Last week’s Derby trail saw favorites falter and potential new contenders emerge, while the early Oaks favorite continued to solidify her status. If you missed any of the action, check out last week’s installment for replays, Brisnet charts and links to recaps.
This week features West Coast contenders as well as McCraken-less Tampa Bay Derby. Will new contenders stake their claim to a place in the starting gate on May 6?
News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: Champion Classic Empire Back on the Worktab
DRF: Mastery update: resting well in stall, surgery tomorrow.
Santa Anita: Stable Notes by Ed Golden
Blood-Horse: Battalion Runner Works Toward Florida Derby
Blood-Horse: Unbeaten McCraken Returns to Worktab
Blood-Horse: Girvin Turns in First Work Since Risen Star Triumph
Blood-Horse: Farrell, Valadorna Get Back to Work
Oaklawn Park: Oaklawn Barn Notes: Untrapped Completes Rebel Stakes Work
Blood-Horse: Rebel Prospects Turn in Oaklawn Works
Blood-Horse: Abel Tasman Moved to Baffert After Silks Mix-Up
Blood-Horse: Champagne Room Undergoes Surgery for Bone Chip
Blood-Horse: Mo Town Back on Tab After Risen Star Disappointment
Blood-Horse: McCraken Resumes Galloping, Blue Grass Still the Target
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s Derby Dozen – March 7, 2017
Brisnet: Petrov, Silver Dust and Uncontested breeze for Rebel
Brisnet: Kentucky Derby Report March 8: Gunnevera, J Boys Echo surprise with convincing wins
Brisnet: Kentucky Derby winners don’t take bad losses in next-to-last prep
Brisnet: Blue Grass shaping up to be most interesting of Kentucky Derby preps
DRF: Champagne Room recovering from surgery, no training until June
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for March 8
DRF: Derby Watch: Shirreffs having double the fun this year
DRF: Road to the Derby: Gotham Stakes analysis
DRF: Road to the Derby: Fountain of Youth Stakes analysis
DRF: Petrov likely to start in Rebel Stakes
DRF: No Dozing, Pletcher pair among Tampa Bay Derby contenders
TRC: Why runner-up Cloud Computing looks a horse to follow
TRC: Dandelion leaves and Derby preps: that’s life with John Shirreffs for two live Kentucky hopes
San Felipe Stakes
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
2017 San Felipe Replay
2017 San Felipe News & Recaps
Brisnet: Mastery draws off impressively in San Felipe but injury knocks him off Kentucky Derby trail
DRF: Mastery off Derby trail with front-leg fracture diagnosed after San Felipe win
DRF: Mastery’s win in San Felipe tempered by concern over left hind leg
DRF: Santa Anita: Mastery wins San Felipe, vanned off after race
Santa Anita: Jockey and Trainer Quotes
TDN: Mastery Easily Best in San Felipe, Vanned Off Post-Race
2017 San Felipe Preview
A funny thing has happened in the 13 weeks between Mastery’s (6-5) winning the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes: he has become the Kentucky Derby (co-)favorite without running a race.
Mastery was 9-1 to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby following his Futurity win. At that time, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire was 7-1 and had gone as low as 6-1 before losing the Holy Bull Stakes in his 3-year-old debut.
McCraken, who like Mastery is undefeated, and Holy Bull Stakes winner Irish War Cry have both been favorites on the Wynn future book as well, but a training setback to McCraken following his Sam F. Davis win and Irish War Cry’s loss in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes have both helped Mastery to become the 8-1 co-favorite along with Classic Empire and McCraken, and neither of those two are expected to race again until April 9 in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course.
Mastery is the likely favorite for the San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park, and a win would likely make him the Kentucky Derby favorite, but he will have to have defeated a talented group for that to happen.
All of Mastery’s six adversaries have already started this year, so he gives a seasoning edge to this group as well as anywhere from two to four pounds. Mastery has won his three races by a combined 12 3/4 lengths, winning his first races—both sprints—gate to wire before stretching out in the Futurity and pressing the pace before drawing off around two turns.
Gormley (9-5) and Iliad (5-2), both stakes winners last out, figure to attend the pace with Mastery. Gormley dueled with Mastery’s stablemate, American Anthem, in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes last out. American Anthem will be one of the favorites in the Rebel Stakes next week at Oaklawn. Iliad won the Grade 2 San Vicente last time, and now stretches out to two turns.
If Gormley, Iliad, and Mastery all go too fast early and set the race up for a closer, then either Ann Arbor Eddie (8-1), second in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby but placed fourth via disqualification, or Eddie Logan Stakes winner Vending Machine (20-1) figures to benefit.
Term of Art (20-1) on the rail and Bluegrass Envy (50-1) on the outside are both closers as well, but have never run remotely fast enough to compete with this group.
From a “getting in the Kentucky Derby” perspective, Gormley is actually in a better spot than Mastery, currently ranking ninth on the points list with 20 for his wins in the Sham and Frontrunner Stakes. Mastery ranks 16th with 10 points, and Ann Arbor Eddie ranks 43rd with one point. No one else in the San Felipe has earned any points (yet!).
Tampa Bay Derby
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
2017 Tampa Bay Derby Replay
2017 Tampa Bay Derby News & Recaps
Brisnet: Tapwrit summons up A-game in Tampa Bay Derby
Courier-Journal: Pletcher’s Tapwrit takes Tampa Bay Derby
DRF: Tapwrit ($4.20) an easy winner of G2 Tampa Bay Derby
TDN: Tapwrit Gives Pletcher Another Tampa Bay Derby
Tampa Bay Downs: Tapwrit’s Winning Tampa Bay Derby move looked like stuff of legend
2017 Tampa Bay Derby Preview
This year’s edition of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby is definitely the B team in the context of the Kentucky Derby trail. The entire group has zero wins from 15 attempts at distances more than one mile. There isn’t a graded stakes winner yet among them, a rarity for a prep this late on the trail. It is essentially a Kentucky Derby elimination race, as it’s hard to see where those who don’t win points go from here. However, it is a decent betting race, as a case can be made for as many as nine of the entrants having a serious shot at winning. Let’s see if we can sort this out.
The morning line favorite at 3-1, Tapwrit took a big step forward last time when finishing second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. In that race, he rated comfortably behind pacesetting State of Honor and was switched out late in the stretch to finish strongly for second. There is no McCraken to contend with this time, and he managed to get first run on Tapwrit in the Sam Davis while Tapwrit was negotiating room to pass the pacesetters late. He’s a $1.2 million yearling purchase out of the Grade 1 winning mare Appealing Zophie, and he’s still open to improvement, making just his fifth career start. There are multiple speed horses to his outside in Beasley, State of Honor, Wild Shot and stablemate Sonic Mule, so working out a trip will require the precise maneuvering of jockey Jose Ortiz.
State of Honor (4-1) lost a head bob to Sonic Mule (6-1) two races back in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream when trying to run down that one from off the pace in his first start on dirt. He was sent to the early lead from the rail, what was essentially a forced move by jockey Julien Leparoux, in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis last time and stayed on well to finish third, outlasting all the other speed horses he took with him early. He has every right to improve, making his third start this year, and he will need to, as it’s tough to envision him getting the same perfect trip as last time since there’s more early speed to contend with.
Beasley (9-2) has the same distinctive lumbering gait as his sire Shackleford. He also possesses quite a bit of early foot and showed it on debut when setting the early pace in a maiden-breaking win in the mud at Aqueduct in December. In his second start, he broke well but jockey Javier Castellano chose to rate him well off a loose leader. He ran on to finish second in that race, showing a bit of moxie to almost chase down the lone speed. His last start, five weeks ago at Gulfstream, was his two-turn debut, and he once again set the early pace before getting into a protracted battle with the eventual winner and yielded late for second. He’s obviously a horse of some quality, and he’s the type of early pace presence that can break the will of the other speeds. It’s simply a matter of holding off the other off-the-pace types late.
Wild Shot (5-1) saw the back of McCraken at the wire in both his last two starts, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club and Grade 2 Sam F. Davis, despite having the lead late in the stretch. Today, even with no McCraken to contend with, there is plenty of other speed to deal with for a horse who has been trying to figure out what his running style is. He set the pace in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall at Keeneland before Classic Empire closed on him late. He tried attending but not setting the early pace in the aforementioned Kentucky Jockey Club before McCraken closed on him late. In the Sam F. Davis, he was wide on both turns and still managed to make the lead late, so that fourth-place effort was perhaps better than it looks on paper. Still, he’s stuck out wide again in post nine, and all the speed is to his inside. He’s the type that could get lost in the wagering, but he’s run credibly against the top of the division, and this is something of class relief with both McCraken and Classic Empire not here.
No Dozing (6-1) has only a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Remsen to show for in his last three graded stakes tries. But those efforts are not without excuses, as in each of them, he was wide early and had marginally difficult trips that can be forgiven. Still, his worst effort to date was his sixth-place finish in his last try in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis. In that race, he was wide early and had some trouble on the clubhouse turn, and he never really recovered to get back into the race. When he got clear in the stretch, he essentially did no running, having already been beaten. He has every right to be given another chance, and the potential fast early pace should work to his advantage. It’s now or never for a horse who has proven to be overbet of late.
Sonic Mule (6-1) was something of a mixed bag as a 2-year-old, having won at Monmouth on debut in July and then proving to be no match at various distances and surfaces in stakes races throughout the summer. He found his niche sprinting upon regrouping in Florida late in the year, taking a first level allowance at Gulfstream West before winning back-to-back overnight stakes at Gulfstream. In his last effort, in the Grade 2 Swale, he took part in a contested early pace before giving way late, staying on for third. Despite a pedigree (by Distorted Humor out of the A.P. Indy mare Globe Trot) that suggests stretching out to two turns should not be a problem, he has the feel of a horse spotted to keep an honest pace for his stablemate, Tapwrit.
Basha (12-1) was as professional as a horse can be when winning his first two starts. He rated comfortably off slow early paces and passed horses in the stretch with ease. The problem is that those efforts were sprinting, and he’s since shown some serious distance limitations when fading in the stretch of his last two starts at one mile. It’s certainly an asset to show an ability to rate in a race that figures to have a contested, fast early pace, but his ability to stay on and hold off closers has been shown to be suspect based on his last two efforts. Add in a hot trainer in Gilberto Zerpa, who is winning at a high rate, and it’s a recipe for a horse who figures to be overbet.
Tale of Silence (15-1) is a full brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati. He showed promise as a 2-year-old when coming from off the pace in the mud at Belmont last fall but has yet to move forward from there. He was no match at this level in the Grade 2 Remsen in late November, and both times that he’s drawn the rail, as he’s done here, he’s had some trouble at the start. Both efforts this year were sprinting at Gulfstream, and that is usually a tall order for a horse who has settled into a closing type running style from six lifetime starts. His last effort, in particular, was encouraging when he looked well out of it entering the stretch but closed well for second. He’s certainly the type to take a shot with at a nice price should a fast pace materialize, which is a real possibility, but he’s had trouble sustaining his closing moves in the past and is tough to trust in the win slot.
The Money Monster (15-1) has won both lifetime starts, a maiden-breaking shocker in November at Gulfstream West at 19-1 and a rail-riding stakes score seven weeks ago in the Pasco Stakes at 7 furlongs on this oval. He now moves to trainer Bill Mott, which must have been a recent decision considering his work tab had him at his home base of Gulfstream West as recently as February 19. There are some pretty significant hurdles to clear here, though, as The Money Monster is both rising in class and stretching out to two turns for the first time. Still, he moves to a top trainer not known for spotting his stakes horses over their head, and as he’s making just his third start, he is certainly open to improvement, , which he will need to do in order to factor here.
Rounding out the field is maiden Zion Valley (50-1) who has been toiling at the bottom level of the maiden claiming ranks. He’s not even fodder for the expected early pace fireworks.
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
2017 Honeybee Replay
2017 Honeybee News & Recaps
Brisnet: It Tiz Well captures Honeybee
DRF: It Tiz Well advances on Kentucky Oaks path with Honeybee win
TDN: Arch ‘Rising Star’ Stings Foes in Honeybee
2017 Honeybee Preview
Chanel’s Legacy (8-1) and My Sweet Stella (12-1) ran one-two respectively in both Oaklawn preps for this race, the 6-furlong Dixie Belle and one-mile Martha Washington, but neither has yet demonstrated the necessary speed to win at this level. In previous graded stakes starts, Chanel’s Legacy finished 16 lengths back of Shane’s Girlfriend in the one-mile Grade 3 Delta Princess, while My Sweet Stella was exactly the same distance back of recent Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra winner Farrell in last November’s Grade 2 Golden Rod. In spite of that, they have already demonstrated an affinity for the track and have drawn good post positions.
Also returning out of the Martha Washington are fourth-place finisher Lovely Bernadette (15-1) and fifth-place finisher Ever So Clever (12-1), both of whom also contested the 1 1/16-miles Grade 2 Golden Rod where Ever So Clever rallied to finish third and Lovely Bernadette faded from second to fifth. In the Martha Washington, Ever So Clever endured a wide trip and simply didn’t have enough in the tank to continue on. A solid 5-furlong bullet workout suggests that this Steve Asmussen trainee may be ready to fire second-up, returning to her strong late-closing form that included an impressive runner-up finish in last year’s muddy 1 1/16-miles Grade 2 Pocahontas. Lovely Bernadette could also improve off her last start, but she’s yet to win beyond one mile.
While Benner Island (15-1) and Perfect Wife (8-1) finished only sixth and eighth respectively in the Martha Washington, each of them could spring an upset here. The daughter of one-mile Grade 2 Top Flight victress Spacy Tracy, Benner Island has yet to win at the 1 1/16 miles distance (she finished a distant seventh in last October’s Grade 1 Alcibiades). However, trainer Brad Cox is changing jockeys and adding blinkers for this start. She’s also posted a sharp 5-furlong workout, indicating she may be ready to improve second-up. Post-time favorite Perfect Wife anxiously broke through the gate (but didn’t leave the stall) before the start of the Martha Washington, and then overeagerly took the early lead before fading in the homestretch to finish dead last. If veteran jockey Corey Lanerie can get her to settle, this speedy Ken McPeek trainee has the proven speed and form to stretch out.
Runner-up to her superstar stablemate Unique Bella in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, It Tiz Well (3-1) ships in from the West Coast for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Twice she’s posted the highest Brisnet speed figure (93) among the runners in this field, first last December in breaking her maiden by 10 lengths going 6 furlongs and then last out in a 7-furlong allowance optional claiming event at Santa Anita. This daughter of 10-furlong Grade 1 Super Derby victor Arch has yet to prove herself at a route distance, but her multiple turf stakes-winning dam It Tiz (by two-time 10-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow) is a half-sister to 2013 Canadian champion turf female Solid Appeal who won the 9-furlong Grade 2 Dance Smartly. It Tiz Well is a rangy filly who should love stretching out.
Another filly with rich turf breeding, Tapa Tapa Tapa (6-1) began her sophomore campaign on dirt, winning the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay. As juvenile, her first starts were on Woodbine’s all-weather surface where on debut she finished a narrow second to subsequent Grade 3 Mazarine runner-up and listed Glorious Song winner Let It Ride Mom. After breaking her maiden next out, Tapa Tapa Tapa switched over to turf, a natural choice given that her dam is a half-sister not only to two-time turf Grade 1-placed Cosmonaut, but also two-time Grade 2 turf victor Fire With Fire, who won both the 10-furlong Hollywood Park Invitational Turf and the 12-furlong San Luis Rey. In her first turf start, Tapa Tapa Tapa defeated subsequent Grade 1 Natalma winner Victory to Victory, to whom she finished a distant sixth in that Grade 1 event. Tapa Tapa Tapa ended her juvenile campaign with a distant seventh-place finish in the 1 1/16-miles Grade 3 Jessamine over Keeneland’s turf course. In making the switch to dirt (and to jockey Jesus Castanon), this daughter of red-hot sire Tapit revealed a solid potential for dirt success, which is undoubtedly why her connections are shipping in for this opportunity.
Ohio-bred restricted stakes winner Someday Soon (12-1) has posted the highest Brisnet speed figure for the distance (88) but was no factor in concluding her juvenile campaign with a distant 10th-place finish in the Grade 2 Golden Rod, 17 lengths behind the winner Farrell. Even a speedy wire-to-wire allowance optional claiming victory going one mile at Oaklawn last out doesn’t recommend her against graded stakes company.
The two most lightly raced fillies in the field perhaps represent the greatest value in terms of an upset. Both are beautifully bred. Tap of War (20-1) finished nearly eight lengths behind Someday Soon to open her 2017 campaign, but this daughter of multiple Grade 3 winner Hightap has posted two extremely sharp workouts in advance of this start. Bill Mott-trained Elate (5-2) broke her maiden in devastating fashion first up, winning a one-mile race at Aqueduct by 12 lengths last November. With only four workouts in hand, she began her sophomore campaign finishing a decent runner-up to Tapa Tapa Tapa in the Suncoast. By four-time Grade 1 winner and 12-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Medaglia d’Oro, Elate should only improve with longer distances. Her second dam Yell not only won the 1 1/16-miles Grade 2 Davona Dale, but was also twice Grade 1-placed going 9 furlongs, including a runner-up finish in the Mother Goose and a third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks.
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