Last week Cupid burst onto the scene with a front-running victory in the Rebel. Whitmore also moved forward with a nice effort for second. If you missed any of the action, check last week’s edition for replays, links to recaps/post-race analysis and Brisnet charts.
Looking for an easy way to view Brisnet charts for all of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks points races? Be sure to check our schedule pages. We’ve also listed Beyer, Brisnet, Equibase and TimeformUS speed figures for each race.
News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: Another Shot for Exaggerator in SA Derby
Twinspires: 2016 Kentucky Derby Pedigrees: Lani
Twinspires: Santa Anita Derby hopefuls, Nyquist work at Santa Anita over the weekend
DRF: Polar River camp abandons plans to come to US
Blood-Horse: American Pioneer Eyes Arkansas Derby
Blood-Horse: Nyquist Logs Final Breeze for Florida Derby
Blood-Horse: Mor Spirit Breezes at Santa Anita Park
Blood-Horse: Mohaymen Has Final Work Before Florida Derby
Blood-Horse: Nine 3-Year-Olds Late Triple Crown Nominees
Blood-Horse: Amoss Seeks Clear Sailing For Mo Tom
Blood-Horse: Steve Haskin’s Derby Dozen
Courier-Journal: Romans mulling final Kentucky Derby prep plans
Courier-Journal: Rivals join Mohaymen, Nyquist in Fla. Derby
Courier-Journal: What we learned last week on the Kentucky Derby trail
Courier-Journal: Rising star Cox could have first Derby starter
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for March 23
DRF: Road to the Derby: Rebel Stakes
NYRA: Matt King Coal on target for Wood
Paulick Report: Sunny Ridge Out Of Wood Memorial
TDN: Mohaymen Gets Final Work for Florida Derby
TDN: ‘Spirit’ Breezes Towards Santa Anita Derby
TDN: Trio of New Challengers Eye FL Derby
TDN: Cupid Fine After Rebel Win
Twinspires: Dothraki Queen ‘possible’ for Fantasy; Marquee Miss headed to Kentucky
Twinspires: Kentucky Derby Report (3/22): Cupid dazzles in stakes debut
Meydan, Saturday March 26, post time: 9:35 am ET
1 3/16 miles (9.5 furlongs), synthetic surface
2016 U.A.E. Derby Replay
2016 U.A.E. Derby News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Lani Headed to KY After UAE Derby Win
DRF: Kentucky Derby-bound Lani wins a messy running of the UAE Derby
TDN: Lani Grinds Out UAE Derby Victory
2016 U.A.E. Derby Preview
The Group 2, $2 million U.A.E. Derby, held during Saturday’s Dubai World Cup card at Meydan, is the first of the Kentucky Derby preps to offer a total of 170 points. The 100-point bonanza to the winner guarantees a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Even the 40 points to the runner-up can be enough to book a place, and in light of recent history, the third-place haul of 20 points may also suffice.
Nevertheless, the most exciting entrant isn’t even nominated to the U.S. Triple Crown – the undefeated filly Polar River. She won’t have a showdown with Songbird in the Kentucky Oaks, either, but we’ll probably see her in the United States over the summer. Only two of her U.A.E. Derby rivals, Frank Conversation and Lani, are Triple Crown nominees.
The Kentucky-bred Polar River is based in Dubai with another American expatriate, Doug Watson, who just clinched his fourth United Arab Emirates training title. Watson learned his craft from Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of current Kentucky Derby contender Mohaymen as well as 2015 Triple Crown veteran Frosted (a leading player in the $10 million World Cup).
Polar River overwhelmed her foes in her first three career outings at Meydan, romping by a combined margin of 31 1/4 lengths. After trouncing a very weak group of older male maidens in her debut, she bossed the fillies’ division in a prep race and in the U.A.E. 1000 Guineas at about a mile. Last time out in the Group 3 U.A.E. Oaks, however, her aura of invincibility began to dissipate. At first coasting, then perhaps tiring, she held on by a diminishing three-quarters of a length from Vale Dori. Was it the step up to about 1 3/16 miles (the same distance as the U.A.E. Derby) that taxed her? Perhaps the better competition? Or a combination of the two?
Watson revealed that something had been bugging her before the U.A.E. Oaks: Polar River lost her appetite and had to have a tooth extracted. She’s had no such problems leading up to the U.A.E. Derby, prompting Watson to call her his best-ever chance of winning on World Cup night.
Polar River can make history as the first filly to sweep three U.A.E. classics. Only one other filly has beaten males in the U.A.E. Derby, Godolphin’s Khawlah (2011). Khawlah also won the U.A.E. Oaks but didn’t compete in the Guineas.
Six rivals stand in the way, and five of them are also eligible to make history. No Southern Hemisphere-bred filly has won this race, so the Argentinean Vale Dori would stake out a place for herself in the record book. Frank Conversation, unbeaten champion Nyquist’s stablemate from the Doug O’Neill barn, aims to become the first U.S.-trained horse to win the U.A.E. Derby. Japan hasn’t captured this race, either, but the trio of Lani, Yu Change, and On the Rocks will try to erase that statistic.
Vale Dori is trained by renowned South African horseman Mike de Kock, a six-time U.A.E. Derby winner who dominated last year’s edition with Mubtaahij (now a World Cup contender). She is by a past de Kock star in Asiatic Boy, hero of the 2008 U.A.E. Derby and still the only U.A.E. Triple Crown winner. Vale Dori is a neck away from being unbeaten from three starts in Argentina, her only loss coming on turf. In her final appearance in her homeland, she rolled to a 3-length decision in a Group 1 on the Palermo dirt. Subsequently acquired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum (the owner of Mubtaahij and Asiatic Boy), Vale Dori was shipped to de Kock but got injured in Dubai. Her reappearance was delayed until the U.A.E. Oaks, where she ran a mighty race off the 10-month layoff.
With improvement expected second time out, Vale Dori figures to go close on Saturday. Note that as a Southern Hemisphere-bred who’s at least six months older than her Northern Hemisphere-bred opponents, she must carry the top weight of 127 pounds – six more than the boys and 10 more than Polar River.
Frank Conversation enters in career-best form, having turned the California Derby / Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby double at Golden Gate Fields. Those wins came over the synthetic Tapeta, and he still has something to prove on the dirt. Fifth to Mor Spirit in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity in his last dirt attempt in December, Frank Conversation could be much better at this point. As a late foal (born May 13), he may be catching up on the developmental curve. A big effort in Dubai would help him join Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, giving owner Reddam Racing and trainer O’Neill a one-two punch at Churchill Downs.
Japan-based but Kentucky-bred Lani, the other Triple Crown nominee, is determined to embark upon a U.S. campaign. If he doesn’t collect enough Kentucky Derby points here, trainer Mikio Matsunaga is looking ahead to the Grade 2 Peter Pan as a stepping stone to the Belmont Stakes. That may be a good idea, since the combustible colt is still a work in progress. Lani comes off a fifth in the Hyacinth last out at Tokyo, where he launched a bold if premature move and flattened out down the stretch. The gray clearly has talent and a terrific pedigree. By leading North American sire Tapit (who already has Mohaymen and Cupid on the Derby trail), Lani is out of the high-class Japanese racemare Heavenly Romance, a daughter of 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion and legendary sire Sunday Silence.
Yu Change was fourth in Japan’s championship race for juveniles, the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity on turf. Although he tries dirt for the first time, he has more appeal than stablemate On the Rocks. Lazzam was second to the now-sidelined Market Rally in the Group 3 U.A.E. 2000 Guineas and Al Bastakiya, the first two jewels of the U.A.E. Triple Crown, but rates a place chance at best again here.
Fair Grounds Oaks
Fair Grounds, Saturday March 26, post time: 5:27 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
2016 Fair Grounds Oaks Replay
2016 Fair Grounds Oaks News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Land Over Sea Cruises in Fair Grounds Oaks
DRF: Land Over Sea shines as favorite in Fair Grounds Oaks
TDN: Land Over Sea Gets Out from Under Songbird
2016 Fair Grounds Oaks Preview
Three fillies that started in the 1 1/16-miles Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra return to do battle at the same distance in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. They include the top two finishers Venus Valentine and Midnight On Oconee, as well as the beaten odds-on favorite Stageplay who finished a distant fifth. Equibase’s chart caller wasn’t mistaken when he described Venus Valentine’s late-closing victory as a “colossal upset.” A blistering early pace left nearly the entire field lumbering for home in the stretch. Only Midnight On Oconee was still running strong, but even she couldn’t hold off the persistent Venus Valentine, who benefited tremendously from the ultimate rail ride by jockey Corey Lanerie. With a new and more seasoned mix of runners, the Oaks’ pace scenario should play out quite differently, likely negating a repeat performance by Venus Valentine. As for Midnight On Oconee, she’s undoubtedly gutsy, but she still has the distance question to answer.
Going into the Rachel Alexandra, Stageplay had the form and speed figures of a winner. However, combined with the heated early fractions, she had to endure a wide trip throughout, which did her no favors. She has put in two strong 5-furlong workouts in advance of this start, so with a different pace scenario, she could be a contender once more.
Her major competitors are the West Coast invaders, Land Over Sea and Street Fancy. In her past five starts, Land Over Sea has faced the undefeated Eclipse award-winner Songbird. The results included three distant runner-up finishes, including last year’s 1 1/16-miles Grade 1 Chandelier and, most recently, the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel at the same distance. With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez replacing her regular rider Mario Gutierrez, Land Over Sea looks to step out of Songbird’s shadow and into the spotlight.
Winner of the 1 1/16-miles Grade 1 Starlet last December, Street Fancy was eased in her most recent start, the one-mile Grade 2 Las Virgenes, against Songbird and Land Over Sea. A change of scenery and a jockey switch to the wily veteran Jose Lezcano may put this late closer back into the Kentucky Oaks picture. A daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, her pedigree certainly suggests she should only get better with longer distances as her unraced second dam is a three-quarter sister to Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.
In addition to Stageplay, trainer Steve Asmussen also enters the sharp allowance winner Adore, a daughter of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. She is the most lightly raced horse in the field, making only her fourth lifetime start, but she has already won at the distance. Shipped in from Oaklawn Park after her last race, Adore has posted two impressive 5-furlong workouts over this track in times quicker than most Asmussen trainees.
Grade 2 Pocahontas runner-up Dream Dance makes her 2016 debut off a nearly four-month break. In two previous head-to-head efforts, she has yet to defeat Stageplay, but her series of workouts since early February suggests a well-prepared filly. However, she too has yet to prove herself at the distance.
After failing badly in her stakes debut in the listed Silverbulletday, Triple Crown nominee Northwest Tale dropped down in class and distance for her next start and rewarded her connections with an impressively speedy victory at 6 furlongs. She returns here off a 47-day break with the advantageous rail post and a top-notch new jockey, Javier Castellano. Her workouts haven’t exactly been spectacular, but if ever there was a time for this well-bred Charles Fipke-homebred to step up her game, it is now. With her second dam being Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors, Northwest Tale has some awfully big shoes to fill.
Fair Grounds, Saturday March 26, post time: 6:12 pm ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)
2016 Louisiana Derby Replay
2016 Louisiana Derby News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Gun Runner Dominant in Louisiana Derby
DRF: In tale of two trips, Gun Runner wins Louisiana Derby
DRF: Amoss discusses Lanerie’s ride and Mo Tom
TDN: Another Dream ‘Run’ for Candy Ride Colt
2016 Louisiana Derby Preview
The Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans is the first of seven Kentucky Derby prep races that will award a total of 170 qualifying points to the top four finishers. With 100 points to the winner and 40 to the runner-up, the top two finishers are guaranteed a place in the gate for the big race in May at Churchill Downs. The Louisiana Derby has not had a participant go on to win the Kentucky Derby since Funny Cide finished second (via disqualification) on his way to winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2003.
Of the 12 runners expected to line up for this year’s Louisiana Derby, seven exit the Grade 2 Risen Star run at Fair Grounds back in February, and that contingent includes Gun Runner. He notched his first stakes win in just his third career start in the Risen Star, where he looked as though he would pull away for a commanding victory after taking the lead in the stretch, but he showed his inexperience when he lost momentum after drifting in slightly towards the rail. He hung on to finish a half-length ahead of the hard-charging runner-up Forevamo. He recorded a solid workout on March 15th in preparation for Saturday’s race.
The morning line favorite for the Louisiana Derby, Mo Tom finished third behind Gun Runner, but he had an excuse. He fell far back early, trailing by as many as 16 lengths on the backstretch. After passing half the field as it came out of the final turn, Mo Tom charged toward the leaders in the stretch, but he had to check hard behind a tiring horse. He regrouped to finish a determined third while moving faster than the winner when he hit the finish line. The additional sixteenth of a mile in this race should be to his advantage, but his late-running style means he will need some racing luck to carve out a good trip among the field of 12.
The aforementioned Forevamo finished second in the Risen Star at odds of 40-1 where he had a perfect ground-saving trip in the best performance of his career so far. He has one win and three seconds from six career starts. At 10-1 on the morning line, he stands a chance if he can run back to his effort in the Risen Star.
Greenpointcrusader is the biggest threat to the Risen Star alumni. He’s the lone Grade 1 winner in the field, having won last year’s Champagne at Belmont Park, but he failed as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his final start as a 2-year-old. He returned to the races for his 3-year-old debut with a respectable second in the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. He has the misfortune of running behind Nyquist and Mohaymen in two of his starts. Both rank near the top the 3-year-old class according to Kentucky Derby prognosticators. With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle, Greenpointcrusader is in a prime spot, in a race lacking star players, to prove himself.
Todd Pletcher’s Battery will ship in from his homebase in Florida, where he won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park back in February. Battery will be making his graded stakes debut in the Louisiana Derby. He has two wins from four starts and is the only colt in the field with a win at the 1 ⅛-miles distance. While he lacks the resume of some of the other starters, he has the human connections that makes him an interesting entry. Trainer Todd Pletcher has saddled three of the last nine winners of the Louisiana Derby, and Battery’s jockey, Javier Castellano, won the race aboard Revolutionary in 2013.
Candy My Boy set a fast pace in the Risen Star and held on gamely for fourth, just two lengths from the winner. Without much early speed in the starting gate, he is expected to set the pace again in the Louisiana Derby. He will likely be dismissed by bettors considering the added distance, but he’s the only speed horse, and given his solid performance in the Risen Star, he stands as an intriguing longshot.
Dazzling Gem will ship in from Oaklawn Park where he has won both of his career starts. The lightly raced colt is trained by Brad Cox who has a 35% winning percentage from 76 starters at Fair Grounds so far this year. Dazzling Gem will make his stakes debut on Saturday.
Conquest Windycity is another shipper from Oaklawn Park. He won an allowance race at the Arkansas track in his last start and finished fourth in his lone graded stakes appearance at Churchill Downs last September.
The Louisiana Derby field is rounded out by Risen Star also-rans
Zapperini (SCRATCHED), Tom’s Ready, and Uncle Walter. Zapperini finished a distant fifth in the Risen Star but gets a jockey upgrade with Julien Leparoux. Tom’s Ready and Uncle Walter finished second and third respectively in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes behind Mo Tom in January, but neither ran well in Risen Star and were well beaten by the winner Gun Runner.
Signup for a TwinSpires account! (promo code: helloracefans)