Four of the last eight Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Saturday's 45th renewal of the feminine equivalent of the Louisiana Derby once again promises that kind of quality.
A star-studded cast is waiting in the wings of the 1 1/16-mile contest, headed by unbeaten Unlimited Budget, who closed out her juvenile campaign with a 1 1/4-length win in Aqueduct's Grade 2 Demoiselle.
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s unbeaten Verrazano (#20), the favored individual horse in the first two pools of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), is one day away from being the overall fans’ choice in the year’s final Derby Future Pool.
Trilogy Stables and Laurie Plesa's Itsmyluckyday breezed a half-mile in :49 2/5 Saturday morning at Calder for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. as he put the finishing touches on the colt's preparation for next Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby.
"It couldn't have gone any better," Plesa said. "He galloped out strong. Everything in his training since the Holy Bull has gone on schedule. Now the next thing to be concerned with will be the draw (on Wednesday)."
Itsmyluckyday is the probable favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby.
Silsita was making her stakes bow in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks, but that didn't stop the Todd Pletcher trainee from dueling to a nose win over fellow stakes debuter and longshot Marathon Lady on the wire of the one-mile contest. Sent off the 9-1 third choice in the 12-filly field, Silsita paid $20.40, $9.20 and $4.20 to her faithful backers.
Sterling Racing's Black Onyx made his stakes debut a winning one and secured a Kentucky Derby berth in Saturday's Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, posting a 1 1/2-length decision over Uncaptured. A turf allowance scorer in his previous outing at Gulfstream Park, the Kelly Breen-trained colt has now won three of five career starts. Joe Bravo was up.
Black Onyx earned 50 points in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system for the win.
Although heavy ground fog made splits unobtainable on some of the candidates who worked Saturday morning at Fair Grounds for the 100th anniversary edition of the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 30, Fair Grounds clocker Mike Diliberto was able to record splits on those locally-based Louisiana Derby probable starters who worked later in the morning as the fog gradually lifted.
Unbeaten Verrazano (#20) has never been threatened in a trio of easy victories in his young career, but he emerged from the opening day of betting in Pool 3 of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) as a very narrow fans’ choice over the always popular “All Others” (#24) betting interest.
While media and office chatter this week might be dominated by basketballs and brackets, Churchill Downs offers a question that also serves as a gentle reminder: Are you ready for the 2013 Kentucky Derby?
The First Leg of the Championship Series on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” wraps up this weekend with the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral (Grade III) on Saturday and the $800,000 Sunland Derby (GIII) on Sunday.
A late nomination deadline of Saturday, March 23 looms for owners and trainers of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds not yet eligible to compete in the 2013 Triple Crown races to nominate their young stars to the coveted three-race 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).
While the Grade 3 Spiral is the featured event at Turfway Park on Saturday, sophomores fillies will get their turn in the spotlight as a field of 12 line up in the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks. Like its companion one race later, the one-mile event is worth 50 points to the winner for a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks starting gate.
Grade 2 winner Uncaptured will make his long-awaited return to competition on Saturday, but the Lion Heart colt has picked a tough spot to make his three-year-old bow in Turfway Park's Grade 3, $550,000 Spiral.
Trained by Mark Casse, Uncaptured was last seen taking the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs by a neck on November 24. That followed a 5 1/2-length romp in the Grade 3 Iroquois over the same surface in his first try on a conventional dirt surface.
Midnight Lucky, a daughter of Midnight Lute co-owned by Mike Pegram, will be an overwhelming favorite to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a third consecutive win in Sunday's 200,000 Sunland Park Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.
A 7 1/4-length debut winner at Santa Anita on February 16 going 6 1/2 furlongs, Midnight Lucky seeks to follow in the hoofsteps of 2011 winner Plum Pretty, who went on to capture the Kentucky Oaks, and 2012 vixen Princess Arabella.
Fifteen years removed from their Kentucky Derby victory with Real Quiet, owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert have another potential candidate for the Louisville classic in Govenor Charlie, one of two colts Baffert will saddle in Sunday's Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby over 1 1/8 miles.
Saturday's Rebel Stakes put a smile on the face of D. Wayne Lukas, with Will Take Charge edging stablemate Oxbow by a head on the wire, and the Hall of Fame trainer holds a strong Kentucky Derby hand for the first time in more than a decade.
For the past 26 years, the Early Times Mint Julep has proudly served as the “Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby®.” In celebration of this, Early Times Kentucky Whisky continues its tradition with the release of the 2013 commemorative Kentucky Derby bottle.
Available beginning in March 2013, the one-liter pre-mix bottle will be available in limited quantities throughout the United States for a suggested retail price of $14.99.
Unbeaten Verrazano (#20), impressive in three dominant victories since he launched his racing career on New Year’s Day, is a solid morning line choice to emerge as the overall betting favorite in this weekend’s third and final pool of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”).
At last count, the list of hopefuls for Saturday's Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park stood at 16. With Kentucky Derby qualifying points on the line, the 12 starters will be determined by earnings in graded stakes, then by earnings in stakes, and finally by career earnings.
Turfway Park Stakes Coordinator Tia Murphy has the Spiral hopefuls list in order of preference as follows:
Eclipse Award-winning Shanghai Bobby prepared for the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Palm Meadows Training Center Sunday morning, breezing five furlongs in company with Palace Malice.
The 2012 juvenile champion, who suffered the first loss of his career in a second-place finish behind Itsmyluckyday in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on January 26, was timed in 1:00, as was his stablemate.
Stuart Janney III's Kentucky homebred Orb will breeze Monday morning at Payson Park for trainer Shug McGaughey in his next-to-last scheduled workout ahead of the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 30.
"He'll work Monday and then blowout a little bit the next Monday," McGaughey said.
The bay son of Malibu Moon ran into the Florida Derby picture, and onto the Kentucky Derby Trail, with three consecutive victories, the last two of which came at Gulfstream while training all winter with McGaughey's Payson Park-based division.