Over the next 10 weeks, compelling drama will be plentiful as the new “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” begins in earnest and horses attempt to earn their way into the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands beginning with Saturday’s Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and the Risen Star at Fair Grounds
To have a horse draped in the garland of roses while raising the solid gold trophy high atop the Kentucky Derby winner’s stand is the Holy Grail for horsemen around the world.
The final weekend of the "Prep Season" in the new Kentucky Derby scoring system featured a pair of stakes, Saturday's El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate and Monday's Southwest at Oaklawn Park, and the latter played like a movie we've seen before, with Bob Baffert sending out the winning Super Ninety Nine.
A drenching rainstorm in the hour before Monday's Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park changed the complexion of the track, but arguably did little to effect the outcome as even-money favorite Super Ninety Nine demolished his nine rivals in the one-mile test.
Oxbow was virtually untouchable in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds on January 19, winning as he pleased by 11 1/2 lengths, but more than likely will have to play second fiddle to Normandy Invasion in the wagering for Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at the New Orleans track.
The top local prep for the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star attracted an overflow field of 15, with a maximum 14 allowed to start.
Violence, a perfect three-for-three so far, looks to enhance his Kentucky Derby credentials in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile test ushers in the next stage of the new scoring system for the Run for the Roses, the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series," offering a 50-point windfall to the winner.
Mike Pegram and Dennis Cardoza's Shakin It Up sliced between foes and drove to a one-length decision in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,250 San Vicente at Santa Anita, handing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his eighth victory in the seven-furlong affair for sophomores. At the same time, the Triple Crown nominee became the first graded winner sired by champion sprinter Midnight Lute, himself a former Baffert trainee.
Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice breezed a co-bullet five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 at South Florida's Palm Meadows Training Center Sunday morning in preparation for his upcoming appearance in Saturday's Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. The Todd Pletcher trainee worked in company with highly-regarded stablemate Violence, who posted the exact same time ahead of Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
Team Valor International's Cerro breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 over Palm Meadows's fast dirt on Sunday in preparation for a likely start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth going 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. With exercise rider David Nava up, Cerro worked in company with Went the Day Well, who clocked the same time.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. reported that all is well with Itsmyluckyday as the Gulfstream Park Derby and Grade 3 Holy Bull winner awaits the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 30.
Campaigned by by Plesa's wife, Laurie, and Trilogy Stables, the Lawyer Ron colt produced a stunning two-length victory over previously undefeated Eclipse champion Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull on January 26. Prior to that, Itsmyluckyday won the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby by 6 3/4 lengths on New Year's Day, earning a stellar 111 BRIS Speed rating for the effort.
Undefeated Violence breezed five furlongs in a co-bullet 1:00 1/5 over Palm Meadows Training Center's fast dirt on Sunday in preparation for a scheduled start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
"Outstanding. I'm very, very pleased with his work. He galloped out strongly, came back well. He's ready to go," trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Exercise rider Norman Bush was aboard Violence, who worked head and head in company with Palace Malice, who was also timed in 1:00 1/5, the co-fastest clocking of 40 recorded at the distance.
Dice Flavor burst between opponents in midstretch and drew off to a convincing 3 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.
Recent allowance winner Orb will likely run in next Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, providing that he pleases trainer Shug McGaughey in a workout scheduled for Monday.
"I'm looking towards it. I'm going to work him on Monday and make up my mind," McGaughey said. "I'm leaning that way, because there's nowhere else to run him."
Bob Baffert has won six of the last nine graded events for three-year-olds at Oaklawn Park, including a sweep of the Grade 3 Southwest, Grade 2 Rebel and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby last year, and the Hall of Famer will be represented in Monday's $300,000 Southwest by Super Ninety Nine, who exits a sharp 3 1/4-length score over allowance/optional claiming rivals at Santa Anita. The colt's main opposition, Smarty Jones winner Will Take Charge, resides in the barn of another Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.
Joseph Witek's three-year-old Kentucky homebred colt Majestic Hussar has run well in two allowance starts sprinting at Gulfstream Park this winter for trainer Eddie Kenneally, and is set to face his biggest challenge yet when he tries two turns for the first time in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on February 23.
Speaking over the phone from South Florida Thursday morning, trainer Chad Brown confirmed that Normandy Invasion would be coming to New Orleans for the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds on February 23.
"We're planning on it," Brown said of the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, Fair Grounds' designed prep for the 100th running of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 30.
Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 San Vicente is not worth any points in the new Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system, but the seven-furlong test at Santa Anita figures to yield contenders for major Derby preps down the road. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is responsible for half of the six-horse field -- Grade 3-placed Shakin It Up and hotshot maiden winners Belvin and War Academy.
South African champion Soft Falling Rain extended his unbeaten sequence to six in Thursday's Group 3, $250,000 U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas at Meydan, while leading Godolphin hope Fortify could do no better than sixth.
The first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager took place last weekend and the lowest individual-priced horse, Verrazano (11-1), was bet primarily on confidence given that the lightly-raced colt has yet to try two turns or face stakes rivals. The next three in the betting -- Flashback (12-1), Violence (13-1) and Itsmyluckyday (13-1) -- are graded stakes winners.
Four of the nine entrants in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields have been nominated to the Triple Crown series, and thus are hoping to add the 10 points the race provides to the winner toward their Kentucky Derby account under the new eligibility system of the Run for the Roses. The 1 1/8-mile race also features a rematch between the top-two finishers from the January 12 California Derby.
The 2013 version of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) is off to a rousing start after its opening pool generated near-record betting, concluded with the expected emergence of the popular “All Others” (#24) betting interest as its heavy favorite and featured a wild scramble among seven horses that determined the identity of the individual Thoroughbred that is, for now, a very narrow “people’s choice” to win the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (Grade I) on