One day after Big Chief Racing's Ive Struck a Nerve rewarded a few of racing's eternally-grinning optimists with a $272.40 return on a $2 win wager in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, the Yankee Gentleman colt's trainer, Keith Desormeaux, was already having Kentucky Derby dreams, but with an important intermediate dream.
"We'd be crazy not to run in the (Grade 2, $1 million) Louisiana Derby," said Desormeaux, still in the afterglow of the biggest stakes score of his career. "Plus, we have to represent the home team."
A trio of graded stakes winners are expected to head a deep field of Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Saturday's 60th running of the Grade 3 Gotham, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as Aqueduct's primary prep for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 6.
Grade 1 winner Violence has been sidelined after sustaining a fracture to his right front medial sesamoid.
The fracture was detected after the Medaglia d'Oro colt suffered his first career loss when second in Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.
Resting comfortably at Gulfstream Park, the dark bay colt will ship to owner Steven Marshall's Black Rock Stable's Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, this week for further evaluation and recuperation.
Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable's homebred Orb took advantage of a blistering pace in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth, rallying to edge Violence by a half-length in the 1 1/16-mile test at Gulfstream Park. The Shug McGaughey trainee likely secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate while making his stakes debut, earning 50 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system, and John Velazquez was up on the well-bred son of Malibu Moon.
Repole Stable's Unlimited Budget moved her record to an unbeaten three-for-three on Saturday when capturing the Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds by 3 3/4 lengths. Jockey Rosie Napravnik guided the Todd Pletcher trainee through the 1 1/16-mile contest in 1:45 1/5 on the fast main track, and Unlimited Budget paid $5, $3.60 and $3 as the 3-2 favorite in the 10-strong field.
Lee Lewis' Live Lively was making her stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 2, $245,000 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park and proceeded to lead all the way home as the 2-1 second choice under jockey Joel Rosario. Trained by Mark Hennig, the Medaglia d'Oro filly set splits of :23 2/5, :46 3/5, 1:10 1/5 and 1:35 1/5 before finishing 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:42 1/5.
The 135-1 longshot Ive Struck a Nerve lived up to his name in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by James Graham, the locally-based colt came from the clouds to down his better-fancied rivals from high-profile barns, and earned 50 points toward the Kentucky Derby.
Itsmyluckyday worked a half-mile in :48 4/5 Saturday morning at Calder for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., his first workout since his stunning two-length victory over previously undefeated juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
"It was exactly what I was looking for," Plesa said later in the morning.
"I got him galloping out (five furlongs) in 1:01. He's right on schedule. He'll probably work about every seven days, although I might change it up on him one of those times with an easy mile work. I haven't decided."
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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.
The early nomination deadline is fast approaching for owners and trainers who are pointing young racing stars in their care to the 139th running of the $1 million-guaranteed Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies on Friday, May 3 at Churchill Downs.
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.
Only four fillies have signed on to challenge Grade 1 Frizette heroine Dreaming of Julia in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Davona Dale on the Fountain of Youth undercard at Gulfstream Park. As with the Fountain of Youth for the Kentucky Derby hopefuls, the Davona Dale is part of the next stage on the new scoring system for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, with the winner now receiving 50 points.
Unlimited Budget, who knocked out two wins in the span of 15 days last November, including the Grade 2 Demoiselle, will kick off her sophomore season in the Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra on Saturday at Fair Grounds. The 1 1/16-mile test is a stepping stone to the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.
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.