Why would a trainer ship two three-year-olds into New Orleans with such unorthodox past performances as Dennis Foster's Got Shades and Cesar Parra's Rainbow Trip for a race like Saturday's Grade 3 Lecomte? After all, the Lecomte is the centerpiece of Road to the Derby Kickoff Day at Fair Grounds, and it is for sophomores with designs on the 2014 Triple Crown later this spring.
Got Shades, a colt by Pollard's Vision, has never raced on dirt, and Rainbow Trip, a gelding by Sightseeing, has been running on the grass for his last three starts.
The five-stakes "Road to the Derby Kickoff" day at Fair Grounds on Saturday includes the $125,000 Silverbulletday at one mile and 70 yards, which features three-year-old fillies with Kentucky Oaks aspirations.
Six fillies were entered in the Silverbulletday, with Divine Beauty the likely favorite. A debut winner at Churchill in September, the Brereton Jones homebred romped by 6 1/4 lengths over subsequent Dixie Belle winner Street Story in the December 21 Letellier Memorial going six furlongs.
Easily one of the best bred colts on the Triple Crown trail, Gold Hawk will have an opportunity to live up to his formidable bloodlines when he makes his stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte at Fair Grounds.
The Lecomte, at one mile and 70 yards, anchors the five-stakes "Road to the Derby Kickoff" day at the New Orleans track.
Early nominations are now being accepted from owners and trainers of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds who hope their young horses have the talent to the compete in the 2014 Triple Crown, the coveted series of American classic races that includes the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the $1.5 million-guaranteed Preakness (GI) and the $1.5 million-guaranteed Belmont Stakes (GI).
Churchill Downs has adjusted its policy on supplemental nominations to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) to make supplemental entrants eligible to make the field for the race if they have qualified on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system.
Undefeated Kentucky Derby Future Book favorite Shared Belief missed a scheduled workout at Santa Anita Sunday morning but is still on course for his three-year-old debut in that track's Grade 2, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis on February 8, according to assistant trainer Dan Ward.
"An abscess busted out on his right front foot," Ward explained
Fair Grounds-based trainer Dallas Stewart, who saddled Lemons Forever to win the 2006 Kentucky Oaks for a $96.20 win payoff, is now hopeful of pursuing that sort of campaign with Charles Fipke's Unbridled Forever, a precocious daughter of that Lemon Drop Kid mare.
To that end, the McComb, Mississippi-born Stewart breezed Unbridled Forever five furlongs in 1:03 2/5 Sunday morning over Fair Grounds' fast main track in preparation for Saturday's $125,000 Silverbulletday on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day at the Crescent City oval.
Windy Hill Farm's Smarty's Echo worked a half-mile in company Sunday morning in preparation for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, centerpiece event of the Road to the Derby Kickoff Day at Fair Grounds.
The chestnut son of Smarty Jones was caught in :48 4/5 over the fast main track.
"That work went really well for us," trainer Anne Smith said, speaking outside her barn later in the morning. "I don't know if the clockers caught them both or not, but I know what I got him in.
Everything remains on target for Nashua winner Cairo Prince, who is scheduled to make his three-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on January 25.
Working in company with four-year-old Shadwell-owned colt Qeyaas, the gray son of Pioneerof the Nile breezed five furlongs in :59 4/5 on Sunday morning at Palm Meadows. Cairo Prince posted the fastest of 29 moves at the distance on the fast main track, and easily surpassed his workmate's time of 1:00 4/5.
Midnight Hawk surged past Kristo in the stretch and remained unbeaten in his stakes debut Saturday, posting a 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $98,000 Sham at Santa Anita. Trained by Bob Baffert, the Midnight Lute colt completed a mile in 1:36 2/5 with jockey Mike Smith.
The gray three-year-old also added his name to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, earning 10 points for winning the "Prep Season" event.
The word was already out on WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Constitution even before his debut in Saturday's 4TH race at Gulfstream Park, and despite a slow start, the Todd Pletcher sophomore lived up to his even-money favoritism -- and advertised himself as a hot prospect for the Kentucky Derby trail.
It is now less than 10 days until Road to the Derby Kickoff Day on January 18 at Fair Grounds, but at this early juncture the Grade 3 Lecomte, showcase race of that gala afternoon, is looking like it may end up as a duel of wills between Albano and Gold Hawk.
Midnight Hawk and Top Fortitude, impressive debut winners at Hollywood Park, head a short field in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Sham at Santa Anita. The 1 1/16-mile test serves as the first graded event of 2014 for Kentucky Derby hopefuls out west and five of the six entrants are exiting maiden tallies.
As part of the "Prep Season" portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system, the Sham will award points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers.
The new “Big Board” under construction at Churchill Downs, the legendary home of the Kentucky Derby, will be the only video board in an outdoor stadium or arena capable of displaying the new and advanced 4K ultra-high definition technology.
The announcement was made by Panasonic Corporation of North America and Churchill Downs Racetrack on Monday in advance of the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest consumer electronics show that runs Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas.
The stage is set for what could be a pre-Kentucky Derby showdown on Saturday when impressive maiden winners Kristo (Distorted Humor) and Midnight Hawk (Midnight Lute) meet in the $100,000 Sham (G3) for three-year-olds over a mile at Santa Anita.
The John Sadler-trained Kristo worked six furlongs Sunday under Rafael Bejarano in 1:12 4/5 on the fast dirt. The bay colt is coming off a 6 3/4-length maiden victory at 1 1/16 miles on October 31 at Santa Anita. It was his third start. He was second in his first two, but was the 3-10 favorite each race.
Less than a week after he was left scratching his head, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin gleefully watched Grade 2 winner Cairo Prince roll through a five-furlong work at Palm Meadows on Sunday. With jockey Luis Saez up, the sophomore Pioneerof the Nile colt went five-eighths in :59 3/5, the fastest of 31 works at the distance, breezing in company with Shadwell-owned four-year-olds Qeyaas and Grade 3-placed Elnaawi, each timed in 1:00 2/5.
Conquest Titan tuned up for his next start in the Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull with a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00 2/5 for trainer Mark Casse over the fast track at Palm Meadows on Saturday.
Owned by Conquest Stable, the three-year-old son of Birdstone breezed in company with fellow sophomore Coastline, who was clocked in 1:00 3/5, second only to his stablemate.
Kaleem Shah Inc.'s Awesome Baby dueled throughout the backstretch with Taste Like Candy in Saturday's Grade 2, $196,000 Santa Ynez before pulling away in the lane and then holding that rival's late surge to win by a half-length on the wire. The 5-1 third choice in the short four-filly field returned $12.60 to her backers for finishing 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's fast main track in 1:16 3/5.
Favored at 4-5 in his third career start, Noble Moon posted a two-length decision in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome at Aqueduct, winning the first significant test of 2014 for three-year-olds. The Leah Gyarmati-trained colt completed a mile and 70 yards in 1:45 on the fast inner track, scoring in front-running fashion beneath new rider Irad Oritz Jr.
Fierce Boots took the lead coming out of the gate and was never challenged as she rolled to a two-length upset of 9-5 favorite Flipcup in Saturday's $100,000 Busanda for three-year-old fillies at Aqueduct.