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Unbeaten, untested and unsung. All apply to the the undefeated California-bred BENCH POINTS (Benchmark), who will show whether or not he's Triple Crown material when he seeks his fifth victory next Saturday in the San Felipe S. (G2) going 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. The race is an important steppingstone to the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9.
To help fill the 1 1/8-mile allowance prep that he wanted for Dialed In (Mineshaft) in advance of the April 3 Florida Derby (G1), trainer Nick Zito entered another runner, the four-year-old EQUESTRIO (Elusive Quality). In an ironic turn of events, it was that second-stringer Equestrio who handed Dialed In his first career loss in Sunday's 4TH race at Gulfstream Park.
Gotham S. (G3) hero STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini), Tom Fool H. (G3) victor CALIBRACHOA (Southern Image) and Fred "Cappy" Capossela S. winner SENSATIONAL SLAM (Grand Slam) all came out of Saturday's stakes wins in great shape, assistant Jonathan Thomas reported from trainer Todd Pletcher's barn.
POSITIVE RESPONSE (Pomeroy) left no doubt as to who was best in Saturday evening's $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial S. at Turfway Park. Sent right to the front by jockey Julien Couton, Positive Response led the field going into the first turn and left them behind coming out of the second, drawing off to win by seven lengths over Taptowne (Tapit).
The winner clocked splits of :24 1/5, :48 1/5, 1:12 4/5 and 1:38 2/5 before finishing the 1 1/16-mile race over Polytrack in 1:45.
Saturday was a banner day for hot young sire Bernardini. Before his Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Stay Thirsty rolled in the Gotham S. (G3) at Aqueduct, another promising sophomore WILBURN drew off in grand style in his career debut in the 2ND race at Santa Anita.
Mike Repole's STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini) rallied to the lead in midstretch and drew clear late in Saturday's $250,000 Gotham S. (G3), opening his three-year-old season with a 3 1/4-length victory over the inner track at Aqueduct. A well-regarded prospect for the Kentucky Derby (G1), the Todd Pletcher-trained colt took a big step toward the starting gate at Churchill Downs with his first stakes win.
Rand Metoyer and Benard Chatters' SMOKE IT RIGHT (Smoke Glacken) advanced his undefeated streak to four races with a wire-to-wire score in Saturday's $58,800 Mountain Valley S. at Oaklawn Park.
Blinkers On Racing Stable et al's TURBULENT DESCENT (Congrats) gained a measure of revenge on Saturday when holding the late rush of Zazu (Tapit) to take the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1). The last time the two met, Zazu handed Turbulent Descent her first career loss in the Las Virgenes S. (G1), but Saturday's contest saw their roles reversed as Turbulent Descent got the jump on her rival to post a neck victory under jockey David Flores.
Gem Stables' Grade 1 hero J P'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal) posted a good-looking breeze on a windy Saturday morning at Oaklawn Park as he prepares for the $300,000 Rebel S. (G2) on March 19.
Under Oaklawn's leading jockey Cliff Berry, the three-year-old logged six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 over a track that was drying quickly from overnight rains. It was his first breeze since making his seasonal bow a troubled second in the $250,000 Southwest S. (G3) on February. 21.
MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno), a leading contender for this year's Kentucky Derby (G1), breezed four furlongs at Gulfstream Park Saturday under exercise rider Mike Heera. Mucho Macho Man was clocked in :48 2/5 in preparation for a start in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds on March 26. It was the eighth fastest clocking of 32 recorded at the distance.