Casual Trick, Ancient Rome and Gold Megillah Lead Derby Field
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - The 3-year-old class of 2012 debuts Sunday with the first running of the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby at 1 1/16 miles and a field of 11 with Michael Dubb’s Ancient Rome and Robert LaPenta’s Casual Trick among the likely choices to get early recognition on the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Triple Crown trail.
Jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. gets a return call on Ancient Rome for trainer Anthony Dutrow after they teamed up to win the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes at six furlongs here on opening day, Dec. 3. The son of Roman Ruler broke his maiden by 7 ¾ lengths at Delaware Park on Oct. 22 after a runner-up debut.
“I honestly don’t know what to expect,” said Dutrow. “He certainly has the talent, and if he can get the distance, he’s going to be a useful 3-year-old. It’s all about experimenting here (distance). If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just campaign him as a sprinter.”
Jockey John Velazquez picks up the mount on Casual Trick for trainer Nick Zito, who sent out LaPenta’s Dialed In to capture both the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) here early this year and Ice Box to score in the Florida Derby in 2010. Casual Trick is a son of the very hot sire Bernardini and broke his maiden going a mile at Churchill Downs last out on Nov. 18 following a fifth-place Saratoga debut.
“I just thought right off the bat to see how good he is,” Zito said. “I think he’s really good. He’s had a lot of good workouts and, more important, I think his development looks terrific and he’s extremely well bred.”
Another contender that will attract considerable attention will be West Point Thoroughbreds’ Gold Megillah with Edgar Prado aboard for trainer Graham Motion, who sent out Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom for the 20-to-1 upset victory in the Kentucky Derby last spring.
A son of Purim, Gold Megillah attracted attention with an eye-catching maiden score on Nov. 16 over a ‘sloppy’ track at Churchill Downs, romping home by 18 ½ lengths in the ‘off the turf’ test going 1 1/16 miles while making his fourth career start. Following a fourth-place debut at Saratoga in late August, he finished second going long on turf at Belmont Park and seventh in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) on turf at Keeneland.
Completing the field are McGee Stables’ King Kid, Corey Lanerie; Stipa Racing’s Reveron, Fernando Jara; Doubledown Stable’s Nachas and Joy, Rajiv Maragh; Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Silver Menace, Javier Castellano; Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Politicallycorrect, Elvis Trujillo; Korina Stable’s Ravero’s Boy, Jeffrey Sanchez; Rose Family Stable’s Rex’s Last Tour, Daniel Centeno; and David Charlton and Vintage Thoroughbreds’ Yourhonorandglory, Kendrick Carmouche.
Say a Novena & Awesome Belle Clash in Old Hat
Rick Shanley’s Say a Novena and Jacks or Better Farm’s Awesome Belle finished 10th and 12th, respectively, after breaking from the far outside post positions in a field of 14 last out in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) behind Eclipse Award favorite My Miss Aurelia at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4
The connections of Say a Novena and Awesome Belle will look for their fillies to get a new campaign off to a better start in a field of eight drawn for the $100,000 Old Hat Stakes (G3) at six furlongs on Sunday.
Jockey Elvis Trujillo rides Say a Novena for trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. as she gets back to sprinting, which she did very well during her 2-year-old campaign, finishing second in the Matron Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park in July after a three-length maiden score at Monmouth Park in June in her second start.
A daughter of Songandaprayer, Say a Novena was based at Monmouth for the summer and won the Colleen Stakes there in August and finished second in the Sorority before earning her chance in the Breeders’ Cup with a 6 ½ lengths score in the $150,000 Brandywine Stakes going seven furlongs at Parx on Oct. 1.
Jockey Luis Saez gets the call on Awesome Belle for trainer Stanley Gold. The Florida homebred daughter of Awesome of Course earned her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup winning the $300,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder on Oct. 15 by 7 ½ lengths going 1 1/16 miles after several good tries sprinting.
Another contender in the Old Hat that made her last start at Churchill will be Peachtree Stable’s Sacristy with jockey Kent Desormeaux in the saddle for trainer Wayne Catalano. The daughter of Pulpit finished second in maiden special races on Polytrack at Arlington Park and Keeneland before a break-though 6 ¾ lengths victory going 6 ½ furlongs tally at Churchill on Nov. 10.
Completing the field for the Old Hat are Carl Pollard and W. Earl Reed’s Soft Whisper, Julien Leparoux; Frank Calabrese’s Sabrina’s Dance, Paco Lopez; Curtis Green’s Bet to Win, Javier Castellano; Peras International’s Yara, John Velazquez; and Klaravich Stable’s Quick Flip, Rajiv Maragh.