“I didn’t have the right horses then,” the 39-year-old Blacker said Thursday, the morning after he arrived here with what would qualify as a “right horse” in Hit the Road. The Grade 1 winner looms as one of the favorites for Friday’s 33rd running of the $300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1).
Owned by the partnership of D K Racing, Radley Equine, Taste of Victory Stables, Rick Gold, Tony Maslowski and Dave Odmark, Hit the Road galloped on the main track Thursday.
A Keeneland sales graduate, Hit the Road brings a four-race win streak into the Maker’s Mark Mile. That skein includes a victory in the Thunder Road (G3), which gave Blacker his first graded stakes triumph, and a narrow win in the Frank Kilroe Mile (G1) for Blacker’s initial Grade 1 tally.
“He’s a really good horse. He’s a Grade 1 winner and there is not much better than that,” Blacker said.
The Maker’s Mark Mile represents the first venture outside California for Hit the Road.
“A couple things I am looking for is to see how he handles the ship, and I am doing my anti-rain dance,” Blacker said. “I would prefer for it to be firm (turf) tomorrow.”
Heavy rain is forecast for Lexington beginning Thursday afternoon and going until midnight.
Blacker said Hit the Road likely would return to his home base at Santa Anita following Friday’s race and he would not consider the $1 million Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) at 1 1/8 miles May 1 at Churchill Downs.
“My gut feeling is that he is a miler,” Blacker said. “Most likely we’d wait for the ($500,000) Shoemaker Mile (G1) on Memorial Day (May 25). If I did (run him) a mile and eighth, it would be at Santa Anita.”
Florent Geroux, who was aboard for the victory in the Kilroe, has the mount Friday.
New Boss goes gate-to-wire to victory in the Allen “Black Cat” Lancombe Memorial Stakes and the Fair Grounds, March 6, 2021. (Hodges Photography/Jan Brubake)
New Boss will try to take charge of TVG Limestone Turf Sprint
New Boss, who is entered in Friday’s $100,000 Limestone Turf Sprint, became the first stakes winner for owners Barry and Carol Conrad of Dallas on March 6 when she won the $75,000 Allen “Black Cat” LaCombe Memorial at Fair Grounds. The Conrads plan to be at Keeneland for the stakes along with their son and daughter-in-law, who both work at the University of Kentucky, and their two grandchildren.
“That gives us a reason to come (to Lexington) in addition to coming to Keeneland,” Barry Conrad said about his connections to the area.
Bret Calhoun trains New Boss, a daughter of Street Boss who won her career debut in August at Lone Star Park at 5½ furlongs on dirt. After two disappointing races on the dirt at Indiana Downs as the favorite, Calhoun switched her to the turf. She responded to the new surface in two 5½-furlong allowance races in December at Fair Grounds, recording a runner-up finish and a victory by 4½ lengths. In her 2021 debut, New Boss won the 1-mile LaCombe Memorial by 2¾ lengths.
“(Racing at Keeneland) definitely was on our radar when she started running well on grass,” said Calhoun, who said the 1-mile Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association on April 3 also was an option for New Boss. “This was the next logical spot to come. And we were coming up here anyway (with a stable of horses).”
Conrad purchased New Boss for $45,000 at Keeneland’s 2019 September Yearling Sale. He said he works with Eddie Milligan Jr. of Twin Oaks Training Center in Texas in selecting two to four horses each year at the auction.
New Boss, whose second dam is a full sister to two-time sprint champion Housebuster, was consigned by Hinkle Farms.
“We always take a look at Hinkle Farms,” Conrad said of his strategy at the sale. “They’ve become friends and are honorable, good people. (New Boss) had a couple of little baby issues, which I think turned some people off. I liked her. She caught our eye.”
Conrad, a small funds manager for banks, said he has been involved in Thoroughbred racing for almost 20 years.
“Many years ago,” he said, “I told my wife when all the kids were off the payroll, I was going to buy a racehorse. She laughed at me and said, ‘OK, I’m going to get you a subscription to BloodHorse every year for Christmas.’
“She said, ‘I don’t think it’ll get any further than that,’ but by golly it did.”
The Conrads’ first racehorse was a filly who ran on the Texas circuit, and they later purchased a small farm. They now have four horses in training with Calhoun.
Adam Beschizza is named to ride New Boss for the fourth consecutive race. She will start from post six in the field of 13 for the TVG Limestone Turf Sprint and is 6-1 on the morning line.
Conrad is confident in his filly, who will be facing several runners who competed in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland and represent some of the most prominent owners and trainers in the sport.
“If you go to Keeneland,” he said, “that’s what you have to expect. Everybody wants to send their best.”
Tobys Heart winning the Bolton Landing August 19, 2020 at Saragota. (Susie Raisher)
Flashy filly Tobys Heart ready to go in Limestone Turf
One of the flashiest 2-year-olds to debut in 2020 was Tobys Heart, who won at first asking over the turf at Churchill Downs by 6¾ lengths in June and 2½ months later cruised to victory as the 1-2 favorite in the Bolton Landing (L) at Saratoga.
After being sidelined for a fall campaign, Tobys Heart returned to the work tab in late December at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida. She returned to the races Feb. 27 and finished sixth going 1 1/16 miles in the Herecomesthebride (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
“We wanted to get a race into her before we left Florida, and we had limited options,” Lynch said. “It was a nice fit and she is ready to roll this time.”
Javier Castellano has the mount Friday.
UPCOMING STAKES PROBABLES
Race Friday, April 16. Entries taken Sunday
$100,000 Baird Doubledogdare (G3) – Bajan Girl (trainer Rohan Crichton), Bonny South (Brad Cox), Eres Tu (Arnaud Delacour), Graceful Princess (Todd Pletcher), His Glory (Joe Sharp), Royal Flag (Chad Brown), Speech (Michael McCarthy).
Race Saturday, April 17. Entries taken Wednesday, April 14
$200,000 Elkhorn (G2) – Crafty Daddy (Kenny McPeek), Fantasioso (ARG) (Ignacio Correas IV), Red Knight (Bill Mott).
SPRING MEET SPECIAL EVENTS
Friday, April 9
The popular College Scholarship Day Presented by Lane’s End is being held virtually. https://www.keeneland.com/racing/college-scholarship-day-presented-lanes-end-registration-form to pre-register by 5 p.m. on Friday for a chance to win one of $35,000 in scholarships or a prize package provided by a local Lexington business. Lane’s End is giving two students a chance to win a $5,000 scholarship and enjoy a day at the races. Coca-Cola and Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, additional sponsors of the event, will give away a total of $25,000 in scholarships.
Saturday, April 10
On the day of the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1), Stonestreet Lexington (G3), Ben Ali (G3) and Giant’s Causeway (L), Keeneland will hold the $3,000 Grade One Gamble handicapping contest. Prizes include cash and as many as six berths in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and 10 spots in the National Horseplayers Championship. The Grade One Gamble is open to players who use an ADW. The deadline to enter is noon on April 10. (https://www.keeneland.com/keeneland-grade-one-gamble-handicapping-challenge for more information and to enter.)
Sunday, April 11
For the Kids Club Family Day Presented by Kentucky Children’s Hospital, five lucky families will have the chance to enjoy a day at the races. Kids Club Families will be emailed a registration link to enter to win the contest.
https://www.keeneland.com/discover/keeneland-kids-club and proceed to the contest registration.
Keeneland Barn Notes
Top Photo: Hit the Road, (Benoit)