Illinois Derby Recap

Joe Vann wins Illinois Derby for Pletcher

Zayat Stables' JOE VANN (Silver Deputy) salvaged one of the three Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races on Saturday for trainer Todd Pletcher, winning the $300,000 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne. It didn't make up for Pletcher's disappointment in seeing champion Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) weaken to third in the Wood Memorial (G1) minutes later, but Joe Vann threw his hat into the Kentucky Derby picture with a nice performance in his stakes debut.

Joe Vann brought a two-race win streak into the Illinois Derby, winning a maiden special weight and an allowance/optional claiming event at Laurel Park, and the dark bay colt tracked Lagoon of Diamonds (Encosta de Lago) in second with jockey Florent Geroux during the opening five-eighths a mile. He assumed the lead midway on the far turn and drew off into the stretch, scoring comfortably by 4 1/4 lengths over Zoebear (Bellamy Road), who nipped The Fed Eased (Montbrook) late for second. Zoebear is still a maiden and recorded his fourth second-place effort in six career starts.

The Fed Eased had seven lengths on fourth-placer and 7-2 second choice Sour (Lemon Drop Kid), who was followed under the finish line by El Grayling (El Prado [Ire]), 2-1 favorite Watch Me Go (West Acre), Roman Flame (Roman Ruler), Lagoon of Diamonds, Vouch for Victory (Quest), Smarter Than Ever (Smarty Jones), Southern Sculptor (Langfuhr) and Future Empire (Empire Maker).

Off as the 5-1 fourth choice among 12 three-year-olds, Joe Vann paid $12.60, $6.80 and $5.20. The early splits on the fast track were :23 4/5, :48 1/5, 1:13 3/5 and 1:39, and Joe Vann completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:51 4/5.

Bred in Kentucky by Monticule, Joe Vann is the first foal out of the Danzig mare Polish Flower and was purchased by Ahmed Zayat for $150,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He counts as half-sisters a two-year-old filly by Forest Danger and a 2011 filly by Distorted Humor. This is the female family of 1980 Canadian International (G1) winner Great Neck (Tentam) and Venezuelan champions Sibarita (Slew Prince) and Demons Cloak (Demons Begone).

Joe Vann is now on the graded-earnings bubble for the Kentucky Derby, with $167,400 by virtue of Saturday's payday, and will need a number of defections to make the starting gate. His overall ledger reads 8-3-1-1, $217,615.

Lilacs and Lace wires Ashland

James Covello, Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel's LILACS AND LACE (Flower Alley) dueled for the early lead in Saturday's $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland, took over prior to the backstretch and held the late runs of both Wyomia (Vindication) and 2-1 favorite Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat) to score by one-length on the wire. Jockey Javier Castellano guided the John Terranova pupil through 1 1/16 Polytrack miles in a final time of 1:42 3/5.

"I don't think she went in (the Bourbonette Oaks [G3]) as mentally sharp, but she came out of the race very, very good," Terranova said of Lilacs and Lace's start two weeks ago at Turfway Park. "We decided if things went well in the next few weeks to turn back quick to the Ashland.

"She really needed her last race. She ran into a very, very nice filly (Summer Soiree [War Front] who won by 10 3/4 lengths). (Summer Soiree) kinda got away from everybody and we were down inside. (Lilacs and Lace) was a lot sharper going into this one."

When asked if Lilacs and Lace would make her next start in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) Terranova replied, "I think so."

Delightful Mary (Limehouse) shot to the front from her 4 post when the gates opened, but quickly found company in the form of Lilacs and Lace to her inside. The pair hooked up through a quarter in :24, but Lilacs and Lace had managed to pull a length in front by the time she reached the half-mile point in :47 4/5. All the while, jockey Alan Garcia was keeping Kathmanblu settled about four wide in the sixth spot.

Lilacs and Lace continued her momentum nearing the turn, while Kathmanblu was forced to go five wide. Wyomia was had been running just in front of that one and split horses to begin her bid, and those two took off after Lilacs and Lace in the lane. It wasn't to be, though, as the synthetic-proficient filly maintained the advantage all the way to the wire to take her first graded score.

"She broke well out of the gate," Castellano said. "We talked about it before the race that if she broke well, take it from there. Don't take anything away from the horse. It worked out great."

The Ashland was Terranova's third victory on Saturday's card at Keeneland with horses ridden by Castellano and co-owned by Covello

"Horses just love it here (at Keeneland) naturally," the conditioner said. "We kind of targeted this meet. We like to come in here and run well. We have several horses coming into this meet doing very well and glad they're showing it."
Lilacs and Lace utilized her synthetic experience to good effect in the Ashland (Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

As the 48-1 second longest shot on the board Lilacs and Lace paid a very nice $99.40, $32.40 and $10 to her backers. Jockey Frederic Lenclud, who was guiding Wyomia, lost an iron in the stretch but his mount never faltered to easily take second by 1 1/4 lengths over Kathmanblu.

"I wished there would have been a little more pace. But I was nice and comfortable behind the leaders and my filly was relaxed," Lenclud said. "I had to wait a little bit around the turn because there were horses in front of me. But when I got the filly out she just switched her leads and she took off running. Obviously if it had been the second wire today she would have been the winner. She's a pretty nice filly."

"She looked like she handled it (the Polytrack) OK," trainer Kenny McPeek said of Kathmanblu. "She just got hung way too wide to beat the winner. I'd be interested to look at the Trakus data to see just how far she had to travel. She just never had a chance to get inside and save ground. But we're still going to the (Kentucky) Oaks. She got a good race under her belt and this was another good start for her. She's all class."

Bouquet Booth (Flower Alley), who had tracked on the rail throughout, stayed on the inside to take fourth while one length behind Kathmanblu. Grand Style (Giant's Causeway), Draw It (Tapit), Delightful Mary, Excited (Giant's Causeway) and near 5-2 second choice Dancinginherdreams (Tapit) completed the order under the wire.

"The first eighth mile she was on the bit, then she relaxed after that. But she never picked it up again. There's really nothing else to say," jockey Julien Leparoux said, who guided Dancinginherdreams.

Lilacs and Lace was making just her second start outside of California in this spot. Her career bow came on the dirt at Santa Rosa last July, but the chestnut lass never factored after suffering a rough trip. Duane Offield, who originally had conditioning duties, moved his charge to Golden Gate Fields and the Tapeta surface there, and Lilacs and Lace ran fourth, followed by a runner-up effort on that track's turf in September. Offield gave her another shot on the Tapeta and Lilacs and Lace captured her first win by 3 1/4 lengths.

She made just one more start as a juvenile, dead-heating for second in the Corte Madera S. in early December, and wasted no time in returning to the winner's circle with a New Year's Day victory in the California Oaks. That was Lilacs and Lace's final start for Offield, as Terranova took over training duties in time for the three-year-old to line-up nearly three months later in the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park. She finished fourth in that contest just two weeks ago, but the quick turnaround didn't affect her form in the Ashland. She has now banked $340,300 in lifetime earnings and improved her line to 8-3-2-0 with this win.

Bred in Kentucky by co-owners Hicks and Nikkel, Lilacs and Lace was a $35,000 RNA in the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She is out of the Seattle Slew mare Refinement and counts as younger half-siblings the juvenile colt Sharp Daddy (Scat Daddy) and an unnamed yearling filly by Henny Hughes.

Refinement is herself a daughter of Stella Madrid (Alydar), who captured the Frizette S. (G1), Spinaway S. (G1), Matron S. (G1) and Acorn S. (G1) during her racing career. That one, who is a full sister to Grade 1 heroine Tis Juliet, would go on in the breeding shed to produce Japanese champion Diamond Biko (Sunday Silence) and Grade/Group 3 victress Isle de France (Nureyev).

Lilacs and Lace's third dam is My Juliet (Gallant Romeo), who was named the champion sprinter in 1976 following wins in the Vosburgh H. (G2) and Vagrancy H. (G3), among others. Others of note in this line include 1998 Irish Oaks (Ire-G1) queen Winona (Ire) (Alzao) as well as South African champion and Group 1 scorer Kimberley Mine (SAf) (Fort Wood)



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