No matter how many horses he owns, Schenectady native Don Lucarelli will always have a soft spot for a small, but tough gray filly named Octave.
This morning, Lucarelli and his family will pay a visit to the
4-year-old Octave, a broodmare at Darley at Jonabell in neighboring Lexington.
Darley purchased Octave last fall from Lucarelli and co-owners Jack and Laurie Wolf of Starlight Stable for $4 million at Fasig-Tipton’s November mixed sale.
Also at Darley is champion mare Ashado, owned by the Wolfs, who also plan to make the 75-mile trip.
“I haven’t seen her, and the kids haven’t seen her since we sold her,” Lucarelli said Thursday morning outside the Barn 34 of trainer Todd Pletcher. “They actually called us and asked us how come we haven’t been down yet, believe it or not. We have an open invitation.”
In her career, Octave was 4-7-2 with earnings of nearly $1.7 million in 13 starts. She won the Grade I
Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks last year, and ran second to former stablemate and 3-year-old filly champion Rags to Riches in the Kentucky Oaks.
Octave also gave Lucarelli his first win ever at Saratoga Race Course in the Grade II Adirondack in 2006.
“She should be a good mare,” Lucarelli said. “She’s so likeable. You can go right in the stall, grab her, hug her, and she doesn’t move. She soaks it all in.”
Octave is in foal to top stallion A.P. Indy, who stands for $300,000 at Lane’s End.
“You can bet your butt I’ll be betting on that one when it comes out,” Lucarelli said. “She’s such a hard-hitter. You’ve got to figure that her stamina and toughness combined with A.P. Indy has really got to produce something special.
“That’s what they were thinking. They went outside the box. They could have stayed within, but they went out and paid the money to give her the best shot. We’re glad to see that.”
Monba, who Lucarelli co-owns with the Wolfs and Paul Saylor, will be his third Kentucky Derby starter in as many years.
His first was Keyed Entry, who ran last in 2006. Sam P. was ninth last year.
Lucarelli said Keyed Entry
recently had tie-back surgery in Florida, and was being shipped Thursday to Pletcher’s barn at Belmont Park to prepare for his return to racing.
“I’m not sure where we’re going to run him back yet, but we’ll try to find a softer spot,” Lucarelli said.
Sam P. made his season debut April 20 at Keeneland, running seventh, beaten about 10 lengths by Dubious Miss in a $56,020 allowance at 1 1/16 miles.
“He’ll be running here in a little over two weeks,” Lucarelli said. “He’ll be fine over here. He just didn’t like the Polytrack the other day. I think you’ll see a big difference.”
If all goes well, Sam P. will be pointed to the Grade I $750,000 Stephen Foster here June 14.
“We’re still high on him,” Lucarellli said. “When you see him, he’s gigantic, but it’s all muscle. He needed that race. We’re expecting him to pick it up.”
Big Brown wasn’t the only horse with a timed work Thursday morning.
Smooth Air, who ran second to Big Brown in the Florida Derby, went three furlongs in a leisurely :38.20 for 70-year-old trainer Bennie Stutts Jr.
“He just needed to blow out some of this Kentucky air,” Stutts said. “I’ve never blown him out in the past. I always breezed him, but we had to do something different this time. What I see, I like. I’d rather he go slower than faster at this point. He’ll go to the track again [today], but he’s dead fit.”
PLACE OF HONOR
Greenfield Center resident Dave Erb, who rode 1956 Derby winner Needles, returned to Louisville this week.
Erb, 84, joined Hall of Fame rider Braulio Baeza as the 29th and 30th jockeys to add their handprints and signatures in cement to a display at the Galt House hotel downtown.
Needles, who came from next-to-last to win by three-quarters of a length, was the third and last Derby mount for Erb, who was 10th with Curragh King in 1953 and Gov. Browning in 1954.
As a trainer, Erb returned in 1971 with Helio Rise, who ran 14th.
Trainer Larry Jones, who will saddle filly Eight Belles in the Derby, also has the 5-2 program favorite in Proud Spell for the Derby’s sister race, today’s Grade I
$500,000 Kentucky Oaks.
Only two trainers have ever completed the Oaks-Derby double: H.J. Thompson in 1932 and Ben Jones in 1949 and 1952.
Proud Spell beat Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing in the Grade II
Fair Grounds Oaks March 8, reversing their finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Grade I winners Country Star, Little Belle and Golden Doc A were among the seven other graded stakes winners in the field of 11.
Halo Najib, excluded from the Derby field by insufficient graded earnings, will run in today’s Grade III Crown Royal American Turf, one of five undercard stakes.
Among the others are the Grade II $300,000 Louisville, led by Eclipse Award winner Ginger Punch; the Grade III $150,000 Alysheba for horses 3 and up on dirt at 1 1/16 miles, and the Grade III $100,000 Aegon Turf Sprint at five furlongs.
FROM THE SHEDROW
u Monba and Cowboy Cal each galloped 11⁄4 miles Thursday morning under exercise rider Patti Krotenko. Monba went out first at
6 a.m., followed by Cowboy Cal at 6:30.
u A dozen Derby horses schooled in the paddock during Thursday’s races, including likely favorite Big Brown in the third. Also sampling the surroundings were Tale of Ekati, Denis of Cork and Big Truck (first); Visionaire (second); Adriano (third); Z Humor (fourth); Monba, Cowboy Cal, Colonel John (sixth); and Pyro and Z Fortune (seventh).
u Four horses will have equipment changes for the Derby. Court Vision and Bob Black Jack will race with blinkers on, while Anak
Nakal and Z Humor will have blinkers off.