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O’Neill takes unique approach to training I’ll Have Another for Belmont

Posted on 27 May 2012 by WNST Staff

NEW YORK (AP) Trainer Doug O’Neill is taking an unconventional path to a Triple Crown bid by using a series of strong gallops rather than formal workouts to prepare I’ll Have Another for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

“There will be a lot of days when I’ll Have Another, strictly galloping, will pass a lot of workers,” O’Neill said Sunday morning after taking a red-eye flight from his West Coast base and being reunited with his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.

The last three Triple Crown champions, Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978), all drilled at least one mile in preparation for the 1½-mile “Test of the Champion.” The Belmont is the longest of the Triple Crown races.

O’Neill said his plan has everything to do with the vigor the colt brings to his daily morning regimen.

“If anyone got a chance to see him, he stretches and puts a lot of effort into his morning gallops,” he said.

I’ll Have Another was shipped to Belmont Park the morning after little-known jockey Mario Gutierrez, 25, ran down Bodemeister by a neck in the Preakness on May 19. His trainer was encouraged by everything he observed.

“His appetite is strong, his stride is great and his coat is there,” he said.

O’Neill added, “We have all the confidence in the world in I’ll Have Another. As long as he stays healthy and injury-free, we think he’ll be very tough.”

His pre-race handling of the colt is likely to spark discussion and debate. Seattle Slew, for instance, was given three workouts to fortify him for the Belmont marathon. He went three furlongs in a sizzling 354⁄5 seconds the day before he beat Run Dusty Run by four lengths.

I’ll Have Another appears to be well-prepared for the challenge ahead from a freshness standpoint. Shin problems sidelined him after he ran sixth in the Hopeful last Sept. 5, ending his 2-year-old season with three starts. He was the fifth consecutive Derby winner to compete in two prep races, pulling an upset at 43-1 in the Robert Lewis on Feb. 4 before edging Creative Cause by a nose in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

 

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O’Neill suspension unrelated to I’ll Have Another

Posted on 26 May 2012 by WNST Staff

CALIFORNIA (AP) — Despite vigorously denying he gave one of his horses an illegal performance-enhancing mixture, trainer Doug O’Neill was suspended 45 days — a ban that won’t take effect until after his superstar colt, I’ll Have Another, tries to win the Triple Crown.

After a nearly two-year legal battle, California racing officials agreed with O’Neill but still found fault because of a rule that says trainers are ultimately responsible for horses in their care.

The ruling Thursday doesn’t prevent O’Neill from saddling his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

The suspension and $15,000 fine — which O’Neill can appeal — come in the final weeks of I’ll Have Another’s attempt to become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed 34 years ago. The colt trained by O’Neill won the Derby on May 5 and took the Preakness on Saturday.

“I plan on examining and reviewing all of my options following the Belmont Stakes, but right now I plan on staying focused on preparing for and winning the Triple Crown,” O’Neill said in a statement.

The seven-member California Horse Racing Board met in closed session Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., to consider the recommended decision of a hearing officer in O’Neill’s case. The board agreed with the officer’s recommendations on the punishment for O’Neill, who turned 44 on Thursday.

While elevated carbon dioxide is associated with “milkshaking,” the officer agreed with O’Neill that his horse Argenta had not been fed a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes that enhances performance and combats fatigue. The officer did not indicate what might have caused the overage.

“I’m gratified that the CHRB found that I did not “milkshake” a horse or engage in any intentional conduct that would result in an elevated TC02 level,” O’Neill said.

The penalty comes at a time when racing is under heavy scrutiny for the way horses are prepared for their races.

O’Neill said he spent $250,000 defending himself.

“I know I didn’t milkshake a horse. None of us around the barn milkshaked any horses,” O’Neill said Wednesday. “You got to have rules and I respect rules, but when you get faulty science involved, it costs a lot of money unfortunately, but you’ve got to fight it and that’s what we’re doing.”

O’Neill ran into trouble after Argenta tested in excess of the permitted level of TCO2 — a Class 3 violation — after finishing
eighth in a race at Del Mar on Aug. 25, 2010. The horse is co-owned by Mark Verge, the CEO of Santa Anita race track and O’Neill’s childhood friend.

But the hearing officer, who could have recommended up to a 180-day suspension, advised that 135 days be stayed as long as O’Neill doesn’t have any Class 1, 2 or 3 medication violations in any state during an 18-month period.

It was O’Neill’s third total carbon dioxide violation in California and fourth in his career. In 2010, he was suspended and
fined for a similar offense involving one of his horses that ran in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago.

The officer found there were no suspicious betting patterns in the 2010 race and that there was no evidence of any intentional acts on the part of O’Neill in connection with the incident.

However before the hearing, the parties had stipulated that the Ken Maddy Laboratory at UC Davis detected an excess level of TCO2 in the horse’s blood sample, and CHRB Rule 1887 states a trainer is ultimately responsible for the condition of a horse, so O’Neill was punished.

CHRB executive director Kirk Breed will decide when O’Neill’s suspension will begin, but it will be no sooner than July 1.

The Jockey Club has said that elevated total carbon dioxide levels, regardless of cause, are violations of the rules and
penalties for excessive TCO2 are severe. It urges trainers and their veterinarians to work closely to identify any procedure or practices that may elevate such levels in horses.

 

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MJC says wagering figures up in 2012

Posted on 23 May 2012 by WNST Staff

Pimlico Announces Final Spring Meet Handle Figures

BALTIMORE, 05-23-12—The Maryland Jockey Club concluded its spring meeting at Pimlico Race Course last weekend, posting average wagering figures which were 9% higher than the 2011 spring meet. The average daily handle went from $4.72 million to $5.17 million. The stand featured 29 live racing dates and 21 simulcast days.

“It is significant news that the live and export numbers increased from a year ago,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said. “We finished strong as betting was up in May on nine of 11 days of live racing. Our handle improved $4.1 million on Preakness day and $3.1 million last Friday which helped the final numbers and I have to thank our racing office for carding two unbelievable cards.”

Attendance was up nearly 9% at Pimlico as the Preakness day crowd increased from 107,398 to a record 121,309. Performances by Grammy Award winner Maroon 5 and Billboard Music Award winner Wiz Khalifa in the infield plus the presence of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in Baltimore for 12 days before the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown contributed to make it a must-see event.

“We continue to enhance the infield experience since changing the beverage policy after the 2008 Preakness and got lucky as Maroon 5’s popularity skyrocketed after we booked them,” added Chuckas. “I don’t think you can put a dollar figure on what it meant having trainer Doug O’Neill bring the Kentucky Derby winner here two days after winning the Derby instead of just three days before the Preakness. Their presence increased our visibility in the market as Doug and his team became part of the community leading up to the big weekend.”

Castellano, Ness, Midwest Thoroughbred, Inc. Capture Spring Meet Titles

The eight-week Pimlico spring meeting ended Saturday afternoon with Abel Castellano, Jamie Ness and Midwest Thoroughbred, Inc. winning individual titles. The 29-day stand began at the historic home of the Preakness Stakes (G1) on March 30.

Castellano won the first race of the meet and never looked back, dominating the rider standings with 41 victories, 22 more than Horacio Karamanos. The 28-year-old rode winners for 14 different trainers, including 23 for Ness. The duo teamed up for six multiple win days, including four on May 11.

“I am so happy with the way the meet went,” Castellano said. “My agent Kevin Witte put in a lot of hard work and I wouldn’t have won the meet without him. I was winning races nearly every day (24 of the 29 days) as trainers gave me an opportunity to show them what I can do.”

Castellano arrived in Maryland as a 19-year-old and has been a consistent top five rider in the state since. He captured his first career riding title during the 2003 fall meet at Laurel Park and waited nearly nine years for his second.

“I was very young when I won that first title and almost expect it to happen all the time,” added Castellano, who has 73 winners in Maryland this year, three more than reigning champion Sheldon Russell. “Now I am married with two kids and another on the way and have more responsibility. I am taking things more seriously-putting in more work in the mornings. When the big-name riders came in last week and asked who the leading rider was, it made me happy that they knew I was.”

Ness saddled 24 winners from just 65 starters during the stand, 13 more than Dane Kobiskie and Hugh McMahon. Ness leads the nation with 178 winners through May 22, including 47 in Maryland.

“Riding for Jamie Ness is the best,” said Castellano. “I know that every horse is at 100 percent and riding horses like that increases your confidence. I work a lot of horses for him in the morning and love having the opportunity to ride for him.”

Midwest Thoroughbreds topped the owner standings at Old Hilltop, finishing first 24 times from 64 starters, all with Ness.

-mjc-

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I’ll Have Another on to Belmont Stakes

Posted on 21 May 2012 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE, 05-20-12 – I’ll Have Another’s connections loaded their Preakness Stakes winner onto a van Sunday morning at Pimlico Race Course to begin their journey to Belmont Park in their continuing quest to sweep racing’s Triple Crown.

In front of a record crowd of 121,309, Reddam Racing’s chestnut colt edged Bodemeister by a neck in the 137th Preakness Saturday afternoon to become the first horse since Big Brown in 2008 to win the first two legs of the series. He will try to become the 12th horse to capture American racing’s most treasured prize – and the first since Affirmed in 1978 – in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Trainer Doug O’Neill said the colt and his team are ready for the challenge.

“My dreams always ended with winning the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “They never were followed up with winning the Preakness and going to the Belmont. That’s a new dream now I’m waiting to pull off.”

O’Neill said that I’ll Have Another came out of the race well and was happy with his appearance when he arrived at the barn at 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

“He looked great,” O’Neill said. “He had licked his feed tub. Once we cleaned the poultice off, his legs were ice cold. He had good energy.”

I’ll Have Another was loaded onto a van at 9:05 a.m. for the journey to Belmont Park.

The thrilling Preakness victory pushed I’ll Have Another’s record to 4-0 this season. He returned from a nearly five-month layoff due to sore shins with a win in the Robert Lewis (G2) on Feb. 4. On April 7, he added the Santa Anita Derby (G1) to his resume before winning the Kentucky Derby on May 5. O’Neill said the colt is well-suited to handle the demanding 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes, the longest of the three races and called “The Test of the Champion.”

“He’s got the mind,” O’Neill said. “You’ve seen the way he’s handled the attention in Kentucky and here in Baltimore. He’s got a great confidence about him and he’s got the stride of a horse that a mile and a half won’t be a problem. He’s got the pedigree; so much stamina on the female side.

“And he’s lightly raced. After winning the Bob Lewis it enabled us to give him plenty of time before his next start. He’s still a fresh, happy, thriving horse that just seems to be getting better and better.”

Meanwhile, O’Neill is prepared for the attention and demands on his time that will come his way between the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

“Bring it on,” he said. “We’re ready.”

O’Neill spent a few hours at the post-race party in the barn area hosted by the Maryland Jockey Club, but ended his celebrating around 10 p.m.

“Lynette and I and the kids ended up going back to the hotel and getting room service,” he said. “And the kids were doing a lot of gymnastics moves off the bed. It was kind of a mellow evening once we got back into the hotel.

“Here it was just a fun house party. We kept saying ‘I hope mom and dad don’t show up. We’re all going to be in trouble.’ It’s something I had never experienced before in my life, the amount of enthusiasm and positivity and love for horse racing. It was a dream come true for anyone involved in the business.”

Assistant trainer Jack Sisterson and several members of O’Neill’s staff went with the colt to Belmont Park. O’Neill and his family were scheduled to fly home to California on owner J. Paul Reddam’s private jet. After checking on his horses at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, O’Neill said he would probably travel to New York in about a week.

In all likelihood, O’Neill said, he won’t make any changes in I’ll Have Another’s training program during the three weeks leading up to the Belmont Stakes.

“We’ll have to play that by ear,” he said. “It depends on the weather and all that stuff, but we’ll maintain the same type of exercise that he’s had. There’s the old line about you can’t take a sprinter and train him two miles and make a router out of him and you can’t take a router and work them three-eighths every week and make a sprinter out of him.

“If we’ve got a true route horse, which we do, he’s going to maintain his fitness and his exercise. If they can go a mile and a half they will. And he will.”

While the Derby and Preakness had similar storylines with I’ll Have Another catching and passing Bodemeister near the wire, O’Neill said his personal emotions watching the stretch runs were not the same.

“Winning the Derby was an out-of-body experience. It was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.’” he said. “The Preakness, the expectations were obviously a lot higher. It was almost like, ‘C’mon boy, C’mon.’”

O’Neill acknowledged that there were moments in the duel through the stretch that it looked like I’ll Have Another might not overtake Bodemeister.

“He was running such a brilliant race and even if he had run second he would have run brilliantly,” O’Neill said. “You don’t want to run second when you run that good, and I’m glad he didn’t.”

BODEMEISTER – After another agonizingly tough loss to I’ll Have Another in the Preakness, Zayat Stables and Michel and Tiffany Moreno’s colt was flown back to California Sunday morning. He will remain in training, but will skip the Belmont Stakes.

“I’ve had enough,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert quipped.

Baffert said that Bodemeister appeared to be in good condition before leaving the Pimlico Stakes Barn for Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“He was actually pretty happy today,” Baffert said. “He ate up, got on a plane and headed back to California. He came out of it really well.”

Bodemeister set the pace in the Derby and the Preakness and each time I’ll Have Another managed to catch and pass him near the finish line. The Arkansas Derby winner turned in gallant performances in defeat.

“He’s a pretty amazing animal,” Baffert said. “He didn’t act tired. After the race, he came back to the barn and he wasn’t as tired as he was after the Derby.”

Baffert said I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister showed in the Derby and the Preakness that they are at the top of a talented crop of 3-year-olds.

“They are two really good horses,” he said. “On any given year they could probably win those races. It was a tough year.”

Baffert said that the Zayat Stables’ colt Paynter might start in the Belmont Stakes.  Paynter, who won an allowance race in convincing style Saturday at Pimlico, was shipped to Belmont Park Sunday morning.

“We’re going to train him there,” Baffert said. “If it looks like he snapped out of his race, we’ll run him in the Belmont if he looks really good.”

CREATIVE CAUSE – The third-place finisher in Preakness 137 boarded a van Sunday morning to head for Baltimore-Washington International Airport for a scheduled 9 a.m. flight back to Los Angeles and his home base of Hollywood Park.

“He came out of the race OK,” said trainer Mike Harrington minutes before putting the son of Giant’s Causeway on the van.  “Back to California, regroup.”

Harrington surprised some observers when he sent Creative Cause home after his fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, before bringing him back to Pimlico the following week for the Preakness. He said he is now contemplating one more cross-country venture to compete in the Belmont Stakes.

“I’d say right now it’s 50-50,” said Harrington, who was scheduled to get on a flight Sunday evening with assistant/exercise rider John Cisneros for the trip home.

“He ran his heart out,” Cisneros said. “He didn’t have any trouble at all. He ran hard, and I thought he was going to win it. Today he was very alert and happy. Actually he was jumping up and down when he was walking.”

The Belmont would be Creative Cause’s sixth race midway through his sophomore season. The San Felipe (G 2) winner has only been out of the money once in 10 career starts, that coming in his fifth-place finish in the Derby.

ZETTERHOLM – Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Sunday that the Winter Park Partners’ Zetterholm appeared to come out of his fourth-place finish in the Preakness in good order.

The New York-bred son of Silver Train was shipped back to Dutrow’s barn at Aqueduct Sunday morning.

“I got what I wanted from the race,” Dutrow said. “I was hoping and praying for a third or fourth-place finish.  We got the fourth-place finish and we left there satisfied, but I did not see my horse run big. I know he put in his little effort there, but I thought he could have run better. He didn’t change leads, which is very unlike him, and he didn’t get along so well with the track.”

TEETH OF THE DOG – Trainer Michael Matz reported that J. W. Singer’s Teeth of the Dog exited his fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness in good condition.

“I was happy with the way he ran. He’s kind of inexperienced and he’s probably not as good as those horses right now,” said Matz from Fair Hill Training Center Sunday morning.

Teeth of the Dog will be not run in the Belmont Stakes, but Matz has the horse that may well be Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another’s most dangerous foe in his quest for a Triple Crown sweep. Union Rags, who finished a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby, was held out of the Preakness to train for the Belmont Stakes.

Union Rags captured the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park last fall. Matz is confident that Union Rags will be well suited to the 1 ½ -mile oval, the sweeping turns and the relatively deep racing surface.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Matz said. “He’s won there before, so I don’t think that part of it will be a problem.”

OPTIMIZER – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who won back-to-back stakes races on the Preakness undercard but finished sixth in the main event, exited Pimlico shortly after dawn with his entourage early Sunday for the long van ride back to Louisville.

“He’s fine; he came out of the race in good shape,” Lukas said by phone while on the highway home. “We’re going to get home and Mr. Kelley (owner Brad) and I talked last night and we’re going to talk a little bit further when we get back.”

Lukas said before the Preakness he believed the son of English Channel was probably better suited to the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes than either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. He finished 11th in the Derby in some traffic, then got going late to split the field in the Preakness at odds of 23-1.

“I would say we’re probable for the Belmont just because of the distance and the different configuration of the race track,” said Lukas, who has won the Belmont Stakes four times in his storied career. Lukas last took the Belmont in 2000 with long shot Commendable, following three consecutive victories from 1994-96 with Tabasco Cat, Thunder Gulch and Editor’s Note.

“I’d say it’s 50-50 right now,” he said. “The winner (I’ll Have Another) is a nice horse, but we’re not going to hand it (the Triple Crown) to him. He’s got to earn it.”

COZZETTI – The seventh-place finisher in Preakness 137 returned to his home base at Churchill Downs Sunday, where trainer Dale Romans will decide whether to continue on to Belmont or embark on a grass campaign to take advantage of his attractive turf pedigree.

“I’m not sure,” Romans said when asked if he would go onto the Belmont Stakes with Albaugh Family Stable’s son of grass champion Cozzene. “We’ll regroup. We’ve got to figure out why he’s not running better. He’s a better horse than he’s shown. Once we get back to Kentucky, we’ll figure him out.”

Even if Romans bypasses the Belmont with Cozzetti, he has another candidate that he’s more than a little excited about in Dullahan.

“He worked Saturday morning (five furlongs in 1:00.20, second-best of 26) at Churchill,” Romans said of the Blue Grass winner and Kentucky Derby show finisher. “He’s on track for a big Belmont.”

Romans, who won the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford, decided not to run in the Preakness and give Dullahan extra rest for the Belmont Stakes.

“It should help him,” he said. “He’ll be a fresher horse.”

WENT THE DAY WELL – Team Valor International and Mark Ford’s Went the Day Well was reported to have come out of  a 10th-place finish in the Preakness in good order.

“He seems OK. He has a couple of scrapes, but all in all, he’s good,” said trainer Graham Motion from Fair Hill Training Center Sunday morning.

Motion could offer no concrete reason for the disappointing effort that followed a strong fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

“Maybe the Derby took more out of him that I realized. I just don’t know,” Motion said.

Went the Day Well is unlikely to go on to the Belmont Stakes.

“I think we’ll point to some of the summer races like the Travers,” Motion said.

TIGER WALK – Trainer Ignacio Correas and his eighth-place Preakness runner were back at Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Farm Sunday morning, having departed Pimlico Saturday night for the 20-minute van ride home.

“He came out of the race good,” Correas said. “He just walked today. He was probably a little tired.”

The Preakness was Tiger Walk’s fourth race as a 3-year-old, all stakes, but his only in-the-money finish came in the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct in February in his seasonal debut.

Correas said he thought the son of Tale of the Cat would probably not be heading to New York for the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I haven’t talked to Kevin about it yet. We’re going to talk during the week, but I don’t think so.”

PRETENSION – Trainer Chris Grove reported from Bowie Training Center that Kidwells Petite Stable’s Pretension came out of his 11th-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes in good order.

“He’s in great shape. No problems, “I think we’ll probably head for the Mike Lee in late June,” said Grove, referring to the Belmont Park stakes that’s restricted to New York-bred horses.

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Trainer Lukas disappointed in actions of fellow Derby winners

Posted on 17 May 2012 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE (AP) — Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas criticized the behavior of a few of his peers Wednesday, saying the actions of a few recent Kentucky Derby winners have tarnished the reputation of his profession.

Speaking at Pimlico Race Course, site of Saturday’s Preakness, Lukas said, “I’m very disappointed as a trainer that we have the stigma of some of our Derby winners not carrying the banner.”

He cited Rick Dutrow, who is appealing a 10-year suspension in New York for multiple medication violations, and Chip Woolley, who last year allegedly urinated on slot machines at a track in Iowa.

Lukas also mentioned I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O’Neill, who won the Derby on May 5 but faces charges of drugging a horse in California. O’Neill has denied the accusation.

“We’ve got Dutrow under suspension. We’ve got Chip Woolley (urinating) on the slot machines in casinos. And now Doug, at least, has some gray area hanging over him,” said Lukas, who will saddle Optimizer in the Preakness.

“That bothers me, frankly. I think those guys are all good enough they don’t need for there to be doubts. I think they can
train horses and not have that problem in front of them. They can do it the right way. That’s just the way I feel. I would say that if they were standing right here.”

Dutrow’s Big Brown won the Derby and Preakness in 2008. He sends out long shot Zetterholm in the Preakness.

Woolley in 2009 trained long shot Derby winner Mine That Bird, who ran second in the Preakness. Last year, security staff escorted Woolley from the casino at Prairie Meadows Racetrack.

O’Neill, meanwhile, has been accused by the California Horse Racing Board for “milkshaking,” the illegal practice of giving a horse a blend of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes. The mixture is designed to reduce fatigue and enhance performance.

“We played by the rules and I am vigorously fighting the previous allegations,” O’Neill said Wednesday.

O’Neill faces his third total carbon dioxide violation in California and fourth in a career that has spanned 25 years.

O’Neill’s most recent violation dates from an Aug. 25, 2010, race at Del Mar in California. A blood test on his horse Argenta showed elevated levels of TCO2 before it finished eighth.

He faces penalties ranging from a minimum 90-day suspension and a $5,000 fine to a maximum 180-day suspension and fine of $15,000 depending on whether a hearing officer’s report finds aggravating circumstances or not.

“I’ll Have Another, along with every other horse in our barn goes through an intense physical exam and a blood and urine exam,” O’Neill said. “We run pure horses. We run a great operation, and anyone who comes to our barn all know that we love the horses and do everything we can to keep them at the top of their game. If I didn’t win the Derby, you guys wouldn’t be asking that.”

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Trainer O’Neill set to join I’ll Have Another this week in Baltimore

Posted on 09 May 2012 by WNST Audio

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I’ll Have Another tracks down Bodemeister to win Kentucky Derby

Posted on 05 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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Bodemeister favorite, but plenty of good horses in Derby

Posted on 05 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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Kentucky Confidential’s John Scheinman says Bodemeister real deal in Derby

Posted on 04 May 2012 by WNST Audio

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Sun writer Korman says local horse Done Talking could make noise in Derby

Posted on 04 May 2012 by WNST Audio

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