DERBY TRIAL STAKES | PURSE: $201,425 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 MILE
In what he surely hopes is an omen for the Kentucky Derby a week hence, trainer Todd Pletcher's colts Forty Tales and Capo Bastone ran first and second, respectively, in the $201,425 Derby Trial Stakes on the night of April 27 at rainy Churchill Downs.
In spite of the weather, a crowd of 21,038 showed up on opening night of the spring Churchill meet.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, who dominated the jockey ranks at Keeneland this spring, the victorious Forty Tales was the the slight favorite at 3-1 odds for owner Perretti Racing Stable. The son of Tale of the Cat gutted it out late to defeat his rallying stablemate Capo Bastone by a neck for his first stakes victory. Final time for the one-turn mile test for 3-year-olds was 1:35.77 over a track listed as fast.
"When we turned for home, I asked him to go and he went and put me in a good spot," Rosario said. "I'm lucky to be here [Kentucky]. Things have been going great and hopefully they'll continue."
The result ended the dreams of a Kentucky Derby for Green Bay Packer greats Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, at least for this year. Their charge, Titletown Five, faded to fourth after getting the lead from pacesetter Zee Bros briefly in upper stretch.
Pletcher said he has no such dreams for Forty Tales, who had never been farther than seven furlongs before the Derby Trial. But Pletcher, who has at least five starters in the May 4 Kentucky Derby already, said he would talk it over with the colt's owners.
"Both [Forty Tales and Capo Bastone] are at their very best in one-turn sprints," Pletcher said. "We didn't come in here with Derby expectations."
A classic start could be in Capo Bastone's future, but not in next Saturday's Derby.
"We were thinking that if he ran really well we could consider the Preakness or something like that," Pletcher said. "We'll see how he comes out of it."
Bred by the Randal Family Trust in Kentucky, Forty Tales is out of the multiple stakes-placed Forty Niner mare Forty Love. The bay colt cost $80,000 as a select yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale in 2011.
Forty Tales appeared ready for more distance after a fifth-place effort in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes March 2 at Gulfstream Park. Prior to that, he charged home gamely to finish second in the by half a length to Honorable Dillon in Gulfstream's seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes Feb. 7.
He began his career with a pair of six furlongs victories, debuting in maiden special weight company Nov. 24 at Aqueduct Racetrack with a 2 3/4-length victory. He ventured to Parx Racing for his next encounter against first-level allowance foes to start the season Jan. 5, scoring by 3 3/4 lengths.
A field of nine contested the Derby Trial, with Forty Tales the slight pick over Titletown Five and Zee Bros, who were also 3-1.
Forty Tales settled nicely in sixth while wide for the opening half mile. Zee Bros struck the front early over Tour Guide and Titletown Five and set a swift early tempo of :22.48 and :45.07. Capo Bastone, ridden by Garrett Gomez, had just one beaten.
"It was a perfect trip. He broke well. I figured there was going to be some speed in the race and we'd be five, six, seven lengths off the speed," Rosario said. "That's exactly where we were."
Zee Bros reached the quarter pole in 1:10.02 still a length in front of Titletown Five, who was closing in on the outside of the leader as Forty Tales advanced into third and Tour Guide faded. After being headed in upper stretch, Zee Bros brushed aside the challenge from Titletown Five to open up a clear advantage in the lane, but the quick early fractions soon took a toll past the eighth pole.
Forty Tales collared the leader and briefly kicked clear in deep stretch. But he was all out approaching the wire as Capo Bastone, after an awkward beginning, drew closer with each stride before running out of time.
"We felt like there was a little bit of speed in the race and both of these horses' styles are to settle and make one run," Pletcher said. "It seemed like the track was playing favorably to those kinds of horses on the night so we just let them do their thing and it worked out well."
"He was keyed up," Gomez said of Capo Bastone. "First time under the lights, a young 3-year-old. But I got him to settle on the backside and then when I asked him he came with a good run. Good race for him, for sure."
Ruler of Love stalked the leaders all the way for Rosie Napravnik and made his bid in the stretch before finishing evenly for third, three lengths behind Capo Bastone. Then came Titletown Five, Ruble, Zee Bros, Officer Alex, G. T. Tabu, and Tour Guide.
Forty Tales won for the third time in five tries and extended his earnings to $219,789 with the winning share of nearly $120,000.
Under equal weights of 118 pounds, he paid $8.20, $4, and $3.20 while keying a $43.20 exacta. Capo Bastone returned $5 and $4.20. Ruler of Love paid $8.40.