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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.
Diane Cotter's homebred TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road) stylishly passed Saturday's class test in the $100,000 Whirlaway S. at Aqueduct, rallying to an easy two-length decision in his stakes debut.
The lucrative and prolific series for three-year-olds at Oaklawn Park has lured the connections of Grade 1 winner J P'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal) to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the ridgling will make his 2011 debut in the $250,000 Southwest S. (G3) at one mile on February 21.
Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge's homebred SHACKLEFORD (Forestry) raised his profile among the Florida-based three-year-old set by driving to a 2 1/4-length victory over troubled even-money favorite Casper's Touch (Touch Gold) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Carded as the 3RD race, the entry-level allowance was contested over the same track and 1 1/8-mile distance as the February 26 Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and the April 3 Florida Derby (G1).
Daily Racing Form reports that Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner J P'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal), who has been based with trainer David Hofmans in Southern California, will switch to the barn of Joe Petalino at Oaklawn Park.
Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up NEHRO (Mineshaft) galloped 1 1/8 miles at 6:10 a.m. (EDT) Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs with regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas up, according to owner Ahmed Zayat.
"We usually go a mile-and-a-half but today just a mile-and-an-eighth because he just worked the day before last and right now we're winding down," Zayat said. "He wants to do more. When he came back from his exercise he was so full of himself we could barely restrain him. You love to see that, somebody that wants to keep improving."
Repole Stable's dynamic duo of UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie) and STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini) were out for some exercise Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. (EDT) in the allotted 15-minute period reserved for Kentucky Derby (G1) and Oaks (G1) hopefuls following the Churchill Downs' renovation break.
Uncle Mo, last year's juvenile champion, had exercise rider Hector Ramos up and assistant trainer Mike McCarthy alongside on a pony, while Stay Thirsty, the winner of this year's Gotham S. (G3), was partnered by Fernando Espinoza.
It’s known as the dreaded rail, the worst starting position in the Kentucky Derby, and Archarcharch received the unenviable task of breaking from post 1 during Wednesday’s blind draw for Saturday’s $2 million race.
Bob Baffert reports that Triple Crown hopeful THE FACTOR (War Front) is back on the track after missing three days with a foot bruise.
"He had a little setback," Santa Anita's leading trainer said.
The Factor opened his career with a fourth-place run over Hollywood Park's synthetic Cushion Track. He stepped up in a major way next out, though, to score by 8 1/4 lengths in his first try over Santa Anita's dirt track, setting a track record of 1:06.98 for six furlongs on December 26.