Last week’s thrilling renewal of the Gotham appeared to be just what the doctor ordered for early onset Derby fever. Samraat, Uncle Sigh and In Trouble came out of the race in good shape and are currently pointing to the Wood Memorial on April 5.
In addition to Awesome Baby’s dominant front-running victory in the Santa Ysabel, the Kentucky Oaks nominations were announced. Grab the free Brisnet.com past performances and get to know all 121 of them!
Long-time readers of the Derby Prep Alert may remember Derby trail graduates and San Anita Handicap headliners Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge. Catch them in action on the Jockey Club’s new Jockey Club on Fox series this Saturday airing at 7pm ET. If for some crazy reason you missed last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic where Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge finished 1-2 in an exciting stretch duel, check out the replay and be sure to tune in for the rematch!
News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: Wildcat Red Stretches Speed Toward Classics
Blood-Horse: Bond Holder to Florida Clinic for Monitoring
Blood-Horse: O’Neill: Derby Still Possible for Bond Holder
Blood-Horse: Mexikoma Spikes Fever; Still on Derby Trail
Blood-Horse: Hangin’ with Haskin: The Selling of the 1989 Triple Crown
Blood-Horse: No Tampa Bay Derby for Bond Holder
Blood-Horse: Tapiture Gets Back to Work at Oaklawn Park
Blood-Horse: Gotham Winner Returns to Florida; Wood Next
Blood-Horse: California Chrome Sneaks in Los Alamitos Work
Brisnet: Cairo Prince, General a Rod work for Florida Derby New
Brisnet: Bayern out of San Felipe
Brisnet: Keeneland releases Blue Grass, Ashland nominations
Brisnet: Ward: No Nay Never might have been ‘a little short’
Brisnet: Honor Code on schedule for Rebel
Brisnet: Velazquez to ride Wildcat Red in Florida Derby
DRF: Top Billing injured in workout, will miss Kentucky Derby New
DRF: California Chrome – Just call him the Los Alamitos flash
DRF: Sadler has his best shot yet with Kristo, Kobe’s Back, Candy Boy
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for March 5, 2014
Oaklawn Park, Saturday March 8, post time: 4:39 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
With nary a graded stakes performer to be found in a field of 11, this race is wide-open in terms of potential and breeding. The likely post-time favorite is Please Explain. A dominating winner of the Suncoast Stakes last out, this daughter of two-time 1-1/4 miles Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Curlin is beautifully bred to be a Kentucky Oaks contenderâ€”her dam is a half sister to 10-furlong Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Borrego. Sheâ€™s well-traveled already (this will be the fifth racetrack sheâ€™s run on in six lifetime starts), and she boasts the highest speed figure at this 1 1/16 miles distance. Her maiden victory last December was impressive, and the filly she beat that day, House Rules, most recently ran a sharp second in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes.
Three fillies who contested the Martha Washington Stakes over this Oaklawn track return: runner-up Euphrosyne, third-place finisher Ireland, and well-beaten favorite Kiss Moon, who ended up running seventh in the 10-horse field, 12 lengths behind the winner. Only Euphrosyne has run this distance before (twice)â€”her two sharp workouts leading into this race bode well for her chances. Ireland came on late from well off the pace in the Martha Washington but still finished over three lengths back of the winner. Running more on pace in her maiden victory at Oaklawn back in January, she dominated older horses, winning by nearly nine lengths. This will be her first attempt racing at a distance over one mile, which is a minor concern; although her sire Afleet Alex won the 1 1/2-miles Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, her dam Classy Mirage was a Grade 1-winning sprinter as was Irelandâ€™s full brother Dublin (although he did finish third in the 9-furlong Grade 1 Arkansas Derby). After her disappointing Martha Washington finish, Kiss Moon will likely go to post at much higher odds, which makes her a tantalizing bet. This will be her first race at a distance beyond one mile, which, judging by her strong stamina breeding (her dam Kiss the Devil was twice a Grade 3 runner-up on turf going 1 1/8 miles), shouldnâ€™t be a problem. Her last workout was extremely sharp, but breaking from post position 8 will be an early challenge.
The only other entrant with in-the-money stakes experience, undefeated Taris comes in off a wire-to-wire victory in the 7-furlong Wide Country Stakes at Laurel Park. A legitimate concern is that she wonâ€™t be able to carry her proven early speed over the 11/16-miles distance, even though her damside is resplendent in stamina, with her damsire being four-time 1 1/2 miles Grade 1 winner Theatrical and her second damsire being 10-furlong Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap victor Lord at War. The best of her sire Flatterâ€™s progeny is two-time Jockey Club Gold cup winner Flat Out, so given the right pace scenario (and good racing luck), Taris could emerge as a legitimate Kentucky Oaks contender with a win.
In their last efforts, Courageous Julie and Dream Spinner both broke their maidens going 1 1/16 miles over this track, albeit in vastly different ways. Courageous Julie trailed the field by as much as 10 lengths in the early part of her race before rallying to win by a head, while Dream Spinner went straight to the lead and never looked back, cruising to a 13-length victory. A daughter of Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, Courageous Julie also has plenty of damside stamina, including her two-time Breedersâ€™ Cup Classic winning damsire Tiznow and close relative Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. Dream Spinner likewise possesses strong stamina potential, not only through her sire Hard Spun, but especially her on her damside, which includes her second dam Eastern Ruckusâ€™ half brother Gold Star Deputy who still holds track records at Delaware Park (for 13/16 miles) and Aqueduct (for 1 5/16 miles). Although still a maiden after six juvenile starts last year (including four at low-level Remington Park), Dream Spinner improved significantly in her last effort.
Last-out allowance winners Midnight Eclipse and Sugar Shock both possess valuable race experience over the Oaklawn track, but only at a sprint distance. In order to give her charge race fitness, trainer Ingrid Mason gave Midnight Eclipse a one-mile workout recently, but this daughter of Malibu Moon (who also sired last yearâ€™s Kentucky Derby winner Orb) has a purely sprinterâ€™s pedigree in her damside, being closely related to her damâ€™s half sister Malibu Mint (Malibu Moon), winner of the 6-furlong Grade 1 Princess Rooney. Daughter of 10-furlong Grade 1 Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride, Sugar Shock offers more promise to stretch out beyond six furlongsâ€”her second dam Unbridled Hope was an accomplished stayer, capturing the 11/4 miles Grade 3 Ladies Handicap over Aqueductâ€™s inner track. Breaking from the far outside post 11 is unfortunate, though, for Sugar Shock.
Maiden winners in 6-furlong Oaklawn sprints, Silk Purse and Springsteen Road will also be tested for stamina for the first time. Of the two, Springsteen Road has more to recommend her in terms of getting the 1 1/16-miles distance. While her sire Street Boss was strictly a sprinter (counting the 7-furlong Grade 1 Triple Bend Invitational among his wins), Springsteen Roadâ€™s half brother Mylute came within a neck of upsetting Revolutionary in last yearâ€™s 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 Louisiana Derby before finishing third in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes. Springsteen Road only lost by a neck to Silk Purse when the two first met and appears poised to turn the table on her rival.
San Felipe Stakes
Santa Anita Park, Saturday March 8, post time: 5:00 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
That Bayern scratched on Thursday afternoon with a bruised foot is bad news for trainer Bob Baffert, but good news for handicappers. With the talented rising star out, the remaining nine starters make the San Felipe a much more competitive event.
Midnight Hawk and Kristo top the shortened field. Both have won or placed in graded stakes, and both have versatile running styles that could put either of them on the lead or near the pace. Kristo is the fresher of the two, with his last start a runner-up finish to Midnight Hawk in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on January 11. Since that race, Kristo has had six workouts, including two bullets, suggesting he’s retained his fitness through his layoff. He also gets a new jockey, Joel Rosario, flying in from Gulfstream, who’s won or placed with six of the 12 mounts he’s had at Santa Anita during the current meet.
Midnight Hawk, also trained by Baffert, starts off a third-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes on February 8. He returned to the track for a 4-furlong workout a mere eight days later and then worked twice more in 10 days, an indication that the Lewis didn’t take much out of the colt.
California Chrome is the most experienced of the San Felipe starters, with four wins from eight starts. While all of his wins have come in races restricted to California state-breds, and he finished sixth and fifth in his two previous attempts in open stakes company, his Brisnet speed figures put him in contention with Kristo and Midnight Hawk, and he has been generating backstretch buzz for his two most recent workouts.
Schoolofhardrocks is the least experienced and making his first start since winning his career debut at Del Mar in August 2013. The San Felipe is an ambitious spot for his return.
Home Run Kitten SCRATCHED, Unstoppable Colby, Rprettyboyfloyd (SCRATCHED), Sawyers Hill, and Recanted round out the field. Unstoppable Colby and Sawyers Hill are both maidens seeking their first wins; the other three have yet to win a race other than their maidens. Sawyers Hill could be an exotic wager bomb: The likely longshot is stretching out and going two turns for the first time after two third-place finishes in sprints. The added ground may suit the son of Spring at Last, a young sire whose offspring have been successful winning graded stakes at the same distance as the San Felipe.
2014 San Felipe Stakes Replay
Tampa Bay Derby
Tampa Bay Downs, Saturday March 8, post time: 5:25 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
A fascinating Tampa Bay Derby this year. This is surely the B team among the 3-year-olds vying for Kentucky Derby points, as this race is not quite as strong on class as the 3-year-old preps across state at Gulfstream Park, but this is still quite the fascinating betting race as any one of these entrants would not be a total shock should he win. So let’s get to it.
Surfing U S A is one of two Todd Pletcher entrants. He was last seen 42 days ago in what was essentially a match race between him and Top Billing, who was subsequently third as the favorite in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. In that effort, Surfing U S A set a moderate but pressured pace but was no match for Top Billing in the stretch. Once again, he should be forwardly placed and will have to deal with similar early pace dynamics as others in here appear to have early foot also. Do note that rider Castellano switches off to rival Cousin Stephen.
Ring Weekend broke his maiden 28 days ago at Gulfstream from post 10 at 1 1/16 miles, which is not an easy feat at that particular track’s configuration. That effort was quite impressive when considering he was 5-wide in the first turn and 3-wide exiting the far turn. Trainer Graham Motion opted for this spot after scratching Ring Weekend out of last weekend’s Grade 3 Palm Beach on turf also at Gulfstream. Don’t sell this horse’s maiden form too short, as he’s stepped forward in both starts this year as a 3-year-old and is now pitched third off the bench for a trainer who is successful at this oval (23% winners from 47 starts in the past year at Tampa; he also won the 2002 edition of this race with Equality).
Matador’s lone win came last year in an Ontario-bred restricted stakes race on turf. He hails from the same connections as 2012 Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective. Connections must have a high opinion of Matador, as all five starts have been in stakes company. He’s one of three returnees from the local prep for this race 35 days ago, the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. His fourth-place finish in that race was a solid effort, and for a brief moment at the top of the stretch, it looked he would glide right on by Vinceremos and Cousin Stephen, but his run came up a length short. Three subsequent works on display, with the penultimate a 5-furlong bullet at Palm Meadows, and he is worthy of consideration for a share of exotics and perhaps more.
Coltimus Prime makes his 3-year-old and dirt track debut for trainer Justin Nixon. His lone win from three starts came in a romp over Ontario-bred restricted maidens on the Woodbine synthetic surface in November. Last seen in December also at Woodbine when almost stealing the Display Stakes on the front end, he set soft early fractions but came up a neck short. He’s a bit of a mystery in this spot, having never run on dirt. Still, his trainer is an ultra-sharp conditioner who’s a bit under the radar of late, not having the stock he once had; just unsure if the projected pace dynamics here are suited to his running style.
The other Mark Casse entry, Conquest Titan, has kept some high-class company, having run against the likes of Cairo Prince, General a Rod, Havana, Strong Mandate and We Miss Artie. So on class alone, he’s worthy of consideration here. However, his running lines present a bit of an enigma. He pressed the pace in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and faded to finish last. Two subsequent starts had him taken off the pace due to poor starts. One of those was a win over General a Rod when closing from last in a first-level allowance at one mile at Churchill. His last start, in the Grade 2 Holy Bull, had him picking up the pieces for second place, but he was no match for winner Cairo Prince. Still, that effort bested subsequent Grade 2 Risen Star victor Intense Holiday.
The other Todd Pletcher entrant, Vinceremos, was last seen winning the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. It was a sneaky performance, as he appeared to be done on the far turn but re-rallied on the rail when rival Cousin Stephen appeared to be distracted by outside rivals. That effort was a nice display of maturity not usually seen this early in the year by a 3-year-old, as he was content to let other horses to his outside get caught up in pace pressure. Trainer Pletcher is no stranger to Tampa Bay Derby victories, as he has twice won this race (Verrazano last year and Limehouse in 2004).
Cousin Stephen returns from a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. In that effort, he set the early pace and was perhaps compromised late by having to expend energy on the far turn when engaging in a premature duel with a rival who did not figure in the result. Trainer Chad Brown taps the services of jockey Castellano in an effort to get Cousin Stephen to settle early. Though he should be forwardly placed again, he’s another that could be compromised by the early pace dynamics in here.
Outsider Tuscan Getaway makes his 3-year-old debut having shown some early pace in races on all three surfaces as a 2-year-old. He’s been working up a storm at Calder in preparation for this. East Hall wheels back off 14 days’ rest, having finished fourth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth; it’s worth that noting he closed into a speed-favoring track that day, but he was no threat to the winner. Hy Kodiak Warrior gets Lasix for the first time, and he’s another worth considering; should a pace meltdown up front develop, he could pick up some pieces late.
2014 Tampa Bay Derby Replay
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