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ZAZU (Tapit) had fallen to TURBULENT DESCENT (Congrats) in their two meetings prior to the February 5 Las Virgenes S. (G1) at Santa Anita, and finally managed to turn the tables in that one-mile affair when scoring by 1 1/4 lengths over her rival. On Saturday, the pair will face-off for a fourth time in the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) while stretching back out to 1 1/16 miles.
Since finishing second in the Hopeful S. (G1), STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini) has been better known as the workmate for celebrated stablemate Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie), the early Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite, but the Todd Pletcher-trained colt won't have to share the spotlight when he lines up for Saturday's $250,000 Gotham S. (G3) at Aqueduct. The Repole Stable colorbearer is the likely favorite among nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile inner-track event.
Considering that Donna Eaton's GOLDEN SPRINGS (Pomeroy) had dropped her last eight since breaking her maiden for a $25,000 tag, she was ignored as the longest shot on the board at 42-1 in Sunday's $50,000 Island Fashion S. at Sunland Park. But the stretch-out to two turns produced a massive turnaround in form for the Joyce Salisbury trainee, who upset this prep for the March 27 Sunland Park Oaks and furnished an $86.40 win payout.
Shawnee Racing Stable's HARLAN'S RUBY (Harlan's Holiday) returned from a four-month layoff to win Saturday night's $50,000 Valdale S. at Turfway Park, setting her up for a run at the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on March 26. Veteran rider Perry Ouzts was in the irons for trainer Ken McPeek.
"(The Bourbonette) has been our plan, if we were successful here," assistant trainer Michael Kleier said. "She has a lot of class and she's been in Florida training very forwardly, and she's had a lot of experience going long. We wanted to get a race on this track and feel confident about winning.
It was a busy Sunday morning at Palm Meadows for trainer Todd Pletcher's juggernaut stable with a dozen stakes runners hitting the work tab, led by Repole Stable's undefeated Eclipse champion UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie). The bay colt clocked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 over the fast main track in company with stablemate STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini) as both three-year-olds get close to their season debuts.
Trainer Ken McPeek, who saddled KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) to win Fair Grounds' Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) February 19 and ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones) to run third in the Risen Star S. (G2) on the same day, indicated Sunday morning that both the filly and the colt would be returning to New Orleans to run back in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and the Louisiana Derby (G2), respectively, on March 26.
"Everything is fine with both of them," McPeek said Sunday morning from South Florida, "and we're planning on coming back with both of them."
SOLDAT (War Front) was "happy and in great shape," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reported Sunday, following his dominant two-length victory in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The three-year-old colt led virtually every step of the way Saturday as the 7-5 betting favorite to finish ahead of GOURMET DINNER (Trippi) and TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini).
The Fountain of Youth was Soldat's first victory over a fast main track, an outcome that pleased McLaughlin but didn't surprise him in the least.
Hot favorites were ambushed in both of Saturday's "Derbies" in the Southwest. Mary C. and Robert L. Zollars' FUSA CODE (Fusaichi Pegasus) was twice beaten by Special Kid (Lemon Drop Kid) at home at Santa Anita, but turned the tables on that 3-2 favorite in the $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park.
Fresh Start Stable's J J'S LUCKY TRAIN (Silver Train) outdueled Bandbox (Tapit) by a neck after a rousing stretch drive in Saturday's $51,500 Miracle Wood S. at Laurel Park. Just as the pair dominated in the wagering, with Bandbox the 4-5 favorite and J J's Lucky Train the 6-5 second choice, so did they lord it over their rivals on the track, drawing 8 1/2 lengths clear of third-placer Wicked Thunder (Thunder Gulch). (Photo courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue.)
Up-and-coming sophomores ARCH TRAVELER (Sky Mesa) and LEFT (Arch) cleared their entry-level allowance conditions on Saturday and likely punched their tickets to stakes company.