Week of February 20, 2012
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom overshadowed the 2012 Kentucky Derby hopefuls with an impressive performance in his much anticipated return. Despite launching his 4-year-old campaign in allowance company (chart), Animal Kingdom looked incredible and kicked home with the type of final fraction that signals his readiness to move forward (find out more about how to read fractions here). His next stop will be the Dubai World Cup on March 31.

And now that Animal Kingdom has raced as 4-year-old, 2012 marks the first time since 1999 that winners of all three Triple Crown races have returned as 4-year-olds. Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice returned in the Donn Handicap, albeit not as triumphantly as Animal Kingdom. Also from last year’s Kentucky Derby, second place finisher Nehro will make his return to the races in an allowance race at Fair Grounds on Feb 25. Like Animal Kingdom, Nehro has been out since the Belmont Stakes and had surgery. His goal may be the New Orleans Handicap on April 1.

In addition to Animal Kingdom, Saturday saw other formful and exciting racing. Daddy Nose Best and Lucky Chappy put on a great show in the El Camino Real Derby (chart). The thrilling stretch duel ended with Daddy Nose Best taking the honors by the smallest winning margin in the race’s history. Also notable, winning jockey Julien Leparoux was making his first ever start at Golden Gate Fields. No word yet on what’s next for any of the starters.

Filed under “never give up”, 7-year-old Force Freeze won his first graded stakes in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (chart) by running just .26 off the current track record. Last out Force Freeze ran second to Amazombie in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, his next stop will be the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on May 5 on the Kentucky Derby undercard. At Santa Anita Ellafitz put in an impressive performance in the Santa Maria Stakes (chart). She grabbed the lead early and gamely repelled three challengers in the stretch. No word on what’s next.

Undefeated Black Caviar kicked off the weekend by tying the Australian record for consecutive wins in the Lightening Stakes, repelling a bid by Hay List and finishing just .03 seconds off the course record. She’s likely heading to Dubai to try to break the record in the Golden Shaheen on March 31.

Drill got back to his winning ways by running down a game American Act in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes (chart | replay) . Favorite Creative Cause, last out in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, seemed to get a useful prep when he came wide and closed for third. American Act, who beat last week’s flashy maiden winner Bodemeister last out, set speedy fractions and fought hard to hold second by nose. No word yet on what’s next but it seems likely that the Santa Anita Derby would be a target, although it seems likely that Drill will remain at shorter distances.

Later today the Southwest Stakes will be run at Oaklawn Park, twice! This year’s edition drew so many entrants that they split the race in two. We’ll update this post later with results.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our Understanding Luck section if you’d like get up to speed on each episode’s racing concepts. We’ll be publishing the Episode 4 version later today. Next weekend features plenty of Derby and Oaks preps, find out more about the Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Rachel Alexandra Stakes in Ten Things. We’ll also be publishing a new Ten Things for the Risen Star later this week.

View 2012 Kentucky Derby Prep Schedule + Results via Railbird
(includes charts, replays, win place show and archive back to 2003)

Keep with all the commentary and news at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

2012 Lightening Stakes Replay
Black Caviar, the wonder from down under, had to work tiny bit for her 19th consecutive win.

Animal Kingdom Allowance Replay
2011 Kentucky Derby winner returns to form in a useful prep for Dubai.

Click the “play” arrow and follow the “Watch on YouTube” link to view this replay

2012 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship Replay
Force Freeze scores his first graded win.

Click the “play” arrow and follow the “Watch on YouTube” link to view this replay

2012 El Camino Real Derby Replay
Daddy Nose Best noses out Lucky Chappy in a thrilling finish.

Upcoming Graded Stakes Races

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet

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