Racing Spotlight: Express Train, Kendrick Carmouche, Antonio Sano
Racing Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights a horse, jockey, and trainer with insightful information to help our players be informed.
This week, we look at graded-stakes winner Express Train, who makes his first start outside of California; Kendrick Carmouche, whose career has skyrocketed to new levels; and Kenny McPeek, who is making news with longshots and champions.
Horse spotlight: Express Train
Express Train rolls into Hot Springs, Ark., on Saturday as the favorite in the $1 million Oaklawn H. (G2), making his first start outside of California.
The bay colt won his four-year-old debut by a convincing 3 1/4 lengths in San Pasqual S. (G2) on Jan. 30, punching his ticket to the Santa Anita H. (G1) on the same oval.
In the Big ‘Cap, he took the lead on the far turn and held it until the deep stretch, where he was caught late. In a tremendous effort, he finished second by half a length to Idol, who was third in the San Pasqual. Even-money favorite Maxfield, who lost for the first time in six starts, was third.
Trainer John Shirreffs is looking for his second Oaklawn H. victory. Known for conditioning three-time champion Zenyatta and Giacomo, winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1), he took the Oaklawn H. in 2008 with Tiago.
Jockey Juan Hernandez will wear the silks of Lee and Susan Searing, high school sweethearts who have been married for over 40 years, who race under the name C R K Stables.
Express Train’s rivals include Silver State, whose four-win streak is topped by two listed stakes at Oaklawn and Fearless, winner of the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2).
He was sired by Union Rags, winner of the 2012 Belmont S. (G1).
Jockey spotlight: Kendrick Carmouche
Kendrick Carmouche won his first Grade 1—Aqueduct’s Cigar Mile on Dec. 5—riding True Timber for Calumet Farm and capping a fall meet where he secured his first NYRA riding title. He has stayed at the top level of the game into 2021.
Carmouche ranks seventh among North American jockeys in both wins (68) and purse earnings (over $4 million), and he's won at a 21% rate and has finished in the trifecta at a 56% rate. He is approaching 3,400 career wins.
In a competition that came down to closing day, Carmouche finished two races short of the Aqueduct winter riding title.
On April 3, he reached another milestone while riding for Calumet Farm: He piloted 72-1 longshot Bourbonic to victory in the Wood Memorial (G2), his first win in the Kentucky Derby prep race. Carmouche has never had a Derby mount.
He won two other graded stakes since 2021 began.
“These past six months of my career have just been what you dream of,” he said.
Carmouche, 37, grew up near Delta Downs, where he started his career. He later moved his tack to the Philadelphia area, and where he notched six straight seasons with over 200 victories and won seven riding titles at Parx.
His father and brother were jockeys, and at one point, the three rode on the same circuit.
Trainer spotlight: Kenny McPeek
Last Saturday, trainer Kenny McPeek made headlines with a longshot victory on the final day to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby (G1). This Saturday, he brings a champion to duel a champion in the $1 million Apple Blossom H. (G1).
At 18-1 odds, King Fury upset the Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland, and he is now ranked 26th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The son of Curlin won by 2 3/4 lengths on a sloppy track.
“If his points get him in to the Kentucky Derby, we will probably run,” McPeek said. “It is his home track and he has won there. If he doesn’t get in the Derby, he will run in the Preakness (G1). He seems like a horse that is ready to do all that. We will have to see how that ball bounces. It is out of our control, but we will keep his work schedule the same.”
McPeek’s Swiss Skydiver, who made history by defeating the boys in the 2020 Preakness, goes off at shorter odds this Saturday at Oaklawn, where she is currently the second choice behind Monomoy Girl.
In her first start against older horses, including Monomoy Girl, Swiss Skydiver finished seventh in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) after stumbling at the start of the race. She rebounded in her four-year-old bow, winning the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.
"It's going to be interesting. I don't know what else you can say. I know a lot of people are excited about it. I know we are," McPeek said. "We're coming with a beast."
McPeek’s North American career earnings exceed $89 million with 1,764 wins.