NTRA Thoroughbred Notebook

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.

DUBAI INTERNATIONAL RACING CARNIVAL SET FOR SATURDAY, WORLD CUP ATTRACTS 14
The 15th renewal of the Dubai World Cup highlights the Dubai International Racing Carnival at Meydan Racecourse.

The eight-race Dubai festival is now worth $26.25 million, with the Dubai World Cup, worth $10 million. Chief supporting races are the $5 million Dubai Duty Free and the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic –- both turf races. The newest addition to the card is the Al Quoz Sprint, worth $1 million, to be run at five furlongs on turf. Also on the card are the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the UAE Derby, both worth $2 million, and the $1 million Godolphin Mile.

In the Dubai World Cup, many American racing fans will have their eyes on Gio Ponti, who will be making his first start since running a fine second to Goldikova in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile on November 6. Also in the field is Fly Down, who ran third behind Blame and Zenyatta in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The complete field, in post position order, for the Group 1 Emirates Airlines Dubai World Cup is: Fly Down; Monterosso; Prince Bishop; Cape Blanco; Gio Ponti; Victoire Pisa; Musir; Gitano Hernando; Transcend; Poet’s Voice; Richard’s Kid; Twice Over; Buena Vista; and Golden Sword.

MUCHO MACHO MAN TOPS $1 MILLION LOUISIANA DERBY

Mucho Macho Man, hero of Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes in his last start Feb. 19, has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $1 million Grade II Louisiana Derby.

Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN), will broadcast the Louisiana Derby as part of its seven hours of racing coverage on stations around the country and at www.horseracingradio.net . The program will also feature a broadcast of the Dubai World Cup, courtesy of AmWest Entertainment.

Jamaican-born jockey Rajiv Maragh, who rode Mucho Macho Man to a length and a half-victory in the Risen Star, will return in the irons for the Louisiana Derby, a race he won last year aboard Mission Impazible. Mucho Macho Man is trained by Kathy Ritvo, a 41-year-old mother who underwent successful heart transplant surgery in November 2008.

Machen, who finished fourth in the Risen Star in what was only his third lifetime start, has been pegged as the 7-2 second choice in the race. He is trained by Neil Howard, who saddled Comic Strip to win the 1998 Louisiana Derby and Line In The Sand to win the 1992 renewal. Veteran jockey Edgar Prado has been engaged to handle the reins aboard Machen.

Capable of providing strong competition for Mucho Macho Man and Machen in the 98th running of the Louisiana Derby are Elite Alex and Wilkinson.

Elite Alex, 6-1 in the Louisiana Derby morning line, finished third in Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes in his last start Feb. 21 following a troubled trip and was a late scratch by trainer Tim Ritchey out of Oaklawn’s Grade II Rebel Stakes last Saturday in favor of New Orleans’ upcoming centerpiece.

Wilkinson, the 8-1 fourth choice in the early Louisiana Derby line and a second Neil Howard trainee, won the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 22 but has fallen below the radar after not having started in the Risen Star.

The complete field, in post position order, for the Louisiana Derby is: Nacho Business (jockey: Joe Bravo, morning line odds: 10-1); Pants On Fire (Rosie Napravnik, 10-1); Nehro (Michael Baze, 30-1); Mavericking (Shaun Bridgmohan, 20-1); Mucho Macho Man (Rajiv Maragh, 9-5); Liondrive (James Graham, 50-1); Machen (Edgar Prado, 7-2); Majestic Harbor (Corey Lanerie, 12-1); Le Mans (Robby Albarado, 20-1); Wilkinson (Garrett Gomez, 8-1); Left (Jesse Campbell, 10-1); and Elite Alex (Calvin Borel, 6-1). All carry 122 pounds. Populist Politics was announced earlier this week as having scratched from the race.

POSITIVE RESPONSE FAVORED IN VINERY RACING SPIRAL STAKES
A full field of 12 three-year-olds has been assembled for the 40th running of the Grade III, $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes to be run Saturday at 1 1-8 miles at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. The race is a stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby.

The 3-1 morning line favorite for the Spiral is Positive Response, who was shipped by trainer Billy Morey from his Northern California base to demolish the field in Turfway’s John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, the traditional prep for the Spiral, on March 5. Positive Response has remained at Turfway since the Battaglia.

“I looked around the country and spotted these races at Turfway, saw that we could make it maybe a two race plan,” said Morey. “It worked out great timing wise. And it gave us a test run here at Turfway to see if he was good enough for the Spiral.”

The Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes is one of five stakes events on the Saturday Turfway card, which also includes the Grade III, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks for three-year-old fillies.
TVG will have a crew on-site at Turfway for its live telecast of the Spiral and the Saturday undercard.

The complete field for the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, in post position order, is: Preachintothedevil (jockey: Junior Alvarado, morning line odds: 15-1); Positive Response (Julien Couton, 3-1); Thirtyfirststreet, Kendrick Carmouche, 12-1); Animal Kingdon (Alan Garcia, 5-1); Son of Posse (Rafael Mojica, Jr., 50-1); Rescind the Trade (Jose Valdivia, Jr., 12-1); Beachcombing (Leandro Goncalves, 12-1); King Congie (Javier Castellano, 4-1); Taptowne (Rodney Prescott, 4-1); Decisive Moment (Kerwin Clark, 5-1); Twinspired (Victor Lebron, 10-1) and Glint (Gabriel Saez, 10-1).

ASTROLOGY HEADS FIELD IN SUNDAY’S SUNLAND DERBY

A field of 11 three-year-olds has been entered for Sunday’s Grade III, $800,000 Sunland Derby, a 1 1-8-miles Kentucky Derby prep at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino in Sunland Park, N.M. In 2009, Mine That Bird used a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby as the springboard to victory in the Kentucky Derby.

The marquee horse in the race is Astrology, winner of last year’s Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Sunday will mark Astrology’s 2011 debut. The A.P. Indy colt was originally scheduled to race in the March 12 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, but illness derailed those plans.

“Once he arrived there [California], he was under the weather and not himself,” said Astrology’s trainer Steve Asmussen. “He had a little setback which cost him a couple of weeks when it was very rainy there, so we are later with him than we had originally scheduled bringing him back. I think the main thing is I feel very good about the health and condition of the horse right now. He is an absolutely beautiful individual. I think that we have a very tall order on Sunday with it being an $800,000 mile and an eighth race off the bench. We’re excited for Sunday, but I think a lot of our questions will be answered then.”

Asmussen also entered Fusa Code, the winner of the 1 1/16-miles Borderland Derby, Sunland’s traditional prep race for the Sunland Derby.

The complete field for the Grade III Sunland Derby, in post position order, is: Ruler On Ice (jockey: Jose Valdivia Jr., morning line odds: 8-1); R Skydiver (A. Medellin, 12-1); Fusa Code (Justin Shepherd, 8-1); It’s My Party (J.M. Bourdieu, 12-1); Behold de Buy (K.S. Tohill, 12-1); Supreme Ruler (Jon Court, 20-1); Sinai (Martin Garcia, 6-1); Nacho Saint (Joe Bravo, 7-2); Twice The Appeal (Christian Santiago Reyes, 15-1); Beer Meister (Glenn Corbett, 15-1); and Astrology (Julien Leparoux, 5-2).

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