Keeneland Barn Notes: Bigger Picture & Oscar Nominated Headline Sycamore

(Mike Maker sends out Oscar Nominated in the G3 Sycamore / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)


From the Keeneland Media Team:


Three Diamonds Farm’s Bigger Picture and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated, earners of more than $1 million each, head a field of 13 entered Saturday for the 24th running of the $100,000 Sycamore (G3) to be run Thursday for 3-year-olds and up going 1½ miles on the turf.

The Sycamore will go as the eighth race on Thursday’s nine-race program with a 4:57 p.m. ET post time. First post time Thursday is 1:05 p.m.

Trained by Mike Maker, both runners come out of last month’s Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) at Kentucky Downs, where they finished second and fifth, respectively, behind fellow Sycamore runner Arklow.

Bigger Picture, who has compiled a record of 35-11-6-4 for earnings of $1,324,135, will be seeking his first Keeneland victory. Winner of the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth in 2017, Bigger Picture finished second in the Sycamore in 2016 and was third in the 2017 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) here. Tyler Gaffalione will have the mount and break from post position six.

A three-time Grade 3 winner and earner of $1,501,556 with a record of 28-8-6-2, Oscar Nominated was second in this spring’s Dixiana Elkhorn in his lone Keeneland start. He will be ridden Thursday by Jose Ortiz and break from post position four.

Arklow, who is using the Sycamore as a prep for the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) for trainer Brad Cox, brings a two-race win streak into the Sycamore. Owned by the partnership of Donegal Racing, Joseph Bulger and Peter Coneway, Arklow won the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park in August.

A maiden winner in his lone Keeneland start, Arklow will be ridden by Florent Geroux and break from post position five.

The field for the Sycamore, with riders and weights from the inside, is: Some in Tieme (BRZ) (Manny Cruz, 121 pounds), Cooptado (ARG) (J.D. Acosta, 121), Campaign (Ricardo Santana Jr., 118), Oscar Nominated (Ortiz, 123), Arklow (Geroux, 123), Bigger Picture (Gaffalione, 123), Slickly Done (Richard Bracho, 121), Final Copy (John Velazquez, 121), Zulu Alpha (Channing Hill, 121), Nessy (Julien Leparoux, 123), Can’thelpbelieving (IRE) (Joe Bravo, 121), Teodoro (IRE) (Adam Beschizza, 123) andHarlan Strong (ARG) (Robby Albarado, 121).



Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s Belvoir Bay (GB) came out of her runner-up effort in Friday’s Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) in good order, according to Amber Chapman, assistant to trainer Peter Miller.

Miller indicated after the race from his home base in Southern California that Belvoir Bay would be staying at Keeneland for a possible Breeders’ Cup start that would be against the boys in the $1 million Turf Sprint (G1) on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.

Favored in Friday’s 5½-furlong Buffalo Trace Franklin County, Belvoir Bay finished three-quarters of a length behind Ten Broeck Farm’s Chanteline, who was reported to be fine Saturday by Galen Prewitt, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.

Defending champion Morticia finished third, an effort that pleased trainer Rusty Arnold.

“She ran her butt off yesterday,” Arnold said. “I couldn’t be happier. That was a good group of horses.”

Arnold said Friday’s race was probably the last of 2018 for Morticia, a 4-year-old filly he co-bred with owner G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

“There is nothing around here,” Arnold said. “There is a race at Santa Anita on Breeders’ Cup Day (the $100,000 Sen. Ken Maddy-G3 at 6½ furlongs Nov. 3), but the turnaround would be a little quick. That is likely it for the year.”


Calumet Farm’s Bravazo and Juddmonte Farms’ Hofburg, who spent time this spring chasing Triple Crown winner Justify, head a roster of 30 horses nominated to the 61st running of the $200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2), the closing-day feature of the 17-day Fall Meet.

Slated to be run at 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 27, the race for 3-year-olds and up has been won 10 times by a 3-year-old, most recentlyBlame in 2009.

Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who won the Fayette in 1989 with Drapeau Tricolore, Bravazo ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown with his best finish being a runner-up showing in the Preakness (G1). Winner of the Risen Star (G2), Bravazo also finished second in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and third in the Travers (G1).

Hofburg, trained by two-time Fayette winner Bill Mott, was third in the Belmont (G1) after running a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Winner of the Curlin at Saratoga, Hofburg ran second in March in the Florida Derby (G1).

Lukas has one other nominee to the race in the Churchill Downs Racing Club’s Warrior’s Club, winner of this spring’s Commonwealth (G3) here.

Two other Keeneland Grade 3 winners are among the nominees: Radar Racing’s Rated R Superstar, winner of this spring’s Ben Ali, and Fern Circle Stables’ Senior Investment, winner of the 2017 Lexington. Both are trained by Kenny McPeek.

Entries for the race will be taken Wednesday, Oct. 24.


Apprentice Edgar Morales has made a quick splash at Keeneland’s 2018 Fall Meet with four winners in the first six days of the 17-day season, a total that is second only to Jose Ortiz, who was the 2017 Eclipse Award-winning jockey, and perennial leading Keeneland rider Julien Leparoux.

“I feel a lot more comfortable this year riding here,” said the 20-year-old Morales, who posted his first career victory here last Oct. 15 on Star Dog for the late Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg.

A native of Puerto Rico, Morales came to the U.S. two years ago to Evangeline Downs in Louisiana, where he started as a hotwalker, then became a groom and later an exercise rider.

Morales’ agent is former jockey Julio Espinoza, who won eight stakes at Keeneland, including the Phoenix five times. Espinoza is the 12th all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs with 642 victories.

“He was a good rider and I have learned a lot from him,” said Morales, who will lose his 5-pound apprentice allowance in November.

Following the Keeneland meet, Morales will ride at Churchill before going to Fair Grounds in New Orleans for the winter.


With mud on his face and in his teeth, apprentice Declan Carroll was all smiles after riding Christine Hites’ Rilla in the third race at Keeneland on Friday. Rilla ran evenly to finish sixth at 18-1, but Carroll felt like a winner in his Keeneland debut.

“It is an unbelievable experience,” said Carroll, whose initial ride was a fourth at Woodbine on Sept. 30. “Jockeys dream to ride here and I got to do it in my second career ride.”

Carroll’s parents were on hand to see the 19-year-old ride for the first time and greeted him after the race. Both have spent their careers in Thoroughbred racing and currently work for Mark Casse. Kim is an exercise rider, and David, a former trainer, is a key assistant.

“I thought he did well. I am so proud of him,” Kim Carroll said Saturday morning.

“He looked good,” David Carroll said. “I thought (Rilla) was going to be last, but she moved up some in the stretch and finished up for him.”

Plans call for Carroll to ride at Churchill Downs, where he was Saturday morning, in November and relocate to Fair Grounds for its 2018-2019 meet. Before that, he has more work to do at Keeneland, where he is named on two horses Wednesday.

“He needs to ride plenty of races, but not on the fast ones yet,” David Carroll said. “He needs to know how to change gears. Just a lot of little things. Yesterday he thought he should have been a little more aggressive out of the gate.”

Growing up around the race track, Carroll was no stranger to his agent, Joe Paulley, a Louisville native and son of former rider Julio Espinoza.


“I have known him since he was 8 or 9 years old running around the backside at Churchill Downs,” said Paulley, who also handles the riding engagements for journeyman Joe Rocco Jr. “He did a good job yesterday. He is very well spoken and I think he will have plenty of opportunities before we get down there (to Fair Grounds).”


Declan’s older sister Aisling, 22, is working as an event rider with Olympic equestrian Phillip Dutton.


Keeneland racing analyst Tom Leach interviewed Julien Leparoux about Capla Temptress (IRE), who is racing in today’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End (G1). …


Today handicappers can play the Keeneland/Woodbine All-Turf Pick Four. Wager covers Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End (G1) at 5:30 p.m.; Woodbine’s Pattison Canadian International (G1) at 5:41 p.m.; Keeneland’s 10th race at 6:03 p.m. and Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1) at 6:18 p.m.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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