Members of Todd Pletcher's New York contingent took to the fast Belmont training track on Sunday to turn in final breezes in the lead up to Gotham Day, March 1, at Aqueduct.
Master Lightning, one of Pletcher's three sophomore colts under consideration for the Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham, breezed four furlongs in :49 2/5. Teen Pauline and Royal Lahaina, both probable for the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap, breezed in company and covered four furlongs in :48 3/5.
Starlight Racing and Jack Wolf's Intense Holiday got up by a nose to win Saturday's Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, and on Sunday morning on his way out of town Wolf was looking forward to coming back with wife Laurie for the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby March 29, especially after dining once at La Petite Grocery and once at Arnaud's during their brief but highly successful Crescent City sojourn.
Holy Bull hero Cairo Prince breezed over the fast dirt at Palm Meadows Saturday morning in preparation for the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29. The son of Pioneerof the Nile covered a half-mile in :49 4/5 under the watchful eye of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who offered his thoughts on the Fountain of Youth later in the day at Gulfstream Park.
Wildcat Red and General a Rod, the one-two finishers in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, will likely take their nascent rivalry to the next level in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29.
Starlight Racing's Intense Holiday utilized every inch of the long stretch run at Fair Grounds Saturday, closing furiously to catch Albano in the final strides of the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star. By virtue of the nose decision, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt vaulted to the top of the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. Hall of Famer Mike Smith was in for the ride.
Add Mother Nature to the list of challenges facing the talented Harlan's Holiday colt Ami's Holiday, who is being pointed to Oaklawn's series of graded races for three-year-olds and then a potential Triple Crown campaign.
The January 1 Gulfstream Park Derby turned out to be the key predictor for Saturday's Grade 2, $415,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, as Wildcat Red and General a Rod reprised their duel in what developed into a virtual match race. Only this time, Honors Stable Corp.'s Wildcat Red gained revenge in a photo-finish, and took home 50 points toward the Kentucky Derby. Top Billing, the 2-1 favorite, launched a gallant rally from far back to finish a clear third, but couldn't reach the top two on a track that was playing kindly to speed.
WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Constitution used his early speed to decisive effect in Saturday's 6TH race at Gulfstream Park, an entry-level allowance brimming with well-regarded Triple Crown nominees. Controlling the pace throughout, the Todd Pletcher pupil pulled 3 1/4 lengths clear to give jockey Javier Castellano his fourth win on the card, and remain perfect in two starts.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is expecting to take the wraps off of Havana in the $200,000 Swale next Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The son of Dunkirk has not raced since finishing a game second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on November 2.
Set to make his three-year-old debut on March 1 in the Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham is Team D Stable's In Trouble, who was two-for-two as a juvenile including a 2 1/4-length victory in the Futurity in September at Belmont Park. The 1 1/16-mile Gotham will be the Tiz Wonderful colt's first start beyond six furlongs, having broken his maiden going 5 1/2 furlongs on August 10 at Saratoga Race Course.
A few days removed from Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, trainer Cody Autrey was happy with how his two horses came out of the Grade 3 race but is charting different courses for his Smarty Jones winner Tanzanite Cat and opening weekend maiden winner Paganol.
Tanzanite Cat finished fifth after setting the early pace in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, while Paganol ran 10th of 12.
By Gary West, special to KentuckyDerby.com
And so it begins. Everything to this point on the Kentucky Derby trail has been prelude, like the first two or three rounds of a championship fight where the boxers jab and feint but don’t throw anything with conviction because they’re just testing each other, gauging each other’s power, monitoring each other’s speed and getting a feel for the ring. But then the fight suddenly begins in earnest, and from that moment forward every round and every punch matter.
The highly regarded Top Billing will test stakes company for the first time Saturday in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Listed at 7-2 on the morning line, the stretch-running colt drew post 12 in the 13-horse field, but trainer Shug McGaughey isn't overly concerned about the post position in the 1 1/16-mile test.
Seven years since Imawildandcrazyguy ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Belmont Stakes, trainer Bill Kaplan is eyeing a return to the Triple Crown trail.
Kaplan, who turned 68 on February 15, has Florida-breds East Hall and We're All Set entered on Saturday's card at Gulfstream Park, each in races with potential Triple Crown implications. East Hall is in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth and We're All Set will take part in a stakes-quality dirt allowance at 1 1/16 miles.
General a Rod made a favorable impression when capturing the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1 and the performance has become more noteworthy in pursuing weeks.
Although the son of Roman Ruler is set to go to post in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth without a race since his New Year's Day triumph, his first stakes win was flattered by runner-up Wildcat Red's 4 3/4-length romp in the Grade 3 Hutcheson on February 1.
A winner on both grass and Polytrack, We Miss Artie goes after his first dirt victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, We Miss Artie is by Artie Schiller, a multiple graded stakes winner on grass including the 2005 Breeders' Cup Mile.
It is said that "one man's feast is another man's famine," and so it was Wednesday when Gore Range Stable's Emmett Park suddenly became part of the field for Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds.
The top two finishers from the Southwest at Oaklawn Park, Tapiture and Strong Mandate, figure to be heard from again and Bayern emerged as a possible star on the West Coast with a striking allowance victory last week.
Lecomte winner Vicar's in Trouble is expected to break from post 13 in Saturday's $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds following the reported defection of Grade 1 winner Bond Holder from the 1 1/16-mile race.
Revenge was sweet but victory was sweeter for Taptiure, who stormed home a dominating winner of his three-year-old debut in Monday's Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park.