Before the rain began Sunday morning, trainer George Weaver had Toyota Blue Grass (G2) winner Vekoma out of the stall to munch on some grass outside Barn 11 at Keeneland.
So, how is the Toyota Blue Grass winner this morning?
“He is well and happy,” Weaver said of the son of Candy Ride (ARG), who is owned by R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables.
And the trainer?
“Well and happy,” Weaver said with a chuckle. “I had no trouble getting up this morning.”
The 3½-length victory secured Vekoma a spot in the starting gate for the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) on May 4 at Churchill Downs and set Weaver up for a second shot at the roses.
In 2015, the Louisville native saddled Tencendur, who finished 17th behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
“We were excited with (Tencendur) coming into the (Derby) off a second place in the Wood Memorial (G2),” Weaver said. “But they are two different horses. Tencendur was more of a stayer, and this horse has a lot of gears.”
Weaver, along with his 16-year-old son, Ben, headed back to South Florida this morning but planned to return to Keeneland later this week.
“Vekoma is going to walk the next three days and then we will come up with a plan (for the Derby),” Weaver said.
Runner-up Win Win Win is scheduled to return to his home base at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland, on Monday. Owned by Live Oak Plantation, Win Win Win closed with a rush to nose out Signalman for second and pick up 40 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby.
“That was kind of important, wasn't it?” trainer Mike Trombetta said. “At the quarter pole, I thought I was going to the Preakness (G1).”
Now with 50 points, a figure that is good for 14th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and a probable spot in the starting gate, Win Win Win could have been on the outside looking in had he finished third and earned 20 fewer points.
“I was watching (the race) on the big screen by the Paddock and then I watched it again on my phone last night. He got stopped on the turn pretty significantly,” Trombetta said. “He had nice momentum, but that's one of the hazards with a big field. Without that, he probably could have made it more interesting (for the winner), but all in all it is probably the happiest I have ever been with a second.”
Like Weaver, Trombetta will be going back for a second shot at the Kentucky Derby. In 2006, he saddled favored Sweetnorthernsaint, who finished seventh behind Barbaro.
“That was a little unique because Sweetnorthernsaint had run a huge race in the Illinois Derby (G2), and that got a lot of people's attention,” Trombetta said. “This guy (Win Win Win) gets his own attention because he can do a mile and a quarter and for him (distance) is not a question. This was only his second race going two turns. It makes me feel a lot better that the horse that beat us in the (Grade 3) Tampa Bay Derby (Tacitus) came back and won the Wood Memorial yesterday.”
Trombetta plans to keep Win Win Win at Fair Hill until a week before the Derby with his final work coming at Fair Hill.
Signalman, who finished third, also will aim for the Kentucky Derby, trainer Kenny McPeek said.
Owned by Tommie M. Lewis, Steve Crabtree, Dean Demaree, David Bernsen, Jim Chambers and Magdalena Racing, Signalman finished third by 3½ lengths and a nose. That margin might cost Signalman a spot in the Derby lineup; he earned 20 qualifying points instead of 40 for a second-place finish.
With a total of 38 points, Signalman is 18th on the Derby leaderboard. With points still available on April 13 in the Stonestreet Lexington (G3) at Keeneland and Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park, Signalman might be excluded from the Derby's 20 horse-limit.
“If he can't make the Derby on points then we will go to the Preakness (G1),” McPeek said. “It is a high-level problem to have. (Signalman and Central Bank Ashland [G1] runner-up Restless Rider) both ran well and that will set them up for the next town. It was a good day overall.”
McPeek said Signalman and Restless Rider, a candidate for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), “will stay at Keeneland another week or two. Maybe they will have another workout at Keeneland, maybe not. I haven't decided. Once they go back to the track to gallop, we will figure out what their energy levels are. Most likely they will have their final works at Churchill.”
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