Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong uncorked a terrific late kick in Saturday's $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, blowing past favorites Social Inclusion and Samraat to win by a widening 3 1/2 lengths. He stamped his ticket for the Kentucky Derby, earning 100 points for his first stakes victory, and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 1/5 on the fast Aqueduct track.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Bobby's Kitten, the possible favorite for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass on April 12 at Keeneland, worked five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 over that venue's Polytrack Saturday morning with Marino Garcia aboard for trainer Chad Brown.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens hopes to add to his record of nine Santa Anita Derby victories when he rides 9-5 morning-line second choice Candy Boy in Saturday's much-anticipated Grade 1, $1 million race that awards 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner.
English-based Toast of New York, winner of last Saturday's Group 2 U.A.E. Derby, is becoming ever less likely to line up at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Owner Michael Buckley told Racing UK Friday that it would be "unfair" to send the still-progressing colt off on further international travels to the Kentucky Derby.
With the two principal speed horses lined up on the far outside of the Aqueduct starting gate, trainer Richard Violette likes his draw for Saturday's $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Coastline put in his final major work for next Saturday's $750,000 Blue Grass by working five furlongs in company in 1:00 2/5 at Keeneland on Friday. With jockey Stewart Elliott aboard, the gray Speightstown colt posted fractions of :12 2/5, :23 4/5 and :35 1/5 while racing on even terms with Noble Bird, a three-year-old maiden.
On the strength of his outstanding breeze March 29, Conquest Stables' Conquest Titan remains on target for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn April 12. The colt is currently one of seven horses leaning toward the 1 1/8-mile race. The other likely starters are Tapiture, Strong Mandate, Ride On Curlin, Bayern, Commissioner and Danza.
It's the Golden State vs. the Bluegrass State Saturday.
California Chrome, bred in California, takes on seven rivals, all bred in Kentucky, in the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby, the West's major steppingstone to the 140th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 3.
The first round of major prep races is in the books, with Constitution proving to be a gutsy winner in the Florida Derby and Vicar's in Trouble leading wire to wire in the Louisiana Derby.
By Gary West, special to KentuckyDerby.com
Is this the year that the oldest Derby shibboleth goes down? To win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, a horse must have raced as a 2-year-old, the conditioning and foundation of that juvenile campaign being essential to spring-time success. Right?
California Chrome, a spectacular winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 8, will look to carry his form forward when he lines up against seven rivals in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby. The Art Sherman-trained colt has a lot going for him but will be facing a couple of dangerous challengers in Candy Boy and Hoppertunity, who exit respective wins in the Grade 2 Bob Lewis and Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.
The Santa Anita Derby offers a total of 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10) as part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series. It will air on NBCSN from 5:30 to 7 p.m. (EDT).
Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial shapes up to be a tremendous race. Samraat and Uncle Sigh, who exit a pair of thrilling battles in the Grade 3 Gotham and Grade 3 Withers, are the most accomplished members of the 11-horse field, and there is an exciting new face in the form of the unbeaten Social Inclusion, who will make his stakes debut following a pair of runaway wins at Gulfstream Park.
Unbeaten Social Inclusion arrived at Aqueduct at approximately 3 a.m. (EDT) on Monday after departing Gulfstream Park by van on Sunday, according to a tweet from owner Ron Sanchez.
Promising three-year-old Tonalist will miss Saturday's Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct after coming down with a lung infection, the Christophe Clement stable confirmed via Twitter on Monday.
A full gate of 14 runners is looking like a strong possibility for the 90th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass on April 12, the centerpiece of the 15-day Keeneland Spring Meet that opens Friday.
Saturday's $250,000 Calder Derby is not a points-scoring race on the road to the Kentucky Derby, but the 1 1/8-mile test has attracted a pair of notable entrants in Ring Weekend and Cleburne.
It's been nearly 60 years since Art Sherman had a horseman's interest in the Kentucky Derby. He was 18 in 1955 when he accompanied the great Swaps and his trainer Mesh Tenney to Churchill Downs to prepare the colt for his victory in the Run for the Roses 59 years ago.
Constitution emerged from his gutsy victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in good order, trainer Todd Pletcher reported.
"He came out of (the Florida Derby) really well. He returned home to Palm Meadows this morning and seemed to be in good shape," Pletcher said Sunday afternoon while being honored as the leading trainer Gulfstream's Champions Meet for the 11th consecutive year.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was extremely disappointed by Cairo Prince's fourth-place performance in Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, but he couldn't have been more satisfied with the beaten favorite's condition at Palm Meadows Sunday morning.
Since the debut of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) in 1999, the overall betting choice in the year’s final future betting pool has in most years inherited the role of the most-likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) at the Louisville track on the first Saturday in May.
But that will not be the case in 2014.