Did you miss us? We missed you and we’re happy to be back for our FIFTH year of the Derby Prep Alert! As we did last year, we’ll bring you free past performances for every Kentucky Derby and Oaks race we cover, courtesy of our partner, Brisnet.com.
Unlike last year, we have a new format! Now you’ll read the previews and grab the free Brisnet.com past performances at our here at our site. We’ll also continue to curate news links about the Derby & Oaks contenders. And instead of providing recaps from the previous week, we will update each week’s previews with a Brisnet.com chart and links to recaps from around the web so you’ll have all the information about each prep race in one easy-to-find location. Be sure to check back after the races!
News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: Bond Holder Out of Risen Star With Injury
Brisnet: Kaplan hoping for return to Triple Crown trail
Brisnet: Fiftyshadesofgold to train up to Fair Grounds Oaks
Brisnet: Vicar’s in Trouble to move in after Bond Holder defection
Brisnet: Commissioner, Top Billing get rematch in Fountain of Youth
Brisnet: Conquest Titan skips Fountain of Youth, awaits Florida Derby
Brisnet: California Chrome on course for San Felipe; Baffert brigade posts works
Brisnet: Divine Beauty, Cassatt both out of Rachel Alexandra
Brisnet: Cairo Prince goes ‘perfect’ half-mile in first work since Holy Bull
Brisnet: Dutrow targets Gotham for In Trouble
DRF: Kentucky Derby: McGaughey has two top prospects for repeat bid
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for Feb. 19, 2014
DRF: Gulfstream Park: Saturday allowance could have Florida Derby implications
Davona Dale Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday Feb 22, post time: 4:33 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
Perennial top 3-year-old filly trainer Todd Pletcher sends out two top Kentucky Oaks contenders, Stopchargingmaria and Onlyforyou. In terms of class, Stopchargingmaria tops the field, being twice Grade 1-placed and most recently outdueling stablemate Got Lucky to win the 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 Demoiselle. In this, her first start since late November, she’ll reunite with jockey John Velazquez, but breaking from the far outside post in this field of eight isn’t advantageous. Stablemate Onlyforyou drew the more favorable post position 3, but the challenge for her will be extending beyond a sprint distance for the first time. Winner of the 7-furlong Grade 2 Forward Gal over this track, she’s certainly bred to run long, being by sire Malibu Moon (who produced last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Orb) out of Erhu, a mare who was Grade 3-placed going 1 1/16 miles on turf.
In terms of breeding, Penwith is a standout. By multiple Grade 1 winner Bernardini out of Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Composure, this filly finished third, just a neck behind Stopchargingmaria, in the Demoiselle after leading much of the race. In her next start, jockey Luis Saez chose to put her in a stalking position, and she closed determinedly to win by a nose. Having prior racing experience over the Gulfstream surface is certainly beneficial for her, and her top speed figures place her in prime contention for victory.
Like Onlyforyou, Aurelia’s Belle will be stretching out for the first time after her runner-up finish in the Forward Gal. Everything in her breeding suggests the added distance will not be a problem; her sire, Lemon Drop Kid, won the 1 1/2-miles Belmont Stakes in 1999. Additionally, her Grade 2-winning second dam is a full-sister to Santa Anita Oaks winner Althea, a filly who went to post as the 1984 Kentucky Derby favorite after her victory in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Aurelia’s Belle will have to endure yet another jockey change, with veteran Joe Rocco Jr. taking the reins.
Both Holiday Magic and Luna Santa showcased their talents over the all-weather Ocala training center track in non-wagering stakes events last out, but neither made much of an impact. In the 1 1/16 miles OBS Championship, Holiday Magic weakened late to finish third, while Luna Santa flailed about, only managing to pass tiring rivals to finish a distance fifth in the 6-furlong OBS Sprint. Based on their monikers, these two would make a fitting exacta wager, but neither has thus far demonstrated the kind of speed necessary to defeat their more accomplished foes.
The final two entries are both mere maiden winners, but each has some intriguing features. Abou will be making only her second lifetime start, not to mention stretching out beyond 6 furlongs for the first time. By stamina-rich sire Distorted Humor, she’s also got a damside rich in class and stamina, including her half-brother Grade 3 Illinois Derby winner Joe Vann. Also sired by Distorted Humor, House Rules is out of the multiple Grade 1-placed Argentine mare Teamgeist. It may have taken four attempts for her to break her maiden, but each effort was better than the last, with strong speed figures and subsequent good form for her opponents. Please Explain, who defeated her in December, came back to win the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay by a powerful six lengths recently, while Lucky for You rebounded from her defeat to House Rules by sharply breaking her maiden at Gulfstream by five lengths. The fact that Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens thinks highly enough of her to enter against the likes of Pletcher’s two fillies makes her a tantalizing longshot possibility.
2014 Davona Dale Stakes Replay
Rachel Alexandra Stakes
Fair Grounds, Saturday Feb 22, post time: 5:25 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
An improbable Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner at odds of 32-1, Ria Antonia makes her 2014 debut after posting a series of sharp workouts at Fair Grounds, including an impressive bullet 4-furlong work most recently. She’s got good form against males, including recent Grade 2 Holy Bull runner-up Conquest Titan, but her elevation to victory in the Breeders’ Cup after the somewhat controversial disqualification of She’s a Tiger for interference didn’t endear her to Eclipse Award voters, who overwhelmingly made She’s a Tiger the 2-year-old female horse of 2013. Joe Talamo, one of California’s leading riders, will be aboard, the fourth jockey to ride her in six lifetime races.
Post-time favoritism will likely fall to either Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet winner Streaming or Grade 2 Demoiselle runner-up Got Lucky. Both are beautifully bred and already proven at the distance. For Streaming, this will be her second effort off a break, as she began the year with a narrow runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes. This Bob Baffert-trained filly should be able to run all dayâ€”her dam is a half-sister to two 1-1/2 miles Belmont Stakes winners, Jazil and the incomparable filly champion Rags to Riches. Got Lucky’s pedigree is likewise resplendent in quality and stamina, with close-up relatives including Belmont Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Cat and Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. She too is making her second start off a break, having broken her maiden over a sloppy Gulfstream track in late January for trainer Todd Pletcher. Here she’ll be reunited with jockey Mike Smith, who guided her in a dynamic runner-up effort versus the highly regarded Shopchargingmaria going 1 1/8 miles in last November’s Demoiselle.
Untapable has also proven herself already over this 1 1/16 miles distance, having captured the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes last September at Churchill Downs before a disappointing effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She rebounded, though, ending the year with a third-place finish behind Streaming in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. Freshened up, this half-sister to multi-surface Grade 1 performer Paddy O’Prado has posted regular workouts at Fair Grounds for trainer Steve Asmussen over the past month and will be reunited with Fair Grounds’ leading jockey, Rosie Napravnik.
Two also-rans in the Silverbulletday Stakes, Express Model and Army are completely overmatched here, but for a longshot chance, Shanon Nicole is worth a look. Her first six starts were all on turf, but when her last race at Fair Grounds was taken off the grass, she was a revelation, rating well mid-pack in the early going before effortlessly moving to the lead rounding the final turn and pulling away to win with ease. Her modestly bred dam was an iron horse in the claiming ranks, hitting the board more than 50% of the time in her 74 starts over a seven-year career, but her sire Majestic Warrior gave us last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar. Trainer Mike Maker has enlisted the services of jockey Robby Albarado, who previously rode her to a narrow second-place finish in a turf allowance race at Churchill Downs last November.
Fountain of Youth Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday Feb 22, post time: 5:33 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
With 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby going to the winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, the first-place finisher will secure a place in the gate for the big day at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May. If last year is any indication, 50 qualifying points would place the winner near the top 10 at the end of this year’s Derby prep season. With the top 20-point earners qualifying for the Derby, the Fountain of Youth and all of the designated prep races going forward are “win-and-you’re-in.”
Last year’s Fountain of Youth included Violence, a two-time graded stakes winner making his first start as a 3-year-old. The highly touted colt finished second and suffered an injury that ended his career. Orb was exiting a strong performance in an allowance race and earned his first graded stakes in beating Violence and seven others. Orb went on to win the Kentucky Derby, making him the first Fountain of Youth winner to do so since Thunder Gulch in 1995.
While this year’s field of 13 lacks a colt with a resume like Violence’s, it does include a few promising colts with hopes of following the same path set by Orb in 2013.
One colt in particular, Top Billing, draws the most parallels with last year’s winner. Top Billing shares the same trainer (Shug McGaughey) and jockey (Joel Rosario) as Orb. Like Orb, he will also be making his graded stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth after winning his last race with an impressive stretch run from off the pace. Unfortunately, Top Billing drew an outside post position. In races at one mile and over at Gulfstream Park this meeting, 77 runners have started in posts 10 or higher and only three have managed to cross the line first. His outside post is a real disadvantage, but his off-the-pace running style is ideal given the tough draw. If he wins from post 12, he would go on the shortlist of early favorites to win the roses in May.
Commissioner beat Top Billing by a neck in a first-level optional claiming race at Gulfstream on January 3rd. He is the morning-line favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher, the leading trainer at Gulfstream for the last 10 seasons. Like Top Billing, he has only three career races and will be making his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth. His sire, A.P. Indy, won the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic and has been among the most successful sires of his generation. Commissioner has limited race experience, but his human connections and royal bloodlines make him a promising contender among this year’s 3-year-old class. He drew the number one post position and should get a good trip behind the pacesetters with jockey John Velazquez in the saddle.
We Miss Artie won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on the Polytrack last year, making him the lone Grade 1 winner in the field. In his lone graded stakes race on dirt, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he finished seventh, four lengths behind the winner. In that race, he kept pace with the frontrunners into the stretch but faded late. While he has run his best races on synthetic and turf, his run in the Breeders’ Cup provides some hope that he could be a stakes horse on the dirt. He finished second by a head on the turf at Gulfstream last month and could be an interesting alternative to the favorites.
Medal Count, like We Miss Artie, also ran in the BC Juvenile where he finished a well-beaten 11th, beating only two other horses. He finished second in his 3-year-old debut at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf as the post-time favorite. His sire, Dynaformer, also sired Barbaro, winner of the Holy Bull Stakes and Florida Derby at Gulfstream as well as the Kentucky Derby in 2006.
The top two finishers in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes, a 7-furlong sprint at Gulfstream in January, will try to prove themselves as route runners in the Fountain of Youth. Wildcat Red, the Hutcheson winner, was second in his lone start beyond 7 furlongs when he finished behind another Fountain of Youth starter, General a Rod, in the Gulfstream Park Derby.
C Zee finished second to Wildcat Red in the Hutcheson and has only one win in four career starts. He has never raced beyond seven furlongs. C Zee was sired by Elusive Bluff, a Florida stallion with a $750 stud fee. Compare that to Commissioner, whose sire A.P. Indy commands a $150,00 stud fee. C Zee would make for a great story should he pull the unlikely upset for Florida trainer Stanley Gold.
The impressive winner of last month’s Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream, Cairo Prince, will skip the Fountain of Youth, but three also-rans from the Holy Bull will return in the Fountain of Youth. Almost Famous, who was running second in the stretch of the Holy Bull before fading to fourth, seems the most promising among those exiting that race. Our Caravan and Best Plan Yet never threatened and finished fifth and eighth.
Casiguapo (scratched) has two graded stakes placings with second-place finishes in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot and Grade 1 Hopeful. He ran poorly in his 3-year-old debut, a 6-furlong sprint at Gulfstream, where he never threatened and finished fifth.
In spite of his name, Heisinfront has won just once from five career starts. He was beaten seven lengths by Fountain of Youth contender Top Billing in January.
With 10 career starts, the Florida-based East Hall is the most experienced runner in the field. He has crossed the line first just once, in his maiden win last year.
This year’s Fountain of Youth may lack star-power, but it does include a few promising starters who would jump onto the list of major players with a win.
Recaps and News:
Wildcat Red claws out Fountain of Youth win
Wildcat Red outduels General a Rod in Fountain of Youth
Wildcat Red wins thrilling edition of Fountain of Youth Stakes
Florida Derby Rematch Possible for Wildcat Red And General A Rod
Wildcat Red, General a Rod exit Fountain of Youth duel in good order
2014 Fountain of Youth Stakes Replay
Risen Star Stakes
Fair Grounds, Saturday Feb 22, post time: 6:25 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
As the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races moves from the Prep Season (10 points to the winner) to the Championship Series (50 points to the winner) this Saturday, the stakes are higher and the competition is deeper.
That’s most evident with the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, which drew a field of 14 plus two also-eligibles. From stakes winners to maidens and speedy frontrunners to late closers, the group is diverse, and it’s tough to narrow down to just one choice in the 1 1/16 miles test.
The complexion of the race changed Wednesday when Grade 1 FrontRunner winner Bond Holder was scratched. According to trainer Doug O’Neill’s official Facebook page, the colt won’t race due to the “effects of his having a tough flight going to Louisiana” and will now target the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 8.
Vicar’s In Trouble was just that â€“ in trouble after drawing the 14 post, a difficult spot from which to navigate. With the scratch of Bond Holder, he will break from post 13, which is an improvement but still daunting. So far this meet, no contender in a 1 1/16 miles race on dirt has won from post 8 or beyond. The son of graded stakes winner Into Mischief, trained by Mike Maker and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, went from state-bred maiden winner to Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes victor and in fine fashion. He was green in the stretch, but it didn’t matter as he extended his lead throughout and won the 1 mile, 70-yard test easily.
Vicar’s In Trouble has a lot to overcome Saturday, but he does have some favorable factors. The 11 post didn’t hamper him in his second start when he romped by 13 lengths in the 6-furlong maiden race at Fair Grounds on Dec. 14. Also, the colt has jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard. She has ridden Vicar’s In Trouble in his three starts and is a three-time Fair Grounds riding title winner. History isn’t on his side, but Notional overcame the challenge and won the Risen Star in 2007 from post 12. Still, the wide post is glaring when studying the field.
Joe Sharp, Maker’s assistant trainer, said he’d rather have the wide post than the rail.
“The outside post shouldn’t bother him,” Sharp said in the Fair Grounds press notes.
“He’s not a horse that has ever had any issues in the gate. We’ve never had any gate problems with him.
“If he can make the lead from out there with enough room to get over more toward the inside that will be fine, but if he can’t he really doesn’t need the lead. He’s been behind horses in the morning and it doesn’t bother him. He’s not going to come off the bridle. It’s not going to hurt his feelings if he doesn’t have the lead.”
Along with Vicar’s In Trouble, an early pace factor might also be Grade 3 Delta Jackpot winner Rise Up, who is making his 3-year-old debut on the fifth track on which he’s raced. Rise Up, Commanding Curve and also-eligible Teniente Coronel are the only contenders with a win at the Risen Star distance. Rise Up, trained by Tom Amoss, has proven he can carry his speed and will rely on a quick start from the gate. He’s worked well over this surface and is a logical factor, but can he hold off all these promising closers?
Lecomte runner-up Albano, a half-brother of 2012 Risen Star runner-up Mark Valeski, looks like a colt who could rebound with a strong performance. The Larry Jones trainee was three-to-four wide throughout the Lecomte and vigorously passed Vicar’s In Trouble on the gallop-out. He’s fared well from the rail position over this track previously and could benefit from an inside, stalking trip this time around.
California invader Hoppertunity, trained by Bob Baffert, showed substantial improvement in his second start going a mile at Santa Anita. He has no pre-race works over the track, but the fact that jockey Martin Garcia makes the trip adds confidence. Garcia guided Code West to a nose defeat to longshot Ive Struck a Nerve in last year’s Risen Star. Shipping and taking on this level of stakes company in a second start is a tall task; if he emerges victorious here, he’s a serious player.
Intense Holiday is a closer who often seems to be doing his best running late. This Todd Pletcher-trained colt, who will have Mike Smith aboard for the first time, has held his own against the classiest of the crop. He was a rallying third after a wide trip in the Grade 2 Holy Bull and was fourth in the talent-laden Grade 2 Remsen Stakes that featured Honor Code and Cairo Prince. This colt should give a good account of himself while utilizing the long Fair Grounds stretch to his advantage. Pletcher knows how to prepare a runner for this race as he’s won two of the last four Risen Stars.
Commanding Curve is an upset candidate with Robby Albarado aboard. Those sizzling fast works over the Fair Grounds surface â€“ including a bullet at 6 furlongs – can’t be ignored. He’s at a disadvantage with a wide post, but he had no trouble from post 11 when he won at this distance at Churchill Downs. The only drawback is the layoff. He hasn’t raced since Nov. 30.
Although he disappointed as the favorite in the Lecomte, Gold Hawk merits a look. He was fractious prior to that race and was making his third start in a two-month span. The son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker is bred for route races. He looked fantastic winning an optional claiming test over this surface on Dec. 27. Corey Nakatani travels from California for the mount.
Quick Indian is a steadily improving colt trying stakes for the first time. While he appears in over his head here, he’s one who could fit into exotics. Son of a Preacher has yet to run back to his debut win at Churchill Downs, but trainer Bret Calhoun is having a stellar meet so far.
The scratch of Bond Holder opens the door for Turfway Park shipper Emmett Park, who will draw in off the also-eligibles list and embark from post 14. He’s a closer who is 2 for 2 on Turfway’s synthetic and he will test dirt for the first time.
Maiden Vigorish, Whirling Ash Stakes winner Interchange and locally-based colts Flat Gone and Xtra Luck round out the field.
Recaps and News:
Intense Holiday Charges to Risen Star Victory
Intense Holiday gets up late in Risen Star
Intense Holiday looks good in Risen Star â€“ once owners get to see race
Intense Holiday, Albano to renew rivalry in Louisiana Derby
2014 Risen Star Stakes Replay
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