Trainer Todd Pletcher said that undefeated Shanghai Bobby, the odds-on favorite to win the juvenile colt Eclipse Award, is training well at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida and is on schedule for his 3-year-old debut in the Grade III Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26.
Co-owned by Starlight Racing and the Coolmore group of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, Shanghai Bobby got back on the work tab in December and most recently went 1:01.79 for five furlongs on Sunday.
Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Jack Wolf are co-managing partners of Starlight.
“Everything’s going according to plan, so far,” Pletcher told the Gulfstream PR staff on Friday morning. “He’s not a huge horse, but he’s filled out nicely and grown up a bit.”
Pletcher said he wants to limit Shanghai Bobby to just two Kentucky Derby preps, the same thing he did when he won his only Derby, with Super Saver in 2010.
If all goes well in the Holy Bull, Shanghai Bobby will point to the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 31.
“That’s what we’ve got in mind now, but things change,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see how the first one goes and decide after that.”
One consideration could be that Churchill Downs implemented a new points system to gain a spot in the 20-stall Derby starting gate.
Previously, Churchill used graded-stakes earnings as the criterion, which would make Shanghai Bobby a lock for the Derby, even without a start this winter and spring.
After winning the Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course, the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he has over $1.5 million in earnings.
Under the new system, it’s projected that at least 40 points will be needed to make it to the Derby, and the big-point races are this spring, making the Grade I Derby preps virtually automatic qualifiers for the Kentucky Derby.
Shanghai Bobby’s Breeders’ Cup win was worth just 10 points.
“In some ways, it’s not dramatically different than the old one, other than the 2-year-old form isn’t being considered at all,” Pletcher said.
However, he believes that the BC Juvenile winner should get a free pass to the Derby.
“It’s easy for me to say that now because we’ve got the Juvenile champion, but I said that before,” he said. “I thought it was the obvious flaw in the program. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner shouldn’t have to worry about gaining points. But the rule is the rule, and everyone knows about it before the game starts.”
Another of Pletcher’s undefeated Derby prospects, CashCall Futurity winner Violence, is scheduled to run in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on Feb. 23. He won his career debut at Saratoga.
“I’ve been impressed with all three of his races, actually,” Pletcher said. “For a maiden to run as well as he did first time out at seven-eighths at Saratoga, I was impressed with that. He had a break, then came back to step up to a mile in the Nashua, then flew all the way to California and ran on a synthetic track for the first time. He’s been very impressive, so far.”
‘SHANGHAI’ BOOSTS SIRE
Shanghai Bobby helped his father, Harlan’s Holiday, establish a North American record for 2-year-old earnings in a single year with $2,954,556 in 2012.
The previous record was $2,811,337 in 2008 by Tapit.
Harlan’s Holiday, who was owned by Wolf before partnering with Lucarelli, stands at WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky.
Shanghai Bobby’s earnings totaled $1,687,000.
Harlan’s Holiday’s other 2-year-old stakes winners were Notacatbutallama, Zeewat, American Sugar and My Special J’s.
The Grade II Jerome isn’t worth any Derby points, but it was shuffled on the calendar to accommodate a more even spread of the 3-year-old stakes on the New York Racing Association schedule and is the feature at Aqueduct today. The Busanda for 3-year-old fillies is also on the card.
Undefeated Traskwood Stakes winner Vyjack is the 2-1 morning-line favorite, followed by recent maiden winners Long River from Darley Stable at 5-2 and Mudflats at 3-1.
Goldencents, second to Shanghai Bobby in the Champagne, is the
4-5 favorite in the one-mile Sham at Santa Anita.
Also on the card, Coil, last in the 2011 Travers, is 2-1 in the San Pasqual off a seventh in the BC Sprint and third to Stay Thirsty in the Cigar Mile.
The 6-year-old mare Heavenly Landing is attempting to win the Grade III Marshua’s River at Gulfstream for the second year in a row. She finished 2012 with a fifth in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga and an allowance win at Keeneland.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh will be sidelined at least two weeks after sustaining a hairline fracture of the T3 vertebrae in his upper back in a spill at Aqueduct on New Year’s Eve, according to his agent, Saratoga Springs native Matt Muzikar.
Maragh was unseated after finishing fourth in Monday’s second race at Aqueduct. The winner of that race, Squeal, stumbled and fell after the wire and Maragh fell as his mount, Lady of Gold, tried to avoid Squeal.
Lady of Gold appeared uninjured in the incident. Squeal got up, ran loose, and sustained a chest laceration as she attempted to jump the rail from the inner track to the main.
After spending Monday night at North Shore University Hospital, Maragh was released Tuesday.
“The doctors want to reevaluate him again in two weeks,” Muzikar said.
NEW YORK CHAMPS
Ramon Dominguez won his fourth straight riding title on the NYRA circuit in 2012, and trainers Rick Dutrow Jr. and David Jacobson emerged in a tie for leading trainer.
Dominguez, who returned to riding on Dec. 26 after taking a month off to recuperate from a bruised foot, closed out the year with a pair of four-win days at Aqueduct to total 322 victories.
Nationally, Dominguez led the country in purses won with $25,582,252.
Cornelio Velasquez was second in the NYRA standings with 182 wins.
The race for the trainers’ title came down to the final day of racing, with Jacobson winning races 5 and 6 with Driven By Solar and Perimele to take a one-race advantage over Dutrow, 110-109.
Dutrow came right back and won race 7 with Gallant Fields to tie at 110-110.
It was the first year-end training title for Jacobson, whose father, the late Howard “Buddy” Jacobson, was a five-time leading trainer in New York in the 1960s, and the fourth for Dutrow, who also won in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
Pletcher was third with 107 wins.
Finalists for the Eclipse Awards will be announced at noon today on HRTV.
The live broadcast of the awards ceremony on Jan. 19 will run from
8-10:30 p.m. on HRTV, and will also be available via Racetrack Television Network (RTN) and DRF.com.
For the second consecutive year, the Eclipse Awards will be hosted by Jeannine Edwards of ESPN.
Lord Avie, the oldest living Eclipse Award winner, died at the age of 34 on Dec. 28.
He was the champion 2-year-old in 1980, despite finishing second to Tap Shoes in the Hopeful. As a 3-year-old, he was third behind Willow Hour in the Travers.
The Pennsylvania-bred and England-based sire Selkirk died at 25 on Thursday.
He sired 92 stakes winners from 987 foals, including 16 grade/group I winners. Two of the 16 occurred last year, when Nahrain took the Flower Bowl and Cityscape won the Dubai Duty Free.
On Christmas Eve, Tu Endie Wei, the Sovereign Award-winning 2-year-old filly of 2011, died in Kentucky while undergoing an operation for fibrous adhesions.
She had been retired to Brerton Jones Airdrie Stud after winning $528,005 with a 5-1-1 record from 12 career starts.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Adirondack and Matron winner Kauai Katie romped by eight lengths as the 1-10 favorite in the Grade III Old Hat at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Day, her first race since suffering the first loss of her career with a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
On the same card, Merit Man won the Spectacular Bid, also in his first start since losing for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.
He was second in the BC Juvenile Sprint.
Another impressive winner at Gulfstream that day was the Pletcher-trained first-time starter Verrazano, who won by 73⁄4 lengths under John Velazquez. . . .
Nicole H’s win in the Interborough at Aqueduct on Tuesday was her third straight in that race.
She improved to 10-10-2 from 27 career starts.
On the same card, multiple stakes winner Arena Elvira snapped a three-race losing streak in the Ladies Handicap. . . .
Also on New Year’s Eve, the 4-year-old Called to Serve won the Broad Brush as the 1-2 favorite at Laurel Park.
Having won his previous start in the Grade III Discovery, Called to Serve will point to the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park or the Santa Anita Handicap or Strub at Santa Anita, trainer Nick Canani said. . . .
Daily average all-sources handle on races at Penn National was up 20.6 percent in 2012.
Despite running two fewer live racing days in 2012 (197-199), total handle on Penn National’s races increased 19.4 percent, to $199,644,098, up from the $167,251,807 wagered in 2011. Daily average handle was $1,013,422, a 20.6 percent increase over $840,461 in 2011.
HERE AND THERE
Agent Jose Henriquez told the Daily Racing Form that apprentice jockey Wilmer Garcia will be out indefinitely after being involved in a car accident on Wednesday. Garcia, who was on his way from New York to ride at Penn National on Thursday, has a hairline fracture in his neck. . . .
Successful New York breeder/owner Ed Wachtel died from stomach cancer at the age of 81 on Monday.
His stakes winners included 1988 New York-bred Horse of the Year Claramount, Barbara O’Brien, Dashboard Drummer, Penny’s Reshoot, Stalwart Member.
Claramount, who was 7-8-2 from 20 starts in 1988, including a win in the West Point at Saratoga, developed into a successful stallion in New York.