Derby Prep Alert
Derby Prep Alert

March 11, 2016Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Last week Songbird continued her thrilling, yet untested, reign in the Santa Ysabel while Shagaf moved forward in his first graded stakes win in the Gotham. If you missed any of the action, check last week’s edition for replays, links to recaps/post-race analysis and Brisnet charts.

This weekend brings the third pool of the Kentucky Derby future wager as well as the only Kentucky Oaks futures pool. Be sure to check out our Back to the Futures post for historical payouts as well as recommendations. You can also grab the free Brisnet past performances for both pools.

Download Free Past Performances

News About the Contenders

Courier-Journal: Surgical Strike wins Turfway’s Spiral prep
Courier-Journal: Blue Grass next for Romans’ Brody’s Cause
DRF: Road to the Derby: San Felipe Stakes
DRF: Surgical Strike rallies to win John Battaglia Memorial

Blood-Horse: Surgical Strike rallies to win John Battaglia Memorial
Twinspires: Probable field of 13 for $900,000 Rebel at Oaklawn

At the Races: Polar River unlikely to make Kentucky Oaks trip
Blood-Horse: Churchill Suspends Wagering on Polar River
Blood-Horse: Nyquist Back Breezing Two Turns in SoCal
Blood-Horse: Whatawonderflworld Entered in Spiral Prep
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s Derby Dozen – March 8, 2016
DRF: Santa Anita: Songbird is back on track
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for March 9
DRF: Jerardi: A fearsome foursome of 3-year-olds
Oaklawn Park: Grade 1 Winner Ralis to Make Seasonal Debut in Rebel
Oaklawn Park: Whitmore Sharp in Pre Rebel Work
Oaklawn Park: Suddenbreakingnews and American Dubai Work Towards Rebel
TDN: Rebel Field Begins to Take Shape
TDN: Polar River Unlikely For KY Oaks
TDN: On to Wood for Shagaf
TDN: Danzing Candy Could Be Sweet for Sise
TDN: Pedigree Insights: Shagaf

Tampa Bay Derby Kentucky Derby prep race

Tampa Bay Downs, Saturday March 12, post time: 5:24 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

Download the 2016 Tampa Bay Derby Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Tampa Bay Derby Replay

2016 Tampa Bay Derby News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Destin Sets Track Record in Tampa Bay Derby
DRF: Destin heads one-two finish for Pletcher in Tampa Bay Derby
DRF: Pletcher says all options open for one-two Tampa Bay Downs finishers
TDN: Pletcher Exacta in Tampa Bay Derby
Twinspires: Destin tops Pletcher exacta in Tampa Bay Derby

2016 Tampa Bay Derby Preview
Eight of the ten entrants in this year’s Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby have stakes experience: four of those have won graded stakes and three others have graded stakes placings. In all, this is a salty group assembled for a Grade 2 race, let alone a race with Kentucky Derby trail implications.

Making his 3-year-old debut, Brody’s Cause is the 5-2 morning line favorite, giving six pounds to the other nine entrants, having won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last October. In that race, Brody’s Cause came from last on the backstretch and closed wide to win. A near duplicate effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile had him settling in the back of the field and encountering some traffic when trying to get clear and make his run, finishing third. Not seen since then, he is eligible to improve making his first start of the year, and this race should set up well for him, the only true closer in the field.

The top three finishers of the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis, the local prep for this race, all run back here, including the winner Destin, who is second choice on the morning line at 9-2. In the Davis, Destin sat a comfortable stalking trip, met pacesetter Morning Fire on the turn and pulled away from Rafting in the stretch to secure the victory. That effort was a big step forward off his previous form, and this race similarly should set up well for him, with plenty of early speed to stalk behind. This son of Giant’s Causeway is bred in the purple, being a full brother to Creative Cause who had some success on the 2012 Kentucky Derby trail when he won the G2 San Felipe before a third-place finish in that year’s Grade 1 Preakness Stakes.

Third choice on the morning line, Economic Model was last seen in the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream six weeks ago. In that race, his graded stakes debut, he passed tiring rivals late in the stretch to finish second but was no match for winner Awesome Banner. He’s eligible to improve, making his third career start. He will need that improvement to factor, as this is his two-turn debut and he’s giving away experience to some of the other proven two-turn route horses in here.

Rafting showed improvement last out in the Grade 2 Sam F. Davis after winning a listed stake at Gulfstream Park West in November. The bad news is that despite that improvement, he settled for second to Destin, who got the jump on Rafting when both made their moves on the far turn. The good news is that there is more speed here, so should Destin hook up early with the other speed in here, Rafting does stand to benefit.

Awesome Banner wheels back off just two weeks rest after a disappointing fifth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. That effort was his two-turn debut after winning a pair of graded stake sprint races also at Gulfstream. He’s the speed of the early speed, having won three races in wire-to-wire fashion, but can he carry that speed around two turns? The effort in the Fountain of Youth suggests no. However, this is a little bit of some class relief if one believes there is no Mohaymen, one of the division leaders, in here.

Riker makes his 3-year-old debut and he’s another, like Awesome Banner, who has a wealth of early speed, having won three straight stakes in wire-to-wire fashion at Woodbine last fall, culminating in the Grade 3 Grey. Last seen setting the pace in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before fading to finish sixth, he’s got another tough assignment here given the layoff and the other early speed foes.

Not often does one see a Todd Pletcher entry at 15-1 on the morning line in a graded stakes as Outwork is here. Just two starts, both sprinting, to his credit and he’s making his stakes and two-turn debut. Rider John Velazquez opted for this mount having ridden both Destin and Outwork last out. Outwork is certainly the biggest question mark in the field, and he holds a lot of keys to the early pace, having shown some early speed in both starts. He’s got a precocious pedigree, by Uncle Mo out of the graded stakes-placed juvenile sprinter Nonna Mia, and that suggests that routing may be outside of his scope. He’s eligible to improve but will need to improve several lengths to factor late in this spot.

Tale of S’avall makes his 3-year-old debut after an almost six-month layoff, having been last seen setting the pace in the Grade 1 Champagne last fall before fading to fifth. He won his debut and was well backed by the public for connections not known to have their juveniles cranked for their debut. He’s another who looks like he will be part of the early vanguard, though the layoff is the question mark here.

Star Hill and Morning Fire (SCRATCHED) round out the field. Star Hill broke his maiden by open lengths when last seen a month ago at Gulfstream. He’s shown improvement this year off his mixed 2-year-old form and is another with the kind of tracking running style who could benefit from an early contested pace in front of him. Morning Fire sheds the blinkers after a pace-setting effort for third in the Sam F. Davis. In that race, he set an uncontested pace and that does not appear to be a possibility here, as he’s drawn the rail with all the speed to his outside.

Chris Rossi

Honeybee Stakes Kentucky Oaks prep race

Oaklawn Park, Saturday March 12, post time: 5:38 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

Download the 2016 Honeybee Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Honeybee Replay

2016 Honeybee News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Terra Promessa Stings Rivals in Honeybee
DRF: Terra Promessa cruises to 6 1/2-length victory in Honeybee
TDN: Curlin Filly Lands Honeybee
Twinspires: Terra Promessa stings rivals in Honeybee

2016 Honeybee Preview
Although the 1 1/16-miles Grade 3 Honeybee has yet to produce a Kentucky Oaks winner, it does count three Oaks runner-ups (Imaginary Lady, Dreams Gallore and Ermine) and one Kentucky Derby runner-up (Eight Belles) among its winners. With the likes of Songbird and Cathryn Sophia already ensconced as the top two Oaks contenders, can one of the six fillies entered here hope to make a big enough impact to thrust them into Oaks contention?

Winner of the one-mile Grade 1 Frizette last October, Nickname is the sole graded stakes winner in the race. She ran competitively in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, tucked behind Songbird and Rachel’s Valentina, but ultimately was no match for those two, finishing a distant fourth behind a late-closing Dothraki Queen. In her seasonal debut, she got a dream rail trip in the listed Martha Washington, but was still beaten fairly by 12-1 longshot Marquee Miss. She should improve second-up off the break, but given that her dam was twice a listed stakes runner-up sprinting, the question remains as to whether or not she has the stamina to win beyond a mile.

Both Marquee Miss and Dorodansa also return from the Martha Washington. In her juvenile debut, Marquee Miss demonstrated real moxie in capturing the 7-furlong listed Arlington-Washington Lassie over nine rivals. Strongly checked making a move exiting the backstretch, she dug in, picked off challengers going wide and won by a clear three lengths with her ears pricked up. Among those she defeated that day: recent Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra winner Venus Valentine. While the rest of her juvenile campaign did not play out as well as it started, she began this year with two strong stakes victories at Oaklawn Park. Two sharp workouts since her last race indicate she may be ready for another big effort.

In the Martha Washington, Dorodansa was moving well late, indicative of a filly that may want a longer distance. By 10-furlong Grade 1 Travers runner-up Bellamy Road, she counts among her immediate damside family members 10-furlong turf stakes winner Distorted Reality. Her dam was also a winner on dirt and turf and at distances as long as 1 1/8 miles. Having already posted the top Brisnet speed figure in the field and second only to Nickname in terms of her Brisnet class rating, Dorodansa could be a sneaky-good longshot chance.

Winner of the listed Debutante at Churchill Downs last June, Cosmic Evolution ran a dynamite race first-up off a 7-month break, winning a 6-furlong allowance race on the Martha Washington undercard. Can she successfully stretch out in distance? Her damside pedigree offers some promise that she can, as her third dam was a juvenile Grade 1 runner-up at nine furlongs (1 1/8 miles). Other immediate female family members include multiple Grade 2 victress Naissance Royale, who placed third in the 10-furlong (1 1/4 miles) Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, and Tarrip, who was twice Grade 3-placed on turf at 12 furlongs (1 1/2 miles).

Undefeated She’s a Bootsy Too is the most lightly tested filly in the field, having raced only twice and both times at 6 furlongs. While speedy efforts, neither race provided the kind of class and stamina test she’ll get by jumping up into graded stakes company. Her sire Misremembered did win the 10-furlong Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, while her dam’s half-sister has produced an 11-furlong listed stakes winner in France, so there are positive indicators about her stamina potential. However, regular rider Channing Hill opted to stay aboard his other mount Marquee Miss, so Ramon Vazquez takes the reins on She’s a Bootsy Too for trainer Kellyn Gorder.

With all eyes on stablemate Nickname, it may be the other Steve Asmussen trainee, Terra Promessa, that proves to be the superior filly. Certainly one statistic in her favor is that she has already raced and won twice at the 1 1/16-miles distance, including a blow-out victory by nine lengths last out against allowance company. Her dam Missile Bay was a brilliant dirt sprinter who preferred to be on the lead, but like her sire Curlin, Terra Promessa has proven she knows how to rate. Call me crazy, but it’s not just the familiar Stonestreet silks that remind me of Rachel Alexandra when I see this filly. Watch her ears flop around when she runs and that precise burst of acceleration. The Honeybee could be her coming-out party.

Valerie Grash

San Felipe Stakes Kentucky Derby prep race

Santa Anita Park, Saturday March 12, post time: 6:00 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

Download the 2016 San Felipe Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 San Felipe Replay

2016 San Felipe News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Danzing Candy Speeds to San Felipe Victory
DRF: Danzing Candy breaks more alertly in San Felipe
TDN: Twirling Candy ‘Rising Star’ Steals San Felipe

2016 San Felipe Preview
This year’s edition of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park calls to mind the age-old question during Triple Crown prep season, “Who will take the necessary step forward to assert himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender?”

With 85 Kentucky Derby points on the line in the $400,000 1 1/16-miles race, at least the winner will provide some answer because 50 points is enough to guarantee a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Will it be one of the field’s three stakes winners looking to cement his place among the Kentucky Derby favorites, or will it be one of four non-stakes winners in the group looking to show he belongs among his generation’s elite?

Leading the former camp is Mor Spirit, already the winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, but right there with him as multiple stakes winners are Smokey Image and Exaggerator.

Mor Spirit’s Triple Crown trail is similar to Dortmund’s last year. Trained by Bob Baffert, both Dortmund and Mor Spirit shipped to Kentucky in November before returning to California and winning the Los Al Futurity in December. Dortmund went on to win the San Felipe and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, then finish third behind eventual Triple Crown winner (and another Baffert trainee) American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby.

Smokey Image’s path is reminiscent of 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome—a California-bred who won stakes restricted to horses bred in California before facing open company in the San Felipe.

Exaggerator has won three of seven races, but three of his four losses have come to Nyquist, so he is three-for-four—with wins in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 3 Delta Jackpot—when not having to face the undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner. He is also the only horse in the field with multiple triple-digit Brisnet Speed Ratings.

And what of those looking for their first stakes win? Danzing Candy is the most highly regarded of that group, having won consecutive races since a troubled debut, and he and Exaggerator are the only San Felipe entrants to have multiple Brisnet Speed Ratings of at least 98 (Smokey Image is the only other horse in the field who has run at least a 100). This is Danzing Candy’s stakes debut.

Cupid (SCRATCHED) is the other horse making his stakes debut in the San Felipe. He lost his first two starts but won a maiden race on February 7 by 5 1/4 lengths. That win happened to come in his first race around two turns, giving his connections hope that he will improve with time and distance (like Cupid’s maiden win, the San Felipe is also 1 1/16 miles, but the next Derby prep would be 1 1/8 miles and the Derby itself is 1 1/4 miles).

That leaves Uncle Lino and I Will Score, two horses without stakes wins but who have been stakes tested, as they finished second and third respectively behind Mor Spirit in the Lewis.

And while those two finished behind Mor Spirit in the Lewis, they were both in front of that foe for much of the race, so even if they can’t reverse that finish, they both still figure to play a big role in the San Felipe as early speed types.

In fact, who will be on the lead is almost as fascinating a question as who will win (but there are no Kentucky Derby points for making the lead so it’s only almost as fascinating). Danzing Candy, Exaggerator, I Will Score, Smokey Image, and Uncle Lino all have gate-to-wire wins to their credit. I Will Score won the battle for the lead with Uncle Lino in the Lewis but lost the war, finishing third to Uncle Lino’s second (and Mor Spirit’s victory). Danzing Candy, I Will Score, and Uncle Lino have won only when on the lead whereas Exaggerator and Smokey Image have wins from both on and off the pace.

Clearly, neither Mor Spirit nor Cupid is likely to attempt a gate-to-wire victory. Baffert trains both colts, and while neither has ever made the lead early in the race nor is either a deep closer, it will be interesting to see which Baffert trainee is closer to the pace and moves toward the front first.

With Nyquist headed to the Grade 1 Florida Derby next out, the San Felipe winner will establish himself as not only a major Kentucky Derby contender, but also a Santa Anita Derby favorite.

Ed DeRosa