Barn notes 4/12 | Sports & Recreation
Cozzetti Gets Cozy At Oaklawn Before Arkansas Derby
Albaugh Family Stable’s multi-dimensional colt Cozzetti dove right into his training in his first morning at Oaklawn Thursday. The trick now, according to his handlers, will be to take that energy, match it with his staying power and produce a big afternoon performance in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
Trained by Dale Romans, the gray Florida invader arrived Wednesday a little bit late but without incident. The colt was already familiar with travelling around the country having jetted to Los Angeles last fall for the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. Throughout his young career, Cozzetti has had no problem adjusting and training like a good horse. He just hasn’t put it all together in a race.
“He trains phenomenally and about as well as any of the good horses we have,” said Terry Oliver, assistant to Romans who travelled with the colt. “We’ve always felt he had the talent. It’s just a matter of him bringing it to the next level.”
Cozzetti started his career on turf last September at Belmont Park, partially because of his grassy pedigree being by Cozzene out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare. He also made those initial starts because maiden dirt races at that time of year in New York are usually stocked with million-dollar babies cranked up to run right off the bat. The Romans team has relied on this colt’s class and versatility while trying grass, synthetic and sloppy dirt throughout his six races while still counting him among one of their best Triple Crown prospects.
Cozzetti’s last race was a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 10. The result was sparkling, but the progress he made trying a late-closing move was very encouraging.
“He won on the lead in the slop at Churchill and he had us leaning based on the way he was training that he was a front-running horse,” said Oliver. “In Tampa we wanted to take him back and get him to rate. A lot of this is a learning process, but I was really happy with the way he settled back and made a run on the leaders. He hopefully figured something out that will help in this race.”
The 1 1/8th-mile distance of the Arkansas Derby figures to be right up Cozzetti’s alley as he breaks from the rail under Jose Lezcano.
“He wants to go farther. It’s the time now where these races get longer and he’s definitely going to fit them,” said Oliver. “He will make a run for sure. If we can just get a little help with the pace, it should set up nicely for a horse like him.”
Oliver will saddle the horse Saturday and the Albaughs will be on hand. Romans will be busy Saturday at Keeneland with Dullahan running in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Tapitsfly in action as well.
Apriority ‘Focused’ On Count Fleet
Don Dizney’s Apriority is one of the fastest sprinters in the country and has arrived in Arkansas hoping for the right circumstances to prove it Saturday in the $250,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn.
The 5-year-old son of the late stallion Grand Slam won the Dec. 31 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park in his South Florida base. That victory broke a five-race losing streak dating back to a scintillating allowance race that was among the fastest sprinting performances of 2011 according to various speed figures.
That big performance landed the homebred in some of the toughest sprints across the country, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) last November where he finished sixth after a wide trip. Trainer David Fawkes has sent him to Hot Springs in search of another stiff test.
“He couldn’t be doing any better,” said assistant trainer Scott Acker, who travelled with Apriority Wednesday. “He’s a good shipper and he was really focused when we galloped this morning. It’s a good sign when he gets right to work on these trips and doesn’t do much looking around.”
Acker says two factors should contribute to a big effort Saturday. Jockey Rafael Bejarano reunites with the horse and the spring-like weather after travelling from a place where spring-like weather usually comes in January.
“Rafael knows him and had a such a great race with him last year,” said Acker referring to their teamwork when second by a head to eventual Eclipse champion and Breeders’ Cup winner Amazombie in the Sunshine Millions Sprint. “I also think the cooler weather up here is great for him. He likes it and it shows.”
Fawkes will be monitoring the Count Fleet Saturday from West Virginia where he will send out 2010 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) winner Duke of Mischief in the Charles Town Classic – a race he won last year.
Pletcher Contenders Settling in at Oaklawn
Contenders from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher were in good shape Thursday morning after arriving at various and sundry times from different points across the nation. Arkansas Derby runner Stat and stablemate Morrow Cove (entered in Friday's Instant Racing Stakes) got in yesterday after a plane ride from Florida. Fellow Arkansas Derby starter Raconteur came this morning via horse van from Keeneland.
Stat rolls off a 6 1/4-length win in a $75,000 allowance optional claimer going one mile for Pletcher and Bortolazzo Stable at Gulfstream Park March 17. Raconteur is Dogwood Stable's winner of the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park going the same distance on the same day.
"Everybody seems to have shipped in well," assistant trainer Michael Dilger said. "Stat and Morrow Cove went to the track for gallops today, and Stat and Raconteur will gallop tomorrow morning."
Team Baffert Ready for Round Two
Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes was waiting for 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty as she exited the track from her morning routine Thursday. The 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d' Oro galloped about a mile and three eighths in preparation for her 2012 season debut in Friday's Apple Blossom Handicap (Gr. 1).
"She's doing super good," Barnes remarked. "Just look at her - she's gorgeous."
From California, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert had similarly positive things to say.
“She’s bigger than she was last year," he remarked. "She's filled out and grown up. I think she should run well. She’s been training great. She’s a speed type, but her speed carries. She might be a little rusty but she’s training really well. I was gonna run if Havre de Grace was in there, but I’m glad she’s not.”
Back at Oaklawn, Barnes reported that Fantasy Stakes winner Mamma Kimbo and stablemate Jemima's Pearl (3rd), came out of their Thursday race well.
"Both fillies came out of the race good," he remarked. "Everyone's in great shape."
Arkansas Derby contenders Bodemiester and Secret Circle also galloped this morning, as did Northern Spur contender Drill.
Ron the Greek Makes First Trip to Track
Oaklawn Handicap contender Ron The Greek arrived at Oaklawn around 4:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon on a flight from Florida and made his first trip to the oval Thursday morning. Assistant trainer Rudolf Basset was in the irons aboard the shipper from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's barn and reported all things went well.
"He shipped up in good order and trained really well this morning, absolutely gorgeous," Basset remarked. "He's really doing great."
Since scoring his first Grade 1 win in the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap, the 5-year-old son of Full Mandate has been spoiled by his handlers around the barn, Basset said. But he remains as quietly focused on the racetrack as ever, and his ability to ship in to a new location and win races like the prestigious $750,000 California test makes him a lethal contender here Saturday.
Basset also said Off Limits, fifth-place finisher in Wednesday's Fantasy Stakes, came back no worse for the wear.
"Who knows," he said. "She got beaten eight lengths but Baffert's filly is something special. Maybe after the Kentucky Oaks people will look back and say, 'Not bad, Mott's filly only ran eight lengths behind her.'"