When the folks at Godolphin go looking for a jockey to ride Avery Island in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, they need look no farther than Joe Bravo.
The Monmouth County, N.J. born and raised rider was aboard Avery Island for the $250,000, Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct on Feb. 3.
At the conclusion of the mile and a furlong race around two turns, the home bred son of Street Sense from the A.P. Indy mare Kinda Spicy was the winner of his third race from five tries—all with Bravo aboard.
After finishing seventh in his debut at Saratoga last summer, the bay colt won his maiden at Belmont by 5-1/4 lengths and then went on to win Aqueduct's Grade 2 Nashua by 4-3/4 lengths.
A wide trip in Aqueduct's Remsen in December resulted in a second place finish behind Catholic Boy.
After a two month sojourn under trainer Kieran McLauglin in Florida in which he breezed four times, Avery Island was shipped back to the Big A in search of the lion's share of the Withers purse and 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
After letting the 30 to 1 long-shot Coltandmississippi and Junior Alvarado set the pace around the clubhouse turn and up the backstretch, Bravo sent Avery Island after the leader and entered the homestretch on the lead.
With Bravo keeping him to his task in the last eighth, the even money favorite Avery Island was two lengths ahead of Firenze Fire, the color bearer for the Mr. Amore Stable of Mountain Lakes, N.J., who went into the Withers off wins in last month's Jerome at Aqueduct and last fall's Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont.
Avery Island earned 10 Kentucky Derby points to raise his total to 14. Firenze Fire collected and additional four points to put him into a tie atop the leader board with Eclipse Award winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Good Night Magic.
When asked if Aqueduct's Gotham (a 50 point qualifier) on March 10 world be next for Avery Island, McLaughlin replied, “We're not sure what we're going to do for the next race. I'll talk to Jimmy Bell (Godolphin's racing manager) and figure it out, but we're not looking at the Gotham because it goes back to a mile."
An optimistic Bravo looked for further improvement in Avery Island saying, “
"Physically, he's always had the tools. He's just learning about the game. He'll just keep getting better and better. I was excited the first time I've seen him. He's doing everything we've asked him to do, so I don't see why not [on continued improvement]."
Audible Wins Holy Bull Stakes At Gulfstream
When the scene shifted south to Gulfstream Park, mega-trainer Todd Pletcher unveiled a newcomer who showed a lot of promise to climb up the stakes ladder that leads to the first Saturday in May in Louisville.
Audible, a New York-bred son of Into Mischief from the from the Gilded Time mare Blue Devil Bel, defeated eight rivals in the $350,000, Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes to earn his first 10 Derby points.
With Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano (a jockey still seeking his first Kentucky Derby win at age 40) in the saddle, the bay colt survived some bumping shortly after the start of the 1-1/16 mile contest.
After attending the pace around the club house turn and making the lead three-eighths out, Audible withstood a challenge from Free Drop Willy, the winner of Churchill's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity in October.
Once he shook off that rival, it was a going-away win by 5-1/2 lengths with Castellano using is whip only twice in the final furlong to keep Audible focused on his task.
After Audible stopped the timer in 1:41.92, the order of finish was Free Drop Willy, Tiz Mischief and the 2 to 1 favorite Enticed.
After the race, trainer Pletcher rated Audible's performance as “Dynamite.” After saying, “I was concerned when he got sandwiched around the first turn,” Pletcher said he has no immediate plans for Audible beyond “We have plenty of options.”
Wherever Pletcher takes him, the colt (who cost WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing $500,000 at the March 2017 Fasig-Tipton 2-year-olds in training sale) a record of three wins from four starts with earnings of $289,400.
Lombo Wins Santa Anita's Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
A continent away, Michael V. Lombardi's Lombo made every pole a winning one winning Santa Anita's $151,380, Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes to earn his first 10 Kentucky Derby points.
The colt by Graydar from the Johannesburg mare Burg Berg defeated eight other 3-year-olds in winning the 1-1/16 contest by two lengths in a moderate 1:45.41 over a track labeled 'fast.'
With Flavian Prat in the saddle for trainer Michael Pender, the colt made the jump from winning a maiden special last out to a graded stakes win that earned him $90,000 and gave him a record of two wins from five starts.
When asked about Lombo's future, Pender said, “We can worry about that tomorrow. We'll just enjoy this today.”
New York Adds Opportunities For 2-Year-Olds
The 2-year-old colts and fillies who are usually very green when running in Belmont's early stakes will now have a good deal of experience — and plenty of money to show for it.
The New York Racing Association is renewing its Spring Program that offers four prep races each for colts and fillies prior to the running of $150,000 Astoria and $150,000 Tremont that are carded for early June at Belmont Park.
Maiden fillies will be offered four trial races, each worth $100,000, starting with a 4-1/2 furlong dash on April 18 and culminating with the 5-1/2 furlong Astoria on Thursday, June 7.
Maiden colts (and geldings) kick off their series on April 19 at 4-1/2 furlongs prepping for the June 8 Tremont on June 8 at 5-1/2 furlongs.
Trainers who prefer to start their youngsters on the grass can race their maiden fillies at 5-1/2 furlongs on Belmont lawn on May 24 and their maiden colts at the same distance a day later. Each of the grass stakes is worth $100,000.
Here is the complete schedule for the Spring Program.
For the fillies:
April 18 – Aqueduct, Astoria Trial A, $100,000, 4-1/2 furlongs.
May 3 – Belmont, Astoria Trial B, $100,000, 5 furlongs.
May 16 – Belmont, Astoria Trial C, $100,000, 5 furlongs.
May 24 – Belmont, Astoria Trial D, $100,000, 5 furlongs (turf).
June 7 – Belmont, Astoria Stakes, $150,000, 5-1/2 furlongs.
For the colts:
April 19 – Aqueduct, Tremont Trial A, $100,000, 4-1/2 furlongs.
May 4 – Belmont, Tremont Trial B, $100,000, 5 furlongs.
May 17 – Belmont,Tremont Trial C, $100,000, 5 furlongs.
May 25 – Belmont, Tremont Trial D, $100,000, 5 furlongs (turf), 5 furlongs.
Note: Even though these “Trial” races are called “trials,” they are pari-mutuel races and they do count toward a horse's racing record.
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