Tom and Sandra McKenna's 3-year-old colt Conquest Mo Money will not be running in the Kentucky Derby, the couple announced in a press conference from Sunland Park on Tuesday. Though the son of Uncle Mo has 60 points on the leaderboard, he was not nominated to the Triple Crown, so to enter the Derby starting gate would have required a $200,000 late fee. Instead, McKenna will point Conquest Mo Money to the Preakness Stakes, which will require a $150,000 late nomination fee.
“This was one of the hardest decisions in my whole life,” said McKenna. “I wondered how many people I would disappoint if we don't run, and like any other owners, Sandra and I have always dreamed of the day we could run in the Kentucky Derby.
“In the end, though, I really believe the best choice for Conquest Mo Money is the Preakness.”
Conquest Mo Money won the listed Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland on Feb. 26, then returned to run a good second in the G3 Sunland Derby on March 26. Just three weeks later, the colt ran a very good second to juvenile champion Classic Empire in the G1 Arkansas Derby, bested just a half-length at the wire. McKenna believes that to turn around in another three weeks to run in the Derby would be too much to ask of the young colt, which contributed to his decision to wait for the Preakness.
Another contributing factor for the 81-year-old owner, whose Judge Lanier Racing Stable is named for his grandfather, was the field size for each of the big races. McKenna's opinion is that 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby starting gate is simply too many, and he prefers the 14-horse limit imposed on the Preakness.
Currently, Conquest Mo Money is stabled at Prairie Meadows Racecourse in Iowa, where he shipped following the Arkansas Derby. McKenna's plan is to keep the colt there until the trip to Maryland, though he has not yet decided whether he will van or fly to Pimlico. He joked that, having never flown a horse before, he and his wife would have to purchase an adjoining stall to the horse to save money on the flight.
Another interesting tidbit McKenna offered in the press conference was that he has already been offered seven figures for just a half-interest in Conquest Mo Money, a horse he paid just $8,500 for at the Keeneland November mixed sale last fall (from the Conquest Stables dispersal).
Miguel Hernandez, a former jockey, is the private trainer for the vast majority of McKenna's horses (between 40-50 right now), and has been with the owner for approximately 2 1/2 years. Together, they led the Sunland Park standings for the winter meeting by both wins and earnings.
Read more about trainer Miguel Hernandez and owner Tom McKenna here.
With Conquest Mo Money officially out of the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the points scenario has become a bit more clear. As reported yesterday, the horse currently in the 20th position on the leaderboard, Cloud Computing, is also likely to head to the Preakness instead of the first Saturday in May. Provided that trainer Chad Brown upholds that decision, Untrapped would move up into the 20th spot in the starting gate for trainer Steve Asmussen. Just behind that horse in 21st, and therefore on the bubble, would be another Asmussen trainee, Lookin at Lee.
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