- I had no winners on top at Keeneland on Saturday, so I had to satisfy myself with the small triumphs, like not selecting any of Pletcher's horses that were favored in each of the races 7 through 9 to win. I know the idea is to mention as many eventual winners and in-the-money finishers as possible, but I can't help but sometimes use one of the slots to specify I horse that I don't like, as I did with Tiganello in race 7, a race in which my selections ran 2-3. But I disliked Out of Gwedda enough in the Jefferson to not mention him at all in the 8th (and, in fact, had the 10-1 winner Carnacks Choice as my #2 selection), and, though Mistical Plan was another disappointing Doug O'Neill runner for the day, at least I didn't like 3-5 Octave on top in the Ashland.
The Ashland was the 'up' part of an 'up and down' 20 minutes or so for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. His Christmas Kid, getting an excellent, ground saving trip from the six post by Rene Douglas (not sure which horse the chartcaller was watching), skimmed the rail and opened up a sizeable lead in the stretch. And she needed every bit of that lead to hold off Octave, who took the overland route, four wide turning for home.
"I rode her with so much patience," Douglas said. "I was a little concerned about being on the rail since it had been slow all day, but she fired really good. Everything went perfectly." [Louisville Courier-Journal]Pletcher's filly closed resolutely for second in a final sixteenth of 6.09 seconds; she always gives you a reason to bet her next time.
Christmas Kid was winning her third stakes, and second graded one of the year, having previously won the Davona Dale on the dirt at GP, and the Tropical Park Oaks on the grass at Calder; she is one of three 2007 stakes winners for her sire Lemon Drop Kid. Nice price at 9-1, and she's likely headed to the Oaks.
Trainer Jerkens wasn't nearly as fortunate shortly thereafter when Corinthian spotted the field five lengths at the start of the Excelsior BC at the Big A.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Javier Castellano, who rode Corinthian. “He was so good today in the paddock and in the gate. Everything was beautiful. As soon as the gate opened-boom! He just broke in the air. I don’t even know how I stayed on.” [Bloodhorse]The faux pas practically gift wrapped the win for Pletcher's Magna Graduate (Honor Grades), who couldn't have gotten an easier trip under John Velazquez.
Not long afterwards, Pletcher scored another big win in the handicap division, this time with Lawyer Ron in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap. Edgar Prado got the infamously headstrong son of Langfuhr to rate, until he could restrain him no longer, allowing him to take charge with a three wide move going into the final turn. “The key was getting him to relax early....Once he did that, the rest was easy.”
Lawyer Ron became the first horse to sweep the Oaklawn Handicap and Arkansas Derby in more than 20 years with his 4-length victory under Edgar Prado.Lawyer Ron is four-for-four at Oaklawn. He cruised home under a hand ride, getting the final three eighths in an effortless 36.93 seconds; final eighth in 12.16. He'd shown the ability to finish up strongly in the past; the problem was getting him to conserve enough energy in the early stages to do so.
The last horse to notch the Arkansas Derby / Oaklawn Handicap daily double was Temperence Hill in 1980-1981. [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]