- Road to the Kentucky Derby
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Team Valor International's homebred ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]) vaulted into the Kentucky Derby (G1) picture with a smart victory in Saturday's $500,000 Spiral S. (G3) at Turfway Park, drawing clear to a 2 3/4-length decision in his stakes debut. A maiden winner two starts previously for trainer Graham Motion, the chestnut colt rated in last among 11 three-year-olds before offering a stirring turn of foot leaving the backstretch, flying past rivals on the far turn to reach contention in upper stretch.
Wahoo Partners LLC & Bret and Brereton C. Jones' SUMMER SOIREE (War Front) took the lead when the gates opened on Saturday's $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway Park and never looked back en route to a dominating 10 3/4-length victory under Gabriel Saez. The bay filly was never challenged in the one-mile Polytrack test, posting splits of :24 4/5, :48 2/5, 1:12 3/5 and 1:25 2/5 before stopping the clock in 1:38 3/5 for trainer Larry Jones.
Last week was pretty light in terms of Kentucky Oaks (G1) preps, but this weekend more than makes up for it. With the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Bourbonette Oaks (G3) and Sunland Park Oaks all scheduled, the Oaks trail is heating up again.
The Santa Paula S., which was downgraded from Grade 3 status this year, featured a field of six fillies last Sunday and turned into yet another easy win for the up-and-coming MILDLY OFFENSIVE (Sharp Humor).
SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / INGLORIOUS FAVORED IN FAIR GROUNDS OAKS AS KATHMANBLU PASSES – Carl Moore Management LLC’s Inglorious made an unexpected transition from major contender to morning line favorite for Saturday’s$500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade II) when the connections of Kathmanbludecided to pass on the New Orleans race in favor of Keeneland’s Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes for her final prep for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
SOUTH (Arkansas, Louisiana) / MUCHO MACHO MAN A STRONG FAVORITE IN $1 MILLION LOUISIANA DERBY – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team One’s Mucho Macho Man, an impressive winner of the Risen Star Stakes (Grade II) in his first visit to New Orleans, will look to make an even stronger impression in his return to the Crescent City when he faces 11 rivals in Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds.
Saturday's $2 million U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) could witness its first female winner, for three of the prime threats are fillies. Godolphin's highly-regarded KHAWLAH (Cape Cross [Ire]) benefited from a perfect trip to thwart Mike de Kock's number one MAHBOOBA (Galileo [Ire]) in the February 24 U.A.E. Oaks (UAE-G3) at this 1 3/16-mile trip.
With an emphatic 6 1/4-length win in the Rebel S. (G2), THE FACTOR (War Front) became a dangerous contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1). The rest of the field will have to catch him.
Distance remains a potential stumbling block for The Factor -- it's difficult to imagine a colt running six furlongs in 1:06.98 winning the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles four months later -- but give him credit for a terrific performance in his two-turn debut.
Three graded races, including the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2), will be offered this weekend. The Derby is six weeks from Saturday.
MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno), hero of Fair Grounds' Risen Star S. (G2) a little less than five weeks ago and the strong favorite for Saturday's $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2), arrived back in New Orleans Wednesday from his Gulfstream Park home base and galloped once around the Crescent City oval Thursday morning immediately after the track renovation break.
With the defection of Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) winner Kathmanblu (Bluegrass Cat) to the April 9 Ashland S. (G1), INGLORIOUS (Hennessy) has become the top draw for Saturday's $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). The bay lass finished well in the Rachel Alexandra to take second and could return to the winner's circle in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile test over the New Orleans oval.
A field of 11 three-year-old fillies was entered on Wednesday for Saturday's $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3), the highlight of the Spiral S. (G2) undercard at Turfway Park, and the winner just may earn a spot in the starting gate for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.