WinStar Farm's General Election overcame a wide trip to prove best in Saturday's $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial, notching his first stakes tally with a half-length decision in the 1 1/16-mile test at Turfway Park. The Kellyn Gorder-trained colt earned a berth in the track's centerpiece event, the Grade 2 Spiral Stakes on March 23, where he will have the opportunity to garner points toward a possible Kentucky Derby bid.
Pick Six Racing's Vyjack extended his unbeaten sequence to four with a stirring late rally in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Most recently successful in the Grade 2 Jerome, Vyjack upstaged Overanalyze, the 8-5 favorite, who could do no better than fifth in his three-year-old debut.
The first day of betting in Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (CDRT) second Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) pool of 2013 was highlighted by expected strong support for unbeaten Verrazano (#22, 10-1) and other 3-year-old stars, but the “All Others” (#24) betting interest was the strong 8-5 fan favorite when opening day wagering drew to a close late Friday evening.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kentucky homebred Charming Kitten, impressive when winning the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 20, a race named for his sire, will likely be favored to add Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach to his growing resume.
Jockey John Velazquez will be back aboard Charming Kitten for trainer Todd Pletcher in the field of 11 sophomores set to go in the 1 1/8-mile turf test at Gulfstream.
Overanalyze, who nosed out Normandy Invasion to win the Remsen (Grade II), will make his 3-year-old debut and break outside 11 other sophomores in Saturday’s $400,000 Gotham (GIII), which continues the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Championship Series.
The Top 4 finishers in the Gotham, which is scheduled as Race 10 on the 11-race Aqueduct program at 5:02 p.m. (all times Eastern), will be awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 scale as part of the First Leg of the Championship Series.
Saturday's Fountain of Youth turned out to be a thriller, with a pair of talented three-year-olds, Orb and Violence, battling to the wire at Gulfstream Park, but any post-race excitement proved short-lived after it was announced that Violence had sustained a career-ending injury. He will be okay, with a future at stud, but it served as another brutal example of the highs and lows in horse racing.
Overanalyze, another in trainer Todd Pletcher's seemingly endless arsenal of classic prospects, will have is sophomore unveiling in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct. The 1 1/16-mile inner dirt test attracted a dozen entries, and if all start Overanalyze will have to overcome the widest post as champion Hansen did in winning the 2012 Gotham.
Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher lost a major contender for the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) when the impressive Violence suffered a career-ending injury last weekend, but Pletcher’s barn remains so well-stocked with Derby candidates that six of his horses are listed among the 24 betting interests for the second pool of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”).
Trainer Shug McGaughey reported Sunday that Orb exited his stretch-running victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park in good order.
"He came back fine. He's at Payson Park -- that's where he lives," McGaughey said. "I was with him when he got on the van (Saturday) night, and he was fine. And they tell me he's fine today."
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
To have a horse draped in the garland of roses while raising the solid gold trophy high atop the Kentucky Derby winner’s stand is the Holy Grail for horsemen around the world.
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.