Derby Prep Alert
Derby Prep Alert

March 6, 2015Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Last week the Kentucky Derby points races took a break, and a new Oaks hopeful emerged from California. Despite there being no official Derby preps, an intriguing contender made the scene at Turfway in a prep for the Spiral Stakes. Check last week’s post to see what you missed!

This week the Derby trail heats back up with a trio of points races and the entry of several buzz horses, including undefeated Dortmund in the San Felipe, Ocean Knight and Carpe Diem in the Tampa Bay Derby, and the return of Withers winner El Kabeir in the Gotham.

Perhaps the biggest news is about who’s not running this weekend, as the connections of champion filly Take Charge Brandi have opted to bypass the Honeybee in favor of the Rebel against colts on March 14. With the new points system, she would need to earn Derby points to be able to compete in the Kentucky Derby.

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News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: Upstart On Target for Florida Derby
Blood-Horse: Friday’s Islamorada Could Impact Triple Crown
Blood-Horse: Metaboss Working Toward Spiral Start
Blood-Horse: Daredevil Back in Rescheduled Swale
Blood-Horse: Far From Over Interest Sold, Wood Next
Blood-Horse: Steve Haskin’s Derby Dozen – March 3, 2015
Blood-Horse: Lopez Lets El Kabeir be “The Boss”
Blood-Horse: The Great War No Longer Pursuing Derby
Blood-Horse: Daredevil Back to Work After Swale Washout
Brisnet: Khozan sidelined from Derby trail
Brisnet: American Pharoah sizzles in pre-Rebel work
Brisnet: Pletcher sorting out three-year-old talent
Brisnet: Daredevil stars in rescheduled Swale; tough trio return in GP ‘Cap
Brisnet: Public tabs field as 7-2 choice in Kentucky Oaks Future Wager
DRF: Triple Crown nominees in maiden allowance route at Oaklawn
DRF: Gulfstream: Unbridled Juan runs right over Wisecracker
DRF: Daredevil loses comeback; Albertrani en fuego
DRF: Promise Me Silver scratched from Honeybee at Oaklawn
DRF: Works for Tampa Bay and Gotham Stakes
DRF: Promise Me Silver ‘unlikely’ to start in Honeybee, per trainer Bret Calhoun
DRF: Souper Colossal OUT of Tampa Bay Derby
DRF: Wisecracker, a fine second to Khozan, is back in at Gulfstream Saturday
DRF: Rebel could be historic match
DRF: Take Charge Brandi to face males in Rebel Stakes
DRF: Kentucky Derby Future Wager: Field favored at 4-1

Gotham Stakes Kentucky Derby prep race
Aqueduct, Saturday March 7, post time: 4:50 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

Initially slated to be a rematch between the winners of New York’s first two Kentucky Derby prep races, Saturday’s Gotham lost more than a little of its luster when the connections of Grade 3 Withers winner Far From Over opted to pass the race and instead train up to the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in early April.

Decisive winner of the Grade 3 Jerome at Aqueduct Racetrack in January and made the odds-on favorite in the Withers, El Kabeir was defeated in that race after contending for the lead and briefly gaining it in the 1 1/16-miles race. With Far From Over removed from contention, El Kabeir faces nine inexperienced rivals in the Gotham, none of whom is a stakes winner and only one of which has anything more than a maiden win to his credit.

A two-time graded stakes winner, El Kabeir has been out of the top three just once in seven lifetime starts. A $250,000 yearling purchase by Zayat Stables—an entity whose horses are fixtures in Triple Crown races—El Kabeir figures to be close to the lead, but he’s unlikely to be there alone.

Among those vying with El Kabeir on the front end will be the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Classy Class, third behind Far From Over and El Kabeir in the Withers. Setting the pace and then dueling stubbornly with El Kabeir before falling short, Classy Class showed guts and determination last out; masterful in his 6 1/2-furlong debut last year, can he carry his speed over the 1 1/8 miles of the Gotham?

One of three horses trained by Todd Pletcher in the race, Blame Jim broke his maiden by three lengths at Saratoga last summer, then didn’t race again last month, finishing second in an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park as the even-money favorite. Another speedy type, he’ll be breaking from the far outside post 10, which isn’t going to do him any favors.

Dontbetwithbruno, another of the Pletchers, broke his maiden in his third attempt, over this Aqueduct strip and at this distance in early February. The third from the Pletcher barn, Uninfluenced, will earn both a trip to the Kentucky Derby and his first win if he can pull this off.

Combat Diver, second by a nose last out in the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park, comes from the same connections as last year’s Gotham runner-up Uncle Sigh. Trained by Gary Contessa, the Maryland-bred Combat Diver is owned by Wounded Warrior Stable, which last year donated a portion of its racing earnings to supporting military veterans.

Rounding out the field are Lieutenant Colonel, who won on debut at Gulfstream Park in February; Tiz Shea, making his first start for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott after winning first out at Parx last month; Toasting Master, the only contender besides El Kabeir with two wins to his credit; and Tencendur, the fourth-place finisher in the Withers who’s made all three of his previous starts at Aqueduct.

The Gotham is part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series and offers 50 qualifying points to the winner, 20 to the runner-up, 10 to the third-place finisher, and 5 to the horse that finishes fourth. In 2013, the first year of the Kentucky Derby points system, the number of points needed to qualify was 10. Last year, it was 20, suggesting that both the Gotham winner and runner-up will have enough points to make it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May in Louisville.

Teresa Genaro

Download the Gotham Chart

2015 Gotham Replay

News and Recaps
Blood-Horse: El Kabeir Continues NY Success in Gotham
Brisnet: El Kabeir on course for Wood; Upstart to Florida Derby
DRF: Gotham reaction
DRF: El Kabeir succeeds with new dimension
NYRA: Top 3 from Gotham emerge in good shape, target Wood

Tampa Bay Derby Kentucky Derby prep race
Tampa Bay Downs, Saturday March 7, post time: 5:23 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

This year’s Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby appears to be a two horse race on paper, a battle between Ocean Knight and Carpe Diem. Both are owned by Stonestreet Stables, who raced and own champions Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Carpe Diem is the slight morning line favorite at 8-5, making his 3-year-old debut after finishing second as the favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall. 

In that race, Carpe Diem displayed a new dimension in running style. He was taken back off the fast pace in front of him and rated behind horses early. Wide on both turns, despite his late kick, he was no match for eventual winner Texas Red. In two starts prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Carpe Diem was an early pace factor, first breaking his maiden in a race at Saratoga in September when setting scorching fractions, then attending a moderate pace when winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October. With the scratch of Super Colossal due to a high temperature, Carpe Diem has the early speed to have things his own way on the front end if his jockey John Velazquez chooses. Do note trainer Todd Pletcher has just one winner from 18 starts in the last year at Tampa Bay Downs.

The top four finishers in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis return here in the Tampa Bay Derby. Second choice on the morning line at 2/1 is Ocean Knight, winner last out of the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay. In that race, Ocean Knight was wide on both turns and closed into a slow pace to get up late by a neck over pacesetting longshot Divining Rod. Ocean Knight draws inside in post two and should avoid having to be wide, as he did when he drew poorly in post 11 in the Sam F. Davis.

Divining Rod showed vast improvement in his third start when he got a perfect trip in the Sam F. Davis when setting slow fractions. He should have company up front here with Carpe Diem to his outside, but the scratch of Super Colossal does help relieve some of the early pace pressure. He’s the first foal to race from his dam, multiple Grade 1 winner on turf Precious Kitten. His female family includes a who’s who of turf runners including champion and prolific turf sire Kitten’s Joy, but given the prestige of the Kentucky Derby, this is the right time of year to find out if your 3-year-old can also run on dirt.

Third-place finisher in the Sam F. Davis, My Johnny Be Good was the beneficiary of the slow pace he attended with Diving Rod. Despite that pace advantage, he lost ground in the stretch to Ocean Knight and Diving Rod late. While he’s shown improvement in each of his three starts since switching to dirt, he would need to take another big step forward to have a chance at winning here. Fourth-place finisher in the Sam F. Davis, Ami’s Flatter is perhaps the most interesting of the quartet returning from that race. He, along with Ocean Knight, were moving best late despite being pace-compromised. Here he’s adding blinkers to help him focus and put him into the race earlier. He’s also running for the first time on Lasix. At 15-1 on the morning line, he’s a longshot with a lot of upside.

A trio of shippers from Gulfstream Park rounds out the field. Danzig Moon broke his maiden as the favorite last out when making his 3-year-old debut in a one-turn mile. He attended a slow pace when wide on a speed-favoring track. He will need to move up several lengths to factor here when making his graded stakes debut. Great Stuff is winless from three starts in the maiden ranks. Despite that record, he’s somewhat intriguing, having run third to Kentucky Derby hopeful Khozan in a slow-paced maiden two starts back and having lost a head to Lieutenant Colonel (who is running in the Gotham on Saturday at Aqueduct) in his most recent start when trying to close as the favorite on speed-favoring track. Moonlight Bandit is the longest shot in the race and he figures to be an early pace presence, having flashed some early speed in his last three starts, including a disappointing 11th in his lone graded stakes try in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct.

Chris Rossi

Download the Tampa Bay Derby Chart

2015 Tampa Bay Derby Replay

News and Recaps
Blood-Horse: Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby Winner
Brisnet: Carpe Diem outclasses Tampa Bay Derby foes
DRF: Solid 3yo debut for Carpe Diem
DRF: Tampa Bay Derby Day quick wrap
TwinSpires Blog: Carpe Diem wins Tampa Bay Derby

Honeybee Stakes Kentucky Oaks prep race
Oaklawn Park, Saturday March 7, post time: 5:38 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

With last year’s Eclipse Award champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi bypassing this race to take on open company in next weekend’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, the Honeybee has become quite literally anyone’s race, as no one filly stands out above the others on paper.

Based on her impressive late-closing effort against the Eclipse winner in the Martha Washington, Sarah Sis will doubtless have her backers. This will be her first time stretching out to 1 1/16 miles which at Oaklawn, means traversing two turns. However, given how well she has closed in both of her efforts this year—a mere head behind Take Charge Brandi, and a runner-up finish, a neck behind Promise Me Silver, in the Dixie Belle—the extra distance doesn’t appear to be a problem. Her juvenile form is also solid; at Keeneland last October, she handily defeated Lovely Maria, the Larry Jones trainee who two weeks ago finished second behind stablemate I’m a Chatterbox in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra.

Undefeated in six lifetime starts, Texas-bred Promise Me Silver SCRATCHED has already beaten Sarah Sis and maiden winner Super Saks in the Dixie Belle over this track, but this will be her first attempt racing beyond 7 furlongs, not to mention going around more than one turn. Starting from the far outside post position 9 will be a challenge. Based on her two efforts this year, D. Wayne Lukas-trained speedball Super Saks appears to have matured significantly; her three races last year were nightmare events, while she began 2015 will a decent third-place finish in the Dixie Belle against far more seasoned competitors. Last out she broke her maiden handily by 11 lengths, but can she stretch out successfully beyond 6 furlongs? Since that race, Lukas has given her three nice long workouts, including a bullet 5-furlong work on Monday. Her second dam Slide Show finished second in this race over 20 years ago, just before her runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Fantasy, so maybe there is some family tradition to uphold.

The third-place finisher in the Martha Washington, Indian Annie was no match for either Take Charge Brandi or Sarah Sis, fading in the stretch to finish eight lengths back. While nothing in her form or workouts suggests that she can turn the tables on Sarah Sis, she does possess a tantalizing pedigree—her dam is a half-sister to 2010 Eclipse champion juvenile male and two-time Grade 1 winner Uncle Mo (also, like Indian Annie, by sire Indian Charlie).

Grade 2 Pocahontas runner-up Pangburn captured her season opener in an allowance race at the 1 1/16-miles distance over this track, closing from dead last around the final turn to get up and win resolutely by 1 1/4 lengths. It was an impressive performance, one that she could easily repeat. In that same allowance event, Bootsy’s Girl closed well to capture third place, just missing a runner-up finish by less than a length. A daughter of 12-furlong Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, Bootsy’s Girl possesses a fantastic stamina pedigree, with her third dam Duty Dance being a Grade 1 runner-up going 11 furlongs against males. By posting the fastest speed figure at the 1 1/16-miles distance (and over this track), she’s definitely one to consider.

The two inside horses, Oceanwave and Desert Valley, share a common race, a 7-furlong maiden event at Keeneland back in October. Desert Valley capitulated late, finishing a distant third, while Oceanwave won by a nose over Lassofthemohicans, a filly that began 2015 with a runner-up performance in the Grade 2 Forward Gal, but who ran a disappointing fifth most recently in the Grade 2 Davona Dale. Desert Valley finally broke her maiden, in her seventh lifetime start, in a $50,000 maiden claiming event at Gulfstream last out. Even a barn switch (from trainer Ian Wilkes to Karl Broberg) seems unlikely to propel her to victory. However, the more regally bred Oceanwave is another late-closer that could surprise stretching out to a route distance for the first time. Her dam is a full sister to Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile victor Tapizar.

The longshot flyer is Purr, a homebred filly whose dam is a half-sister to the brilliant Grade 1 (and 2012 Honeybee) winner On Fire Baby. It took her six attempts before she broke her maiden, which occurred over this 1 1/16-miles distance. Curiously, it was only after her connections took her off Lasix that she found the winner’s circle. To see her there after this race would be a pleasant shock.

Valerie Grash

Download the Honeybee Chart

2015 Honeybee Replay at Blood-Horse

News and Recaps
Blood-Horse: Sarah Sis Much the Best in Honeybee
Brisnet: Sarah Sis romps in Honeybee
DRF: Sarah Sis clear winner of the Honeybee at Oaklawn
DRF: Sarah Sis takes Honeybee at Oaklawn under perfect ride by Julio Felix; Oceanwave second best
DRF: Sarah Sis gets first stakes win in Honeybee
TwinSpires Blog: Honeybee success may turn sour for Sarah Sis

San Felipe Stakes Kentucky Derby prep race
Santa Anita Park, Saturday March 7, post time: 6:00 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

Dortmund the Now And Then Horse in San Felipe

Dortmund enters the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park as the “now” horse on the Kentucky Derby trail: He is undefeated with two consecutive stakes wins and is number one on both the and Associated Press polls.

But that is nothing new. Dortmund has been the “now” horse since he debuted on the day after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, winning his first career race by 4 3/4 lengths as the 11-to-10 favorite.

And he has kept on winning and kept on taking money. He was 2-to-5 when winning his second start—a one-turn mile race at Churchill Downs—and 3-to-5 when winning both of his stakes races, including the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Despite the accolades both on track and in the press, horsemen are not ducking Dortmund. Sure, the horse he defeated by a head in both the Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes—Firing Line—has shipped out of town, but nine other challengers await in the San Felipe, including another undefeated stakes winner in Ocho Ocho Ocho.

Off since November 24 when he won the Delta Jackpot Stakes, Ocho Ocho Ocho makes his 3-year-old debut in the San Felipe. That Delta Jackpot has turned into a formful race with third-place finisher Far Right defeating runner-up Mr. Z in both the Smarty Jones and Southwest Stakes this year at Oaklawn Park. Ocho Ocho Ocho is also one of only seven 3-year-olds with multiple triple-digit (100+) Speed Ratings.

The question of where Dortmund and Ocho Ocho Ocho will be in the betting is an easier one to answer than where they will be in the race. It is possible that either one could be on the lead early (as Dortmund was in his last race) or midpack in the field of 10.

Lord Nelson and Bolo are the other San Felipe entrants exiting stakes wins, but both will have to take steps out of their comfort zones to perform well here.

Lord Nelson won the 7-furlong San Vicente last out, but he is winless in two starts at the San Felipe distance of 1 1/16 miles. Bolo has a pair of wins around two turns—1 1/16 miles in his maiden and the 1-mile Eddie Logan Stakes—but those both came on turf. The San Felipe is Bolo’s dirt debut, though he does train on the main track.

The field’s only other stakes winner is Pain and Misery, who won the Governor’s Cup last year in New Mexico but is now based in Southern California with Racing Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

Most interesting of the non-stakes winners is Prospect Park, who has two wins from four starts around two turns, including a 5 1/4-length allowance score last out. The San Felipe is his stakes debut.

Maiden winners Sir Samson (third to Lord Nelson in the San Vicente), the multiple stakes-placed Pulmarack, and The Gomper help complete the field, along with maiden Kenjisstorm.

Ed DeRosa

Download the San Felipe Chart

2015 San Felipe Replay

News and Recaps
Blood-Horse: Dortmund Cruises Wire-to-Wire in San Felipe
Brisnet: ‘Ocho’ cut up in San Felipe, headed for SA Derby rematch with top three
DRF: San Felipe runner-up = solid effort
DRF: Some San Felipe post-race thoughts
DRF: Top three from San Felipe bound for SA Derby

Not Points Races But Could Have Impact

Download the 2015 Swale Chart

2015 Swale Stakes Replay

News and Recaps
Blood-Horse: Ready For Rye Upsets Daredevil in Swale
Brisnet: Ready for Rye powers home in Swale, Daredevil second
DRF: Daredevil loses comeback; Albertrani en fuego