Vicar's in Trouble might be the most aptly-named of the contestants in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Barring any scratches, the Louisiana-bred winner of last month's Lecomte will have to overcome post 14 in the 1 1/16-mile Louisiana Derby prep.
The Risen Star, the highlight of the five-stakes Louisiana Derby Preview Day in New Orleans, attracted 14 colts and geldings plus two also-eligibles.
Commissioner and Top Billing, who fought out the finish of a key allowance race at Gulfstream Park on January 3, renew rivalry while making their stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth -- this time with significant Kentucky Derby points on the line. The first race on the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series" of preps, the Fountain of Youth offers 50 points to the winner, 20 to second, 10 to third, and 5 to the fourth-place finisher.
Conquest Titan, late-running second to Cairo Prince in the January 25 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, will make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29.
Trainer Mark Casse, who will saddle Coastline in Monday's Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, said on Presidents' Day morning that he decided to skip Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth and train up to Gulfstream's signature race.
Kobe's Back lived up to his name with a stylish rebound in Sunday's Grade 2, $200,250 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. By leaving his debacle in the December 14 CashCall Futurity well behind him, the powerfully-built gray joined stablemate Candy Boy on the Kentucky Derby trail for C R K Stable.
California Cup Derby winner California Chrome worked four furlongs at Los Alamitos Saturday in :47 4/5 in preparation for his foray into open company in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 8, where it is expected he will face, among others, the Bob Baffert-trained Bayern, smashing 15-length allowance winner on Thursday.
"I got him galloping out (five furlongs) in 1:00 3/5," said trainer Art Sherman, who had his regular exercise rider, Jay Conklin, aboard the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit.
Commissioner, who ran his win streak to two races with an impressive allowance victory at Gulfstream Park on January 3, put in his final breeze for the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth on Sunday morning.
With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez aboard, the three-year-old A.P. Indy colt was clocked in :49 for four furlongs on the fast main track at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
Following the injury to Exit Stage Left, the presumptive favorite for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer called up the reserves in the form of Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams' homebred Tamarando, and he saved the day for the barn. With Hall of Famer Russell Baze aboard, Tamarando wore down Dance with Fate by a half-length in the shadow of the wire at Golden Gate Fields.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has had a lot of luck preparing his young horses at Oaklawn for Triple Crown race success dating back to 1985 when Tank's Prospect won the Arkansas Derby and then the Preakness Stakes. In 1996, the Lukas-trained Grindstone used a second in the Arkansas Derby as a launching pad to victory in the Kentucky Derby and most recently, Oxbow finished second to his champion stablemate Will Take Charge in the 2013 Rebel Stakes before going on to win the Preakness Stakes.
In Trouble, undefeated winner of the Futurity in his most recent start, will have one more work at Palm Meadows before making his three-year-old debut.
Trainer Tony Dutrow schooled the bay Tiz Wonderful colt in the Gulfstream Park paddock during the first race on Friday.
"He hasn't been in the paddock since late September at Belmont," Dutrow said. "He's nearly ready to run, and we're trying to cover all our bases."
Cairo Prince, the early favorite for the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29, breezed a half-mile in :48 3/5 Saturday morning at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
The three-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile was posting his first move since his dominating 5 3/4-length victory in the January 25 Holy Bull at Gulfstream. He completed the workout under a tight hold by motionless exercise rider Rob Massey.
At this time a year ago, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas had a fairly deep bench of classic candidates, including eventual divisional champion Will Take Charge and Preakness winner Oxbow. For the time being, Lukas will be relying solely on Strong Mandate to reach similar heights as the Grade 1-winning son of Tiznow commences his sophomore campaign against 11 rivals Monday in the Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park.
Wildcat Red will have a new rider when he makes his next start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on February 22.
Trainer Jose Garoffalo has lined up Luis Saez to ride Wildcat Red, an impressive 4 3/4-length winner of the seven-furlong Hutcheson on February 1 under Javier Castellano. The 2013 Eclipse Award winner and two-time defending meet champion, Castellano is committed to ride Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod in the Fountain of Youth.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sent out two Triple Crown nominees in Thursday's 7TH race at Santa Anita, and one -- Kaleem Shah's Bayern -- flaunted his readiness to join the big leagues. Stretching out from a 3 1/4-length debut victory on January 4, the 3-5 favorite turned the one-mile, entry-level allowance into a 15-length rout. His more experienced, but quirky, stablemate Tap It Rich wound up second best after again racing erratically.
Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner is training forwardly for his scheduled stakes debut in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on February 22.
"We're very pleased with him," Pletcher said. "Physically, he's in great order. He holds his weight well. He's a very easy horse to train.
A number of Risen Star hopefuls have put in works over the past week in advance of the Grade 2, $400,000 contest on February 22 at Fair Grounds.
Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, whose New Orleans invaders have won three of the last six renewals of the Risen Star, will be sending Intense Holiday to this year's 41st running of the Risen Star, centerpiece event of four graded stakes on the New Orleans oval's Louisiana Derby Preview Day.
Intense Holiday breezed a half-mile Sunday over the fast main track at Palm Meadows in :48.
When Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) unveils its 15,224 square foot LED “Big Board” and an enhanced audio system on the “Opening Night” of its April 26-June 30 Spring Meet, a new voice will be calling the action, highlighted by an on-track call of the biggest race of them all: the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I).
Grade 1 winner Tamarando heads a field of eight entered for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Jerry Hollendorfer originally planned to run California Derby winner Exit Stage Left in the 1 1/8-mile event instead, but called an audible when the unbeaten colt was injured last week.
The El Camino Real Derby offers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers as part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series.
Candy Boy came to play in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita last Saturday, posting an impressive victory in his 2014 debut. With champion two-year-old Shared Belief still sidelined by a foot injury, Candy Boy made a compelling case that he's the horse to beat for the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.
Gary Stevens had the mount on the John Sadler-trained colt.
"It was a lot of fun and he didn't even take a deep breath after the race. He's a super talent," the Hall of Fame rider said.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has issued an update on champion two-year-old male Shared Belief, who has been recovering from a quarter-crack on his right front foot.
Shared Belief is "in training again, but won't be breezing for another few days," Hollendorfer said.
Utilizing a strong finishing kick, C R K Stable's homebred Candy Boy captured the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Saturday. The John Sadler-trained colt won going away under Gary Stevens to enhance his Kentucky Derby credentials.