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Owner and Trainer of Animal Kingdom Headed Back to the Kentucky Derby

By Steve Davidowitz | Going into the $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday, Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor International, thought he might be following a familiar script.

"This is the race that ANIMAL KINGDOM won last year that set him up for a possible trip to the Kentucky Derby," Irwin said. "Now we're going to see if WENT THE DAY WELL is a horse who deserves to make the same trip."

Not long after Went the Way Well scored a convincing 3-1/2 length win over HOLIDAY PROMISE in the Spiral, Irwin e-mailed this simple straightforward comment:

"I love this horse," Irwin said.  "He's a good one."

Irwin knows a good horse when he sees it, having bought dozens of good horses for his Team Valor syndications -- an ownership group under his direction that consists of many small and medium size investors.

"This horse already has handled dirt just fine," said Irwin, pointing out that Went the Way Well has won a race on the dirt track at Gulfstream Park. "While we might need to run him one more time before the Kentucky Derby just because he is still learning, still green... We have the earnings we need to get in the race and we’re confident he will be a horse who will be one of the top contenders."

As suggested in this space Saturday morning, it probably will take at least $220,000 in Graded Stakes earnings for a horse to break into the Top 20 and thus qualify for a post position assignment for the $2 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 5.

Went the Way Well jumped over that hurdle on Saturday, having earned $300,000 in the Grade-2 Spiral.

The next day, about 1200 miles to the southwest  on the New Mexico-Texas state border, another horse -- DADDY NOSE BEST -- earned his ticket to the 1-1/4 mile Run for the Roses in Louisville with a hard fought victory in the $800,000 Sunland Derby over locally based  ISN'T HE CLEVER.

Already a Grade-3 stakes winner of $120,000 by virtue of his score in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in February, Daddy Nose Best finished strongly to get up in time and put $400,000 more in his Graded Stakes bankroll.

Second place finisher Isn't He Clever earned $176,000 and the Bob Baffert trained Stirred Up earned $96,000. Both horses will need to do at least as well in another Graded Stakes if they are to make the Derby field.

The big disappointment in the Sunland Derby was Bob Baffert's CASTAWAY, the 17-10 betting favorite who was fried in a hot pace duel with the Todd Pletcher trained ENDER KNIEVEL. Both horses zipped through fast early fractions clocked in 22.48 for the quarter mile; 46.24 for a half mile and 1:10.83 for six furlongs.

Tactically, there seemed no earthly reason for these two horses to duel each other into submission. But, that is exactly what their 'world class' jockeys John R .Velazquez  (aboard Ender Knievel) and Raphael Bejarano (aboard Castaway) did. For their suicidal efforts, they finished fifth and seventh respectively, while setting the race up for the late rally by Daddy Nose Best.

The final clocking for the 1-1/8 mile distance was a very good 1:48.59 and the performance definitely stamped the son of Scat Daddy as a Derby prospect with a strong late kick.

At this point, it probably should be pointed out that most of the leading Derby contenders have shown considerable speed and mild closing punch. That group includes Derby favorites UNION RAGS, HANSEN and EL PADRINO, along with Rebel Stakes winner SECRET CIRCLE, the improving BODEMEISTER, the rejuvenated GEMOLOGIST and the Spiral Stakes winner Went The Day Well, who rallied from a stalking position in his important win on the Polytrack Saturday at Turfway.

Right now, the most formidable stretch running types on the Triple Crown Chase are: CREATIVE CAUSE, DULLAHAN, OPTIMIZER, ALPHA and DADDY NOSE BEST.

Added Note: Next weekend we will see a wide range of Derby contenders in the $2 million UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai; the $1 million Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds; and the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. Stay tuned.