(Travel Column / Coady Photography)
(Hot Rod Charlie ran 2nd to Essential Quality in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile / Coady Photography)
From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
The dust has settled after a thrilling 14-race card Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, with the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) and Oaks (G2) in the rearview mirror. Both the local Derby and Oaks offered 100-40-20-10 qualifying points for the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, and the April 30 Longines Kentucky Oaks, and several of the top finishers emerged with both races firmly on their calendar.
The connections for several of the major players had a chance to sleep on the results, evaluate how their respective horses came out of both races, and plot a path to Churchill Downs. Fair Grounds media caught up with several trainers Sunday morning to get their thoughts moving forward.
Doug O’Neill, trainer, Hot Rod Charlie (Leandro Mora was trainer of record in La. Derby) (1st): Charlie looked great this morning. He flies back to California on Tuesday. I love the spacing (six weeks) leading up to the Kentucky Derby. It’s ideal. He’s proven to travel well. I’m very proud of my nephew Patrick (with Boat Racing). He’s a real good young man and I’m very excited for him and all of the owners.
Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, Clairiere (2nd): Big effort and he’s another horse (like Clairiere) that’s just going to continue to improve. I don’t think distance will be an issue with him and the timing, back to the Derby, off this series here, there will be plenty of time to freshen up and run his best race. We’ll train here for a week and ship a week from Sunday (the 28th).
Greg Foley, trainer, O Besos (3rd): We all want to go forward after yesterday. The only question we had was the distance, and he answered that pretty good. He galloped out past the winner. We’ve got 25 (derby qualifying) points. If we got second, we wouldn’t have to think about it, but now we have to hope we get in. we just have to wait and see. I don’t want to run him back (before the Derby). I don’t think it will affect our training. He’s a dead-fit horse. We’ll get hi back home next week (to Churchill Downs) and we’ll just wait and see. If it gets us in, great, if it doesn’t, oh well, we’ll go from there. I’d like to try and get in the big one and hopefully that will get it done. At least we’re not wondering any more (about the distance).
Mike Stidham, trainer, Proxy (4th): He came back in good condition. I will discuss it with the Godolphin team and decide which direction we go in next.
Brad Cox, trainer, Mandaloun (6th as the 6-5 favorite): We couldn’t come up with any reasons for the dull performance. We’ll get him back to Kentucky, see how he trains, and then go from there. I’ve thought about it, but I think right now I’ll probably nominate him to the Lexington (G3, April 10 at Keeneland) and we’ll see. He was done at the half-mile pole, so I don’t think the distance was the reason (he was so dull). He ran out of horse fairly quickly. He handled everything in the paddock, so to show up and get beat by those horses we had run so well against, that was obviously disappointing. He’s not that bad. We were the favorite. It’s almost like you’d like to see a reason or an excuse but we aren’t seeing it yet. The six weeks (to the Derby) is almost a blessing. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. We’ll see how he trains. I’m not going to change too much with him. He bounced out of it in good shape, scoped good, no issues. He’ll probably go to Churchill at some point later this week.
Fair Grounds Oaks:
Brad Cox, trainer, Travel Column (1st): She’ll go to Churchill later this week (with Mandaloun). She came out of it good, scoped good, looked good. I was super happy with her. She’s a good work horse and she should be fit. She’s had two races and that was our plan all along, to come down here and run twice and have a horse who is the third race off the layoff (in the Kentucky Oaks). It’s similar with what we’re doing with Essential Quality (for the Derby). It’s a really good rivalry (with Clairiere). I was confident with the race unfolded and I think she’ll be able to get another 1/16th of a mile. She’s by a son of Tapit (Frosted) and she showed in the Golden Rod she can come from off of it as well.
Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, Clairiere (2nd): I love Clairiere stretching out to a mile and an eighth. The pace yesterday was very moderate and it really didn’t benefit her running style. I though tit was an A-effort considering everything and she should move forward a lot off of it. With her breeding and her running style, the distance at Churchill should really benefit her.
David Carroll, assistant trainer to Mark Casse, Souper Sensational (3rd): She came out of the race good, cleaned up her feed, all is well. Talking to Mark, and he’ll be in contact with Mrs. (Charlotte) Weber (owner), we’ll get her up north and prepare her for the Oaks, and if everything looks good, we’ll take a shot. She’ll leave Tuesday night for Churchill and we’ll train her there and see how she’s doing and make a decision closer to the race. Based on yesterday she deserves the chance. We’ll let her get settled in up there and go from there.