Week of April 30, 2012
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

It was a relatively sleepy weekend as a few performances hinted at interesting things to come and we gear up for one of the best weeks of the year.

Belmont Park opened its Spring meet with a small field in the Grade 2 Westchester Stakes (chart) where To Honor and Serve kicked off his 4-year-old campaign with an easy win. Last out he won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile after running 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (chart) only three weeks prior. The real story though is that the Met Mile just got even more interesting. You may remember that Grade 1 Carter Handicap (chart) foes Jackson Bend and Caleb’s Posse are pointing towards the Met Mile as well. Learn more about the Met Mile in our Ten Things You Should Know.

It was the calm before the storm at Churchill Downs, which included a large hail storm on opening night. After a short rain delay Hierro brought his Churchill Downs record to 2-2 with an emphatic win the Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (chart), collecting the first graded win in the U.S. for his freshman sire, Hard Spun. Trainer Steve Asmussen told HRTV that the next stop might be the Preakness on May 19.

Willa B Awesome opted to forgo the Kentucky Oaks in favor of the state-bred Melair Stakes (chart), despite winning two graded Kentucky Oaks preps at Santa Anita. The Grade 1 winner had to fight hard to earn the win while conceding eight pounds to undefeated stretch-duel foe Starry Skies, but win she did. She’ll get a little break and return to graded stakes company in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 23.

2010 Grade 3 Sunland Derby winner Endorsement found his way back to the winner’s graded stakes winner’s circle in the Grade 3 Texas Mile (chart), his first graded win the Sunland Derby. An injury after the Sunland Derby kept him on the bench for over a year with a return to training in June of 2011 and his first race back in December of 2011. Since then he’s scored two seconds and a win in allowance company at Gulfstream Park in track-record time. While his next stop isn’t clear, winning a Grade 1 at Saratoga is his target according to owner Bill Casner.

In other news, it was announced early last week that reining Horse of the Year Havre de Grace has sustained an injury while training and was retired. Adding to the disappointment was that fans did not get a chance to see her race as 5-year-old as her connections took a pass on the Apple Blossom and were pointing to the La Troienne Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard. 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty, winner of this year’s Apple Blossom, is confirmed the La Troienne.

Tomorrow we’ll publish our regular The Month Ahead for May, one of the best months to be a horse racing fan! Kick off your Derby week by learning about the man and filly that changed the Kentucky Derby from a local race to national tradition. And if you missed our Kentucky Oaks appreciation piece, be sure to check it out!

We have plenty of handicapping post to help you prepare for Kentucky Derby and we’ll be publishing more of them this week! Currently we have the following:

Major Prep Factor
Discover which prep races have produced the most Kentucky Derby winners and what that means for this year’s contenders.

Mining Derby Data
No plans this week? Break out the spreadsheets and get ready to party!

You Better Work
The data recorded for workouts is only part of the story; find out how you can avail yourself of even more information. And find out who to follow on Twitter for up-to-the-minute eyewitness reports on workouts!

Later in the week we’ll publish our annual Cheat Sheet for you to pass to friends & co-workers who aren’t as familiar with the Derby contenders. We’ll also take a look at the field and ask our annual question: who will excel at the Derby distance and who will not? We’ll also break down the field by running style and discuss post positions in our annual Derby Running Styles post. If it’s wagering ideas you’re looking for we’ll update our Kentucky Derby Wagering Strategies post with our thoughts on approach for this year’s field. And, we’ll post the HRF crew’s picks for the graded stakes race on both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby cards, we may even have a few special guests! And, last but not least, Chris Rossi will provide his Kentucky Derby handicapping thoughts and picks, as you may or may not remember he picked Animal Kingdom to win last for us at Raceday 360.

Buckle your seat belt and get ready for the biggest whirlwind week of the year, and be sure to check back often!

And finally, at Raceday 360 we’ve made it easy for you to follow all the running commentary about your favorite contenders. Come on over and discover all the ways to keep up with your favorite contenders!

Be sure to grab free 2012 Kentucky Derby and 2012 Kentucky Oaks Contenders Past Performances from Brisnet.com, our preferred past performance provider.

View 2012 Kentucky Derby Prep Schedule + Results via Railbird
(includes charts, replays, win place show and archive back to 2003)

Keep up with all the 2012 Kentucky Derby and 2012 Kentucky Oaks commentary at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

2012 Bewitch Stakes Replay
Upperline gets through in time

2012 Elkhorn Stakes Replay
Point of Entry gets it done.

2012 Westchester Stakes Replay
To Honor and Serve comes back strong.

2012 Melair Stakes Replay
Grade 1 winner Willa B Awesome had to fight for her win upon return to restricted company

2012 Wilshire Handicap Replay
Quiet Oasis steps up.

Upcoming Graded Stakes Races

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

See you at the track!

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet

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