Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes looked like a competitive Kentucky Derby prep on paper, but 2-1 favorite Cairo Prince turned it into a rout with an imperious, 5 3/4-length victory at Gulfstream Park. Last seen missing by a nose to Honor Code in the November 30 Remsen at Aqueduct -- his only career loss -- the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee was an apropos winner of this race, for he is out of a mare by Holy Bull.
Glencrest Farm's Onlyforyou flashed to the front at the start and led all the way in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park, remaining unbeaten with a 2 3/4-length decision in the seven-furlong event. Javier Castellano guided the extremely promising Todd Pletcher-trained filly.
One year after earning his first Kentucky Derby victory with Orb, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has a few bright young prospects who could bring him back to the Run for the Roses -- Remsen winner Honor Code; Dania Beach hero Mr Speaker, who will try dirt in Saturday's Holy Bull; and now Top Billing, who enhanced his status by crushing the 4TH race on the Holy Bull undercard at Gulfstream Park.
As always, it's an intriguing scenario when a filly is matched against "the boys." Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra -- very familiar to fans of Fair Grounds -- did it when she parlayed her 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks win to Grade 1 scores in the Kentucky Oaks and then on against male rivals in the Preakness, Haskell Invitational and Woodward later that year.
The first four scoring races of 2014 are in the books and the Kentucky Derby Report will review the action and take a look at some of the early contenders for the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports."
The criteria for making the Kentucky Derby underwent a massive shift last year with the implementation of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" Series, a tiered points system that places a greater emphasis upon later prep races, and nobody knew what to expect during the inaugural run.
Tanzanite Cat opened up his stakes account with a 9-1 upset of Monday's $150,000 Smarty Jones, the first of four major classic preps at Oaklawn Park for three-year-olds.
For most horsemen, having more than one Kentucky Derby prospect is never too much of a good thing. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who already has Remsen winner Honor Code readying for his three-year-old debut, will see if Mr Speaker fits the classics mold in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Indianapolis certainly didn't disappoint in his three-year-old debut in the $75,460 San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Monday. By pulling away in the stretch to score by 4 1/4 lengths, the well-regarded colt had his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert plotting a path to the Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Dale Romans issued an upbeat bulletin on Monday morning about several of his newly turned three-year-olds, including the Donegal Racing trio of Cleburne, Smart Cover and Culprit.
Cleburne and Smart Cover completed the $500 exacta for the syndicate in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill on September 7, only to be sidelined thereafter. Culprit broke his maiden in his third start on October 27, but faded to eighth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on November 30.
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Cairo Prince tuned up for a scheduled start in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park during a sharp half-mile breeze at Palm Meadows in :48 2/5 Sunday morning.
"We couldn't be happier. It was exactly what we were looking for," McLaughlin said. "He's ready to go."
Cairo Prince launched his career with a victories in a maiden race at Belmont and the Nashua at Aqueduct before being nosed out by Honor Code in a memorable finish to the November 30 Remsen at Aqueduct.
It's time to stop using the phrase "Louisiana-bred" as a somewhat negative modifier when describing Vicar's in Trouble, who drew off from Albano in Saturday's Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes on Road to the Derby Day at Fair Grounds to beat that rival by 6 3/4 lengths.
"That horse can really run," Larry Jones said as the trainer of the runner-up. "Where did they find him? I thought we were in pretty good position with Albano at the top of the stretch and then that winner just drew off."
Trainer Dallas Stewart has been very high on Saturday's Silverbulletday winner Unbridled Forever ever since she came into his barn, and the bay daughter of Unbridled's Song justified his optimism with the 1 1/2-length tally in the first leg of the local series that concludes with the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on Louisiana Derby Day, March 29.
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey's Vicar's in Trouble drew off to a 6 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte at Fair Grounds, jumping straight from a 13-length win over Louisiana-bred maidens to smashing success in a Kentucky Derby prep race. Rosie Napravnik rode the Mike Maker-trained colt.
A scoring racing in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, the one-mile and 70-yard Lecomte was worth 10 points to the winner.
Lemons Forever posted one of the biggest upsets in recent Kentucky Oaks history when taking the 2006 edition at odds of 47-1. Her three-year-old daughter, Unbridled Forever, won't be so easily dismissed in the future following a convincing score in Saturday's $125,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds.
The lone stakes winner among 10 rivals in Monday's $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park, Coastline will be seeking a measure of redemption in the one-mile event after a stumbling start resulted in an eight-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot.
Wildcat Red breezed five furlongs over Gulfstream Park's fast main track on Thursday morning, in his lone tune-up for the Grade 2 Holy Bull on January 25.
Under jockey Paco Lopez, the Jose Garoffalo pupil went out at 7:30 a.m. (EST) following the first renovation break, and was clocked in 1:01 4/5, ranking seventh of 13 horses. It was his only work since finishing second in the Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1.
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).