Call it the Sweet 16.
A five-year drought without a horse in the Kentucky Derby will end for Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg on Saturday.
Not only that, he’ll have two of them in the starting gate for the 140th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, and they both appear to have better potential for victory than his previous Derby horses.
That’s based on several factors, not the least of which is the post-position draw, which was held on Wednesday and put Intense Holiday and General a Rod in two pretty good spots.
Intense Holiday, the Risen Star winner who will be ridden by John Velazquez, will break from No. 16 in the 20-horse field and at 12-1 is the fifth choice on the morning line by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
General a Rod, purchased earlier this week by Lucarelli and Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing, in partnership with Skychai Racing, will have the services of Joel Rosario in the saddle and will break from the No. 8.
Rosario won the Derby last year on Orb with the No. 16 saddlecloth, and Velazquez won it with the same number in 2011, on Animal Kingdom.
“I’d rather be outside than inside with this horse,” Lucarelli said of Intense Holiday. “I surmise Johnny will have an opportunity to pick a spot that he wants going into the first turn. I don’t think you want to be inside the seven, because then they just crush into you.”
Intense Holiday is a son of Harlan’s Holiday, who was seventh as the 6-1 post-time favorite in the 2002 Derby for Starlight Stables, before Lucarelli became a partner with Wolf and the stable name became Starlight Racing.
Since then, they’ve sent three horses to the Derby with no success at all.
Keyed Entry was last in 2006, Sam P. finished ninth in 2007 and Monba was last in 2008.
Starlight has had some good prospects since then, but usually injury has kept their colts out of the Derby.
“This horse [Intense Holiday] brings something to the table that the others didn’t,” Lucarelli said. “The fact that he’s flourished so well at the track, you get the feeling he’s ready to give you a breakout performance. And it’s still possible to win it out of the 16. I think he’s sitting on a peak performance. If he gets a clean trip, he’ll be right there.”
Intense Holiday is coming off a second to Vicar’s In Trouble in the Louisiana Derby.
Assuming no scratches, he’ll be among the six horses loading in the auxiliary gate to the outside of Churchill’s main 14-horse starting gate.
For a young horse who prefers not to be down inside horses, that should allow Intense Holiday to avoid some traffic problems.
“He’s not a horse who likes to be down on the rail,” Lucarelli said.
“General a Rod drew perfectly for the style he possesses. I figure he’ll sit in the second flight, sixth or seventh, and if he gets a clean trip, he can be one of the first ones with an opportunity to go after the leaders.”
Besides the two Derby runners, Starlight has a busy weekend with some other good prospects.
Candy Kitty, who broke her maiden at Saratoga Race Course last year, is the 5-2 favorite in the Edgewood Stakes on the turf on Friday, and Picozza, runner-up to Derby entry Medal Count in the Transylvania at Keeneland, has a good shot in the Grade II American Turf on the Derby undercard.
OTB SIGNAL DEAL
Capital OTB has not been offering wagering on Churchill Downs this week because it is still negotiating a simulcast signal deal with Churchill Downs Incorporated.
There is optimism that a deal will be finalized by post time today, but if it isn’t, it’s possible that Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday and Derby Day will be blacked out at area OTBs.