Essential Quality, Keepmeinmind, Rombauer, get acclimated at Keeneland for Toyota Blue Grass

April 2, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Godolphin’s undefeated homebred Essential Quality, the champion 2-year-old male of 2020, had a relatively busy morning at Keeneland in advance of Saturday’s $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) in which he is the 3-5 morning line favorite.

About 8:15 a.m., Essential Quality, with Elver Vargas aboard, jogged to the starting gate accompanied by trainer Brad Cox’s assistant Tessa Bisha aboard stable pony Banana. The Tapit colt then galloped a mile.

“Going to the gate is something we do a few days before the race,” Cox said. “It emulates race day and reminds them to stay settled, wait behind the gate and stand in the gate.”

After cooling out at the barn, Essential Quality was led around the Saddling Paddock around 10:30 a.m.

Other Toyota Blue Grass entrants had activity this morning. At Keeneland:

BBN Racing’s Hidden Stash worked 3 furlongs in :37.20 with trainer Vicki Oliver aboard when the track opened for training at 5:30 a.m.

Klaravich Stables’ Highly Motivated, who arrived at Keeneland Wednesday afternoon, galloped under exercise rider Peter Roman. The Chad Brown trainee is scheduled for a Paddock schooling session with horses in Friday’s second race.

The Joseph P. Morey Jr. Revocable Trust’s Hush of a Storm galloped on the main track for trainer Billy Morey.

Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm’s Keepmeinmind arrived at Keeneland at 11 p.m. Wednesday from Oaklawn Park and walked the shedrow for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Keepmeinmind is scheduled to go the track after 9 a.m. Friday.

John and Diane Fradkin’s Rombauer galloped at 6 a.m. with Brian O’Leary aboard for trainer Michael McCarthy.

Team Valor International’s Untreated galloped early under Amelia Green, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. After training hours, he schooled in the Paddock along with Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat, the morning line favorite for Saturday’s Central Bank Ashland (G1).


Bonne Chance Farm’s Leblon galloped at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington for trainer Paulo Lobo.

Albaugh Family Stables’ Sittin On Go galloped at Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans.

Keepmeinmind arrives at Keeneland for Blue Grass

Trainer Robertino Diodoro gave Keepmeinmind the morning off Thursday after the colt arrived from Oaklawn Park at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

“He’ll go the track after 9 (Friday) morning,” Diodoro said of the Laoban colt, who is owned by Spendthrift Farm, Cypress Creek Equine and Arnold Bennewith.

Keepmeinmind’s success at Keeneland last fall was a major reason Diodoro opted to run in Saturday’s $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) instead of waiting a week for the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn.

“The track down there at Oaklawn has been speed favoring,” Diodoro said. “We know he loved this track last year and decided to bring him back.”

Keepmeinmind finished second in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and third in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance behind Toyota Blue Grass rival Essential Quality.

In his lone 2021 start, he finished sixth in the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn on March 13. Initially, the plan had been to start the year in the Southwest (G3), but the race was delayed twice because of weather.

“I’m from Canada and that was a true Canadian storm that hit there,” Diodoro said of the track in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “We missed 12 days of training but we got lucky in that with the barn we have, we were able to jog inside so we didn’t miss a whole lot. It was just disappointing planning to run and not being able to.”

Rombauer returns to Keeneland for Toyota Blue Grass

John and Diane Fradkin’s homebred Rombauer is back at Keeneland to run in Saturday’s $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2), marking his first start here since finishing fifth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance in November. Between the two Keeneland races, the Twirling Candy colt won the Feb. 13 El Camino Real Derby (L) over the all-weather surface at Golden Gate Fields

“Our decision to run in the Blue Grass was primarily an ABB decision: avoid Bob Baffert,” John Fradkin said.

While he will evade the successful trainer in the Toyota Blue Grass, Rombauer faces a rematch with undefeated Essential Quality, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile en route to being named champion 2-year-old male. Essential Quality is the 3-5 morning line favorite, and Rombauer is 15-1.

“At the time we made the decision (to run in the Toyota Blue Grass),” Fradkin said, “we thought it would be a relatively short field, but others must have felt the same way as Hush of a Storm, Keepmeinmind and Untreated all became late additions to the field. It should be an interesting race. I think the race will be run somewhat like a European turf race. It will be all about acceleration in the stretch, and that’s not a bad thing for Rombauer. Hopefully, (jockey) Florent Geroux can work out a good trip for us.”

Fradkin, who is retired as an institutional bond salesman for Citigroup, was in his late 20s when he learned to handicap while attending the races where he lived in Southern California. He acquired his first racehorse in 1993 when he claimed the 7-year-old Raise a Man gelding Ruff Hombre at Del Mar for $25,000.

Not long afterward, he and Diane attended the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and purchased a filly by Afleet for $10,500. Named Ultrafleet, she went on to produce Grade 1-winning millionaire and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (L) winner California Flag and Grade 3 winner Cambiocorsa, who is the second dam of European champion Roaring Lion.

Ultrafleet is Rombauer’s second dam.

“This family is so good that there really should be a stallion representing it going forward, and we are hoping that maybe Rombauer will someday take on that role,” Fradkin said.  

The Fradkins live in Santa Ana, California, and have a small broodmare band in Kentucky. Rombauer was foaled at Machmer Hall in Paris, Kentucky, and as a youngster spent time at Ben Berger’s Woodstock Farm in Lexington. For several months at Woodstock, he shared a paddock with Hot Rod Charlie, who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and won the March 20 Louisiana Derby (G2).

“Rombauer was always a nice mover, and he’s an intelligent, curious horse,” Fradkin said. “We had a lengthy memorable interaction with him in September of his yearling year in his paddock where he chose to play with us for a lot longer than most horses will do. I think he likes humans more than most horses. My wife says she thought he had the look of eagles that day.”

Trained by Michael McCarthy, Rombauer will start from post 5 in the Toyota Blue Grass. He is 15-1 in the morning line.

Pessin confident Bell’s the One will fire fresh in the Madison

Lothenbach Stables’ Bell’s the One gave trainer Neil Pessin his first Grade 1 victory when she won the Derby City Distaff (G1) in September at Churchill Downs.

Pessin believes that total will double Saturday when Bell’s the One makes her first start of 2021.

“I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but I think she will win. She’s the best horse,” Pessin said Thursday morning.

Third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) here last fall, Bell’s the One received some time off before rejoining Pessin’s barn at Fair Grounds, where she has had a steady work pattern since early February.

“She didn’t miss a beat,” Pessin said of preparations for her return to the races that was to begin in the Madison. “She worked well Sunday (a bullet :47 half-mile), got here Tuesday night and had a walk day yesterday.”

Pessin has part of Bell’s the One’s campaign mapped out.

“I know the first two (the Madison and the May 1 Derby City Distaff) and the last one (a return to the Breeders’ Cup),” Pessin said. “We will work backward from the Breeders’ Cup after the second race.”

Slumber Party takes big step up in Beaumont presented by Keeneland Select

Gary and Mary West’s homebred Slumber Party will attempt to go from debuting maiden winner to graded stakes winner Friday when she goes postward in the $150,000 Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select for 3-year-old fillies running over the Beard Course of  7 furlongs, 184 feet.

“It is not a move I commonly make,” trainer Kelly Breen said Thursday morning. “She was very impressive in her debut (a 7 ½-length victory Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park) and her numbers indicated she could compete in stakes company.”

One of the fillies she defeated in the 7-furlong debut was Pass the Champagne, who will be running in the Central Bank Ashland (G1) on Saturday.

Would success Friday propel her to a start in the Eight Belles (G2) at Churchill Downs on April 30?

“Ask me that about 5:30 Friday afternoon,” Breen said with a laugh.

Bodenheimer makes 3-year-old debut in Palisades Turf Sprint

Kristin Boice and Marylou Holden’s Bodenheimer, winner of Keeneland’s Indian Summer (L) Presented by Keeneland Select in October, will make his first start of the year on Friday’s opening day of the Spring Meet in the $100,000 Palisades Turf Sprint going 5½ furlongs. He closed his 2-year-old campaign with an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) here in November.

Named the 2020 Washington-Bred Horse of the Year, Bodenheimer spent the winter at Oaklawn Park, where he closed his steady series of workouts with a 5-furlong breeze in 1:02 on March 26.

“He is doing very well,” trainer Valorie Lund said. “He has matured a lot. He is a bigger, stouter horse. He has been training well at Oaklawn Park and he is looking good. We went to Oaklawn because we did not want to lose too much time training even though we did lose some time (because of weather) but not as much as was lost in Kentucky.”

Lund, whose 20-horse stable is based at Ashwood Training Center in Lexington, relocated to Kentucky year-round last year after spending winters at Turf Paradise in Arizona and summers at tracks such as Canterbury Park in Minnesota. She purchased Bodenheimer as a yearling at a Washington sale in part because he resembles his maternal grandsire, A.P. Indy, and because she trained and exercised his sire, Grade 2 winner sire Atta Boy Roy.

Bodenheimer is named Lund’s for brother-in-law Entz Bodenheimer Boice.

Leparoux approaching Keeneland milestone

With his next victory at Keeneland, jockey Julien Leparoux will record his 500th win at Keeneland and become only the fourth rider to reach that milestone. On Friday’s opening day of the Spring Meet, Leparoux is named to ride horses in four races. He is named to ride horses in four races on Saturday. 

From the 1980 Spring Meet through the 2004 Fall Meet, Hall of Famer Pat Day captured a record 918 races. Don Brumfield, who also is in the Hall of Fame, is second with 716 victories recorded from the 1959 Spring Meet through the 1989 Spring Meet. Third is Robby Albarado, who scored his first of 526 wins during the 1996 Fall Meet and remains active.

Leparoux won his first race at Keeneland during the 2005 Fall Meet during his first season as a jockey. Since then, he has earned 12 titles as leading jockey during a Keeneland race meet, most recently during the 2019 Fall Meet.

This success at Keeneland has helped Leparoux earn two Eclipse Awards for being the best in his field: as an apprentice in 2006 and again in 2009.

In his career, Leparoux has won 2,789 races and has mount earnings of $173.8 million.


DARRS Inc.’s Extravagant Kid, winner of last Saturday’s Al Quoz Sprint (G1) in Dubai, is scheduled to begin the trip back home today, according to trainer Brendan Walsh.

“He will quarantine in Chicago for 48 hours and then should be down here Sunday or Monday,” Walsh said Thursday morning.

The triumph in Dubai by a half-length represented the first graded stakes victory for Extravagant Kid. Walsh watched the race while flying from Miami to New Orleans.

“I was trying to watch it on my tablet, but the WiFi wasn’t working,” Walsh said. 

“Then I looked and saw the flight had live TV, and I was able to watch the FOX Sports telecast. At the eighth pole, I thought he was going to get a placing and then I thought this guy is going to win the thing.”

Walsh also said Godolphin’s Maxfield, winner of the 2019 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1), is back at Keeneland after arriving this week from Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.

“We will work him a couple times here and then find something for him,” Walsh said of Maxfield, who incurred the first defeat in his six-race career when he finished third in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in his most recent start. “The Alysheba (G2) (at Churchill Downs April 30) is a possibility.” …

Trainer Tim Hamm and Siena Farm’s Dayoutoftheoffice, winner of the Frizette (G1) and runner-up here last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), is likely off the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail.

“We were going to run her in the Fantasy (G3) (at Oaklawn Park Friday), but we are going to wait until Kentucky Oaks Day (April 30) and most likely run in the Eight Belles (G2),” said Hamm, who was at Keeneland Thursday morning to check on his string here. “She had a good breeze at Tampa Sunday morning. (Running in the Oaks) is not 100 percent out of the picture, but going a mile and eighth off a six-month layoff is a lot to ask. After the Eight Belles, probably the Acorn (G1) at Belmont.” …

Keeneland Racing Analyst Tom Leach talks to these trainers about horses racing on Friday’s opening day:

Rusty Arnold on Farsighted in the Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select.

Shug McGaughey on Scarlett Sky in the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3).

Leach also interviewed jockey Drayden Van Dyke about riding at the Spring Meet.


April 9 races. Entries taken Tuesday.

$300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) – Get Smokin (trainer Tom Bush), Raging Bull (FR) (Chad Brown), Ride a Comet (Mark Casse), Sacred Life (FR) (Brown), Somelikmeithotbrown (Mike Maker). Possible: Hit the Road (Dan Blacker), Smooth Like Strait (Michael McCarthy). 

$100,000 Limestone Turf Sprint – Alda (Graham Motion), Feeling Mischief (Michael Campbell), Inajiffy (Joe Sharp), Navratilova (Rusty Arnold), Phantom Vision (Mike Maker), Tobys Heart (Brian Lynch). Possible: Goin Good (Brad Cox), Nimbostratus (FR) (Peter Miller). 

April 10 races. Entries taken Wednesday.

$300,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1) – Daddy Is a Legend (George Weaver), Etoile (FR) (Chad Brown), Micheline (Mike Stidham), Tamahere (FR) (Brown). Possible: Juliet Foxtrot (GB) (Brad Cox). 

$200,000 Stonestreet Lexington (G3) – It’s My House (Robert Hess Jr.), King Fury (Kenny McPeek), Starrininmydreams (Dallas Stewart), Ultimate Badger (Dale Romans). Possible: Unbridled Honor (Todd Pletcher). 

$150,000 Ben Ali (G3) – Possible: Fearless (Todd Pletcher), Night Ops (Brad Cox). 

$100,000 Giant’s Causeway (L) – Dixieincandyland (Eddie Kenneally), In Good Spirits (Al Stall Jr.), Jakarta (Mike Maker), Karak (Wesley Ward). Possible: Oooh Barracuda (Blake Kelly). 

Keeneland Barn Notes

Photo: Essential Quality, (

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