Owners and trainers of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds who dream that their young horses will participate in the 2013 Triple Crown races have only a few days remaining to make their horses eligible during its early nomination period to compete in the coveted 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).
The 139th annual runnings of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum!
Two days after saddling Oxbow to a victory in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas made it a sweep of the holiday weekend's major classic preps when the regally-bred Will Take Charge gutted out a photo-finish victory in Monday's $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park.
Undefeated Eclipse champion Shanghai Bobby breezed five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 Sunday morning over the fast dirt at Palm Meadows for trainer Todd Pletcher in his final tune-up as the likely favorite in next Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
Under exercise rider Patti Krotenko, the three-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday worked in company with impressive debut maiden winner Verrazano, who turned in the exact same time.
"They went head and head and finished evenly," Pletcher said. "It was a nice work for both of them.
Four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas is back on the trail, after his Oxbow romped by 11 1/2 lengths in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on "Road to the Derby Kickoff Day" at Fair Grounds. The Bluegrass Hall colorbearer thus threw down the gauntlet for any others considering the subsequent two preps at the historic New Orleans track, the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 23 and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 30.
Fair Grounds' Road to the Kentucky Derby will begin on Saturday when a field of nine sophomores line up in the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte going a mile and 70 yards over the Crescent City oval.
A number of contenders will be looking to solidify their status as Kentucky Derby hopefuls, including Avie's Quality and Oxbow as well as maiden winners Golden Soul and Malibu High.
Early Kentucky Derby predictions are fun. Whether you spend an enormous amount of time analyzing the form of two-year-olds and newly-turned sophomores or employ a more casual approach, everybody loves to be on the early bandwagon. The problem is that the Derby winner can emerge from relative obscurity in mid-January.
The Kentucky Derby chase is underway, with last Saturday's Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita offering the first opportunity for points in the New Year, and Sham victor Goldencents hails from the barn of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner Doug O'Neill.
Goldencents, ridden to perfection by Kevin Krigger, came out of his 1 1/2-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Sham Stakes in top shape, but no decision has been made on the colt's next race on the Triple Crown trail.
"No plans right now," trainer Doug O'Neill said Sunday morning. "But he ate up great and his legs are ice cold. We'll meet up with the owners over lunch in 10 days and map out an agenda."
Goldencents picked up 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for his Sham score and is the current point leader in the Run for the Roses with 24 overall.
Goldencents completed a sweep of Saturday's major three-year-old stakes by sons of Into Mischief with a workmanlike score in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham at Santa Anita. Favored at 2-5 in a field of five, Goldencents caught leg-weary pacesetter Manando inside the final furlong and drew off to a 1 1/2 -length victory under Kevin Krigger.
The victory by Goldencents on Saturday came shortly after that of Vyjack, a gelded son of Into Mischief, in the Grade 2 Jerome at Aqueduct.
Doug O'Neill enjoyed a life-changing experience with I'll Have Another in 2012. The 44-year-old trainer conditioned the upstart three-year-old to unexpected victories in three Grade 1 races, the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, before an 11th-hour tendon injury forced him to abort a Triple Crown attempt in the Belmont Stakes.
Goldencents will be the one to catch when he opens his three-year-old campaign in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham at Santa Anita on Saturday. The Doug O'Neill-trained colt has displayed high speed in all three career outings, including a 1 3/4-length tally in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot most recently, and will break from post 2 with regular rider Kevin Krigger.
The 1 1/16-mile Sham is part of the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, awarding 10-4-2-1 points to the respective top four finishers.
Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa's Itsmyluckyday made short work of his rivals in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, scoring by a widening 6 3/4-length margin in the New Year Day's event for three-year-olds. The one-mile event serves as the first race on the road to Gulfstream Park's signature Kentucky Derby prep, the $1 million Florida Derby on March 30.