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FLORIDA / AMEN HALLELUJAH, CHRISTINE DAAE MEET IN BONNIE MISS – The role of favorite for the 136th running of the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) on April 30 at Churchill Downs could be determined on Saturday when Davona Dale (GII) winner Amen Hallelujah meets highly regarded, but unproven, Christine Daae in the $200,000 Bonnie Miss (GII).
Nominations close on Saturday for the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G1) going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct on April 3, and Gotham S. (G3) winner AWESOME ACT (Awesome Again), Fountain of Youth S. (G2) winner ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway) and the runners-up from both races form a talented core of Kentucky Derby (G1) hopefuls likely for the 86th running of New York's final major stepping stone to the Triple Crown.
Bob Baffert commented Thursday morning on future plans for champion two-year-old LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike), who opened his three-year-old season with a victory in Saturday's Rebel S. (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
"Right now, I'm leaning toward the Arkansas Derby (G1)," the Hall of Fame conditioner said, "unless I change my mind and run him in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). The Arkansas Derby gives me an extra week. I'll let the horse tell me."
The $1 million Arkansas Derby will be run on April 10, while the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby is scheduled for April 3.
A small field of six fillies will take to the track in Saturday's $200,000 Bonnie Miss S. (G2), and the 1 1/8-mile affair will be the stakes bow for the Patrick Biancone-trained CHRISTINE DAAE (Giant's Causeway). However, she'll not have an easy time in her black-type bow, as AMEN HALLELUJAH (Montbrook), DEVIL MAY CARE (Malibu Moon), SWITCH (Quiet American) and JOANIE'S CATCH (First Tour) are all also entered.
D' FUNNYBONE (D'wildcat), who was under consideration for the Florida Derby (G1), will stay sprinting for now when he heads a field of nine in Saturday's $150,000 Swale S. (G2) over seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park. The Richard Dutrow charge is already a three-time graded stakes winner, having taken the Saratoga Special S. (G2) and Futurity S. (G2) last year and the course-and-distance Hutcheson S. (G2) in his seasonal debut on Fountain of Youth (G2) day.
Despite losing Fountain of Youth S. (G2) winner Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway) to the April 3 Wood Memorial S. (G1) at Aqueduct, Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park perhaps benefited in the long run with a bigger field producing a more competitive betting event.
Churchill Downs has partnered with PRIME Lounge, one of Louisville’s newest and upscale nightclubs, to host a trio of viewing parties for NBC Sports’ upcoming broadcasts of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series.
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ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway), a smashing 8 1/2-length winner of Fountain of Youth S. (G2), will bypass Saturday's Florida Derby (G1) in favor of the April 3 Wood Memorial S. (G1) at Aqueduct.