Undefeated Samraat was on his way to Florida Sunday afternoon, one day after running his winning streak to five and landing atop the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with his gritty victory over Uncle Sigh and In Trouble in the Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack.
It was no surprise when the Mutuel Field (#24), or “All Others,” ended up as the overall favorite in the third of four pools in Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 2014 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW), but the small edge that Cairo Prince (#3), the favored individual horse, held over several KDFW rivals underscored the narrow margins that separate major players now working their way toward the famed “Run for the Roses” on the first Saturday in May.
A 9 1/2-length romp by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable (#23) in last week’s Rachel Alexandra (Grade III) at Fair Grounds made her a rising star on the road to the 140th running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), and the authority of that victory left such a strong impression that the daughter of Tapit closed as the narrow overall favorite among 24 wagering interests in Churchill Downs’ 2014 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (“KOFW”).
After entering the stretch drive on even terms with Uncle Sigh and In Trouble, My Meadowview's homebred Samraat out-dueled his rivals to the wire in Saturday's Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham, gamely posting a narrow victory on the inner track at Aqueduct. The Richard Violette Jr.-trained colt remained unbeaten in his fifth career start, recording his second straight graded stakes triumph after taking the Withers on February 1, and Samraat essentially guaranteed himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.
Dan Ward, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, issued a Saturday update on Shared Belief. Last year's undefeated champion two-year-old male continues to recover from a quarter-crack in his right front foot at Golden Gate Fields.
Although Coolmore was out of luck in Saturday's Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream, with the scratch of Havana and the upset of No Nay Never, the ownership team of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier received some consolation when Gala Award prevailed soon afterward in the Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach. Making his stakes debut off a maiden win over the local turf, the Todd Pletcher sophomore held on by a half-length from the closing Mr Speaker.
Kaleem Shah Inc.'s Awesome Baby has proven to be a horse of a different color this season, wiring the Santa Ynez in her three-year-old debut on January 4 and duplicating that effort Saturday with a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita Park.
Susan Moulton's Solitary Ranger set all the pace in Saturday's $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park, posting a 4 3/4-length decision under jockey Florent Geroux. Stablemate Poker Player came rolling late to provide trainer Wayne Catalano with a one-two finish in the 1 1/16-mile event.
Cairo Prince continued his preparations for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29 by breezing a sharp five furlongs Saturday morning at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park's satellite training facility.
The names of 121 3-year-old fillies – including 17 from the sprawling stable of six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher – are included on the roster of nominees to compete in the $1 million-guaranteed Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies scheduled to be run for the 140th consecutive year at Churchill Downs on Friday, May 2.
Mr Speaker will get back on turf for the Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park Saturday. The dark bay colt made a dashing rally up the fence to win the Dania Beach Stakes on the sod in December, but trainer Shug McGaughey opted to experiment with the main track for the Holy Bull Stakes on January 25. Though forwardly placed early in that competitive test, the three-year-old son of Pulpit didn't find another gear and tired to finish seventh, 10 3/4 lengths behind the romping winner Cairo Prince.
Darley has announced that it has purchased a majority interest in the three-year-old colt, Cairo Prince, a runaway winner of the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on January 25. The colt will stay in the barn of current trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and race in the colors of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable, along with owners Terry Murray, Paul Braverman, Harvey A. Clarke and Craig W. Robertson III.
Godolphin's Ihtimal, a dominant winner of the February 6 U.A.E. One Thousand Guineas, turned the classic double by an even more emphatic margin in Thursday's Group 3, $250,000 U.A.E. Oaks at Meydan. Asserting her superiority at the top of the stretch, the Saeed bin Suroor pupil widened her advantage to a record 10 lengths at the wire.
Smart Cover, injured running second to stablemate Cleburne in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs last fall, returns to the races in Saturday's Grade 3 Palm Beach on the Gulfstream Park turf.
Trained by Dale Romans for Donegal Racing, Smart Cover drew post seven of 13 in the nine-furlong Palm Beach, and will be ridden for the first time by Corey Lanerie. On Wednesday, Lanerie was named winner of the George Woolf Memorial Award in a nationwide vote of his peers.
Awesome Baby, a gate-to-wire winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez going 6 1/2 furlongs on January 4, heads a field of eight three-year-old fillies entered in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Santa Anita.
Wildcat Red and Intense Holiday guaranteed themselves a spot in the Kentucky Derby, earning 50 points for their respective wins in the Fountain of Youth and Risen Star, and the contrast between races was extreme.
NBC Sports Group and Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) have reached a 10-year agreement extending NBCSG’s exclusive rights to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks through 2025, it was announced today.
By Gary West, Special to KentuckyDerby.com
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Sometimes this venerable sport can be the simplest of games, reduced to a formula that’s no more complicated than the fastest horse wins, even if he only has to be the fastest horse for a half-mile, which seemed to be the case Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Florida, where Wildcat Red won the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Meanwhile, a more complicated formula emerged in New Orleans, where circumstances finally yielded to perseverance, as Intense Holiday won the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.