One day after Big Chief Racing's Ive Struck a Nerve rewarded a few of racing's eternally-grinning optimists with a $272.40 return on a $2 win wager in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, the Yankee Gentleman colt's trainer, Keith Desormeaux, was already having Kentucky Derby dreams, but with an important intermediate dream.
"We'd be crazy not to run in the (Grade 2, $1 million) Louisiana Derby," said Desormeaux, still in the afterglow of the biggest stakes score of his career. "Plus, we have to represent the home team."
A trio of graded stakes winners are expected to head a deep field of Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Saturday's 60th running of the Grade 3 Gotham, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as Aqueduct's primary prep for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6.
Grade 1 winner Violence has been sidelined after sustaining a fracture to his right front medial sesamoid.
The fracture was detected after the Medaglia d'Oro colt suffered his first career loss when second in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
Resting comfortably at Gulfstream Park, the dark bay colt will ship to owner Steven Marshall's Black Rock Stable's Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, this week for further evaluation and recuperation.
Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable's homebred Orb took advantage of a blistering pace in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth, rallying to edge Violence by a half-length in the 1 1/16-mile test at Gulfstream Park. The Shug McGaughey trainee likely secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate while making his stakes debut, earning 50 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system, and John Velazquez was up on the well-bred son of Malibu Moon.
The 135-1 longshot Ive Struck a Nerve lived up to his name in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by James Graham, the locally-based colt came from the clouds to down his better-fancied rivals from high-profile barns, and earned 50 points toward the Kentucky Derby.
Itsmyluckyday worked a half-mile in :48 4/5 Saturday morning at Calder for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., his first workout since his stunning two-length victory over previously undefeated juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
"It was exactly what I was looking for," Plesa said later in the morning.
"I got him galloping out (five furlongs) in 1:01. He's right on schedule. He'll probably work about every seven days, although I might change it up on him one of those times with an easy mile work. I haven't decided."
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Over the next 10 weeks, compelling drama will be plentiful as the new “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” begins in earnest and horses attempt to earn their way into the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands beginning with Saturday’s Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and the Risen Star at Fair Grounds
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The final weekend of the "Prep Season" in the new Kentucky Derby scoring system featured a pair of stakes, Saturday's El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate and Monday's Southwest at Oaklawn Park, and the latter played like a movie we've seen before, with Bob Baffert sending out the winning Super Ninety Nine.
A drenching rainstorm in the hour before Monday's Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park changed the complexion of the track, but arguably did little to effect the outcome as even-money favorite Super Ninety Nine demolished his nine rivals in the one-mile test.
Oxbow was virtually untouchable in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds on January 19, winning as he pleased by 11 1/2 lengths, but more than likely will have to play second fiddle to Normandy Invasion in the wagering for Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at the New Orleans track.
The top local prep for the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star attracted an overflow field of 15, with a maximum 14 allowed to start.
Violence, a perfect three-for-three so far, looks to enhance his Kentucky Derby credentials in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile test ushers in the next stage of the new scoring system for the Run for the Roses, the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series," offering a 50-point windfall to the winner.
Mike Pegram and Dennis Cardoza's Shakin It Up sliced between foes and drove to a one-length decision in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,250 San Vicente at Santa Anita, handing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his eighth victory in the seven-furlong affair for sophomores. At the same time, the Triple Crown nominee became the first graded winner sired by champion sprinter Midnight Lute, himself a former Baffert trainee.
Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice breezed a co-bullet five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 at South Florida's Palm Meadows Training Center Sunday morning in preparation for his upcoming appearance in Saturday's Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. The Todd Pletcher trainee worked in company with highly-regarded stablemate Violence, who posted the exact same time ahead of Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
Team Valor International's Cerro breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 over Palm Meadows's fast dirt on Sunday in preparation for a likely start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth going 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. With exercise rider David Nava up, Cerro worked in company with Went the Day Well, who clocked the same time.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. reported that all is well with Itsmyluckyday as the Gulfstream Park Derby and Grade 3 Holy Bull winner awaits the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 30.
Campaigned by by Plesa's wife, Laurie, and Trilogy Stables, the Lawyer Ron colt produced a stunning two-length victory over previously undefeated Eclipse champion Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull on January 26. Prior to that, Itsmyluckyday won the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby by 6 3/4 lengths on New Year's Day, earning a stellar 111 BRIS Speed rating for the effort.
Undefeated Violence breezed five furlongs in a co-bullet 1:00 1/5 over Palm Meadows Training Center's fast dirt on Sunday in preparation for a scheduled start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
"Outstanding. I'm very, very pleased with his work. He galloped out strongly, came back well. He's ready to go," trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Exercise rider Norman Bush was aboard Violence, who worked head and head in company with Palace Malice, who was also timed in 1:00 1/5, the co-fastest clocking of 40 recorded at the distance.
Dice Flavor burst between opponents in midstretch and drew off to a convincing 3 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.
Recent allowance winner Orb will likely run in next Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, providing that he pleases trainer Shug McGaughey in a workout scheduled for Monday.
"I'm looking towards it. I'm going to work him on Monday and make up my mind," McGaughey said. "I'm leaning that way, because there's nowhere else to run him."
Bob Baffert has won six of the last nine graded events for three-year-olds at Oaklawn Park, including a sweep of the Grade 3 Southwest, Grade 2 Rebel and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby last year, and the Hall of Famer will be represented in Monday's $300,000 Southwest by Super Ninety Nine, who exits a sharp 3 1/4-length score over allowance/optional claiming rivals at Santa Anita. The colt's main opposition, Smarty Jones winner Will Take Charge, resides in the barn of another Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.