Horse racing: Free Entry ready to step up in class

With loyal and active owners like Gary and Mary West, when an opportunity closes, another seems to o

With loyal and active owners like Gary and Mary West, when an opportunity closes, another seems to open soon enough for trainer Chad Brown.

Stakes-winning 3-year-old Tiz Blessed had a setback this winter that makes his near future uncertain, but Free Entry, also owned by the Wests, has put the Mechanicville native Brown in the hunt as the Kentucky Derby preps swing into action.

Free Entry, whose career debut came on Travers Day in Uncle Mo’s eye-opening coming-out party at Saratoga Race Course, was last seen winning a $51,500 first-level allowance by 13⁄4 lengths at Gulfstream Park last Sunday.

Next up for Free Entry will be an attempt at a graded stakes, for which Brown is looking at any number of options, including the Rebel, Louisiana Derby, Tampa Bay Derby and Florida Derby.

“I’m not saying he’s going to win one of those races, but he’s 2-for-2 for me, he’s 3 and he deserves a shot,” Brown said on Friday. “It seems like he’ll stretch out.”

Free Entry is a chestnut son of Tale of the Cat out of the Pulpit mare Preachtothechoir.

On a card packed with graded stakes, including the biggest race of the Saratoga meet, the Travers, Uncle Mo made a lasting impression in a maiden race, winning by 141⁄4 lengths on his way to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory, the male 2-year-old Eclipse Award and his status as the undefeated leading 2011 Kentucky Derby contender.

Free Entry was fourth in that maiden race for trainer Eddie Kenneally.

The Wests turned him over to Brown this winter, and since then Free Entry is 2-for-2 over the course of three weeks at Gulfstream.

Tiz Blessed, meanwhile, was listed at 30-1 when the Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager was announced this week. He broke his maiden first time out at Saratoga last summer, was fourth to Sweet Ducky in the Garden State at Monmouth Park and closed out 2010 by winning the listed Display at Woodbine on Nov. 28.

He got sick this winter, though, and Brown isn’t sure when he’ll race again.

Tiz Blessed just got back to the training track on Thursday, posting a :49.0 for four furlongs at Palm Meadows in Florida.

Last Sunday in the one-mile allowance, Free Entry went off as the 2-1 second choice behind 6-5 Rocking Out, an impressive winner first time out at Aqueduct in November.

Free Entry stalked Rocking Out on the outside under Alan Garcia and took command in early stretch to win by 13⁄4 lengths over 74-1 Imperial Czar, who caught Rocking Out for second.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with Tiz Blessed yet, but I’ve got a better handle on Free Entry, and he’ll run in a stakes race,” Brown said.

The Tampa Bay Derby is March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs, the Rebel will be held March 19 at Oaklawn Park, the Louisiana Derby is the following Saturday at Fair Grounds and the Grade I Florida Derby is scheduled for April 3 at Gulfstream.

The Tampa Bay Derby and Rebel are both a mile and a sixteenth, and the Louisiana and Florida derbies are a mile and an eighth.

Trainer Todd Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form this week that he would take a hard look at a one-mile $100,000 stakes race called the Timely Writer that was just written for the Gulfstream Park card that will run the same day as the Tampa Bay Derby. Uncle Mo doesn’t need any more graded stakes earnings to make the Kentucky Derby field.

“We could run in the Tampa Bay Derby if Uncle Mo isn’t there,” Brown said. “We’ll look at the Rebel and the Louisiana Derby. I could train Free Entry up to the Florida Derby, but that’s seven weeks between races, and I’m not crazy about that.”

3-year-old watch

Undefeated Eclipse Award winner Uncle Mo was installed at 9-2 for Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Fut­ure Wager by Mike Battaglia, and 22 other 3-year-olds were listed.

Odds for the all-other-3-year-olds option stand at 5-2.

Remsen winner To Honor and Serve, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, and Holy Bull winner Dialed In, trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, are both at 10-1.

Tapizar, one of the leading 3-year-olds on the west coast, is off the Derby Trail with a chip in his knee.

The injury, which will require surgery, was discovered after the Grade III Sham winner finished fifth as the heavy favorite to Anthony’s Cross in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita last weekend.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has set no timetable for Tapizar’s return.

Also off the Derby trail is Grade I Hopeful winner Boys At Tosco-nova, who hasn’t raced since finishing second to Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

He was supposed to make his 3-year-old debut in the Grade III Holy Bull, but trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. didn’t like the way he was training.

He was sent to the farm in Kentucky this week and will be out of training indefinitely, even though Dutrow said preliminary tests showed nothing structurally wrong with the colt.

The highlight of the 3-year-old stakes schedule this weekend is today’s Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds, the traditional prep for the Louisiana Derby.

The field is loaded and wide open, led on the morning line by 3-1 Rogue Romance, third to Uncle Mo in the BC Juvenile.

Graded stakes runners-up in the Risen Star include Mucho Macho Man (second to To Honor and Serve in the Remsen), Pants On Fire (Wilkinson, LeComte) and Decisive Moment (Gourmet Dinner, Delta Downs Jackpot).

At 6-1 are Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club winner Santiva and Machen, who won a $49,000 allowance at Fair Grounds on Jan. 30.

On Sunday, Santa Anita will offer the Grade II San Vicente, where The Factor, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, will make his first start since breaking his maiden by 81⁄4 lengths on Dec. 26.

On Monday, Oaklawn Park will host the Grade III Southwest, the traditional Arkansas Derby prep.

A total of 364 3-year-olds, just two less than last year, have been named during the early nomination period for the Triple Crown.

The late nomination fee is $6,000, and only six horses were added during that period last year.

Four fillies, including Las Virgenes runner-up Turbulent Descent, and only six Europe-based horses were nominated.

Godolphin Racing told Triple Crown officials that the stable will wait until after the March 26 UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai to decide if any of its horses would be nominated.

Pletcher and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert each have 20 nominated, and Steve Asmussen has 17, including Silver Medallion, who was an impressive debut winner on the turf for Brown at Saratoga last summer.

Silver Medallion was turned over to Asmussen by owner

Michael Ryan and is among a group of horses who represent the first string the trainer has ever brought to California.

Silver Medallion won the Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gates Fields last Saturday.

Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness and Travers winner, leads the Triple Crown nomination sire list with 18 progeny, including To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty.

Brown’s busy weekend

Brown has two of his multiple stakes winners running today, the 8-year-old gelding Silver Timber in the $75,000 Turf Dash at Tampa Bay for his 2011 debut and Kid Kate, who is the 7-2 third choice in the Grade II Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park off her win in the listed Correction at Aqueduct.

Despite his age, Silver Timber was 4-1-0 from seven starts last year, closing 2010 with a fifth to Chamberlain Bridge in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Silver Timber had beaten Chamberlain Bridge in the Grade III Churchill Downs Turf Sprint,

In 37 lifetime starts, he is 13-4-5 for earnings of $707,663.

“He’s training well and looks like the same Silver Timber to me,” Brown said. “He takes good care of himself. He’s very smart. He does what he has to do without any unnecessary risks. He seems pretty smart in the way he travels, he’s very efficient and careful, he’s relaxed, he doesn’t get excited and doesn’t open himself up to any potential bad situations.”

Silver Timber, the 3-1 post-time favorite in the BC Turf Sprint, is the 3-1 favorite and 124-pound topweight against nine rivals for the Turf Dash, all of whom will carry 118. The field also includes the Pletcher-trained Bridgetown

(4-1), who won the listed Latham at Saratoga and finished a nose ahead of Silver Timber in fourth in the BC Turf Sprint.

Although this will be just Kid Kate’s second graded stakes try, she has been productive, at 5-2-1 from 10 lifetime starts.

She broke her maiden at Saratoga in 2009 and returned there for another win last summer, in an allowance optional claimer.

Kid Kate won the Belle Cherie over Starlight Partners’ Ailalea and Beautician at Belmont Park in October, then was third in the Catinca, second in the Foil and first in the Correction, just barely catching Meese Rocks, who is 9-2 in the Barbara Fritchie.

Brown said a stretch out from six furlongs there to seven for the Barbara Fritchie should benefit Kid Kate.

“She looks good right now, she’s very consistent and she won’t be coming off a 10-week layoff this time,” he said. “She ran well at seven furlongs in the allowance at Saratoga, she did it the right way, so we’ll keep her between six and seven furlongs and keep her on the dirt.”

Harissa is the 2-1 favorite for the Barbara Fritchie off her easy win in the listed Sleugh Ride at Parx on Jan. 4. She was fourth in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on Preakness weekend last year.

More stakes

On a busy stakes day on the Risen Star card at Fair Grounds, Kathmanblu, second in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and third to More Than Real in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, is 6-5 in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra for 3-year-old fillies.

Grade II Red Smith winner Expansion, formerly trained by Brown, is entered against a tough field that includes two-time long shot Sword Dancer winner Telling in the Fair Grounds Handicap.

Two-time Grade I winner Smiling Tiger, third in the BC Sprint, is 8-5 in the Grade II San Carlos at Santa Anita.

On Sunday, Quiet Giant, a winner of listed stakes at Aqueduct in her last two starts, is 1-5 in the $65,000 Rare Treat at Aqueduct.

Because of the Presidents Day holiday, there will be several stakes races on Monday, besides the Southwest, including the Grade II General George at Laurel Park.

The full field of 14 for the General George includes Temecula Creek, fifth in the A.G. Vanderbilt at Sar­atoga, and Grade III Maryland Sprint Handicap winner Taqarub.

Pletcher’s Driven by Success and Driven by Solar are cross-entered in the General George and the $65,000 Hollie Hughes for state-breds at Aqueduct.

Stakes veteran Driven by Success opened his 2011 campaign with a fourth in the Mr. International at Aqueduct.

Around the tracks

Hilda’s Passion improved to 2-1-0 in graded stakes when she won the Hurricane Bertie by 21⁄2 lengths at Gulfstream last Sunday.

She’s owned by Starlight Partners, co-managed by Schenectady native Don Lucarelli and Jack Wolf of Saratoga Springs, and won the listed Bennington at Saratoga last summer. . . .

Trainer Larry Jones, back from retirement, worked two interesting horses at Oaklawn Park this week that are formerly trained by Tony Dutrow — Havre de Grace, who was second to Blind Luck in the Alabama, and 2010 Holy Bull winner Winslow Homer, who was pointed toward the Travers off a win in the Curlin at Saratoga, but suffered a condylar fracture in his left foreleg. . . .

Icabad Crane, third to Big Brown in the 2008 Preakness, won the $60,000 G’day Mate at Aqueduct to open his 6-year-old campaign.

Bred at Gallagher’s Stud in Columbia County, he was third in the West Point and second in the Evan Shipman at Saratoga last summer. .  .  .

The Aqueduct backstretch will be closed for about six weeks to help facilitate additional construction of the Genting’s Resorts World New York casino. On Monday, the New York Racing Association started moving about 350 horses from Aqueduct to Belmont Park.

Aqueduct will be closed for training starting today and will re-open on April 4. . . .

Jockey Joel Rosario won his 1,000th race on Thursday, aboard Coo Cachoo in the seventh race at Santa Anita.

The 26-year-old is the regular rider of multiple Grade I winner Switch.

Here and there

Brown has BC Juvenile Fillies winner Awesome Feather in his Florida barn now, but her future is on hold because of a tendon problem.

After winning the Breeders’ Cup, she was purchased by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs for $2.3 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale. She subsequently won the Eclipse Award.

Shortly after being turned over to Brown, she was discovered to have suffered the injury.

“We’re starting her back real slow,” Brown said. “There’s no timetable on her because you can never be sure with a tendon.” . . .

Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has been suspended 90 days by NYRA stewards for two infractions.

Dutrow was banned 60 days because Fastus Cactus tested positive for a pain killer after winning on Nov. 20 and 30 days for having hypodermic needles in his Aqueduct barn.

He appealed both penalties Wednesday.

According to the Daily Racing Form, the Association of Racing Commissioners International has asked the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to consider revoking Dutrow’s license due to “what appears to be a lifetime pattern of disregard for the rules of racing.” . . .

Najran, who equaled Dr. Fager’s North American record time for one mile on dirt, died on Wednesday, Feb. 9, following a paddock accident at Hopewell Farm in Midway, Kentucky.

He sired graded stakes winners Wasted Tears, Sky Cape, Muny, and Buckleupbuttercup. . . .

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is offering free admission to the museum on Sunday. In recognition of Black History Month, the museum will hold a free public program titled “African-Americans in Thoroughbred Racing” from 1-3 p.m.

The program will feature a guided tour beginning at 1 p.m. about the early history of thoroughbred racing in America, including a special emphasis on the contributions of African-Americans. Following the tour, visitors are invited to watch a 15-minute film about African-Americans in thoroughbred racing in the Hall of Fame Gallery. The film will be followed by an audience-driven discussion about the role of African-Americans in racing.

Public programs coordinator Karen Wheaton and commun­ications officer Brien Bouyea will be on hand to answer questions from the audience and discuss the careers of African-American Hall of Fame members Isaac Murphy, Jimmy Winkfield, Willie Simms, Edward Brown and Ansel Will­iamson. . . .

On Monday, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association will begin offering “Night School,” the racing industry’s first national interactive online fan education forum.

“Night School” will be made available free of charge to all NTRA member organizations to be implemented into racetrack and organ­ization websites.

Co-hosted by Horseplayernow.-com owners Jeremy Plonk and Joe Kristufek, the weekly “Night School” lessons are offered free to any racing fan who wants to learn more about the game and will include both novice and advance-level fan education.

The 40-week season runs through December 19 with 90-minute sessions taking place from 8:30-10 p.m. each week. Each class will include a 60-minute topical discussion, complete with an introduction video and downloadable lesson overview, and a 30-minute open forum where racing fans can ask the panel of experts anything about horse racing.

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