Calvin Borel said, 'it was just a matter of how far he'd win.'

Street Sense showed plenty of that Saturday by smartly picking his way through traffic, roaring from next-to-last in a 20-horse field to win by 2 1/4 lengths. His final move was so powerful, it looked as though he might knock rival Any Given Saturday into the grandstand.

'Street Sense came blowing through there and it was like a big old wave,' jockey Garrett Gomez said. 'He knocked my horse out from under me and knocked him off his feet again.

'But that's the Kentucky Derby.'

The dark bay colt was so commanding that he broke two Derby jinxes and put a couple of guys in the winner's circle late in their careers.

'I can't believe it. I can't believe it. This is the toughest race in the world to win,' trainer Carl Nafzger said.

While it was the 65-year-old Nafzger's second Derby win in three tries, trainer Todd Pletcher, who had a record-tying five horses, was skunked again. He is now 0-for-19 in the Derby. Hard Spun finished second and Curlin, the 5-1 second choice, lost for the first time in his four-race career

Imawildandcrazyguy was another half-length back in fourth and Sedgefield was fifth. Circular Quay, coming off an eight-week layoff, was sixth for Pletcher's best finish.

Tiago was seventh, followed by Any Given Saturday, Sam P. and Nobiz Like Shobiz. Dominican was 11th, then came Zanjero, Great Hunter, Liquidity and Bwana Bull. Storm in May, who is blind in his right eye, was 16th, trailed by Teuflesberg, Scat Daddy, Stormello and Cowtown Cat in last.

Nafzger, who is nearly retired, wasn't as emotional as he was in 1990, when Unbridled won for 92-year-old Frances Genter. Because of her faltering eyesight, Nafzger called the race in her ear so she could follow her colt to the finish line.

Then he gave her a big kiss when Unbridled crossed the finish line.

This time, Nafzger's words to the 83-year-old Tafel were few and to the point.

'Mr. Tafel, we're clear, we're clear. It's up to him now,' Nafzger said.

Nafzger and Tafel were taking a second shot at the Derby together. In 1999, Vicar finished 18th for the duo.

Nafzger works for just two owners now, having turned the day-to-day grind of his Churchill Downs stable over to an assistant. Besides Tafel, his other client is Genter's son-in-law.

Pletcher, meanwhile, had five less-than-happy owners to answer to Saturday.

'I am disappointed that the horses didn't run better,' he said. 'It isn't the end of the world if you don't win the Kentucky Derby. I'm not going to go home tonight and cry. That's just not the way.'

Street Sense became the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to return in the spring and win on the first Saturday in May, snapping an 0-for-23 skid. He did so on the same track where he won the Juvenile by 10 lengths six months ago. He was also the first 2-year-old champion to win the Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979, and the first colt to win with two or fewer prep races since Sunny's Halo in 1983.

Street Sense, sent off as the 9-2 favorite on his home track, ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.17 and paid $11.80, $6.40 and $4.60 as the highest-priced winning favorite in Derby history. Smarty Jones paid $10.20 to win in 2004.

Hard Spun returned $9.80 and $7, while Curlin was another 5 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.60 to show.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, were among the 156,635 racing fans on hand, the third-largest crowd in the Derby's 133 years. They watched from the fourth-floor clubhouse balcony overlooking the finish line. With the sun finally emerging before post time, they had a picturesque view of the famous Twin Spires.

Asked what it was like to win in front of royalty, Borel said jokingly, 'It meant everything in the world.'

Street Sense left from the same No. 7 post as Unbridled 17 years ago.

Borel is the master of saving ground and demonstrated that skill as Street Sense dropped back at the start and headed for the rail. While Hard Spun shot to the lead, Street Sense tucked in 19th along the fence.

Borel still had a snug hold on the reins as Street Sense turned for home. A quarter of a mile from the finish, Borel finally moved Street Sense to the outside and they accelerated away from the pack. They quickly reeled in Hard Spun, catching him in the final eighth of a mile as Borel sneaked a peek over his right shoulder approaching the finish line.

Once they crossed it, Borel thrust his whip in the air in celebration, getting his first Derby win in five tries.

'He'll do anything for you. He's very push-button,' Borel said, referring to the winning colt. 'I really don't know how good he is because he always gives me something when I ask.'

At the finish, Nafzger wrapped his arm around Tafel, shook his hand and pumped his left fist.

By the time the two made their way to the crowded winner's circle, the white-haired Tafel was beaming.

'This is the aspiration of anybody and everybody in the horse business. It's just overwhelming,' said Tafel, retired from a technical publishing company and living in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Street Sense has finished in the money in all eight of his career races.

'This horse has never run a bad race,' Nafzger said.

The Queen at Kentucky Derby 2007

Congratulations Kentucky Derby 133 Winner Street Sense!
Street Sense Rallies from 19th to Win Kentucky Derby 133
Street Sense, the 9-2 favorite, rallied from 19th under jockey Calvin Borel to pass the pacesetting Hard Spun in the stretch and draw away to a 2 ¼-length victory in the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
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