The pressure was on Siena on Friday.
Don Lucarelli and Jack Wolf had a bet on the NCAA tournament over whose alma mater would go deeper into the bracket.
After Murray State, where Wolf played football, upset Vanderbilt on Thursday, Lucarelli needed Siena to beat Purdue to keep the bet alive.
The Saints couldn’t get it done for Lucarelli, but the Schenectady native and Wolf, a Saratoga Springs resident, will be back on the same team shooting for a much more sizeable payoff next Saturday, when the co-managing partners of Starlight Partners watch their Take the Points run in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free on the World Cup card at Meydan Racecourse.
“We’re all excited about it,” Lucarelli said. “We would’ve never gotten to see Dubai if it wasn’t for this horse. We’re all excited about it.”
Starlight was invited to the $10 million mile-and-a-quarter Dubai World Cup, but preferred the Duty Free because it’s on the turf and the distance, nine furlongs, is more suitable to Take the Points, a two-time Grade I winner.
The Dubai World Cup program used to be held at Nad al Sheba, until Meydan was opened this year.
“The main track is a new surface, which you don’t know anything about or whether the horse will like it,” Lucarelli said. “Our reports are that the turf course is really firm, it’s brand new, and if it’s firm, it’s right up his alley.”
Take the Points shipped to Dubai earlier this week, Wolf is traveling there this weekend, and Lucarelli and his wife, Barbara, are scheduled to fly on Wednesday.
Take the Points will have his regular rider, Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, for the Duty Free, which is expected to draw a full field of 14, including another U.S.-based horse, Courageous Cat, the likely favorite.
Starlight’s 4-year-old, by Even the Score, won the Secretariat at Arlington Park and the Jamaica at Belmont Park last year, both on the turf.
He finished first in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap last month, but was disqualified for bothering Yate’s Black Cat in deep stretch. Take the Points was placed fifth, and Court Vision inherited the victory.
“We’ll probably be fourth choice, but we’ve beaten Courageous Cat, and Take the Points is on top of his game right now,” Lucarelli said. “Edgar worked him on Sunday, and said it was one of the best works he’s ever done on him.
“If he can duplicate that race [Turf Handicap], he’ll be right in the hunt. But you’ve also got to get the trip. I hope for the horse’s sake and our wallet that he does.”
FLORIDA DERBY DAY
Trainer Todd Pletcher will continue his assault on the 3-year-old division today when he sends out Rule as the 5-2 program favorite in the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Rule is coming off four straight victories for WinStar Farm, including a three-length win in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 13.
The 3-1 second choice is Radiohead, who was seventh by four lengths to Vale of York in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and opened his 2010 season with a 31⁄4-length win over Homeboykris in an allowance at Gulfstream last month.
“We gave him 30 days off after his Breeders’ Cup run,” trainer Rick Dutrow said on Tuesday during a National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference. “And it wasn’t like it was like clockwork to have him right where we really wanted him to be when we started him off.
“He just got a really good trip because he put himself right there. And he fired a big race. And after the race, Edgar said, ‘Man, we can go a little further. And then we got a little more course left.’ So, we kind of picked our spot because it gives us plenty of time to get to the next race, which is very important.”
Also in the Florida Derby is Lentenor, a full brother to 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.
Lentenor, who is 6-1, broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park on January 20, then finished second by half a length to Doubles Partner in a Gulfstream allowance on Feb. 17.
The Florida Derby card carries four other graded stakes — the Grade II Bonnie Miss for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and an eighth, the Grade III Rampart for fillies and mares 4 and up going a mile and an eighth, the Grade II Appleton for horses 4 and up at seven and a half furlongs and the Grade II seven-furlong Swale for 3-year-olds.
Dutrow’s D’Funnybone, who won the Saratoga Special last year for Paul Pompa Jr., is the 6-5 favorite in the Swale.
He finished up the track in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, then opened his 2010 campaign by winning the Grade II Hutcheson at Gulfstream by a length on Feb. 20.
Dutrow also has the favorite in the Bonnie Miss, IEAH Stable’s Amen Hallelujah, a two-time Grade II winner this season who is coming off a 61⁄4-length win in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream.
Bickersons, who was fourth to Amen Hallelujah in the one-mile Davona Dale, will scale back to a shorter distance as the 7-5 favorite in the six-furlong Cicada on the inner dirt at Aqueduct. The Forward Gal winner will break from the middle of a seven-horse field.
Also on the Aqueduct card is the Kings Point, where Icabad Crane, bred by Gallagher’s Stud in Ghent, is the 7-5 favorite against six rivals who include Naughty New Yorker.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Buddy’s Saint is off the Kentucky Derby trail after a chip was discovered in his right front ankle following a five-furlong workout in 1:01.30 at Gulfstream Park last Sunday, his first work since finishing ninth in the Fountain of Youth. His return to the track had been delayed for a week after he got banged around in the Fountain of Youth. The two-time Grade II winner was pointing toward the Wood, but trainer Bruce Levine told the Daily Racing Form that Buddy’s Saint might need surgery and probably won’t be able to race until the fall. . . .
Zenyatta got back to work at Hollywood Park on Wednesday for the first time since winning the Santa Margarita on Saturday. She jogged twice around the backstretch training track. Trainer John Shirreffs told the Daily Racing Form that Zenyatta came out of the Santa Margarita without any cuts or bruises, despite using an inside move through a tight hole at the top of the stretch. . . .
Rachel Alexandra galloped at Fair rounds on Friday morning in her first work since finishing second to Zardana in the New Orleans Ladies last Saturday. . . .
A purse shortage has prompted Pimlico to drop the Grade I Pimlico Special, for the second year in a row, and the Grade II Allaire de Pont Distaff from its stakes schedule this spring. The Pimlico Special, first run in 1937, has been suspended four times in the last nine years. . . .
Tickets for the 142nd Belmont Stakes, scheduled to be run Saturday, June 5, at Belmont Park, are now available online at Ticketmaster.com and also through downloadable forms at NYRA.com. In addition, Belmont Stakes reserved seating applications can be requested by calling the NYRA reserved seating office at 1-800-814-7846 or downloaded directly at the following website nyra.com/Belmont/GeneralInformation/Tickets/Tickets.shtml. . . .
Ramon Dominguez, the leading rider in New York, reached another milestone Wednesday at Aqueduct when he won the second race aboard Fortyninegeorgest. for his 4,000th career victory. The 33-year-old rider is the 58th jockey in history to achieve that milestone. “It feels great, but it’s almost surreal,” Dominguez told the New York Racing Association. “It’s the kind of thing that happens slowly over the years, but you’re not prepared for it when it gets here.”
HERE AND THERE
Life is Sweet, the stablemate of Zenyatta who won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, was retired this week after suffering muscle cramps. She had been pointed to the Dubai World Cup. . . .
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone is recovering from multiple fractures of her left leg that she suffered Sunday while training a riding horse in California. She underwent surgery on Monday to repair the left femur. . . .
The National Museum of Racing’s Preschool Program is back for the school year. The program is offered Wednesday mornings from 10-11 a.m. Each class consists of story time, learning a letter and number and a craft project. An adult must accompany children. Admission is $30 per child for the six Wednesdays. Advance reservations are required (584-0400, ext. 118) www.racingmuseum.org/events.