Week of February 27, 2012
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

Union Rags ended the weekend with a bang while simultaneously ending the lack of a 2012 Kentucky Derby buzz horse!

Upsets marked the Kentucky Oaks preps while favorites won the Kentucky Derby preps. The Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds (chart) saw Summer Applause turn the tables on the favored Silverbulletday winner Believe You Can, who finished forth. Trainer Larry Jones said that Believe You Can came out of the race fine and is still on target for the March 31 Fair Grounds Oaks, where she might meet Summer Applause again.

At Gulfstream Park, local Yara pulled a huge upset over favored Grace Hall that paid $131 in the Davona Dale (chart). The two gutted it out gamely in the stretch after running a close 1-2 for the entire race. Grace Hall certainly was no slouch in her first start since the Breeders’ Cup, in fact trainer Anthony Dutrow said in a pre-race interview over the simulcast that he wasn’t sure how Grace Hall would take to the track, but that she was definitely ready to run. After running a well beaten forth in the Forward Gal, Yara not only stepped up her game, but put herself on the Kentucky Oaks trail according to trainer Jose Garoffalo. No word on what’s next for either filly.

Not to be outdone by Yara and Grace Hall, El Padrino and Mark Valeksi put on a great show in the Risen Star (chart). After stalking the pace the two battled and bumped their way down the stretch with El Padrino taking the photo by a nose. Jockey Javier Castellano noted that El Padrino struggled to find his best stride coming into the stretch but once he did he wore down a game Mark Valeski. Lecomte winner Mr. Bowling turned in a non-effort and finished last but trainer Larry Jones said he came out of the race OK. No word on what’s next for any of the Risen Star entries.

In a completely opposite performance, Union Rags dominated the Fountain of Youth (chart) field at Gulfstream Park with ease on Sunday, leaving many ooh-ing and aww-ing. His main competition, Algorithms, was scratched the morning of the race with a popped splint. No word on the severity of the issue just yet. But, get ready to hear a lot about Union Rags as he moves to the head of the class that has yet to see a clear cut favorite.

Union Rags wasn’t the only one to dominate at Gulfstream Park, Awesome Maria kicked off her 5-year-old campaign by resolutely beating Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta in the Sabin Stakes (chart), a race she also won last year. Trainer Bill Mott is known for taking his time to get horses ready for a target (think Drosselmeyer in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic), but many thought the current 3-year-old champion might do a little better given that her target is the Dubai World Cup in open company next month. Mott said he wasn’t surprised or disappointed by the effort and is still pointing towards Dubai.

And speaking of Dubai, that’s where The Factor might turn up next after another scintillating score in the San Carlos (chart) at Santa Anita. Royal Delta wasn’t the only Breeders’ Cup winner to make a non-victorious return this weekend, Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie ran third behind a closing Sway Away, but neither could catch The Factor.

Perfect Shirl was other member of the “non-victorious upon return Breeders’ Cup winner club” when she ran eighth to Here to Win in The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream. Keertana put in a game effort but couldn’t catch the winner. The Mac Diarmida Stakes (chart) saw an exciting finish to a long race when Newsdad rallied to just miss Simmard after 1 3/8 miles Simmardpulled a Force Freeze” by kicking off his 7-year-old campaign with his first graded win.

Next weekend marks the second pool of the Kentucky Derby Future wagers, we’ll update our post once the entries have been announced and the past performances are out. The Santa Anita Handicap is next weekend as well, find out more about this marquee race for older horses in Ten Things You Should Know.

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 Davona Dale Stakes Replay
Yara fights back for the upset.

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

2012 Sabin Stakes Replay
Awesome Maria is dominant.

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

2012 The Very One Stakes Replay
Here to Win tried to warn them.

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

2012 Mac Diarmida Stakes Replay
Simmard joins the 7-year-old first time graded winner club!

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

2012 Fountain of Youth Stakes Replay
Get ready to hear a lot more about Union Rags.

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

Upcoming Graded Stakes Races

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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