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During training hours Friday morning at Fair Grounds, conditioner Neil Howard reported all systems still "on go" for appearances by the talented sophomore duo of Gaillardia Racing's WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid) and Courtlandt Farms' MACHEN (Distorted Humor) in the upcoming 98th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 26. (Photo of Machen courtesy of Hodges Photography.)
Jockey Eibar Coa received a visit Thursday evening from a special friend with a special gift.
R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi) returned to form when trouncing her Davona Dale S. (G2) rivals last Saturday at Gulfstream Park and is looking good for this year's Kentucky Oaks (G1). DANCINGINHERDREAMS (Tapit) gained a measure of revenge against POMEROYS PISTOL (Pomeroy) when holding that rival to third by a head in the one-mile test, but neither could withstand the Lightning strike.
Besides the Davona Dale, last week didn't yield much in the way of Oaks contenders, though a nice new maiden winner did pop up at Gulfstream on Wednesday.
CHAMPION AWESOME FEATHER HEADS 117 FILLIES NOMINATED TO $1 MILLION KENTUCKY OAKS -- Awesome Feather, the unbeaten 2-year-old filly champion of 2010 and winner of the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I), heads a strong roster 117 fillies that are early nominees to compete for the record $1 million purse in the 137th running of the Kentucky Oaks (GI) on Friday, May 6 at Churchill Downs.
FLORIDA / ZITO GETS ALLOWANCE RACE FOR DIALED IN – Owner Robert LaPenta and two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito have found what they’ve been looking for: an allowance race at Florida’s Gulfstream Park that will serve as a prep race for Dialed In, their unbeaten contender for Kentucky Derby 137.
POSITIVE RESPONSE (Pomeroy), BLUE LASER (Bluegrass Cat) and TWINSPIRED (Harlan's Holiday) lead a field of nine three-year-olds entered for Saturday's $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial S. at Turfway Park.
At 1 1/16 miles, the race is the final local prep for the Spiral S. (G3) on March 26.
Positive Response comes in to the Battaglia off a third in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) on the synthetic Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields three weeks ago. Immediately before that he collected three straight wins, including the Gold Rush S. and California Derby, also at Golden Gate.
It's a long way from the bayous of southern Louisiana to Louisville, but owner/trainer Benard Chatters and Rand Metoyer are confidently stepping down that road with their three-year-old colt SMOKE IT RIGHT (Smoke Glacken), who puts his perfect record on the line Saturday in the $60,000 Mountain Valley S. at Oaklawn Park.
Fast finishing three-year-olds can light up the phones of bloodstock agents at this time of year, and after posting the fastest six-furlong time at Oaklawn Park in his debut on February 26, UNCLE BRENT (Pioneering) found himself switching barns with Charles J. Cella scooping up the Kentucky-bred and sending him to trainer Lynn Whiting.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Uncle Brent was already making himself at home at Whiting's barn Thursday morning, less than a week after trainer Eric Reed sent the colt into action for owners Westwind Farm and Alvin Taylor.
A proven commodity on turf and a wet track, SOLDAT (War Front) erased concerns about a fast track with his victory in the Fountain of Youth S. (G2). He benefited from an ideal trip, leading wire to wire from the rail, but the comfortable two-length decision served its purpose. Soldat is developing into a top Kentucky Derby (G1) contender for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's homebred REEM (Galileo [Ire]) brought the strongest formlines into Thursday's $250,000 Al Bastakiya at Meydan, and the four-year-old filly flaunted it by crushing males by 5 1/4 lengths in the middle jewel of the Dubai Triple Crown. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club.)