Block Looks for A Little Luck
Trainer Chris Block is hoping that Captivating Moon, the 3-1 favorite for the rescheduled $400,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby, can can convert some hard-luck losses into the colt’s first stakes victory on Wednesday.
Captivating Moon will be ridden by Florent Geroux, who won two stakes last Saturday, including the $750,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup on Arklow.
“He’s just been kind of a hard-luck horse,” Block said by phone from Lexington, where he’s been at the Keeneland sales. “He’s run against some good horses that have just been a little bit better than him at times. He’s also run into some circumstances that I think if there had been more solid pace up front, maybe softening it up, he might have been able to run them down. But he’s pretty hardy, pretty consistent and I expect him to show up Wednesday.”
Captivating Moon, owned and bred by one of Block’s major clients in Lothenbach Stables, possesses six seconds out of 11 lifetime starts, as well as maiden and allowance victories. What's notable is that the seconds have all been in stakes, including Arlington Park’s Grade III American Derby, Churchill Downs’ Grade II American Turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard and Keeneland’s Grade III Transylvania.
“He’s a grinder. He’s not one who has a huge turn of foot,” Block said. “But once he gets his momentum going, he can really stretch it out and keep on moving and trucking down through that stretch. I think he’s been a victim of pace a lot of times.
"The race at Louisville in May, that was just a bog, and it took Frenchy just a long time to get him going. Once he got him going, he got him into a little better ground up high there, and he was able to come on and run a real solid second. But he needs some help up front going anything a mile and an eighth or under.
"I think the mile and five-sixteenths might just hit him real well. The distance allows him to get into gear in his own rhythm, rather than having to push him into gear. I think Flo will be able to get him into a rhythm and he can pick it up and not have to worry about the pace up front.”
Block added blinkers for Captivating Moon’s his most recent start, a respectable fifth in Arlington’s Grade I Secretariat, when the son of the Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon was just a neck out of third in the 1 1/4-mile race.
“We added blinkers to try to get him a little more involved early, so he’s not so far back,” Block said. “Flo seemed to think that helped, and I did, too. So we left them on for this. He’s not the kind of horse that gets too aggressive with them on. I’m hoping it just keeps him a little more focused. He can get a little sloppy when he finishes; he wants to flop to his left lead and back to his right sometimes. My thought was that the blinkers might focus him a little better, to where he does maintain that stretch run without getting sloppy about it.
“In the Secretariat, he put in his run. Of course you want to win, but I think he’s just that kind of horse, beaten three lengths to some good horses, I’m pretty proud of how he ran. But I think he is what he is. I think he’s going to be a pretty useful horse in the longer races next year."
The Chicago-based Block has won five stakes the past decade at Kentucky Downs, including the signature Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup with Ioya Bigtime in 2012 and Suntracer in 2014.
Eighth track for well-traveled Reride
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ 3-year-old colt Reride could be called Reroute for all the traveling he’s done.
Wednesday’s $400,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby will be his eighth track in nine starts. He's raced everywhere from his home tracks in Kentucky to Louisiana’s Delta Downs to Sunland Park in New Mexico, Dubai in the Middle East to Minnesota’s Canterbury Park to Saratoga in his last start, a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes that Winchell won anyway with Tenfold.
The only track Reride has run on twice is Churchill Downs, where he impressively won his debut at 4 1/2 furlongs in June 2017.
Now Reride will be asked by trainer Steve Asmussen to run 1 5/16 mile, but his team thinks that’s actually something the little guy will relish. That’s why he went to Dubai for the $2 million UAE Derby at 1 3/16 miles, finishing third, albeit 21 lengths behind 18-length winner Mendelssohn.
“Steve seems to think he’ll run all day, even though he’s not a whole lot bigger than my Australian shepherd,” Winchell racing manager David Fiske said. “He’s not a big robust guy, but he’s got good action and he can run on either surface.”
Reride won a Keeneland turf allowance in his second career start and was a close fifth in Canterbury’s Mystic Lake Derby this past June for his only two turf starts. When it was suggested that the appeal of the Dueling Grounds Derby, then, was the distance more than the surface, Fiske said with a laugh, “Well, that and the purse money. He has one of the strangest running lines of any horse that’s ever trained.”
Through it all, Reride has won half his eighth starts, including Delta Downs' Big Drama Stakes and Sunland Park's Mine That Bird Derby, earning $404,220.
Fiske said it shouldn’t matter if the Kentucky Downs remains on the softish side after Sunday’s torrential rain.
“He doesn’t weigh too much; he’s not going to sink in the ground much,” Fiske said. “… He’s a handy little guy. He’s always been kind of a typical Candy Ride, kind of light-framed and smooth — but he’s got a set of lungs on him.”
Reride is a son of Winchell’s stakes-winning Tapit mare Remit, who is a full sister to the stable’s $1.5 million-earner, five-time graded stakes-winner and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Tapiture, both being out of the mare Free Spin.