On a picture-perfect Friday morning, dual Grade 3 star Goldencents had his final major drill for the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6 when going six furlongs on the fast main dirt at the Arcadia, California, track in a bullet 1:14.
It was the fastest of nine moves at the distance, the average time of which was 1:16 1/5. Exercise rider Jonny Garcia was aboard the bay son of Into Mischief, who looks to improve on his disappointing fourth-place finish last out in the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 9.
Undefeated three-year-olds Verrazano and Vyjack are expected to head the field for the 89th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6, Aqueduct Racetrack's final major prep for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.
Unraced as a two-year-old, Verrazano won his first two starts at Gulfstream Park by a combined margin of 24 lengths, and heads into the 1 1/8-mile Wood off a commanding three-length victory on March 9 in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the More Than Ready colt will again have the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the Wood.
The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” concluded last weekend and now it’s on to the Second Leg, which is composed of the seven most meaningful springboard events in advance of America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby.
After more than three decades in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding business, Evelyn Benoit isn’t shy about her convictions. Ask her about her star 3-year-old, Sunbean, who is scheduled to compete Saturday in the $1 million Louisiana Derby, and Benoit, a Louisianan through and through, offers that her horse is good enough to run in another, more prestigious Derby – the Kentucky Derby.
Flashy Gray gets a chance to make amends for her runner-up effort as the 2-5 favorite in Oaklawn's Grade 3 Honeybee on March 9 when she is pegged as the solid 6-5 morning-line choice in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on Saturday on the Louisiana Derby Day undercard.
Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks, at 1 1/8 miles, features a rematch of Live Lively and Dreaming of Julia, the top two finishers in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on February 23.
They've been able to avoid each other all winter while racking up wins at Gulfstream, and are conveniently stabled in different areas of South Florida, but the inevitable crossing of paths between Itsmyluckyday and Orb finally arrives Saturday as the two classic prospects head a field of 10 for the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby over 1 1/8 miles.
The final Kentucky Derby prep for the two protagonists, this Florida Derby clash also has a blue collar vs. blue blood feel to it.
Revolutionary, who overcame severe traffic problems to win Aqueduct's Grade 3 Withers in his last start on February 2, has been installed as the lukewarm 3-1 morning-line favorite in the 100th anniversary edition of the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Saturday.
Spiral Stakes winner Black Onyx arrived at Churchill Downs on Wednesday and became this year’s first major Kentucky Derby contender to be stabled at the historic Louisville racetrack.
A couple of horses staked their claim last weekend, with Black Onyx upsetting the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park and Govenor Charlie posting an easy win as the Sunland Derby favorite. Black Onyx's connections made him a late Triple Crown nominee after the Spiral and Govenor Charlie continued to enhance his reputation in a deep Bob Baffert stable.
The priceless solid gold trophy that will be presented to the owner of the 3-year-old Thoroughbred that wins the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) has arrived safely at Churchill Downs exactly 40 days before the big race on the first Saturday in May.
The roster of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds eligible for the 2013 Triple Crown has grown to 382 with the addition of 13 late nominations (pending late mail) to the coveted series of American classic races 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 Kentucky Derby Championship Series kicks into high gear with Saturday's Group 2, $2 million U.A.E. Derby at Meydan, the first race in the new scoring system to offer a 100-point bonanza to the eligible winner. American rooting interests revolve around He's Had Enough and Dice Flavor, while Aidan O'Brien dispatches Lines of Battle from Ireland, and Godolphin's Secret Number tops the local squad.
He's Had Enough and Lines of Battle are the only American Triple Crown nominees in the field, however, and therefore they are the only two eligible to pocket points on Saturday.
For most of three days of betting in the third and final pool of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s (CDRT) 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), fans flirted with making unbeaten Verrazano (#20) the overall betting favorite. But, in the end, those fans could not commit to an individual horse as their favorite to win the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and settled on the always popular Mutuel Field (#24) to be the people’s choice.
Midnight Lucky didn't need any luck, or much encouragement from jockey Rafael Bejarano either, as she romped by eight lengths in Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the gray miss was making her stakes and two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile contest and easily proved capable of handling such a task when setting a new Sunland Park track record of 1:41.06 over the fast going.
Not long after Midnight Lucky routed the Sunland Park Oaks, Govenor Charlie made it a track record-setting double for owner Mike Pegram, trainer Bob Baffert and young sire Midnight Lute when opening up in the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby. Govenor Charlie, sent off as the 6-5 favorite off a gutsy maiden score at Santa Anita last out, thrust himself into the Kentucky Derby picture by earning 50 points.
Champion Shanghai Bobby breezed five furlongs at Palm Meadows Sunday morning in preparation for a scheduled start in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Saturday.
Working in company with stablemate Palace Malice, the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning juvenile champion was timed in 1:00 4/5, and the pair tied for the sixth fastest of 34 works recorded at the distance on the fast main track.
Leading Kentucky Derby hopeful Verrazano breezed a half-mile in :49 3/5 at Palm Meadows Sunday, recording his first work since his three-length conquest of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 9. The Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6 is next for the undefeated colt.
"Huge work from Verrazano this morning," co-owner Let's Go Stable tweeted, citing his "huge gallop-out."
Todd Pletcher sent his candidates for Saturday's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, Revolutionary and Palace Malice, out for works at his Palm Meadows base on Sunday morning.
Revolutionary, last seen landing the Grade 3 Withers in his stakes debut February 2, sped a half-mile in :48 1/5 on the fast main track. The War Pass colt worked in company with multiple Grade 2 scorer Overanalyze, who also clocked :48 1/5.
"I thought he went super -- he was well in hand," Pletcher said of Revolutionary. "He's coming up to the race in good order."
Jerry Hollendorfer has precious little missing from a remarkable resume compiled over more than three decades as a trainer. He is a member of racing's Hall of Fame, one of five trainers to win in excess of 6,000 races, and has more training titles in Northern California than Brett Favre has comebacks.
Through Saturday, with 26 victories and 17 racing days remaining, Hollendorfer was giving Bob Baffert a run for the money as Santa Anita's training leader, sitting just five behind, even though he has started 44 fewer horses and is winning at 27 percent.