A couple of horses staked their claim last weekend, with Black Onyx upsetting the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park and Govenor Charlie posting an easy win as the Sunland Derby favorite. Black Onyx's connections made him a late Triple Crown nominee after the Spiral and Govenor Charlie continued to enhance his reputation in a deep Bob Baffert stable.
The priceless solid gold trophy that will be presented to the owner of the 3-year-old Thoroughbred that wins the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) has arrived safely at Churchill Downs exactly 40 days before the big race on the first Saturday in May.
The roster of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds eligible for the 2013 Triple Crown has grown to 382 with the addition of 13 late nominations (pending late mail) to the coveted series of American classic races that includes the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the $1 million Preakness (GI) and the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI).
The Kentucky Derby Championship Series kicks into high gear with Saturday's Group 2, $2 million U.A.E. Derby at Meydan, the first race in the new scoring system to offer a 100-point bonanza to the eligible winner. American rooting interests revolve around He's Had Enough and Dice Flavor, while Aidan O'Brien dispatches Lines of Battle from Ireland, and Godolphin's Secret Number tops the local squad.
He's Had Enough and Lines of Battle are the only American Triple Crown nominees in the field, however, and therefore they are the only two eligible to pocket points on Saturday.
For most of three days of betting in the third and final pool of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (CDRT) 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), fans flirted with making unbeaten Verrazano (#20) the overall betting favorite. But, in the end, those fans could not commit to an individual horse as their favorite to win the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and settled on the always popular Mutuel Field (#24) to be the people’s choice.
Not long after Midnight Lucky routed the Sunland Park Oaks, Govenor Charlie made it a track record-setting double for owner Mike Pegram, trainer Bob Baffert and young sire Midnight Lute when opening up in the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby. Govenor Charlie, sent off as the 6-5 favorite off a gutsy maiden score at Santa Anita last out, thrust himself into the Kentucky Derby picture by earning 50 points.
Champion Shanghai Bobby breezed five furlongs at Palm Meadows Sunday morning in preparation for a scheduled start in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Saturday.
Working in company with stablemate Palace Malice, the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning juvenile champion was timed in 1:00 4/5, and the pair tied for the sixth fastest of 34 works recorded at the distance on the fast main track.
Leading Kentucky Derby hopeful Verrazano breezed a half-mile in :49 3/5 at Palm Meadows Sunday, recording his first work since his three-length conquest of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 9. The Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6 is next for the undefeated colt.
"Huge work from Verrazano this morning," co-owner Let's Go Stable tweeted, citing his "huge gallop-out."
Todd Pletcher sent his candidates for Saturday's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, Revolutionary and Palace Malice, out for works at his Palm Meadows base on Sunday morning.
Revolutionary, last seen landing the Grade 3 Withers in his stakes debut February 2, sped a half-mile in :48 1/5 on the fast main track. The War Pass colt worked in company with multiple Grade 2 scorer Overanalyze, who also clocked :48 1/5.
"I thought he went super -- he was well in hand," Pletcher said of Revolutionary. "He's coming up to the race in good order."
Jerry Hollendorfer has precious little missing from a remarkable resume compiled over more than three decades as a trainer. He is a member of racing's Hall of Fame, one of five trainers to win in excess of 6,000 races, and has more training titles in Northern California than Brett Favre has comebacks.
Through Saturday, with 26 victories and 17 racing days remaining, Hollendorfer was giving Bob Baffert a run for the money as Santa Anita's training leader, sitting just five behind, even though he has started 44 fewer horses and is winning at 27 percent.
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s unbeaten Verrazano (#20), the favored individual horse in the first two pools of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), is one day away from being the overall fans’ choice in the year’s final Derby Future Pool.
Trilogy Stables and Laurie Plesa's Itsmyluckyday breezed a half-mile in :49 2/5 Saturday morning at Calder for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. as he put the finishing touches on the colt's preparation for next Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby.
"It couldn't have gone any better," Plesa said. "He galloped out strong. Everything in his training since the Holy Bull has gone on schedule. Now the next thing to be concerned with will be the draw (on Wednesday)."
Itsmyluckyday is the probable favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby.
Sterling Racing's Black Onyx made his stakes debut a winning one and secured a Kentucky Derby berth in Saturday's Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, posting a 1 1/2-length decision over Uncaptured. A turf allowance scorer in his previous outing at Gulfstream Park, the Kelly Breen-trained colt has now won three of five career starts. Joe Bravo was up.
Black Onyx earned 50 points in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system for the win.
Although heavy ground fog made splits unobtainable on some of the candidates who worked Saturday morning at Fair Grounds for the 100th anniversary edition of the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 30, Fair Grounds clocker Mike Diliberto was able to record splits on those locally-based Louisiana Derby probable starters who worked later in the morning as the fog gradually lifted.
Unbeaten Verrazano (#20) has never been threatened in a trio of easy victories in his young career, but he emerged from the opening day of betting in Pool 3 of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) as a very narrow fans’ choice over the always popular “All Others” (#24) betting interest.
While media and office chatter this week might be dominated by basketballs and brackets, Churchill Downs offers a question that also serves as a gentle reminder: Are you ready for the 2013 Kentucky Derby?
The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” wraps up this weekend with the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral (Grade III) on Saturday and the $800,000 Sunland Derby (GIII) on Sunday.
A late nomination deadline of Saturday, March 23 looms for owners and trainers of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds not yet eligible to compete in the 2013 Triple Crown races to nominate their young stars to the coveted three-race series of American classics that includes the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the $1 million Preakness (GI) and the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI).
Grade 2 winner Uncaptured will make his long-awaited return to competition on Saturday, but the Lion Heart colt has picked a tough spot to make his three-year-old bow in Turfway Park's Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral.
Trained by Mark Casse, Uncaptured was last seen taking the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs by a neck on November 24. That followed a 5 1/2-length romp in the Grade 3 Iroquois over the same surface in his first try on a conventional dirt surface.
Fifteen years removed from their Kentucky Derby victory with Real Quiet, owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert have another potential candidate for the Louisville classic in Govenor Charlie, one of two colts Baffert will saddle in Sunday's Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby over 1 1/8 miles.