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Saturday's $300,000 Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds has the look of a regional showdown. Florida invaders DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft), DROSSELMEYER (Distorted Humor) and TEMPTED TO TAPIT (Tapit) are scheduled to descend upon New Orleans to test the best of the locally-based three-year-olds, including Lecomte S. (G3) hero RON THE GREEK (Full Mandate) and impressive allowance/optional claiming winners STAY PUT (Broken Vow) and HOTEP (A.P. Indy).
MAXIMUS RULER (Roman Ruler), runner-up behind Ron the Greek (Full Mandate) in the January 23 Lecomte S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, will not run in Saturday's Risen Star S. (G2) after coming up with a slight injury following a breeze Sunday morning at the New Orleans oval.
"He didn't want to place his right hind foot down toe to heel when he was being walked yesterday afternoon," trainer Clark Hanna said Monday morning. "Usually, he walks very forwardly, but when we took his shoe off his foot seemed to be a little sensitive.
WEST / CALIFORNIA-BRED CARACORTADO CONTINUES ROLL IN ROBERT B. LEWIS, JOINS KENTUCKY DERBY PICTURE
Unbeaten Caracortado, a California-bred gelding who scored his first victory in a race for $40,000 claiming horses at Fairplex, knocked off some 3-year-old rivals with bigger reputations with an easy victory in Saturday’s rain-delayed $150,000-added Robert B. Lewis Stakes (Grade II) over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita.
Fans of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) made two things resoundingly clear in the first of Churchill Downs’ three Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”): there is no definitive favorite on the road to the big race on the first Saturday in May and it is possible that the winner of this year’s 136th renewal of American’s Greatest Race is not yet on the radar screen.
Lecomte S. (G3) runner-up MAXIMUS RULER (Roman Ruler), prepping for Saturday's Risen Star S. (G2), traveled five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 on a fast track at Fair Grounds Sunday morning.
Trainer Clark Hanna hopes that the colt, who found himself leading through fast fractions in the Lecomte, will enjoy a more favorable stalking set-up in the Risen Star.
"The idea is to get him to relax," Hanna explained after the Sunday work, "so we broke him off at the half-mile pole this morning, let him go to the seven-eighths and then let him gallop out the rest of the way on his own.
At Gulfstream Park on Sunday, multiple Grade 2 hero BUDDY'S SAINT (Saint Liam) drilled six furlongs in 1:13 2/5 on the fast track in his final major move for Saturday's Fountain of Youth S. (G2). The Bruce Levine trainee posted fractions of :12 3/5, :25 2/5 and :49 2/5.
"He worked really good, but didn't go super fast," Levine said of the colt, who had blitzed six furlongs in a bullet 1:12 in his last work on February 7.
Juvenile champion LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike) continued his preparations on Sunday for his three-year-old bow in the March 13 San Felipe S. (G2), working four furlongs in company with El Martillo (Tiznow) over the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita.
The Bob Baffert charge was last seen taking the CashCall Futurity (G1) and covered a half-mile in :48 1/5 under Martin Garcia. El Martillo was clocked in :48 3/5.
"Nice" is how Baffert described the move, while Garcia said he went "really good."
Going into Saturday's $150,000 Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) at Santa Anita, much of the attention was focused on well-regarded Kentucky Derby (G1) aspirants American Lion (Tiznow) and Tiz Chrome (Tiznow), but neither managed to live up to their advance billing. Instead, it was the Mike Machowsky-bred, co-owned and -trained CARACORTADO (Cat Dreams) who stepped up to the plate in his first serious class test. Sweeping past his better-fancied opponents, the California-bred gelding crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths in front to remain unbeaten from five starts.
WinStar Farm's homebred RULE (Roman Ruler) was under pressure virtually the entire way of Saturday's $200,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, but ultimately proved the class of the six-pack of three-year-olds by drawing off to an emphatic three-length win at the end of the 1 1/16-mile contest which serves as the local prep for the Tampa Bay Derby (G3). Under John Velazquez, the Todd Pletcher pupil set fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12 1/5 before finishing up in 1:44 over the fast main track. The even-money choice, Rule returned $4, $2.80 and $2.20.
Will the form of the January 16 San Rafael S. (G3) hold up better than the January 18 Smarty Jones S.? Will Hopeful S. (G1) winner DUBLIN (Afleet Alex) run his way back into the Kentucky Derby (G1) picture over a track his sire relished? Those are just a couple of the questions that will be answered following Monday's $250,000 Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park, a one-mile test has attracted a field of 10 three-year-olds including the top three from the San Rafael, the top four from the course-and-distance Smarty Jones, and Dublin, who makes his seasonal debut for D. Wayne Lukas.