'Unlucky The Last Two Races,' Major Fed Tries To Get Back In Gear In Indiana Derby - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘Unlucky The Last Two Races,’ Major Fed Tries To Get Back In Gear In Indiana Derby

Major Fed will try to rebound in Wednesday’s Indiana Derby

Trainer Greg Foley believes Major Fed is an extremely good horse, the lifelong Louisvillian even allowing himself thoughts of having his first Kentucky Derby starter after Lloyd Madison Farms' 3-year-old colt impressively won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on New Year's Day.

But now is crunch time. Belief isn't enough. The Churchill Downs-based Foley says he needs to be proven right in Wednesday's $300,000, 1 1/8-mile Indiana Derby, in which Major Fed will break from post 8 in the field of 10. The son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper is the 7-2 second choice behind 3-1 favorite Winning Impression.

“If this horse can't run good in this race, we don't need to think about the Kentucky Derby anymore,” Foley said. “Not saying we have to win, but we have to run really good in it. If he doesn't, our Derby hopes are probably at the end. But the horse is going great, and we're expecting a big race.”

Major Fed ranks 17th on the leader board with 30 points toward qualifying for the delayed Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs. A win in the Indiana Derby — worth 20 points —would virtually assure Major Fed a spot, with still time for one more prep race.

Named for 20-time Grand Slam singles winner Roger Federer, Major Fed won on his second attempt after adding blinkers and stretching out in distance at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. That encouraged Foley to run him in a division of the Grade 2 Risen Star, with Major Fed a bit wide on both turns but closing well to finish second by a total of a length.

The march to the Derby then hit a couple snags.

Major Fed drew the rail in a 14-horse field in the Louisiana Derby, breaking slowly to trail the field then coming extremely wide on the far turn to finish a rallying fourth. The trip only got worse in his next start, Churchill Downs' Matt Winn. Breaking from the extreme outside in the 10-horse field, Major Fed was wide and wider on both turns, languishing home last through the stretch.

“I think he's been very unlucky the last two races,” Foley said. “He went from the 1 hole in the Louisiana Derby. He turned his head when they broke and he got left. He was five lengths behind the next-to-last horse going into the first turn, so he had to be 15, 20 lengths out of it. I thought with a decent break that day, if he doesn't win then he's right there. Then the last race, we were in the outside hole, the total opposite. The ground kind of broke out from under him leaving there so he didn't get away great.

“I think you can draw a big line through that race. Maybe I'm wrong. If he doesn't run well in this one, I'd say maybe he just isn't that type. But I don't see that… He's no bad gate horse. He's smart. He doesn't do anything wrong. It's just whatever you want to call it. Bad luck is all I can call it.”

James Graham, the 2019 leading rider at Ellis Park, will ride Major Fed in a race for the first time.

“He's a good rider, and I'm confident in him,” Foley said. “I want somebody who is going to sit still and finish on the horse. I mean, James can ride a variety of ways, but I think he's a good 'sit still and finish strong' rider – and that's what I want on this horse.”

Graham was aboard for a sparkling workout at Churchill Downs, when Major Fed cruised five-eighths of a mile in 1:01 on June 25.

“He worked really well. He picked up, and he kept picking up, which you're going to need in a really good horse,” Graham said. “I liked the way he went off. He went off in 12-flat, picked up down the lane, picked up again on his gallop out. So, I was really happy with that.

“He showed he could run a little bit in a couple of races at the Fair Grounds. He got not a great trip the last time he ran, ran against some good quality. Let's see if we can muster up some more points. He's a solid horse. He does everything you need.”

This year's road to the historic delayed Kentucky Derby is littered with defections to some of the most prominent contenders, including the winners of the Arkansas Derby (Charlatan), Louisiana Derby (Welles Bayou), Rebel (Nadal), Matt Winn (Maxfield) and a division of the Risen Star (Mr. Monomoy).

“He deserves a crack at it,” Graham said. “Because come September, who's going to be left around? We don't know. Hoping some of the heavy heads have to go and take a little bit of a break come September, which I doubt they will. But it's just the way it is. Everybody is pointing to September. If the horse runs good in the Indiana Derby, he's got a good chance to go on to the Kentucky Derby.”

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