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ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway), generally considered among the top two candidates for the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1), will have his final prep for the big dance in Saturday's $750,000 Wood Memorial S. (G1) on a stakes-laden card at Aqueduct. The leading prospect for trainer Todd Pletcher, who could conceivably have as many as seven or eight entrants in the Run for the Roses, will again be piloted be piloted by John Velazquez over one lap of the Big A's 1 1/8-mile main oval.
The decision earlier this week to send Beautician (Dehere) to Keeneland for Saturday's Ashland S. (G1) has left Friday's $300,000 Fantasy S. (G2) at Oaklawn Park with only four three-year-old filly prospects, but the quartet, headed by multiple Grade 1 winner BLIND LUCK (Pollard's Vision), is solid on paper. The 1 1/16-mile Good Friday feature kicks off Oaklawn's Racing Festival of the South, which runs through Arkansas Derby Day on April 10.
Grade 1 winner SHE BE WILD (Offlee Wild), recipient of the Eclipse Award as champion two-year-old filly of 2009, will make only her second start of the year on Saturday while facing seven rivals in the $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland. The 1 1/16-mile Polytrack test could be the final chance for the Wayne Catalano charge to prove herself worthy of starting in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on April 30.
Jill Byrne talks about the tireless work it takes to prepare a horse for race day
In order for BACKTALK (Smarty Jones) to become the latest son of a Kentucky Derby (G1) winner to capture the Run for the Roses, good things need to happen in Saturday's $500,000 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne. In addition to last year's Sanford S. (G2) and Bashford Manor S. (G3) winner, the nine-furlong feature has attracted seven others including a pair of California-based colts who will make their dirt debut at the suburban Chicago oval.
What do skydiving into the desert, seeing the sunset over the Grand Canyon, driving a stock racecar at 165 miles per hour, making a debut on the silver screen, running a marathon, and backpacking through Europe all have in common?
Jill Byrne analyzes the Kentucky Derby prep races from the previous weekend
SOUTH / PLETCHER ADDS ANOTHER CONTENDER AS MISSION IMPAZIBLE SURPRISES IN LOUISIASNA DERBY – Twin Creeks’ Racing Stable’s lightly-raced Mission Impazible wore down pacesetter A Little Warm in the long Fair Grounds stretch to win Saturday’s $750,000 Louisiana Derby (GII) by three-quarters of a length.
SOUTH / QUIET TEMPER GRINDS OUT VICTORY IN FAIR GROUNDS OAKS – Mark Stanley’s Quiet Temper wore down stubborn front-runner Champagne d’Oro in the final yards to win Friday’s $300,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade II) and become a leading contender for the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI) on April 30 at Churchill Downs.
Gem, Inc.'s HARISSA (Afleet Alex), a Southern California-based filly, rolled to a 3 1/2-length triumph in her dirt debut in Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks.