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Barring the unforeseen, Zayat Stables' ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway) should march into Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May as the solid favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after another blowout prep victory, this time in the $750,000 Wood Memorial S. (G1). An outstanding 8 1/2-length victor the Fountain of Youth S.
Braly Family Trust's EVENING JEWEL (Northern Afleet) has been knocking on the door of a graded win in her past two starts, but on Saturday broke through in style with a gutsy neck victory in the $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland. With Kent Desormeaux guiding her on the front end, the James Cassidy-trained lass ran 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack in 1:43 2/5 to earn her shot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on April 30.
EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY (Forest Camp) put the dreadful experience of his stakes debut behind him in Saturday's $196,000 Bay Shore S. (G3), leading wire to wire for a 2 1/2-length decision. The Gary Contessa-trained sophomore colt was never threatened over the main track at Aqueduct, reeling off splits of :22 3/5, :45 and 1:08 4/5 before finishing seven furlongs in 1:21 4/5, and paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10 as the 3-5 choice over five rivals.
Multiple Grade 1 queen BLIND LUCK (Pollard's Vision) successfully pulled off the win in her final prep for the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (G1) when rallying late in Friday's $285,000 Fantasy S. (G2) at Oaklawn Park. With Rafael Bejarano sitting confidently the entire time, the chestnut lass ran in rear of the four-filly field before coming with a strong run down the middle of the track to score by 2 1/2 lengths.
INTERACTIF (Broken Vow) and AIKENITE (Yes It's True), top contenders for next Saturday's $750,000 Blue Grass S. (G1) at Keeneland, put in their final preparations for Todd Pletcher on Saturday morning.
"They both went well," Pletcher said from New York, where he was on hand to see Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway) run in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct. "Interactif worked five-eighths at Churchill Downs in a minute and four-fifths. He was on his 'A' game and worked in company with (maiden) Marenzio (Giant's Causeway)."
Jill Byrne analyzes the upcoming Kentucky Derby prep races
Blue Grass (G1) hopeful CODOY (Bernstein) breezed five furlongs Friday morning over Keeneland's Polytrack with John Velazquez aboard. Velazquez will ride the Mark Hubley colt back in the nine-furlong Blue Grass on April 10.
Working to the inside of stablemate LARRY APPEL (Songandaprayer), ridden by Mimi Davis, Codoy posted five-eighths in 1:01 4/5 and galloped out in 1:14 2/5. Keeneland clockers caught Codoy in fractions of :13 1/5, :25 4/5, :37 4/5 and :49 1/5.
EAST-WEST BATTLE SHAPES UP – IF FAVORITES STEP UP – When the sun rises on Saturday, April 3, only four weeks will remain before the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) at Churchill Downs. Saturday has taken on particular importance because the two horses who are considered the current favorites for the “Run for the Roses” – Eskendereya and Lookin At Lucky – will be competing on that day on opposite coasts in their final Kentucky Derby preps.
SOUTH / OAKS FUTURE FAVORITE BLIND LUCK TRIES DIRT IN FANTASY – Blind Luck, the filly that was favored in Churchill Downs’ 2010 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager has two things to prove as she faces a small field of three rivals in Friday’s $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn Park.