The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” continues Saturday with the 33rd running of the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade II) and the 76th running of the $300,000 San Felipe (GII).
Flashback had little difficulty when making his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis, dominating on the front end against three overmatched rivals, but the unbeaten colt will face a much sterner class check when he faces Goldencents in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe at Santa Anita. Goldencents exits a pair of nice wins in the Grade 3 Sham and Grade 3 Delta Jackpot.
Palace Malice will run next in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 30 and Edgar Prado will ride him, it was announced Wednesday by Dogwood President Cot Campbell. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt exits a close third over the Fair Grounds' track in his stakes bow, the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 23.
"He was beaten a half-length for all the money in the Risen Star, and that was the colt's first time around two turns, so the mile and an eighth race is the logical next step for this Curlin colt, one that is bred to appreciate a route," Campbell said.
Champion Shanghai Bobby continues to train forwardly for a scheduled start in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 30. The dark bay son of Harlan's Holiday hasn't started in a race since suffering his first career loss in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream on January 26.
Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby marks the highly-anticipated stakes debut of Verrazano, who will make his first start around two turns for Todd Pletcher following a pair of smashing victories at Gulfstream Park. A leading Kentucky Derby contender, the unbeaten colt will retain the services of John Velazquez and drew post 6 in the nine-horse field.
Vyjack secured a likely spot in the Kentucky Derby field when winning Saturday's Gotham, earning 50 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system for the convincing 2 1/4-length decision. After capturing his first three starts in front-running fashion, Vyjack switched gears and closed from off the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race, overcoming a wide trip along the way on Aqueduct's inner track.
The second of three betting pools in Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) concluded with few surprises when wagering closed early Sunday evening with a strong favorite in the “All Others” (#24) betting interest the strong 3-1 favorite over unbeaten Verrazano (#22), Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Orb (#11) and the surging Vyjack (#23), who made a major move in the pool following Saturday’s impressive win in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct.
Team Stallion Racing Stable et al's Rydilluc was using his stakes debut in Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach on turf as an audition for the Kentucky Derby trail. By drawing off to a flashy 3 1/2-length score, the Gary Contessa trainee remained perfect from three turf starts, and showed star potential.
That prompted a social-media celebration from his Team Stallion connections: "Derby Dreamin!"
Flashback moved a step closer to next Saturday's much-anticipated pre-Triple Crown showdown with Goldencents in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe with a five-furlong workout Sunday morning at Santa Anita in a bullet :59 under regular rider Julien Leparoux. It was the fastest of 63 drills at the distance on the fast main track.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had a very busy Sunday morning at Palm Meadows with more than a dozen stakes runners from his powerful stable hitting the worktab for upcoming stakes engagements.
Unbeaten Kentucky Derby hopeful Verrazano, gearing up for his stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, traveled a half-mile on the fast main track in :48 1/5.
"Todd was very happy with the work and 'V' is ready," owner Let's Go Stable tweeted.
Rudy Rodriguez usually avoids looking too far into the future, but he couldn't help but express cautious optimism the morning after he picked up his biggest victory as a trainer when Vyjack came from off the pace to win Aqueduct's Grade 3 Gotham by 2 1/4 lengths on Saturday.
The victory gave Vyjack, who is unbeaten in four starts, 50 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" qualifying system, which likely is enough to put him in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 4.
There was no change in the top two positions on Churchill Downs Racetrack’s odds board after the second day of betting in Pool 2 of the 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), but odds on unbeaten Vyjack (#23) dipped after his impressive victory in the Gotham (Grade III) at Aqueduct, Saturday’s major prep for the 139th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
WinStar Farm's General Election overcame a wide trip to prove best in Saturday's $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial, notching his first stakes tally with a half-length decision in the 1 1/16-mile test at Turfway Park. The Kellyn Gorder-trained colt earned a berth in the track's centerpiece event, the Grade 2 Spiral Stakes on March 23, where he will have the opportunity to garner points toward a possible Kentucky Derby bid.
Pick Six Racing's Vyjack extended his unbeaten sequence to four with a stirring late rally in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Most recently successful in the Grade 2 Jerome, Vyjack upstaged Overanalyze, the 8-5 favorite, who could do no better than fifth in his three-year-old debut.
The first day of betting in Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (CDRT) second Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) pool of 2013 was highlighted by expected strong support for unbeaten Verrazano (#22, 10-1) and other 3-year-old stars, but the “All Others” (#24) betting interest was the strong 8-5 fan favorite when opening day wagering drew to a close late Friday evening.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kentucky homebred Charming Kitten, impressive when winning the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 20, a race named for his sire, will likely be favored to add Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach to his growing resume.
Jockey John Velazquez will be back aboard Charming Kitten for trainer Todd Pletcher in the field of 11 sophomores set to go in the 1 1/8-mile turf test at Gulfstream.
Overanalyze, who nosed out Normandy Invasion to win the Remsen (Grade II), will make his 3-year-old debut and break outside 11 other sophomores in Saturday’s $400,000 Gotham (GIII), which continues the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Championship Series.
The Top 4 finishers in the Gotham, which is scheduled as Race 10 on the 11-race Aqueduct program at 5:02 p.m. (all times Eastern), will be awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 scale as part of the First Leg of the Championship Series.
Saturday's Fountain of Youth turned out to be a thriller, with a pair of talented three-year-olds, Orb and Violence, battling to the wire at Gulfstream Park, but any post-race excitement proved short-lived after it was announced that Violence had sustained a career-ending injury. He will be okay, with a future at stud, but it served as another brutal example of the highs and lows in horse racing.
Overanalyze, another in trainer Todd Pletcher's seemingly endless arsenal of classic prospects, will have is sophomore unveiling in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct. The 1 1/16-mile inner dirt test attracted a dozen entries, and if all start Overanalyze will have to overcome the widest post as champion Hansen did in winning the 2012 Gotham.
Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher lost a major contender for the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) when the impressive Violence suffered a career-ending injury last weekend, but Pletcher’s barn remains so well-stocked with Derby candidates that six of his horses are listed among the 24 betting interests for the second pool of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”).