The final round of major prep races began on March 28 with the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby and U.A.E. Derby all offering points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.
Kentucky Derby fans saw much to like during the three days of betting in the fourth and final pool of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (“CDRT”)’ 2015 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) but they were most attracted to three-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert’s “dynamic duo” of Zayat Stables’ reigning 2-year-old champion American Pharoah (#1) and Kaleem Shah Inc.’s unbeaten Dortmund (#7), who were the pool’s 1-2 betting choices when wagering concluded Sunday evening.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus) wore down Stanford (Malibu Moon) in deep stretch to post a neck victory in Saturday’s $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2), completing a sweep of the three-year-old graded stakes at the Fair Grounds oval.
The lightly-raced Materiality (Afleet Alex) replicated the feat of stablemate Constitution (A.P. Indy) by taking the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday in just his third career start.
Fletcher and Carolyn Gray's homebred I'm a Chatterbox (Munnings) earned her third straight stakes victory on Saturday when recording a 2 1/2-length victory in the $396,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) under jockey Florent Geroux.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's Mubtaahij demolished Saturday's $2 million U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2), stamping his ticket to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Two scoring races were offered last weekend (March 21-22), both offering points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers, and Dubai Sky and Firing Line stamped their Kentucky Derby ticket with victories in the Spiral Stakes and Sunland Derby, respectively.
The powerful hand held by Hall of Fame Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert heading into this year’s 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) is evident in the fact the two young stars from his stable – reigning 2014 2-year-old champion American Pharoah (#1) and unbeaten Dortmund (#7) – are the expected to be the top betting choices heading into this weekend’s fourth and final pool of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (“CDRT”) 2015 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”).
Three Chimneys Farm and Besilu Stable’s Dubai Sky, who ran an ongoing winning streak to four races with an impressive triumph in the $535,750 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (Grade III) at Turfway Park, and I Spent It, winner of the Saratoga Special (GII) and runner-up in the Hopeful (GI) for the partnership of Alex and Joann Lieblong and Three Chimneys, head a roster of nine horse made eligible to compete in the races of the 2105 Triple Crown prior to conclusion of its late nomination phase on Monday, March 23 (pending late mail). The late nominations raised the overall nomination total of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds eligible to run in the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the $1.5 million-guaranteed Preakness (GI) and the $1.5 million-guaranteed Belmont Stakes (GI) to 438.
Arnold Zetcher LLC's Firing Line romped by 14 1/5 lengths on Sunday in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) to earn 50 points toward a starting berth in the May 2 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Maybellene (Looking at Lucky) finished second by a neck to stablemate Callback (Street Sense) in the $200,240 Sunland Park Oaks, but ended up inheriting the victory on Sunday after her barnmate was disqualified for interfering with pacesetter Fancy and Flashy (Zensational).
The duo are both trained by Bob Baffert, and Maybellene earned 50 points toward a starting berth in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (G1) with the win, which was also her first stakes score.
Pin Oak Stable's homebred Don't Leave Me (Lemon Drop Kid) captured Saturday's $147,675 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway Park by three parts of a length under jockey Jose Lezcano.
The deadline for owners and trainers to make their promising 3-year-old Thoroughbreds eligible to compete in the coveted races of the 2015 Triple Crown during the series’ late nomination phase will arrive just before midnight (all times Eastern) on Monday, March 23. Horses nominated prior to that cutoff time will join 429 made eligible during its early nomination phase to run in the series of American classics that includes the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the $1.5 million-guaranteed Preakness (GI) and the $1.5 million-guaranteed Belmont Stakes (GI).
Two-year-old champion American Pharoah confirmed his status as a leading Kentucky Derby contender in the March 14 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, returning from a lengthy layoff with a smashing 6 ¼-length victory.
Unraced since September, two-year-old champion American Pharoah made a spectacular return to the races in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, winning as easily as jockey Victor Espinoza pleased.
March 7 featured three scoring races with serious Kentucky Derby implications.
Dortmund kept his unblemished record intact on Saturday with a wire-to-wire victory in the $401,250 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita. Kaleem Shah's flashy chestnut led by a half-length through splits of :23 and :46 4/5, extended his lead to a length through six furlongs in 1:11 1/5, and then turned back a challenge from Bolo (Temple City) in the stretch en route to a 1 1/4-length victory as the 4-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1) prep.
Joe Ragsdale's Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor) drew off by a wide margin in the stretch of Saturday's $150,000 Honeybee S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park before being geared down for a 1 1/2-length victory under jockey Julio Felix.
Zayat Stables’ El Kabeir was easy to label as a front-running type entering Saturday’s $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, but the gray colt displayed new tactics in rallying boldly from off the pace, posting a convincing 2 ¾-length victory.