Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Want Revenge: Post 13, Derby Favorite

By Evan Hammonds
runaway winner of the Gotham Stakes (gr. I) and a determined victor in the April 4 Wood Memorial (gr. I), has been made the 3-1 morning line favorite for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The son of Stephen Got Even will break from post 13 in a full field of 20 3-year-olds for the $2-million classic that will be run under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs set for 6:24 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia put the 3-1 price on I Want Revenge. He noted the lower price on the colt based on the fact that Quality Road was withdrawn from consideration earlier in the week. Battaglia made co-second choices of Pioneerof the Nile (post 16) and Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up Dunkirk (post 15) at 4-1. The fourth choice is Friesan Fire (post 6) at 5-1. Hold Me Back and Desert Party have been pegged at 15-1 and all of the other starters are 20-1 or higher.

The draw was conducted at the Marquee Village at Churchill Downs, an area of luxury suites past the first turn adjacent to the Longfield Avenue parking lot. The past few years the post position selection process took place later in the afternoon at Fourth Street Live! in downtown Louisville on a nationally-televised stage.

A traditional pill pull was drawn by Churchill racing officials to select the order of finish. After a five-minute break, they went in order to select post positions. The connections of Join in the Dance were the first to select, while the connections of West Side Bernie chose last. Favored I Want Revenge’s post position was the 10th selected.

I Want Revenge, out of the Roy mare Meguial, is co-owned by IEAH Stables, Puglisi Stables, and Jeff Singer. A winner of three of eight starts, I Want Revenge will be ridden by 19-year-old Joe Talamo who will be making his first Derby start. Prior to his smashing wins in New York, I Want Revenge was third behind Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II). He closed out his 2-year-old season with a nose loss to the same colt in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I).

“These guys (the owners) do all the handicapping and I worry about the horse, but I think their goal was to keep all the speed inside of us,” said I Want Revenge’s trainer Jeff Mullins. “So I think we’re pretty satisfied with (the post). I think we’ll be fairly close to the pace, tracking the leaders. It’s nice to have the favorite because they are giving us respect. I didn’t want to come back here again unless I had a good horse.”
Zayat Stables’ homebred Pioneerof the Nile is three-for-three this year, having added the March 14 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and the April 4 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) to his resume. Eclipse Award winner Garrett Gomez will be aboard the son of classic winner Empire Maker for trainer Bob Baffert.

“I’ve been thinking 16,” Baffert said. “I wanted to have 16 for this horse. It takes him a little while to get going and I just didn’t want him to be getting all clogged up down on the inside. I’ve been feeling 16 all week. I was really nervous today because I wanted to get a shot of at least having an option. I wanted 16 because sometimes they can break inward a little bit because you have that open space (between the main gate and the auxiliary gate; posts 14 and 15). If you don’t break, it doesn’t matter but at least if you were to miss the break you have a choice where you can be.

Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith’s Dunkirk was second behind Quality Road in the Blackberry Presents the 58th Running of the Florida Derby in just his third career start. The $3.7 million sale yearling is trained by Todd Pletcher.

"When we talked about it before the draw, 15 was my first choice, so I’m glad it was there,” Pletcher said. “I like the auxiliary gate; there’s a little space between the there and the 14. If there is a defection inside, we can still move inside and have a good position. But I think the goal was to be positioned towards the outside. I would expect him to be mid-pack early on.

"I thought we'd be a little higher (than 4-1 on the morning line), to be honest,” he said. “But it’s a very evenly-matched race.”

Friesan Fire, a winner of three straight in Louisiana, is trained by Larry Jones and owned by Vinery Stables and Richard Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. The son of A.P. Indy will be ridden by Gabriel Saez.

“This horse is going to have a whole lot of the same style Eight Belles did,” Jones said of his ill-fated 2008 Derby runner-up. “We drew the five hole with her and she had a wonderful trip. Hopefully we can repeat what we did there and get a good run before we turn for home.”

The center of the starting gate was where everyone wanted to be during the selection process. Join in the Dance selected post 9 with the first pick. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor chose second for Godolphin’s Regal Ransom and took post 10. His other starter, Desert Party, will break from post 19 after having the 17th pick.

“It depends on how fast they go,” said bin Suroor of the early placement of pace contender Regal Ransom in the Derby. “If he is second or third, I would be happy with that. The horse is doing well.”

Bin Suroor noted he would prefer to come from the outside with Desert Party, so that is why he selected the 19 post. “I am happy; content,” he said. “It’s a tough race, a very hard race. Our horses are doing well, and there is no excuse for them.”

Chocolate Candy was pegged in post 11 with the third choice.

Three-year-old Bodie Baffert, son of trainer Bob Baffert, put the tag for Pioneerof the Nile on post 16 with the fifth pick. Breeder and co-owner David Lanzman took “lucky” 13 with I Want Revenge.

WinStar Farm, with three horses in the Derby field, chose starting stalls five, four, and three, for Hold Me Back, Advice, and Mr. Hot Stuff, respectively.

WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden said “We’re real happy,” with the draw. “All of them are going to be coming from off the pace, so the closer to the fence the better for us. We were really hoping to get inside. I would rather save the ground, so we’re excited.”

Deirdre B. Biles, Amanda Duckworth, and Jason Shandler contributed to this story.

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