Derby Prep Alert
Derby Prep Alert

March 20, 2015Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Last weekend, juvenile champ American Pharoah made a triumphant return, winning the Rebel Stakes with ease off the bench, albeit not against the strongest group of contenders. It was an exciting race nonetheless, and so far, 2015 looks to be a year with multiple strong Kentucky Derby contenders. Be sure to check last week’s edition for replays, Brisnet charts and links to all the recaps.

While this week’s races are not as high-profile as the ones in the coming weeks, they all have produced notable recent Kentucky Derby and Oaks winners. In 2009, Mine that Bird came out of a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby to pay a whopping $103.20 as the upset winner of the Kentucky Derby. In 2011, Animal Kingdom won the Spiral Stakes on his way to Derby upset greatness, paying $43.80. Plum Pretty, the 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner, dusted the Sunland Park Oaks field by 25 lengths, and 2006 record-setting Oaks winner Lemons Forever ran third in the Bourbonette.

Bottom line: don’t sleep on this weekend’s races! And if you’re looking for ways to keep up with the Kentucky Derby during the week, we have some suggestions.

As always, we’ll add Brisnet charts, links to recaps and replays where available after each race. We also will contender news through the weekend, so check back frequently!

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News About the Contenders

Blood-Horse: American Pharoah Pointed to Arkansas Derby
Blood-Horse: One Lucky Dane Impresses in 3-Year-Old Debut
Blood-Horse: Texas Red Off the Kentucky Derby Trail
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s Derby Dozen – March 17, 2015
Brisnet: St. Joe Bay’s future includes return trip to Fair Grounds
Brisnet: My Point Exactly to make three-year-old debut in Florida Derby
Brisnet: One Lucky Dane dominates Santa Anita allowance
Brisnet: Far Right continues Arkansas Derby preparations with five-furlong move
Brisnet: Bolo to tackle dirt yet again in Santa Anita Derby
Brisnet: War Story sizzles bullet for Louisiana Derby
Brisnet: Violette: Upstart’s in a ‘very, very good spot’
Brisnet: Texas Red officially out of Kentucky Derby contention
Brisnet: American Pharoah ‘perfect’ after Rebel romp
DRF: Baffert: Lord Nelson to remain around one turn
DRF: By the Moon should move forward in Caesar’s Wish at Laurel on Saturday
DRF: Frosted Works 5/8ths for Wood Memorial
DRF: Lord Nelson will skip Sunland Park Derby
DRF: Southwest winner FAR RIGHT in Thursday work at Oaklawn
DRF: Fallout from the Imperia scratch
DRF: Imperia to scratch from Saturday’s Spiral Stakes at Turfway
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not for March 18
DRF: Ocho Ocho Ocho leads Wednesday workers
DRF: Fair Grounds: War Story works fast on fast track
DRF: Blue Grass likely next for Unrivaled; Montoya to remain trainer
DRF: Mr. Z – Equipment changes, rider change

Blood-Horse: Dortmund Back Working After San Felipe Win
Brisnet: Baffert: Pharoah, Dortmund are ‘really two different types of horses’
DRF: By the Moon shows her class in Caesar’s Wish at Laurel
DRF: 3 favorites for next Sat.’s Fla Derby had their final works this a.m.
DRF: Upstart in Final Work Prior to Florida Derby, Danzig Moon Breezes 5/8ths

Brisnet: Danette bound for FG Oaks
Brisnet: Stanford expected in Louisiana Derby; blinkers off Mr. Z
DRF: El Kabeir, Tiz Shea D work
DRF: Fair Grounds: Pletcher likely has three for La. Derby Day

Bourbonette Oaks Kentucky Oaks prep race
Turfway Park, Saturday March 21, post time: 5:42 pm ET
1 mile (8 furlongs), synthetic surface

Well-traveled Sharla Rae, 5-2, is the morning line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, but the full field of 12 fillies – with two also-eligibles – offers many intriguing contenders.

Sharla Rae, who will have Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey Drayden Van Dyke aboard, is proven on synthetic with two of her four career wins in stakes races at Golden Gate. Other than the two also-eligible fillies, there’s not much early speed signed on for this one-mile Kentucky Oaks points race. That could work against this Doug O’Neill trainee, as she is better when stalking a target, but her class, experience and proven ability on the Golden Gate Tapeta put her among the top prospects.

Respect has eluded West Virginia-bred Harlan’s Destiny. Why? She proved more than capable against open company when she defeated a decent field in an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs in November. She’s won four straight, and although her lone loss was on synthetic at Arlington Park, that was her debut in which she suffered a troubled start, so she had plenty of excuses. At 5-1, this Wayne Catalano trainee with Channing Hill aboard looks like a live price play.

Sweet Success has improved with each start. She appeared to benefit from being closer to the pace last out in her maiden-breaking win, and with a lack of speed here, she could be the pace key with top rider Joel Rosario aboard. Her drawbacks are a lack of experience and no previous races on synthetic.

Back Flip is another possible pace key. She’s returning off a short layoff and making her first start for trainer Kelly Ackerman. The daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver showed marked improvement with a move to turf late last year. Her main challenge is the class test, as her lone win was against a modest group of maidens and she’s facing a solid contingent of experienced runners here.

Woodbine invader Don’t Leave Me is the wild card of the field. She’s proven on synthetic, and her sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Natalma on yielding turf was better than it looks on paper. She’s also dealt with two straight troubled starts, so activity at the gate will be a key. Will she adjust to a new jockey, Jose Lezcano, and new surroundings in her first ship-out?

Trainer Mike Maker brings three fillies to the race, all longshots: Walking the Kitten (15-1), Right On Kitten (20-1), and Flat Deposit (20-1). Of the trio, Right On Kitten with Rajiv Maragh aboard is most appealing. Toss her lone poor effort in the Ginger Brew on turf and you have a consistent filly. She was farther off the pace than expected in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway last month, yet she still rallied late and managed to finish fourth. She’s an exotics play at the right price.

Another Cincinnati Trophy alumna, Bossy (SCRATCHED), is a longshot to watch. Her lone poor effort was on dirt at Keeneland; otherwise, she’s been in the mix every time. It’s also worth noting that she’s faced the venerable Honeybee Stakes winner Sarah Sis twice in her career, so the Wayne Catalano trainee fits with this company.

Other competitors are: College Holly, who will be rallying late; Sweet On Smokey, who is 1 for 9 for her career and adds blinkers; and Urtheoneeyelove, who boasts a win over this surface and makes her first start for trainer Scott Wilson.

The also-eligible fillies are Turfway maiden winners Uncontrolled and Christie’s Ready.

J.J. Hysell

Download the 2015 Bourbonette Chart

2015 Bourbonette Replay

2015 Bourbonette News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Don’t Leave Me Flies Late in Bourbonette Win
Brisnet: Don’t Leave Me leaves Bourbonette Oaks rivals behind
DRF: Rapid Reaction: Bourbonette – Don’t Leave Me rallies wide to catch Sweet Success
TwinSpires Blog: Don’t Leave Me should leave Oaks alone

Spiral Stakes Kentucky Derby prep race
Turfway Park, Saturday March 21, post time: 6:28 pm ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs), synthetic surface

The real test in Saturday’s Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park could be the synthetic surface.

Just three of the 12 competitors in the 1 1/8-miles race – which offers 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner – boast wins on synthetic. Six are trying synthetic for the first time.

The favorite is Royal Son. At 7-2 on the morning line, he took a major step forward in his first try on synthetic with a powerful wire-to-wire, maiden-breaking win in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway. The Todd Pletcher trainee fared well on dirt with three runner-up finishes before a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa. Although he’s obviously fond of this track, it’s likely the tougher competition that proved his true adversity, and he faces some talented foes here. In addition, he must navigate from the rail.

Metaboss is an appealing contestant as he’s coming off a scintillating victory on synthetic in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby. Not only is he well-suited for the surface, but this late closer has excelled since stretching out to this distance. Jockey Alex Solis is making the trip from his home base of California to guide this small but athletic colt from post 11. He’s a top pick.

Well-traveled Firespike tallied a win on synthetic in the OBS Championship Series at Ocala, but he backtracked with a tough trip for a non-threatening fifth-place finish in the John Battaglia. His best races have been against Florida-breds and he looks most suited for a minor award here.

It’s interesting to note that the sires of the race’s three synthetic winners – Street Boss (Metaboss), Tiznow (Royal Son) and Flower Alley (Firespike) – rank second, third and fourth respectively on the 2015 leading synthetic sires list.

Although he’s yet to win on synthetic, Conquest Typhoon is the class of the field. He’s a two-time graded stakes winner on turf, was a solid fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and was third to Metaboss in the El Camino Real Derby. Top jockey Mike Smith took over the reins two races back and follows the Mark Casse-trained bay to Turfway. Conquest Typhoon’s main challenge is likely the added distance, as he’s often lost the lead in the late stages of a race. A smart tactic might be to use the same late-closing path Smith designed in his win with this horse on turf at Del Mar in November, in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes.

The classy Dubai Sky can’t be ignored as he’s been stellar on turf. This versatile Bill Mott-trained colt can come from off the pace or win on the lead. He’s adding Lasix for the first time and also making his synthetic debut. Pedigree suggests he’ll be well-suited to the surface as he’s a son of Candy Ride, sire of such prolific synthetic winners as Shared Belief, Misremembered and Clubhouse Ride. He’s also a full brother to multiple graded stakes winner Twirling Candy.

One of the most intriguing entrants is Wireless Future, a multi-surface talent who’s won three straight at Fair Grounds. The colt has yet to win beyond a mile, but his stalking style could be a major asset here. Also, jockey Florent Geroux, who has been aboard for all three wins, makes the trip.

Another Lemon Drop appeared firmly on the Kentucky Derby trail after finishing fourth in the Lecomte, but he was re-routed to turf in the Black Gold. He fell short against longshot Tuba in that 7 1/2-furlong race – likely not his ideal distance – and it sets him up nicely for this return to routes. He appears best suited for turf and synthetic. He will have Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey Drayden Van Dyke aboard.

Two sons of multiple graded stakes winner Badge of Silver are entered: Magic of Believing, who boasts two straight wins at Oaklawn, and Task Force Glory, a maiden winner on turf who appeared to regress on synthetic against stakes competition in his sixth-place finish in the John Battaglia.

Watchyourownbobber and Big Family are longshot Florida invaders. Watchyourownbobber, who posted a sharp bullet work over the Turfway surface, merits a look for exotics with Rajiv Maragh aboard. Imperia was scratched after the draw.

J.J. Hysell

Download the 2015 Spiral Chart

2015 Spiral Replay

2015 Spiral News & Recaps
America’s Best Racing: Dubai Sky Flies to Spiral Win
Brisnet: Skies the limit for Dubai
Blood-Horse: Dubai Sky Stays Hot in Spiral Victory
DRF: Spiral Stakes – Rapid reaction
TwinSpires Blog: Dubai Sky continues upward Spiral

Sunland Park Oaks Kentucky Oaks prep race
Sunland Park, Sunday March 22, post time: 6:35 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

Trainer Bob Baffert has won six of the past eight Sunland Park Oaks, including the last four. By entering the highly accomplished duo of Callback and Maybellene this year, he will likely extend that winning streak.

Wire-to-wire Grade 1 Las Virgenes winner Callback possesses the kind of early speed that traditionally translates to victory in this race. Stepping up from eight furlongs to 1 1/16 miles should not be a problem for this beautifully bred filly by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense; her unraced dam is a half-sister to another Kentucky Derby winner, 2010’s Super Saver. Regular rider Martin Garcia takes the mount.

Baffert’s other entry Maybellene (by his 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky) is no slouch either in the stamina breeding department; her unraced Giant’s Causeway dam is a half-sister to Elusive Quality (sire of 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic victor Raven’s Pass, and 10-furlong Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup runner-up Quality Road, among others). This is also the immediate family of two-time 12-furlong Grade 1 Sword Dancer victor Grand Couturier, not to mention Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Anees. To some extent, Maybellene enjoyed the same kind of precocious juvenile success that her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up sire did, finishing 2014 with an extremely close-up third-place finish behind Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Take Charge Brandi in the 1 1/16-miles Grade 1 Starlet. However, her two starts this year have been disappointing; she faded to finish next to last and 11 lengths behind stablemate Callback in the Las Virgenes, and then failed to hit the board going one mile on turf in the listed China Doll only 15 days ago. Still, she’s already proven to be fast, certainly more so than most in this field. Jockey Victor Espinoza takes the reins for the first time.

Trainer John Sadler’s entry Suva Harbor challenged Callback early in the Las Virgenes but was ultimately no competition for her, weakening to finish 10 lengths behind the winner. She followed up that race by shipping to Sunland and to cross the wire first in the one-mile prep for this event, the listed Island Fashion, but was disqualified and placed last for bearing out around the first turn. Perhaps to combat that situation from occurring again, Sadler has brought along her regular jockey Martin Pedroza to ride.

Island Fashion winner Rousanne also returns, but her competition is far tougher this time. Ditto for maiden winner Babes Cylver Slew, who has yet to win beyond 5 1/2 furlongs. Sunland-based trainer Henry Dominguez sends out three maiden winners: We Need Art, Fancy and Flashy, and Scat Means Go. The most interesting of the trio is Scat Means Go, who when previously in the Steve Asmussen barn faced the likes of Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra third-place finisher Forever Unbridled. Transferred to Dominguez, the daughter of 9-furlong Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy ran a little greenly, but won with her head up and ears pricked versus older fillies going one mile. That race was only eight days ago, so this may be a big ask, but with blinkers added and top Woodbine jockey Luis Contreras taking the mount, she could prove to be a real exotics threat based on how well she was moving late in that contest.

Valerie Grash

Download the 2015 Sunland Park Oaks Chart

2015 Sunland Park Oaks Replay

2015 Sunland Park Oaks News & Recaps
Brisnet: Maybellene gets Sunland Park Oaks win via disqualification
DRF: Callback’s DQ gives Sunland Oaks win to stablemate Maybellene
DRF: Flash recap of Sunland Park Oaks: DQ could cost Callback Ky Oaks berth
TDN: Maybellene is Put Up in the Sunland Oaks

Sunland Derby Kentucky Derby prep race
Sunland Park, Sunday March 22, post time: 7:40 pm ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)

After two consecutive losses to Dortmund, Simon Callaghan-trainee Firing Line lands in what appears to be a significantly easier spot. The son of 9-furlong Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Line of David will make his first attempt at the 1 1/8 miles distance, but he is beautifully bred for the task; his dam Sister Girl Blues once dueled the great Azeri to a second-place finish in the 9-furlong Grade 1 Vanity. Jockey Gary Stevens retains the mount.

Steve Asmussen-trained Tiznow R J went from an impressive 13-length maiden winner directly to a solid third-place performer in the Grade 3 Lecomte behind the far more seasoned runner International Star. While the latter went on to capture the Grade 2 Risen Star next out, Tiznow R J floundered in that race, finished seventh of nine runners and 11 lengths back. From a stamina pedigree point of view, he certainly appears capable of traversing the 9-furlong distance, as his sire Tiznow twice captured the 10-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. On his damside, there’s also a good bit of quality, with his dam being a half-sister to 3-time Group 1 Hong Kong Mile champion Good Ba Ba, and his third dam being a half-sister to the dam of 2-time Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile victress Miesque. The change of scenery may be enough to shake him up.

Only eight days after breaking his maiden, Where’s the Moon came back to win the Mine That Bird Derby here at Sunland. While he lacks the graded stakes credentials of Firing Line, this well-bred son of Malibu Moon should not be ignored, especially at this distance. Not only did his dam Aldiza capture the 9-furlong Grade 1 Go for Wand, but he is also of the same immediate family as 10-furlong Grade 1-placed And Why Not and 2-time 12-furlong stakes runner-up Alaazo. Top Woodbine-based jockey Luis Contreras takes the reins for the first time.

In addition to Where’s the Moon, local trainer Henry Dominguez sends out allowance winner Malibu Mogul and Zia Park stakes winner Pain and Misery. A half-brother to Grade 1-winning sprinter Idiot Proof, Malibu Mogul has won both of his sprint races at Sunland this year in wire-to-wire fashion. Given their primary function is usually to intensify a horse’s focus early in a race, the addition of blinkers should hardly help motive him to stretch out beyond six furlongs for the first time. Pain and Misery returns to the Dominguez barn after a short stint with trainer Richard Mandella that saw him perform well in a minor turf sprint stakes race but fail terribly against Dortmund and Lord Nelson in the Grade 2 San Felipe. While his sire Bob and John captured the 9-furlong Grade 1 Wood Memorial and his dam is a half-sister to 9-furlong Grade 1-placed Awesome I Am, Pain and Misery just hasn’t run fast enough to be considered a serious upset contender.

Although he displayed good speed in his two Santa Anita starts, Turf Paradise Derby winner Why Two has faced far weaker opponents, while Mine That Bird Derby third-place finisher Dirt Monster seems unlikely to reverse form against Where’s the Moon.

Valerie Grash

Download the 2015 Sunland Derby Chart

2015 Sunland Derby Replay

2015 Sunland Derby News & Recaps
America’s Best Racing: Firing Line Right on Target in Sunland Park Derby
Blood-Horse: Firing Line Crushes Field in Sunland Derby
Brisnet: Firing Line sets track record in Sunland Derby romp
DRF: Firing Line cruises to dominant Sunland Derby victory
TwinSpires Blog: Firing Line routs Sunland Derby in track-record time