Week of May 9, 2011
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

After months of preparation the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby both provided great stories and solid racing. The top finishers in both races turned in strong performances and there were hints of improvements to come. With such a tumultuous prep season full of injuries, inexplicably bad performances and light prep regiments it was nice to see the Derby come through as a formful and exciting race.

In the Oaks Plum Pretty proved that her 25 length victory in the Sunland Oaks wasn’t a useless avoidance technique but a good confidence builder. The Baffert trained filly had been running third to Zazu and Turbulent Descent in Southern California in the beginning of the year and shipped to New Mexico for her final prep. Our Valerie Grash highlighted second-place finisher St. John’s River in her analysis at Raceday 360 and in the Derby Prep Alert. We hope you listened! Most of the Oaks fillies look to be taking some time off but the beaten favorite Joyful Victory might be pointed to the Mother Goose at Belmont Park.

Also on the Oaks card was 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck winning the La Troienne over Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic rival Unrivaled Belle. The 3-year-old champion filly snapped her five race second-place finish streak despite stumbling out of the gate. Also on the card, 2010 Kentucky Derby hopeful First Dude also proved that his confidence builder did the trick as he got his first graded stakes win in the Alysheba after being dropped into an allowance race last out. Not only did he beat a solid group of older colts, he finally showed he could sit off the pace and win.

On Kentucky Derby day several other 2010 Kentucky Derby and Oaks hopefuls were in the spotlight. Aikenite proved that his fondness for 7-furlongs is not limited to synthetic surfaces when he took the Grade 2 Churchill Downs stakes. Sassy Image also got the job done in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, beating the overwhelming favorite Hilda’s Passion. Sidney’s Candy didn’t fare as well in the Mervyn LeRoy at Hollywood Park with a second place finish after setting the pace.

A big hats off to our Chris Rossi, who tweets at @HRFattheTrack, as he picked Animal Kingdom on top in his Raceday 360 analysis of the Derby. Rossi and our Facebook Community Manager Jen Jade also picked Animal Kingdom in our HRF Picks. Likewise Valerie Grash highlighted the first and second place finishers as having the pedigree to win the Derby in her annual Going the Derby Distance post. A hardy “well done” to all!

We hope Animal Kingdom wasn’t a shock to you (see above) but there were plenty of unusual outcomes in Kentucky Derby 137. Two of the top three finishers (Animal Kingdom and Mucho Macho Man) are owned by partnerships, or large ownership groups where everyone involved owns a percentage the horse. This style of ownership allows people who might not otherwise be able to own a horse to participate in racing as owners. Single owners, like second place finisher Nehro’s owner, or big farms, such as 2010 Derby winner Super Saver are more the norm on racing’s biggest stages. Oaks winner Plum Pretty is also owned by partnership. Also unusual is that Animal Kingdom is the first to horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby by racing on the dirt for the first time, the first horse since Needles (1955) to win off a six week break and the first since Exterminator (1918) to win off of only four career starts.

Several horses ended up with injuries. Archarcharch ended up with non-life threatening fracture. He had a successful surgery but was retired from racing yesterday. Comma to the Top, who finished last, will be out with an ankle injury and Pants on Fire, who finished ninth, will be out for a few months after bleeding during the race. His next start will be the Haskell on July 31 at Monmouth Park.

On a sad note, 2010 Kentucky Derby entrant filly Devil May Care lost her battle with cancer last week. She was hopeful for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic until she was sidelined with hepatitis.

We’ll turn our attention the Preakness soon enough, but until then folks are still talking the Kentucky Derby, so keep up with all the recaps and ruminations at Raceday 360 Wire. We also have a roundup of links with quotes, reports of contenders, photos, videos and charts at Raceday 360.

And finally, congratulations are in order. Here are the top three finishers in our annual Road to the Roses League! We don’t have any prizes this year, but the top three finisher should feel free to brag up a storm!

1. Angela Campbell
2. Richard Aschom
3. Melissa Smith

Well done folks!

Kentucky Derby Chart – final order of finish & payouts (pdf)
Kentucky Oaks Chart – final order of finish & payouts (pdf)
Kentucky Derby HD Replay on NBC
Kentucky Oaks replay in HD on NBC

Last Week’s Races

2011 La Troienne Stakes Replay
Blind Luck stumbles out of the gate and still gets the job done, besting Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic victress Unrivaled Belle.

2011 Alysheba Stakes Replay
First Dude shows off his new skill of rating and nips Regal Ransom on the wire.

2011 Kentucky Oaks Replay
Plum Pretty narrowly holds off St. John’s River to prove her romp at Sunland was no fluke.

2011 Humana Distaff Replay
Sassy’s Image takes them to school on her home court, ending Hilda’s Passion’s winning streak.

2011 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Replay
Get Stormy takes it to them with a wire to wire win.

2011 Kentucky Derby Replay
Synth-trained Animal Kingdom transfers his form to dirt and wins the Derby by Daylight.

2011 Senorita Stakes Replay
Star Billing gets just that after that performance!

2011 Mervyn LeRoy Stakes Replay
Crown of Thorns runs down Sidney’s Candy in the final steps.

2011 Fort Marcy Stakes Replay
Straight Story wires the field by holding off a fast closing Hudson Steel.

2011 Beaugay Replay
Daveron, who shares the same connections as Animal Kingdom, holds off a game Gitchee Goomie.

2011 Alydar Replay
Former Derby hopeful Awesome Patriot held off a green Uncle Sam for a red, white and blue exacta.

Upcoming Graded Stakes Races

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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