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Trainer Neil Howard, in the midst of a banner winter season at Fair Grounds where he is batting over .300 in trips to the winner's circle from a modest number of starters, on Monday updated the status of his leading three-year-olds regarding the February 19 Risen Star S. (G2).
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito has not determined the next objective for the undefeated DIALED IN (Mineshaft), who burst onto the Kentucky Derby (G1) radar screen with an impressive victory in the January 30 Holy Bull S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) star UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie) continued preparing for his expected sophomore bow in the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) with a half-mile move in :49 3/5 over Palm Meadows Training Center's fast dirt on Sunday. It was the second work for the Todd Pletcher pupil since his Breeders' Cup triumph at Churchill Downs in early November.
George and Lori Hall's PANTS ON FIRE (Jump Start), who finished second by a head in Fair Grounds' Lecomte S. (G3) on January 22 behind Wilkinson (Lemon Drop Kid) after having a one-length lead at the eighth-pole, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 at South Florida's Palm Meadows Training Center Saturday morning and may be making a return trip to New Orleans for the Risen Star S. (G2) on February 19.
NEHRO (Mineshaft) is primed and ready to put forth a peak effort in Saturday's Kentucky Derby (G1), galloping 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs Friday morning. Trainer Steve Asmussen reported that all is well with the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) runner-up.
"So far so good," he stated.
Boasting a name resonant of the home of the Kentucky Derby (G1), TWINSPIRED (Harlan's Holiday) took a step in the right direction with a victory in Saturday night's $50,000 WEBN S. at Turfway Park. The Mike Maker trainee was returning to Polytrack for the first time since his rallying debut maiden score at Keeneland, and the 3-2 favorite promptly stayed perfect on the synthetic surface.
Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider's homebred TRUBS (First Samurai) outdueled Divine Music (Songandaprayer) by a hard-fought neck to capture Saturday's $58,200 Black Gold S. at Fair Grounds.
The Al Stall Jr. pupil stalked in fourth, 3 1/2 lengths off the pace through an initial quarter in :22, and moved up to second through a half in :46. Taking the overland route into the stretch, Trubs rallied to the lead, only to face a stiff challenge from the rail-skimming Divine Music.
At Fair Grounds on Saturday, Winchell Thoroughbreds' WICKED DEED (Harlan's Holiday) survived an early pace scramble in the $56,400 Tiffany Lass S. and proceeded to romp by an impressive 5 1/4 lengths in her stakes debut for Steve Asmussen.
With Anna Napravnik aboard, the 7-5 second choice mixed it up between rivals in the four-filly field, gained a slim advantage, and poured it on down the stretch to win convincingly.
Flash Mash (Smarty Jones), the 4-5 favorite, was parked out wide in fourth throughout, but managed to get up by a nose for runner-up honors.
Saturday was already going to be a big day for Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss at Santa Anita, for they were to accept the inaugural Secretariat Vox Populi Award on behalf of their retired fan-favorite Zenyatta. The popular owners took the spotlight a little earlier than expected, however, with another "Z" -- ZAZU (Tapit) -- who ironically ended the unbeaten run of 2-5 favorite Turbulent Descent (Congrats) in the $250,000 Las Virgenes S. (G1).
Arkansas Derby (G1) winner ARCHARCHARCH (Arch) was the picture of calm composure as he waited in the "Holthus Gap" for the track to open at 8:30 a.m. (EDT) after the Thursday morning renovation break at Churchill Downs.
With hundreds of onlookers lining each side of the entrance to the track, Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Archarcharch, with jockey Jon Court up, never turned a hair as he waited patiently alongside veteran trainer Jinks Fires, who was astride his pony.