Shedaresthedevil, Maxfield Win; King Fury Out Of Derby; Baffert Takes Shot At Record; Carmouche Set For 1st Derby
By Richard Rosenblatt and Ed McNamara
The field for the Kentucky Derby (G1) is down to 19 after trainer Ken McPeek said he’ll scratch 20-1 shot King Fury after the colt spiked a fever.
King Fury was a late addition to the field after several horses with more Derby qualifying points dropped out last week.
“King Fury spiked a 104 degree fever this afternoon after he galloped this morning,” McPeek said. “He went off his feed after he trained. I feel gutted for all of the people that worked to get him ready for this race. Unfortunately, he’s not 100% … We’ll regroup and point to another race.”
With the scratch, horses to his outside of his listed post 16 will move in one spot in the starting gate. The program numbers will remain the same.
In one of the top undercard races on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks card, Shedaresthedevil was hustled to the lead by jockey Florent Geroux and held off the challenge of Envoutante to win the $500,000 La Troienne (G1) for train Brad Cox.
Shedaresthedevil won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in 2020 and came back and won this one. The Cox-trained champion Monomoy Girl won the Oaks in 2018, did not race in 2019, but returned and won the La Troienne in 2020.
It was the first start of the year for the 4-year-old Shedaresthedevil ($5.40 to win on a $2 bet), and she turned in a one-length victory, covering the 1 1/16 miles I 1:42.69 before tens of thousands of fans at Churchill Downs.
Shedaresthedevil led the field of seven through fractions of 23.99 and 47.94 under modest pressure from Bajan Girl. On the far turn, Envoutante with Brian Hernandez, Jr. aboard, moved up along the rail while Dunbar Road attacked on the outside only to drop quickly out of contention.
In the stretch, Shedaresthedevil and Envoutante were close but Shedaresthedevil drew clear in the final 100 yards. The filly is now 7-2-3 in 13 career starters with a bankroll of more than $1.8 million.
“She loves to race at Churchill; she showed it again today,’’ Geroux said. “They made me work hard for this. When we turned for home, she kept her head up and I could tell she was digging in. Those other fillies came to her, but she showed a lot of heart and a lot of grit and I knew she wasn’t going to let them by.”
Added Cox, who sends out 2-1 favorite Essential Quality and Mandaloun in Saturday’s Derby: “This is huge. She’s moved forward at 4. She’s shown that in her two starts (she won the Azeri in her first 2021 start). She has a lot of fight and determination down the lane.”
In the $400,000 Alysheba (G2), Maxfield ($3) returned to his winning ways with a 3 ¼-length victory over Visitant to improve his record to six wins in seven starts. The 4-year-old ran third in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on March 6 in his previous start. With Jose Ortiz aboard, Maxfield covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.39.
“I just told Jose to get him in a nice rhythm, he likes to roll along and get into that cruising speed,’’ winning trainer Brendan Walsh said. “He’s an adaptable horse, so he’s easy to ride under whatever the circumstances. He loves this track, and he hasn’t done anything wrong. But actually, he hasn’t done anything wrong at any track where he’s run. He’s just a very good horse.”
Bob Baffert has a record-tying six wins in the Kentucky Derby, including three in the last six years. He’s back with his third-best 3-year-old, Medina Spirit, whose 15-1 odds are an aberration for Mr. Triple Crown.
The 68-year-old Hall of Fame trainer lost Life Is Good, an early pre-Derby favorite, to a minor injury. Then his second-stringer, Concert Tour, faded to third at odds-on in the Arkansas Derby and was given a rest.
“Medina Spirit is the least likely horse I thought I’d come here with,” Baffert said. “We could have had three in here. But he’s never failed me, he’s been first or second every time. He has the heart of a lion, he’s very competitive.”
When Baffert has the best horse in the Derby, as he did with American Pharoah and Justify, his confidence bubbles over. You get the strong impression he’s not expecting Medina Spirit to match what his 8-1 shot Authentic did last year.
“He’s doing well enough, I feel good about running him,” he said. “Things have to go wrong with some of the top horses. You need somebody to drop the pass, but you never know what’s going to happen.”
If Kendrick Carmouche wins the Derby on longshot Bourbonic, he’d be the first Black jockey to do that since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902. After their 72-1 upset in the Wood Memorial, Carmouche believes anything is possible.
“When I passed the wire first, the first thing I could think of was the roses,” said Carmouche, a 37-year-old native of Louisiana.
He started riding there as a teenager before building his career in Texas and Philadelphia, where he became one of the leading riders at Parx. In 2015, he decided to shoot for the big time and headed to New York. He’s enjoying the best stretch of his career. He led the Aqueduct fall meeting, winning his first NYRA title and his first Grade 1, on True Timber in the Cigar Mile.
There were down times when Carmouche couldn’t have imagined being in this position.
“I’m very proud of myself that I never gave up years ago,” he said. “It’s all about opportunity and time and patience. The sun will shine on you one day, and you make the best of it.
“Good things come to positive people.”
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.