The word was already out on WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Constitution even before his debut in Saturday's 4TH race at Gulfstream Park, and despite a slow start, the Todd Pletcher sophomore lived up to his even-money favoritism -- and advertised himself as a hot prospect for the Kentucky Derby trail.
It is now less than 10 days until Road to the Derby Kickoff Day on January 18 at Fair Grounds, but at this early juncture the Grade 3 Lecomte, showcase race of that gala afternoon, is looking like it may end up as a duel of wills between Albano and Gold Hawk.
Midnight Hawk and Top Fortitude, impressive debut winners at Hollywood Park, head a short field in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Sham at Santa Anita. The 1 1/16-mile test serves as the first graded event of 2014 for Kentucky Derby hopefuls out west and five of the six entrants are exiting maiden tallies.
As part of the "Prep Season" portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system, the Sham will award points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
The new “Big Board” under construction at Churchill Downs, the legendary home of the Kentucky Derby, will be the only video board in an outdoor stadium or arena capable of displaying the new and advanced 4K ultra-high definition technology.
The announcement was made by Panasonic Corporation of North America and Churchill Downs Racetrack on Monday in advance of the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest consumer electronics show that runs Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas.
The stage is set for what could be a pre-Kentucky Derby showdown on Saturday when impressive maiden winners Kristo (Distorted Humor) and Midnight Hawk (Midnight Lute) meet in the $100,000 Sham (G3) for three-year-olds over a mile at Santa Anita.
The John Sadler-trained Kristo worked six furlongs Sunday under Rafael Bejarano in 1:12 4/5 on the fast dirt. The bay colt is coming off a 6 3/4-length maiden victory at 1 1/16 miles on October 31 at Santa Anita. It was his third start. He was second in his first two, but was the 3-10 favorite each race.
Less than a week after he was left scratching his head, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin gleefully watched Grade 2 winner Cairo Prince roll through a five-furlong work at Palm Meadows on Sunday. With jockey Luis Saez up, the sophomore Pioneerof the Nile colt went five-eighths in :59 3/5, the fastest of 31 works at the distance, breezing in company with Shadwell-owned four-year-olds Qeyaas and Grade 3-placed Elnaawi, each timed in 1:00 2/5.
Conquest Titan tuned up for his next start in the Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull with a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00 2/5 for trainer Mark Casse over the fast track at Palm Meadows on Saturday.
Owned by Conquest Stable, the three-year-old son of Birdstone breezed in company with fellow sophomore Coastline, who was clocked in 1:00 3/5, second only to his stablemate.
Favored at 4-5 in his third career start, Noble Moon posted a two-length decision in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome at Aqueduct, winning the first significant test of 2014 for three-year-olds. The Leah Gyarmati-trained colt completed a mile and 70 yards in 1:45 on the fast inner track, scoring in front-running fashion beneath new rider Irad Oritz Jr.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner stamped himself as a prime candidate for the 2014 Triple Crown Friday at Gulfstream Park, where he prevailed over a strong field of three-year-old prospects.
The son of A.P. Indy surged between horses in the stretch to defeat Top Billing by a neck in the $48,750 entry-level allowance.
"We're pretty pleased with that -- a horse with a big pedigree like that, good looking," Pletcher said. "It seems like he has all the right ingredients."
Off his hard-fought runner-up finish in the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day, Florida-bred Wildcat Red earned his way into the mix for the track's key races for three-year-olds.
Trainer Jose Garaffalo is pointing the D'wildcat colt to the Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull on January 25, with an eye on the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) on February 22. Both races are run at 1 1/16 miles.
J. Armando Rodriguez's General a Rod opened his three-year-old season with an encouraging win in Wednesday's $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, capturing his stakes debut by a head after a hard-fought battle with Wildcat Red. Trained by Mike Maker, the newly turned three-year-old was ridden by Joel Rosario, who won four races on the New Year's Day program including both stakes.
Noble Moon overcame a slow start and a wide trip to finish a good third in the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes and the Malibu Moon colt will make his second stakes start in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome at Aqueduct. He heads a field of eight three-year-olds in the one-mile and 70-yard event on the inner track.
As part of the "Prep Season" portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system, the Jerome will offer points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day has been retired after sustaining a sesamoid injury, Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form reports. Campaigned by Gary and Mary West and trained by Bob Baffert, the son of Street Cry was expected to be a major player on the Triple Crown trail.
Instead, New Year's Day will embark upon a new career at stud in 2014. According to Thoroughbred Daily News, he will stand at Hill 'n' Dale near Lexington, Kentucky.
As the hectic swirl of holiday shopping heads into the homestretch, here’s a reminder that you can still place the ultimate gift – tickets to the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks – beneath the tree in a neatly-wrapped package or in the stocking of a loved one.
After appearing beaten in the stretch, Honor Code re-rallied up the rail to edge Cairo Prince in the final jumps of Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. The well-regarded Kentucky Derby prospect earned his first stakes victory with the nose decision.
Owned by Lane's End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm LLC, the Shug McGaughey trainee netted 10 points for winning the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" event, increasing his total to 14. Honor Code was exiting a head second in the Grade 1 Champagne on October 5.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey saddled eventual Kentucky Derby winner Orb to a maiden victory on the 2012 Cigar Mile undercard at Aqueduct, and is certainly hoping the future is equally as bright for the similarly blue-blooded colt Honor Code, who will start as the favorite in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen on Cigar Mile Day at the Big A.
The Remsen, at 1 1/8 miles, features a cast of nine two-year-olds, but much of the pre-race buzz will be on Honor Code and the undefeated Cairo Prince.
Thanksgiving Weekend racing fans looking for great deals on contenders for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) have opportunities this week to do their earliest shopping ever as Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) opens a four-day run on Wednesday, Nov. 27. The first Thanksgiving weekend KDFW pool will close Saturday, Nov.
Rise Up turned in a dominating performance in Saturday's Grade 3, $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot, leading wire to wire for a six-length decision. Now a three-time stakes victor for trainer Tom Amoss, the two-year-old colt put himself on the leaderboard for next year's Run for the Roses, picking up 10 points for winning the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" event.