Bern Identity, who will make his three-year-old debut in Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, is generally regarded as the biggest danger to undefeated Shanghai Bobby, the 4-5 morning-line favorite.
Champion two-year-old filly Beholder likely had an excuse when she was second in her three-year-old debut as the 1-5 favorite in Monday's Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes.
"We did an exam of her yesterday, scoped her and found an ulcer in her throat, a small one that we can clean up real quick," Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said on a rainy Thursday morning.
"She probably had a pretty sore throat in the race and didn't even know it."
Mandella is optimistic that the daughter of Henny Hughes can still make the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on March 2.
Unbeaten champion Shanghai Bobby made a quick jaunt Thursday from his Palm Meadows home to Gulfstream Park, where he schooled in the paddock with promising stablemate Verrazano during the 2ND race. The Todd Pletcher trainee was getting a field trip in advance of Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes.
"He hasn't been to the racetrack or anywhere besides Palm Meadows since he ran in the Breeder's Cup (Juvenile on November 3)," Pletcher said. "We wanted him to get familiar with his surroundings here.
The Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel will get the stakes action underway at Santa Anita on Saturday when a six-filly field breaks from the gate. Scarlet Strike has yet to visit the winner's circle since taking her maiden at Del Mar going a mile last September, but the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil has been close.
D. Wayne Lukas leads all modern-day trainers with four Kentucky Derby wins, the first coming via the front-running filly Winning Colors in 1988, and the Wisconsin native made an incredible mark during the late '80s and '90s, winning a record 13 Triple Crown races. The 77-year-old conditioner is no longer churning out champions like he did in his heyday, but he will look to return to prominence this year with Oxbow, a smashing 11 1/2-length winner of Saturday's Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.
In addition to having champion Shanghai Bobby in Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull, trainer Todd Pletcher will also have the prohibitive favorite in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal when he saddles Kauai Katie in the seven-furlong test for three-year-old fillies.
One week after being officially awarded the 2012 juvenile colt championship, Shanghai Bobby will put his undefeated record on the line and kick off his classic prep season in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park over 1 1/16 miles.
Owners and trainers of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds who dream that their young horses will participate in the 2013 Triple Crown races have only a few days remaining to make their horses eligible during its early nomination period to compete in the coveted 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).
The 139th annual runnings of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum!
Zillah Reddam's Renee's Titan capitalized on a torrid early pace to stun newly-crowned champion Beholder at odds of 20-1 in Monday's Grade 2, $150,500 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita. Well beaten by Beholder in their only prior meeting, and winless from five previous stakes attempts, the Doug O'Neill trainee rallied from last to mug the 1-5 favorite and her stubborn rival Dawn's Charm in the final strides.
Two days after saddling Oxbow to a victory in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas made it a sweep of the holiday weekend's major classic preps when the regally-bred Will Take Charge gutted out a photo-finish victory in Monday's $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park.
Undefeated Eclipse champion Shanghai Bobby breezed five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 Sunday morning over the fast dirt at Palm Meadows for trainer Todd Pletcher in his final tune-up as the likely favorite in next Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
Under exercise rider Patti Krotenko, the three-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday worked in company with impressive debut maiden winner Verrazano, who turned in the exact same time.
"They went head and head and finished evenly," Pletcher said. "It was a nice work for both of them.
A more than two-month layoff proved to be no detriment to Touch Magic on Saturday as the Coteau Grove Farms colorbearer bounded home a three-quarter length winner of the $125,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds.
The score, her first in three stakes tries, provided the Lion Heart filly with 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, and increased her current point total to 14 following a half-length second in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess in her last race on November 17.
Four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas is back on the trail, after his Oxbow romped by 11 1/2 lengths in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on "Road to the Derby Kickoff Day" at Fair Grounds. The Bluegrass Hall colorbearer thus threw down the gauntlet for any others considering the subsequent two preps at the historic New Orleans track, the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 23 and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 30.
It looks like the field against presumptive two-year-old filly champion Beholder in Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday feature at Santa Anita -- the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez -- doesn't hold much challenge, but, as the old saying goes, "They still have to run around the track."
While the boys begin their Kentucky Derby quest in Fair Grounds' Grade 3 Lecomte on Saturday, the fillies will start their journey toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in the $125,000 Silverbulletday. The mile-and-70-yard contest will feature a rematch between Seaneen Girl and Gal About Town, the respective top two from the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last November.
Fair Grounds' Road to the Kentucky Derby will begin on Saturday when a field of nine sophomores line up in the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte going a mile and 70 yards over the Crescent City oval.
A number of contenders will be looking to solidify their status as Kentucky Derby hopefuls, including Avie's Quality and Oxbow as well as maiden winners Golden Soul and Malibu High.
Early Kentucky Derby predictions are fun. Whether you spend an enormous amount of time analyzing the form of two-year-olds and newly-turned sophomores or employ a more casual approach, everybody loves to be on the early bandwagon. The problem is that the Derby winner can emerge from relative obscurity in mid-January.
The Kentucky Derby chase is underway, with last Saturday's Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita offering the first opportunity for points in the New Year, and Sham victor Goldencents hails from the barn of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner Doug O'Neill.
Goldencents, ridden to perfection by Kevin Krigger, came out of his 1 1/2-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Sham Stakes in top shape, but no decision has been made on the colt's next race on the Triple Crown trail.
"No plans right now," trainer Doug O'Neill said Sunday morning. "But he ate up great and his legs are ice cold. We'll meet up with the owners over lunch in 10 days and map out an agenda."
Goldencents picked up 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for his Sham score and is the current point leader in the Run for the Roses with 24 overall.