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Jill Byrne analyzes the Kentucky Derby prep races from this past weekend
Multiple Grade 2 star BUDDY'S SAINT (Saint Liam) has emerged from his troubled ninth-place finish in Saturday's Fountain of Youth S. (G2) in good order, trainer Bruce Levine reported Sunday morning. The 9-5 favorite was slammed when entering the first turn at Gulfstream Park, and bounced around between Aikenite (Yes It's True) and the rail. Although regular jockey Jose Lezcano checked Buddy's Saint out of that dangerous spot and maneuvered him to the outside, he wound up well off the pace and never really recovered.
Trainer Todd Pletcher's attempt at a sweep of Saturday's four two-turn Kentucky Derby (G1) preps was stymied in the $250,000 Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park as Zabeel Racing International's CONVEYANCE (Indian Charlie) successfully invaded from California for trainer Bob Baffert, posting a wire-to-wire score under Martin Garcia in the one-mile contest that was delayed five days due to an unsafe racing surface on its previously scheduled day of Monday.
Just minutes after the Todd Pletcher-trained Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway) romped in Saturday's Fountain of Youth S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park, DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft) posted a quick Derby prep double for the barn in the $300,000 Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds. The E. Paul Robsham Stables homebred went straight to the front beneath new rider Javier Castellano, and he never looked back in his two-turn debut.
Zayat Stables' ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway) blew the doors off his competition in Saturday's $250,000 Fountain of Youth S. (G2), stamping himself as the leading Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect in South Florida and giving multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher yet another top classic prospect to go with recent Sam F. Davis S. (G3) hero Rule (Roman Ruler) and Saturday's Risen Star S. (G2) winner Discreetly Mine (Mineshaft).
Paul Pompa Jr.'s D' FUNNYBONE (D'wildcat) found the one turn of Saturday's $150,000 Hutcheson S. (G2) to be right within his wheelhouse, and last year's Saratoga Special S. (G2) and Futurity S. (G2) hero duly got back on the winning track. Rebounding from his debacle in the November 7 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita, the even-money favorite coasted to the front turning for home and went on to finish seven furlongs on Gulfstream Park's fast track in 1:22.
Martin Racing Stable LLC and Dan Morgan's JODY SLEW (Slew City Slew) made her first start for new trainer Bret Calhoun a winning one in the Tiffany Lass S. at Fair Grounds on January 23, and on Saturday continued progressing for her new conditioner with a hard-fought nose victory in the $141,500 Silverbulletday S. (G3) at the New Orleans venue.
The Steven Miyadi-owned and -trained DIXIE COMMANDER (Dixie Union) swept to a 22-1 upset in Saturday's $50,000 Turf Paradise Derby, his first start away from his home base of Golden Gate Fields.
Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith's CONNEMARA (Giant's Causeway) suffered the first loss of his career when making his stakes bow in the January 16 California Derby, but bounced right back to capture the $150,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields by 1 1/4 lengths on Saturday. With veteran reinsman Russell Baze in the irons, the Todd Pletcher trainee rallied wide into the stretch before pulling away to complete 1 1/8 miles on the Tapeta in 1:51 1/5.
TIME TO ‘THINK PINK’ AS KENTUCKY OAKS, SUSAN G. KOMEN FOR THE CURE® RENEW PARTNERSHIP -- Churchill Downs and Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world's largest breast cancer organization, officially renewed their partnership on Wednesday, Feb. 17, to raise funds to aid in breast cancer awareness and research during Kentucky Oaks Day, Friday, April 30.