My Meadowview Farm's homebred Samraat remained unbeaten and joined the Kentucky Derby trail Saturday, posting a one-length victory over fellow New York-bred rival Uncle Sigh in the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct. With Jose Ortiz up, the Richard Violette Jr.-trained colt completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:46 1/5 on the fast inner track.
A record-shattering army of 42 talented and promising young stars from the stable of six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher and 2-year-old stars of 2013 headed by unbeaten champion Shared Belief and stakes winners Honor Code and Cairo Prince top a roster of 413 3-year-old Thoroughbreds – an 11.9% increase from last year – that are early nominees to compete in the 2014 Triple Crown, the coveted series of American classic races that includes the $2 milli
Daniel Lynch and Merrill Scherer's Quick Indian, one length the best in an allowance and $50,000 optional claiming mile-and-70-yard test for sophomores January 24, is now under consideration for the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes February 22 at Fair Grounds, according to trainer Merrill Scherer.
Cairo Prince, impressive winner of the $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on January 25, may get some extra time before making his next start.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is looking at bypassing the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on February 22 and training up to the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29.
Cairo Prince and Top Billing enhanced their Kentucky Derby prospects with outstanding performances at Gulfstream Park over the weekend. The convincing victories came at least as a small surprise given the competition: Cairo Prince pounded a well-regarded group of rivals in the Grade 2 Holy Bull and Top Billing rolled home under a hand ride in a deep optional claiming event.
The next start from both is eagerly anticipated.
Honor Code's scheduled 2014 debut in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on February 22 is in serious doubt due to a minor issue discovered by trainer Shug McGaughey.
"We had a little setback. He'll go back to the track on Friday," McGaughey said Wednesday. "He bruised up his back ankles a little bit. I think he'll be fine. I wasn't sure about what was the matter with him. Now I think we have it pinpointed."
Trainer Todd Pletcher said he is considering bringing back Champagne winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana in the $150,000 Swale on March 1 rather than the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on February 22.
The Swale is run at seven furlongs, while the Fountain of Youth is contested at 1 1/16 miles. Both are run at Gulfstream Park.
"I think I'm going to be in the Swale with him," Pletcher said. "I just missed too much time and got behind schedule a touch. I'm hoping to make the work tab with him probably later this week and then point for the Swale."
Samraat and Uncle Sigh, both New York-bred three-year-old colts, have yet to run against open company, but that is unlikely to dissuade bettors from actively backing the pair in Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct. Contested at 1 1/16 miles on the inner dirt, the Withers has attracted a field of six and tops a four-stakes card at the Big A.
Owner Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm has decided to remove Coup de Grace from consideration for the Kentucky Derby following his 10th-place effort in Saturday's Holy Bull in his stakes and two-turn debut. Previously two-for-two, the Chad Brown pupil will now likely shorten up to regroup.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia, who was expected to face males in the February 22 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, will instead stay in her own division in the Rachel Alexandra on the same day, connections announced via Twitter Monday.
Co-owner Loooch Racing Stable and trainer Jeremiah Englehart each noted that this change of plan for her sophomore debut does not affect their major goal of pitting Ria Antonia against males on the Kentucky Derby trail.
As good as he felt after watching Cairo Prince romp to a 5 3/4-length win in Saturday's Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was just as excited after checking on his stable star Sunday morning.
Stabled at Palm Meadows, Cairo Prince gave McLaughlin every indication that the Pioneerof the Nile colt took the most lopsided Holy Bull victory in 19 years in stride.
Trainer Shug McGaughey is still sorting out the pecking order of his three-year-old colts, but Top Billing stamped himself as one to watch further down the Triple Crown trail. Making only his third lifetime start in an allowance on the Holy Bull Stakes undercard at Gulfstream Park, the chestnut colt caboosed the field early, but circled the field on the far turn and was hand-ridden by jockey Joel Rosario to a 2 3/4-length success over Surfing U S A.
Loooch Racing et al.'s Ria Antonia, the three-year-old filly being pointed for a face-off against male sophomores in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on Louisiana Derby Preview Day February 22 at Fair Grounds, breezed a half-mile in company Sunday morning in :48 2/5.
The move, originally scheduled for Saturday, was postponed due to the projected more favorable track conditions Sunday morning.
Six days after being removed from consideration for the Grade 2 Holy Bull with a minor illness, Wildcat Red returned to the worktab on Sunday.
Going out at 7:30 a.m. (EST) just after the first renovation break, Wildcat Red breezed three furlongs on Gulfstream's fast main track in :36 1/5 and galloped out a half-mile in :49 2/5 for trainer Jose Garoffalo.
Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes looked like a competitive Kentucky Derby prep on paper, but 2-1 favorite Cairo Prince turned it into a rout with an imperious, 5 3/4-length victory at Gulfstream Park. Last seen missing by a nose to Honor Code in the November 30 Remsen at Aqueduct -- his only career loss -- the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee was an apropos winner of this race, for he is out of a mare by Holy Bull.
One year after earning his first Kentucky Derby victory with Orb, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has a few bright young prospects who could bring him back to the Run for the Roses -- Remsen winner Honor Code; Dania Beach hero Mr Speaker, who will try dirt in Saturday's Holy Bull; and now Top Billing, who enhanced his status by crushing the 4TH race on the Holy Bull undercard at Gulfstream Park.
As always, it's an intriguing scenario when a filly is matched against "the boys." Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra -- very familiar to fans of Fair Grounds -- did it when she parlayed her 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks win to Grade 1 scores in the Kentucky Oaks and then on against male rivals in the Preakness, Haskell Invitational and Woodward later that year.
The first four scoring races of 2014 are in the books and the Kentucky Derby Report will review the action and take a look at some of the early contenders for the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports."
The criteria for making the Kentucky Derby underwent a massive shift last year with the implementation of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" Series, a tiered points system that places a greater emphasis upon later prep races, and nobody knew what to expect during the inaugural run.
Tanzanite Cat opened up his stakes account with a 9-1 upset of Monday's $150,000 Smarty Jones, the first of four major classic preps at Oaklawn Park for three-year-olds.
For most horsemen, having more than one Kentucky Derby prospect is never too much of a good thing. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who already has Remsen winner Honor Code readying for his three-year-old debut, will see if Mr Speaker fits the classics mold in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.