Pleasant Prince's Test Ahead
PLEASANT PRINCE'S OWNER HOPES EXTRA WORK PAYS OFF
He held court at Keeneland on Wednesday, Ken Ramsey was his usual enthusiastic self, happily doling out anecdotes while dutifully fielding every question that came his way.
Considering his colt Pleasant Prince had just been named the 3-1 morning-line favorite in a field of nine for Saturday's Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, it was a conversation Ramsey was happy to have.
But as the Nicholasville-based owner dissected his horse's chances for the 11/8-mile race, he admitted the discussion was one he didn't think would be necessary three weeks earlier.
Ever since Pleasant Prince lost the Grade I, $750,000 Florida Derby in a photo finish to Ice Box on March 20, that heartbreak has proven to be two-fold for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
Not only did he just miss winning the Grade I race, but Pleasant Prince could miss the Kentucky Derby if he doesn't add to his graded-stakes earnings of $162,500.
In most other seasons, the $150,000 Pleasant Prince earned for his Florida Derby effort would have been enough to put him in the top 20 of the graded-earnings list, which is used to determine the Derby field should more than 20 horses enter.
This year, however, Pleasant Prince's earnings rank 26th on the current list — the reason the son of Indy King is making his fifth start of 2010.
"If I'd been assured he would have got in (to the Derby field), we wouldn't have run him here because he already has four races this year, and that is a little too much if you're going on the Triple Crown trail," Ken Ramsey said. "I think $162,500 would have got us in every single Derby except for 2008. But with the extra races they have this year, they've got the ($800,000) Sunland Derby, everyone is trying to get in ... and I don't think $162,500 will do it.
"If the photo had been the other way down at the Florida Derby, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
Though Pleasant Prince has done his best running on dirt, the colt isn't a total novice to Keeneland's Polytrack surface.
In his second career start, Pleasant Prince finished third in a maiden race at Keeneland last October before earning his lone career win at Churchill Downs one month later.
During his final tuneup for the Blue Grass, Pleasant Prince sizzled over 5 furlongs in :58.40 at Keeneland on Sunday.
"That was about as good as a horse can work," trainer Wesley Ward said after the breeze.
Pleasant Prince has improved as the distances stretched out, running second to Ice Box in January during a 11/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream before finishing fourth behind Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 20.
The thought of running his colt three times in six weeks is not ideal for Ramsey. But he doesn't see any other choice.
"I would rather not (run him back) but the risk of not getting to the Derby and having to sit on the sidelines ... the reward is better than the risk," Ramsey said. "Also, one of the things I've got on my bucket list is to win the Blue Grass Stakes. That's an accomplishment in of itself, especially on my home field."
by Alicia Wincze
APPLE BLOSSOM PREVIEW
Take ZENYATTA (Street Cry [Ire]) out of the mix and Friday's $500,000 Apple Blossom (G1) turns into a pretty contentious affair. However, dual champion Zenyatta should find this one of her easier tasks as the 1 1/8-mile test drew just five horses. Though the John Shirreffs trainee will be making only her second start on a conventional dirt track, the six-year-old mare's other try came in this same event over Oaklawn Park's main track in 2008. She romped by 4 1/2 lengths on that day over then reigning champion older mare Ginger Punch and will face nowhere near that type of talent on Friday. All regular rider Mike Smith should have to do is stay in the saddle.
The remaining four entrants in the Apple Blossom are pretty evenly matched, but we're tabbing BE FAIR (Exchange Rate) to end up best of the rest. The D. Wayne Lukas runner owns three wins from five tries over the track, breaking her maiden and taking an allowance/optional claimer in her first two career races. She suffered her first loss, and her only off-the-board placing at Oaklawn, when fourth in last year's Honeybee S. (G3), but recently returned to the Hot Springs, Arkansas, oval to finish third in the Pippin S. prior to capturing an allowance event last out. The dark bay four-year-old is no stranger to the nine-furlong distance either, adding an easy four-length score in Saratoga's off-the-turf Lake George S. (G3) to her resume last July. Be Fair will have Calvin Borel aboard and the pair should pick up the place money.
JUST JENDA (Menifee) is also familiar with the winner's circle at Oaklawn. The chestnut filly was the winner of the Honeybee last season and ran third in the Fantasy S. (G2) over the track, and she would go on to add dominant wins in the Serena's Song S. and Monmouth Oaks (G3) to her line when running at Monmouth Park. The Cindy Jones-trained four-year-old ran fourth most recently in the Azeri S. (G3) while making her 2010 debut and should show much more in her second start off a 4 1/2-month break. Terry Thompson has the call.
WAR ECHO (Tapit) made her Oaklawn debut in the Azeri last out, suffering traffic problems before finishing a lackluster fifth. The four-year-old is capable of showing much more and might have needed that last one to acclimate herself. Her numbers are on par with everyone but Zenyatta, and the Steve Asmussen charge could threaten in the exotics. Regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan will be in the saddle.
TAPTAM (Pleasant Tap) captured the Pippin S. and an allowance in her first two races of the year, but retreated when a well-beaten last of nine in the Azeri last out. The Bret Calhoun-conditioned five-year-old has shown a tendency to run a couple of big races before throwing in a clunker, and should be ready for another big run on Friday based on that scenario. However, we just can't endorse off such inconsistency and will let her beat us under Cliff Berry.
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