Derby Prep Alert
Derby Prep Alert

February 28, 2014Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

This year’s Championship Series is off and running! Last week we saw everything from romps to photo finishes, along with expected results and not-so-expected results. One such unexpected result was favored Streaming finishing last in the Rachel Alexandra. On Monday it was announced that she had been diagnosed with a bone chip that will take her off the Kentucky Oaks trail. If all goes well, she could be back in action in time for a summer campaign.

This is a great time of the year to remind ourselves that the Kentucky Derby is as much about the journey as the destination. Steve Haskin, senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse, follows the Derby trail closely in his weekly column and was kind enough to pen “How to find a Derby Winner” for our Letter to New Horseplayer series:

“So, you can scrutinize over the top 3-year-olds all you want in January and February as long as you realize that the Derby winner might not even be a blip on the radar screen at that point.”

Those who are already a blip on the radar are featured as betting in options in the third pool of the Kentucky Derby future wagers that opened yesterday. The Kentucky Oaks only future pool is also open. Both pools close on Saturday at around 4:17pm, prior to the start of the Gotham Stakes.. Be sure to check out our future wagers post, which includes historical payouts and considerations as well as free past performances for the current pools.

Download Free Past Performances

News About the Contenders

Blood-Horse: Quarter Crack Takes Havana Out of Swale New
Blood-Horse: Cairo Prince Works Bullet at Palm Meadows New
Blood-Horse: Paolucci Moves Ria Antonia to Baffert
Blood-Horse: Havana, No Nay Never Start Season in Swale
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s Derby Dozen
Blood-Horse: Intense Holiday Lived to Be Rising Star
Brisnet: Shared Belief ‘doing well’ at Golden Gate New
Brisnet: Darley buys majority interest in Cairo Prince
Brisnet: Espinoza hoping to end Derby drought with California Chrome
Brisnet: Bond Holder to Tampa Bay Derby
Brisnet: Wildcat Red, General a Rod exit Fountain of Youth duel in good order
Brisnet: Cairo Prince readies for Florida Derby on a hot, muggy morning
DRF: 3-year-old Spotlight and Quick Weekend Thoughts
DRF: Shared Belief’s absence leaves void among legit Kentucky Derby contenders
DRF: Kentucky Derby: For jockeys, finding the best mount can be a game of musical chairs
DRF: Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby will air live on NBC Sports
DRF: Streaming out for two months with bone chip
DRF: Fountain of Youth, Risen Star, and Other Thoughts

Gotham Stakes Kentucky Derby prep race
Aqueduct, Saturday March 1, post time: 4:17 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

A $500,000 purse and a total of 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points have drawn a field of 11 sophomores to this year’s Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, in a which top-3 performance may well secure a place in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, if last year’s points cut-off holds form this year.

Leading the field is the undefeated New York-bred Samraat. Untested in his first three starts, he battled last out in the Withers at Aqueduct with fellow New York-bred rival Uncle Sigh, eking out a one-length victory. Though trainer Rick Violette said after that race that he was inclined to wait for the Wood Memorial, Louisiana Derby, or Florida Derby, he shipped Samraat back south to train at Palm Meadows, then returned north to run over the inner Aqueduct strip, on which the horse is undefeated.

Uncle Sigh broke his maiden at Aqueduct in December with a dominating 14-length win after finishing second by a head in his debut in the slop. Losing nothing in the Withers defeat, Uncle Sigh has remained in Gary Contessa’s Belmont barn, his training disrupted by winter weather that resulted in the Belmont training track being closed for several days earlier this month. Contessa asked for and received permission to breeze Uncle Sigh on the afternoon of February 17 to keep his Derby contender on schedule.

Both frontrunners, Samraat and Uncle Sigh left the rest of the field in another zip code in the Withers, a scenario unlikely to unfold Saturday.

Among the other pacesetters could be Noble Cornerstone, like Samraat owned by My Meadowview Farm, coming up from Florida following a dismal performance in the throw-out Sam F. Davis. Fractious before the race, Noble Cornerstone broke badly and was never involved; he runs for trainer Wesley Ward.

Making his first start since a decisive win in the Futurity at Belmont last September, Anthony Dutrow’s In Trouble is another who may challenge the pace; surgery for a chip fracture in his knew kept him on the sidelines through the fall and winter, but Dutrow’s not a trainer known for spotting his horses where they don’t belong; the layoff’s been long and he’s never raced beyond 6 furlongs, but he looms an intriguing possibility.

Another horse coming from the Sam Davis is Todd Pletcher’s Harpoon, beaten a nose by stablemate Vinceremos in that spot, run at the same 1 1/16-miles distance as the Gotham. His one victory came in a Gulfstream Park maiden, and that by more than 5 lengths, but he’s been second in his other four lifetime starts, three of them competitively. Pletcher has also entered Monopolize, likely to scratch, according to the DRF’s David Grening SCRATCHED and longshot Master Lightning.

Samraat’s stablemate Financial Mogul will hope to get his first win since last August at Saratoga; Deceived (a half-brother to fan favorite Naughty New Yorker, third in this race in 2005), Classic Giacnroll SCRATCHED (a son of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo), and Extrasexyhippzster round out the field.

Teresa Genaro

2014 Gotham Stakes Chart

News and Recaps
Samraat Edges Uncle Sigh in Gotham Thriller
Samraat stars in Gotham thriller

2014 Gotham Stakes Replay

Santa Ysabel Stakes Kentucky Oaks prep race
Santa Anita Park, Saturday March 1, post time: 7:00 ET
1 mile (8 furlongs)

Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Santa Ysabel Stakes three times in the past five years, and he has an excellent chance on Saturday to bring his record to four of six with Awesome Baby, one of two fillies from his barn entered in this eight-horse race.

The gate-to-wire winner of the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita on January 4, Awesome Baby enters the Santa Ysabel off a string of seven workouts at distances from 4 to 6 furlongs that seem geared toward building her endurance and sharpening her speed. Fifth in the September 2013 Chandelier Stakes, her only previous start in a two-turn race, Awesome Baby is well positioned to stretch out and improve in the 1 1/16-miles Santa Ysabel.

Baffert’s other starter is Be Proud, a filly making her ninth career start on Saturday and coming off a win as the favorite in the California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields. Tiz Kissable SCRATCHED, another Santa Ysabel entrant, finished third in the same race. Both fillies may be outclassed in this field, as may Swiss Lake Yodeler, one of two Santa Ysabel entries for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. A two-time winner in state-bred company, Swiss Lake Yodeler finished 11th in her last start, the California Cup Oaks, her first ever race on turf. In her favor on Saturday is that she switches back to the dirt main track, on which she won at a mile last November. For the California Cup Oaks runner-up Anniversary Kitty SCRATCHED, the Santa Ysabel offers two different challenges — the race will be her first on dirt, and her first out of state-bred company.

Artemis, fifth in the February 1 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita after running several lengths behind throughout the race, is Hollendorfer’s other entry, and she’ll be starting in blinkers for the first time on Saturday. The headgear may help the filly to focus and stay closer to the pace, which is how she won her maiden at Santa Anita on January 3. Saintly Joan, sixth in the Las Virgenes, will also race for the first time in blinkers.

Sweet Bliss SCRATCHED is an interesting Santa Ysabel starter, on the basis of breeding and training. Making her third career start and entering off a maiden win at the same distance on January 30, the filly comes from the same female family that produced the 2004 juvenile filly champion and 2005 Santa Ysabel winner Sweet Catomine and the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Life Is Sweet. Like Life is Sweet, Sweet Bliss is trained by John Shirreffs, who is known for his patient development of young horses, such as two-time Breeders’ Cup winner and late bloomer Zenyatta.

Jessica Chapel

2014 Santa Ysabel Stakes Chart

News and Recaps
Awesome Baby Splashes to Santa Ysabel Tally
Awesome Baby wires Santa Ysabel

2014 Santa Ysabel Stakes Replay