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TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini) was widely touted as the horse most likely to pose a danger to Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) this spring, but his popularity took a considerable hit after fading badly to finish a distant third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park February 26.
How is the Bill Mott-trained colt going to challenge the unbeaten Eclipse Award champion if he couldn't put up a stronger showing against less acclaimed three-year-olds?
"It is quite noticeable that a lot of people jumped off the bandwagon -- and that's their prerogative," Mott said.
Nick Zito has proudly matriculated at the old school of Thoroughbred training, and the traditional way of conditioning horses has served him well during his Hall of Fame career. Yet, he was smart enough to reject convention while training DIALED IN (Mineshaft) and acknowledge divine intervention.
"He's a gift from God," Zito said with a measure of reverence in his voice.
A lively opening day of betting in the third and final pool of Churchill Downs’ 2011 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) ended with unbeaten champion Uncle Mo (#22) as a narrow favorite, but it was crowded just behind the people’s choice with the137th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I)looming just five weeks away.
CALEB'S POSSE (Posse) continues to quietly go about his business at Oaklawn Park as the overachieving three-year-old colt who won the Smarty Jones S. and finished second in the Rebel S. (G2) in his last start. Although Friday, he served notice that he's ready to make some noise in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 16 with a serious five-furlong breeze.
Under regular jockey Eddie Razo Jr., the bay colt built momentum around the turn before barreling through the stretch, hitting the wire with a five-furlong time of 1:01 1/5 and galloping out strongly.
Some new shooters joined the Kentucky Oaks (G1) picture following last weekend's preps, and they did so in dazzling fashion. PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro) and SUMMER SOIREE (War Front) never encountered a single threat in their picture perfect wins, while DAISY DEVINE (Kafwain) offered a slight upset in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).
Grade 1 winner JAYCITO's (Victory Gallop) status for the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (G1) was still on hold Friday morning.
"I'm going to have a talk today with (owner) Ahmed Zayat and then we're going to decide," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. "We have to work over the weekend. A lot depends on the work whether we stay here or ship (for the Wood Memorial [G1] at Aqueduct, also on April 9)."
FLORIDA / SOLDAT DRAWS RAIL AGAIN, BUT STILL STRONG FLORIDA DERBY FAVORITE – Fountain of Youth (Grade II) winner Soldat drew the rail post and was assigned the role of favorite in a strong field of eight 3-year-olds entered for Sunday’s 60th running of the $1 million Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park.
FLORIDA / PLETCHER’S R HEAT LIGHTNING HEADS GULFSTREAM PARK OAKS – The romp by Paul R. Robsham Stables’ R Heat Lightning in last month’s Davona Dale (Grade II) was one of the more dazzling efforts by a 3-year-old filly at Gulfstream Park this winter and made the Todd Pletcher-trained filly one of the favorites for next month’s 137th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) at Churchill Downs.
From three stakes races last weekend, four horses -- PANTS ON FIRE (Jump Start), TWICE THE APPEAL (Successful Appeal), ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]) and DECISIVE MOMENT (With Distinction) -- vaulted into the top 10 on the graded earnings list, but none appear likely to make a serious impact in the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1).
We will have a race of significance this Sunday in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1), with at least four major contenders receiving their final tune-up. The Derby is five weeks from Saturday.
With Hutcheson S. (G2) winner Flashpoint (Pomeroy) entered in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on Sunday, TRAVELIN MAN (Trippi) will likely inherit the favorite's role in the $150,000 Swale S. (G2) on the undercard. The seven-furlong test for sophomores only drew six runners and will start the stakes action off at Gulfstream Park as the 3RD race on the program.