Week of April 2, 2012
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

Upsets were the hallmarks of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks preps with only a few exceptions. Elsewhere, several older horses continued their winning streaks and American’s came home empty-handed from Dubai.

Daddy Long Legs and Take Charge Indy brought the count of graded winners to exit the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (chart) to eight this weekend. Daddy Long Legs gave trainer Aiden O’Brien his first UAE Derby win and it’s likely that he’ll attempt to score his first Kentucky Derby win.

Calvin Borel took advantage of a situation with no clear speed, going wire to wire aboard Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby (chart). Last out he ran a close second to El Padrino (4th), who was second choice in the betting behind heavily favored Fountain of Youth (chart) winner Union Rags (3rd). As it turns out trainer Pat Byrne made the right choice when he scratched Take Charge Indy out of the Tampa Bay Derby in favor of the Florida Derby. Winning owners Charles and Maribeth Sanford, who have only been racing for two years, scored their first Grade 1 in the Florida Derby but noted that Union Rags is a “monster” and that the track wasn’t playing to his running style. While the Sanfords may be modest, they also have an incredibly well-bred colt by A.P. Indy out multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady (seen here winning the 2002 Grade 1 Ashland Stakes) and a jockey that many call Mr. Derby. But fans of Union Rags should take heart, he may not have won but no doubt the experience will serve him well come Derby day. More good news: Union Rags and El Padrino came out of the race in good order and are still pointing to the Derby.

The Kentucky Oaks scene started to heat up with three major preps. The Santa Anita Oaks (chart | replay) had parallels to the Florida Derby in that the heavy favorite, Eden’s Moon, finished third and the owners of the upset winner scored their first Grade 1. Willa B Awesome nailed Reneesgotzip on the wire to shake the the label as the “upset winner of the Santa Ysabel” and put herself squarely in Oaks contention despite the fact that she was not nominated for the race. Late Oaks nominations close on April 11 but she may go to the state-bred route and point to the Melair Stakes on April 28 at Hollywood Park. Rivals Reneesgotzip and Eden’s Moon are still candidates for the Kentucky Oaks as well (although I’d personally love to see Reneesgotzip pointed to 7-furlong and mile races).

In the Fair Grounds Oaks (chart | replay) Believe You Can held on as Summer Applause tried to nail her on the wire. Last out the two met in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (chart) with Summer Applause scoring the win and Believe You Can running forth as the favorite. Trainer Larry Jones instructed leading meet rider Rosie Napravnik to “let her run from the gate” and “see what happens.” Napravnik characterized it as a “very hard first half of the race for the filly” but thought she handled it well. The two will meet again in the Kentucky Oaks.

All of the fillies heading to the Kentucky Oaks on May 4 will meet up with Gulfstream Oaks winner Grace Hall, who returned to form in a big way, winning by six and half lengths. Last out in the Davona Dale (chart) Grace Hall was coming off a three month layoff, running second to an in-form Yara. This time around Yara could only manage fifth. Grace Hall is definitely on her way to the Oaks but no word on Yara.

On Sunday the upsets continued with 109-1 to Hero of Order winning the Louisiana Derby (chart), paying $220.80. Favorite Mark Valeski raced in traffic throughout but couldn’t make up enough ground to run down the upset winner. As it turns out he lost a shoe during the race, which is reminiscent of Mucho Macho Man in last year’s Louisiana Derby. Hero of Order will need to continue his spectacular luck to make it into the Kentucky Derby gate, according to Churchill Downs (awesome) media Twitter acct (that you should follow for Derby news): “Only way Hero of Order can get into #KyDerby is w/ a $200,000 supplement & less than 20 nominated horses enter.” This small matter of business did not stop winning trainer Gennadi Dorochenko’s assistant from celebrating. If you’ve never heard of Dorochenko, and you wouldn’t be alone, Marcus Hersch of the Daily Racing Form did this profile last fall.

Update: File under “it might not hurt to nominate” Hero of Order would’ve been #7 on the current graded earning list if he was nominated. There’s a chance he may go the Lexington and then on the Preakness.

Elsewhere Nate’s Mineshaft made it four in a row when he set the new track record in the New Orleans Handicap (chart) and Awesome Maria made it six in row in the Rampart Stakes at Gulfstream Park (chart). She’s now won back to back editions of the Rampart and Sabin Stakes and is likely to try to add the May 28 Grade 1 Ogden Phipps to her list of two-peats before freshening-up for the second half of the year, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. No word on what’s next for Nate’s Mineshaft.

Overseas Americans did not fare well in Dubai with Royal Delta, Game on Dude, Lucky Chappy and Regally Ready all racing off the board. There was much buzz and speculation around whether jockeys Chantal Sutherland aboard Game on Dude in the Dubai World Cup or Hayley Turner aboard Margo Did in the Al Quoz Sprint could become the first woman jockey to win a race on the Dubai World Cup card. Neither did, but Corine Barande-Barbe from France became the first female trainer to win a Dubai World Cup card race when Cirrus des Aigles beat Breeders’ Cup Turf winner St. Nicholas Abbey in the Dubai Sheema Classic.

Kentucky Derby and Oaks preps continue next weekend with the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Illinois Derby and Ashland Stakes. The Wood Memorial card marks the first big day of stakes races in New York also featuring the Carter Handicap, Bay Shore Stakes and Comely Stakes. We have a Ten Things You Should Know on the Wood Memorial. Did you make any Future Wagers in the final pool? Be sure to check the final odds and will-pays, and of course, good luck! Also be sure to find out about all the upcoming action for the month in April’s Month Ahead.

Road to the Kentucky Derby Telecast Schedule
Saturday April 7, NBC 4:30pm – 6pm ET
Saturday April 14, CNBC 5pm – 6pm ET

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 UAE Derby Replay
Daddy Longs Legs does it.

2012 Dubai World Cup Replay
Monterosso gives his rider cause for celebration, even though it did cost him.

2012 Rampart Stakes Replay
Awesome Maria keeps on with her reign of awesome.

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

2012 Skip Away Stakes Replay
Fort Larned takes them all the way.

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

2012 Gulfstream Oaks Replay
Grace Hall returns to form with authority.

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

2012 Florida Derby Replay
Take Charge Indy took charge.

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

2012 Orchid Stakes Replay
Hit It Rich!

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

2012 Fair Grounds Oaks Replay
Believe You Can!

2012 Santa Anita Oaks Replay
Willa B Awesome nails Reneesgotzip on the wire.

2012 Louisiana Derby Replay
Hero of Order caps a busy weekend with a “spectacular upset of monumental proportions”

Upcoming Graded Stakes Races

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

See you at the track!

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