The Kentucky Derby and Oaks are now only
six five weeks away, and for the next three weekends, the points available to prep runners increase to 100-40-20-10. The final futures pool opened on Thursday, and owners who don’t already have a Derby prospect seem to be out in full force trying to buy one!
There’s plenty of racing going on this weekend between the Derby and Oaks points races and the Dubai World Cup, and you can watch much of it on TV! On Saturday, the Jockey Club Tour on Fox will broadcast the Dubai World Cup from 1:00 – 2:30 pm ET, and NBCSports Network will carry the Florida and Louisiana Derby starting at 6:30 pm ET. Be sure to check your local listing!
News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: California Chrome, Candy Boy Top Calif. Works New
Blood-Horse: Borel on Conquest Titan in Arkansas Derby New
Blood-Horse: Commissioner Likely to Run in Arkansas Derby
Blood-Horse: Unbridled Forever Looks to Emulate Dam
Blood-Horse: Florida Derby is Crunch Time for Cairo Prince
Blood-Horse: Triple Crown Infographic: UAE Derby
Blood-Horse: Untapable Headlines Fair Grounds Oaks
Blood-Horse: Upcoming Kentucky Derby Preps to Air on NBCSN
Blood-Horse: Triple Crown Infographic: Louisiana Derby
Blood-Horse: Triple Crown Infographic: Florida Derby
Blood-Horse: Steve Haskin’s Derby Dozen 3/24/2014
Blood-Horse: Q&A With Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin
Blood-Horse: Dance With Fate, Harry’s Holiday Late TC Noms
Brisnet: Uncle Sigh among Wood Memorial probables New
Brisnet: Sherman compares California Chrome with Hall of Famer Swaps New
Brisnet: Sherman on Chrome’s KDFW odds: ‘Well, Jiminey Cricket, that’s a big difference’
Brisnet: In Tune makes stakes debut in Gulfstream Oaks
Brisnet: McLaughlin hails Cairo Prince as his best-ever Derby hope
Brisnet: In Tune makes stakes debut in Gulfstream Oaks
Brisnet: Harry’s Holiday earns late Triple Crown nom with Spiral run
Brisnet: California Chrome installed as 5-1 favorite in Pool 4 of KDFW
Brisnet: Ten announced as late Triple Crown nominees
Brisnet: Honor Code injured, off Derby trail
Brisnet: Sweet Reason, Noble Moon work for Gyarmati
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for March 26
DRF: In Tune stepping up for Pletcher in Oaks
DRF: Dick Jerardi: Chitu is a strong contender amid a changed Derby landscape
Meydan, Saturday March 29, post time: 10:25 ET
1 3/16 miles (9.5 furlongs), synthetic surface
If trainer Aidan O’Brien wins the UAE Derby on Saturday with Giovanni Boldini, expect to see him and the colt in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. In both 2012 and 2013, O’Brien won the UAE Derby with starters who last raced in the Breeders’ Cup and then pointed them to the Kentucky Derby. Daddy Long Legs, 12th in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, did not finish in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Lines of Battle, seventh in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, finished seventh in the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Giovanni Boldini was second in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. O’Brien is getting closer.
But first, Giovanni Boldini, favored on the morning line, has to defeat 11 others at Meydan, including stablemate Sir John Hawkins. Winless since his debut in May 2013 and making his first start since a third-place finish last July, Sir John Hawkins drew unenviable post 10. Only likely longshots Jallota and King Rubi are outside him in the starting gate.
Better positioned in post eight is Toast of New York, who enters off two straight wins at Wolverhampton. The track is one of the few in the UK with a Polytrack surface, and Toast of New York won both his starts over it by a combined 28 lengths. In addition to his proven affinity for synthetics, the colt’s advantage is his early speed, and he’ll likely be an important factor in the UAE Derby pace.
Coming off a 4 1/4-length win in the UAE 2000 Guineas on February 13, Long John may be owner Godolphin’s best bet in this year’s UAE Derby. He is a 4-year-old, however, and not eligible for the Kentucky Derby. Godolphin’s other starter is Paximadia, a Group 2 and Group 3 winner in Australia.
Fans of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Zagora may want to take a look at Asmar, her half-brother. The colt did win his last start, a listed stakes at Meydan on March 8, but he was fifth to Long John in the race before that. Safety Check was fourth to Long John in the same event.
Cooptado, Emirates Flyer, and Sir Jack Layden round out the field. Cooptado is this year’s South American entrant in the UAE Derby, and he is potentially disadvantaged by not having a prep over Meydan’s Tapeta surface. Emirates Flyer defeated Safety Check three starts back and then finished second to Long John on February 13 and Asmar on March 8. Sir Jack Layden is making his first start since last September.
2014 UAE Derby Replay
Gulfstream Park, Saturday March 29, post time: 2:20 ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)
Contested at the Kentucky Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles, this race promises to separate the contenders from the pretenders, as only two of the eight entrants have previously run this far.
House Rules, Penwith and Holiday Magic are the only fillies to return after running in the Grade 2 Davona Dale, a race won in wire-to-wire fashion by the ill-fated Onlyforyou. While she was no threat to the winner, runner-up House Rules did validate legendary trainer Allen Jerkens’ faith in her with a strong performanceâ€”she finished a half length ahead of Aurelia’s Belle who came back recently to win the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks. She has put in two long workouts leading up to this start for the Hall of Fame conditioner, but jockey Alex Solis will still have to carefully negotiate her around that quickly approached first turn while breaking from the far outside 8 post position. Her dam was twice a 10-furlong Group 1 runner-up in Argentina before closing from last-place to get third in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland, so continuing to stretch out in distance shouldn’t be a problem for House Rules.
Regally bred Penwith (by two-time 10-furlong Grade 1 winner Bernardini, out of Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Composure) was a disappointing fourth in the Davona Dale, 14 lengths behind the winner. She already has a victory over the Gulfstream dirt track after shipping down from New York where she finished a game third, just a neck back of Stopchargingmaria and a head behind subsequent Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra runner-up Got Lucky, in the 9-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle last November. Dropping back to the tail-end of the field early on for the first time in the Davona Dale, Penwith also raced with Lasix for the first time in that contest. Usually a positive factor to consider when handicapping, it didn’t work out that way. Two modest 4-furlong workouts don’t provide much information in terms of how ready she is for this race, which promises to have plenty of early speed.
Not to be disrespectful, but Holiday Magic was overmatched in, finishing dead-last and 25 lengths back of Onlyforyou in the Davona Dale. Nothing suggests that she’ll do much better here.
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay owns America, a Bill Mott-trained filly who also contested last year’s Demoiselle, finishing fifth of six runners but less than 4 lengths behind the winner. She began this year on turf, going 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride, in which she finished fifth in the 9-horse field. Flay also owned her dam Lacadena, a turf sprinter whose most impressive race was a runner-up finish behind talented 3-time Grade 1 winner Kodiak Kowboy in the 5-furlong Victoria Stakes at Woodbine. Perhaps that’s why her connections have been so inclined to twice put her on turf. However, this daughter of 12-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy is beautifully bred for dirt staminaâ€”her third dam is Kentucky Oaks winner Blush with Pride, which makes America closely related to another A.P. Indy filly, Kentucky Oaks and Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches. America hasn’t thus far demonstrated the kind of speed others in this field have, but one thing is for sureâ€”she’s bred to run all day.
As noted, there is a lot of speed in this field, beginning with the lightly raced In Tune, the sole Todd Pletcher-trained entry. She’s already defeated the speedy Whomping Willow and Camille Claudel, both in wire-to-wire fashion, so stretching that speed out to 9 furlongs will be a real test. Her damsire may be Triple Crown winner Affirmed, but most of the actual runners in her damline are sprint-milers, like her dam’s half-brother, champion sprinter Rubiano. Another sprint stakes-winning half-sister of her dam, Tap Your Heels produced the lightly raced Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Tapit, who has become a powerhouse young sire with four Breeders’ Cup winners in his first four crops (Stardom Bound, Tapitsfly, Tapizar and Hansen), so precocity and early speed is obviously in her bloodline.
On paper, Whomping Willow looks to have a stamina pedigree, being by two-time 10-furlong Grade 1 winner Mineshaft, out of Canadian Hall of Famer Smart Strike, sire of such notable stamina horses as 4-time 10-furlong Grade 1 winner Curlin and 12-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf champion English Channel. However, the fact that she’s run seven times alreadyâ€”and never beyond 7 furlongsâ€”is a real concern. Running solely sprint distances as a juvenile is not unexpected, but in her three starts this year she’s still in sprints, even losing her last race by 2 1/2 lengths after taking the lead in the stretch. Her speed may keep her competitive early, but it’s difficult to believe that she has the proper preparation to traverse 9 furlongs.
An impressive 19-length maiden winner over a sloppy Laurel track last November, Camille Claudel had no chance in the Busanda after being bumped, squeezed and steadied through much of the race. She came back nicely at long odds to press In Tune last time out, running a clear second throughout in the 9-horse field. Reunited with her Laurel jockey Forest Boyce could make her more comfortable, but the question remains as to whether or not she can get the distance. Her sire Broken Vow was Grade 1-placed at 10 furlongs, while her damsire Silver Charm nearly won the Triple Crown, caught late by Touch Gold in the 12-furlong Belmont. Camille Claudel’s Grade 3-placed dam Charming Ruckus found her best success as a sprinter, winning Woodbine’s prestigious 7-furlong Jammed Lovely Stakes, but she also wrapped up her career with a close-up third-place finish in a 1 1/8 miles allowance race over Polytrack.
The sole closer in the field, Joint Return is on a 3-race win streak that began with her juvenile maiden win at Parx last November. In all three of those starts, including her most recent victory in the Busher at Aqueduct, she was beautifully rated and came rushing late with a terrific turn of foot. She’s been working at Palm Meadows since mid-February, posting a particularly sharp 5-furlong workout leading into this race. Her sire Include won the 1 3/16 miles Grade 1 Pimlico Special in addition to a number of 9-furlong events, while her damsire Brunswick captured the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Whitney Handicap. Given that her dam broke her maiden as a 2-year-old going 1 1/16 miles on turf, there’s every indication that the additional distance shouldn’t be a problem for Joint Return. If the race melts down from an early speed duel, she could be the one running on late for the win.
2014 Gulfstream Oaks Replay
Fair Grounds Oaks
Fair Grounds, Saturday March 29, post time: 4:39 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
The small field of five is led by Grade 1-placed Untapable, runaway winner of the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra in her last start. She has every advantage hereâ€”toting even weight with the rest of the field (121 pounds), not to mention breaking from the advantageous rail post position, Untapable is also proven at this distance. Given that this daughter of 9-furlong Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Tapit is also a half-sister to 10-furlong Grade 1 Secretariat victor Paddy O’Prado, the Kentucky Oaks’ distance shouldn’t be a problem for her moving forward. Current Fair Grounds leading rider Rosie Napravnik is aboard the Steve Asmussen trainee once more.
If ever a filly possessed a Kentucky Oaks pedigree, it’s Unbridled Forever, whose dam Lemons Forever captured the race in 2006 (and who also counts among her direct damline ancestors 1904 Kentucky Oaks winner Audience). Trainer Dallas Stewart has worked her steadily since her Silverbulletday victory in mid-January, and with regular jockey Robby Albarado aboard, she appears to be the main threat to Untapable.
A devastating 10-length winner of the Debutante at Churchill Downs in mid-June, Texas-bred Fiftyshadesofgold endured a horrific trip to finish third (as the favorite) in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga last August. Her 2014 debut was a facile victory in the 7-furlong state-bred Two Altazano at third-tier track Sam Houston, so this will be a serious class test, not to mention stamina challenge. While her sire My Golden Song finished third in the 1 1/8-miles Grade 3 Holy Bull, her damsire Hadif was clearly a sprinter, so it will be interesting to see if new rider Mike Smith can successfully stretch her out in distance. A tantalizing pedigree tidbit: her Grade 1-placed third dam Alysbelle (who won the 1 1/8-miles Grade 2 La Canada at Santa Anita) was a full-sister to 9-time Grade 1 winner (between 9 and 10 furlongs) and Horse of the Year Alysheba. Is there some stamina yet to be revealed in her?
Louisiana-bred Artist Cry is the local hope, but given that this filly has won all three 1-mile turf races she has been entered in (including the restricted Sarah Lane’s Oates Stakes last out), this will be a tremendous challenge for her, moving out of state-bred company and making the transition to dirt. She’s also demonstrated a propensity for running far back in the early going and closing lateâ€”given the proven speed of her competitors, it’s unlikely she’ll make any impact using those tactics. If trainer Wes Hawley had decided to put blinkers on her, she may have become more engaged early on, but that is apparently not the plan.
If Artist Cry is the acknowledged sole late closer in the field, then Larry Jones trainee Mary Rita is the sole early speed, having won both of her last two races in wire-to-wire fashion. Although she has no stakes experience, there is good form surrounding her. In her 2014 debut, she finished fourthâ€”but just a nose back of both the second- and third-place finishers in a race won by Euphrosyne, recent winner of the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn. Two sharp 5-furlong workouts bode well for Mary Rita’s chances here, as does her pedigree. A daughter of acknowledged stamina sire Distorted Humor, Mary Rita boasts a stellar damline, beginning with her second dam, the undefeated Hall of Fame mare Personal Ensign, two-time winner of the 10-furlong Grade 1 Beldame. Other key female family members include two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly champions, My Flag and her daughter Storm Flag Flying, both of whom were Grade 1 winners at 10 furlongs. With such lofty breedingâ€”not to mention the experienced handling of Jones (who has had great success with fillies over the years, including two Kentucky Oaks winners in Proud Spell and Believe You Can)â€”this late-developing filly could run away with this race.
Gulfstream Park, Saturday March 29, post time: 6:48 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
This year’s Grade 1 Florida Derby drew the smallest field since Empire Maker beat just six rivals in 2003. While it may lack in quantity, it does have quality and could produce a legitimate contender or two for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
The field of 3-year-olds will include the winners and a second-place finisher of Gulfstream Park’s biggest 3-year-old races leading to the Florida Derby. The Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes winner Cairo Prince along with Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes victor Wildcat Red and 2nd place finisher General a Rod stand in an enviable position among this year’s class of 3-year-olds. With the calendar about to flip to April, all three runners are top 20 in the current qualifying points standings for the Kentucky Derby. A top-three finish on Saturday essentially locks up an entry into the big race at Churchill Downs.
Among the triumvirate of likely post time favorites, Cairo Prince is the standout. While he has not raced since his impressive 5-length win in the Holy Bull back in January, his stock has risen considering that the third-place finisher in that race, Intense Holiday, went on to win the Grade 2 Risen Star in New Orleans in February. It is the second graded stakes winner Cairo Prince has beaten in his four-race career. He beat Noble Moon, winner of this year’s Grade 2 Jerome Stakes, in last year’s Grade 2 Nashua Stakes. The lone blemish on his record is a second-place finish to Honor Code in the 2013 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. He led late in that race and lost by a nose. A win in the Florida Derby would put him among the favorites for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Wildcat Red has won two straight graded stakes at Gulfstream Park. He preceded his Fountain of Youth win with a victory in the Grade 3 Hutcheson, a 7-furlong sprint. He has been on or near the lead from start to finish in every race of his career. He will break from the number one post position and is almost certain to be the race pacesetter. He has won four races from six career starts — all at Gulfstream Park. Wildcat Red will be ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. He won last year’s Florida Derby aboard Orb and the 2009 edition aboard Ice Box.
General a Rod and Constitution are most likely to press the pace behind Wildcat Red. General a Rod beat Wildcat Red in the 1-mile Gulfstream Park Derby in January. They competed again in the Fountain of Youth, but General a Rod lost by a head after racing close to the eventual winner throughout. The first loss of his four-race career came last year against Conquest Titan, who finished second in the previously mentioned Holy Bull Stakes. General a Rod has run well in all his starts.
Constitution, another possible pace foe for Wildcat Red, has won his only two career races. His front-running wins at Gulfstream Park came against maidens and first level allowance competition. He is regally bred by Tapit, the leading sire in earnings for 2014. His damsire Distorted Humor sired 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. Constitution’s bloodlines are the primary indicator that he could compete against the favorites, given his easy wins against questionable competition
The unfortunately named Spot is an intriguing entry, considering his trainer’s reputation for saddling upset winners in big races. Nick Zito won the 2009 Florida Derby with 20-1 longshot Ice Box two years after winning the Belmont Stakes at 37-1 with Da’ Tara. He brings Spot to this year’s Florida Derby off a win in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes at 7 furlongs at Gulfstream on March 1st. It was Spot’s first race under the Hall of Fame trainer after an undistinguished five-race career with a different trainer. He closed from eight lengths back to win the Grade 2 Swale by two lengths. It’s possible the late burst of speed he flashed in the Swale could be conducive to success at longer distances. The Florida Derby will be his first attempt beyond one mile.
Matador and East Hall are two longshots with graded stakes experience. Matador finished fourth in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes before a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 8th. He is graded stakes placed as a 2-year-old with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. East Hall was beaten by six lengths in finishing fourth in the Fountain of Youth and, in his most recent start, was trounced in the Tampa Bay Derby. The field is rounded out by allowance winner Allstar.
News and Recaps
Constitution Carries On
Constitution beats Wildcat Red in thriller
Constitution ratifies classic credentials in Florida Derby
The Gallop Out – Florida Derby
Florida Derby top three doing well, headed for rematch in Kentucky
2014 Florida Derby Replay
Fair Grounds, Saturday March 29, post time: 7:10 ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)
Stamina in the final furlong could be the deciding factor as to who collects the 100 Kentucky Derby points in Saturday’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
Intense Holiday, the 2-1 morning line favorite, is the only contender in the 10-horse field who has competed at the 1 1/8-miles distance, as he was fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes in November. The colt is coming off a convincing win over the surface in the Grade 2 Risen Star at 1 1/16 miles. Jockey Mike Smith, who was aboard in that race, returns and will guide the Todd Pletcher trainee from the inside post.
What appeals most about Intense Holiday is his apparent appreciation for longer distances as well as his running style. He prefers to come from far off the pace, and there appears to be a favorable pace scenario for him here with speedy In Trouble, Rise Up and Albano entered. Intense Holiday looks to be one of the few competitors who should have no trouble with the stretch-out. He also boasts experience and class with five of his seven starts in graded stakes.
Gold Hawk boasts a dream pedigree, as he’s by 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and out of 2000 champion 2-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Caressing, but he’s yet to have that breakthrough race at the stakes level. It’s interesting to note that the colt has been hard to load and anxious pre-race in both of his stakes attempts, and that’s likely affecting his performance. If he is maturing and can remain calm prior to the start, we could see an improved Gold Hawk on Saturday. Also note that jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who was aboard for a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Lecomte, is back. That swift 6-furlong work in 1:12 on March 17 catches the eye.
Another who deserves a second look is Commanding Curve. He was hampered by an outside post and endured some traffic trouble in the Risen Star. Jockey Robby Albarado took him to the inside and then moved outside where he was forced five-wide in the stretch, and he had nothing left after that. The Dallas Stewart trainee, who has Albarado aboard again, drew more favorably with post 7 and could show improvement with a ground-saving trip.
Louies Flower brought a three-race win streak into the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, but his race was over early as he was headstrong, used up all his energy tugging on the reins and finished last. According to my workout notes, Louie’s Flower missed some training at Oaklawn due to bad weather leading up to that race. He was also coming off a two-month layoff. With that in mind, he’s one to consider for exotics, and that excellent work in the slop at Oaklawn indicates that he might move up if there’s moisture on the track Saturday ( which seems likely given that Fair Grounds cancelled on Friday due to storms. Keep an eye on the weather!).
Albano, half-brother of multiple graded stakes winner Mark Valeski, was coming into this race with the perfect set-up â€“ until he drew the far outside post. This is a concern for the Larry Jones trainee because he’s a colt who prefers to be on the lead or close to the pace. Jockey Kerwin Clark will need to maneuver Albano quickly from the gate and hope that there are no traffic issues that leave him in unfamiliar territory at the back of the pack.
Still, there’s lots to like about the Risen Star runner-up, and he’s training forwardly for the race with two bullet works.
In Trouble, who trains at Palm Meadows in Florida but has yet to race outside of New York, also drew wide with post 9. He’s the wild card of this race. That was a gutsy effort by the Anthony Dutrow trainee in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes when he fought on the inside and finished third after a battle with the talented Samraat and Uncle Sigh. It was most impressive considering that the colt was coming off a five-month layoff. Although he set the pace in that race, he proved that he can rate in both of his wins, which were at sprint distances. The question to weigh is: How tough is the New York competition compared to that of Florida and Louisiana? In Trouble’s performance could be the gauge.
Delta Jackpot winner Rise Up adds blinkers after a disastrous seventh-place finish in the Risen Star. He stumbled at the start, was rank early and faded quickly. Like Louies Flower, Rise Up was returning after a layoff (three months), and he didn’t appear to be comfortable in his position on the inside. He drew a more favorable post here with the 8 hole; although he’s proven that he can rate behind the pace, the stretch-out could be an issue for this talented colt.
The added distance also seems the dominant issue for Lecomte winner Vicar’s in Trouble. The colt, who likes to use his speed early on the front end or close to the pace, was doomed by post 13 in the Risen Star. He was four-wide at the start and, despite being taken out of his game, still rallied to contend in the stretch before he weakened to third. Although he fared much better in the draw this time with post 6, this is a colt who might be stymied by that final furlong.
King Cyrus, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by WinStar Farm, and well-traveled Flat Gone round out the field.
2014 Louisiana Derby Replay
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