Action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby will heat up Saturday with a trio of Championship Series races on tap. All three races will award the Top 4 finishers points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
The three races are scheduled to run within a half hour of one another between 5:30-6 p.m. (all times Eastern) and will kick off with the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (GII) for the highly-anticipated rematch of $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes winner Chance It and $250,000 Sam F. Davis (GIII) hero Sole Volante. A full field of 12 horses are signed on to compete in the Tampa Bay Derby, which also includes a trio of runners from five-time Tampa Bay Derby winning-conditioner Todd Pletcher.
Ten minutes later, the $300,000 Gotham (GIII) at Aqueduct is slated to go to the post featuring 3-1 morning line favorite Mischievous Alex. Trained by 2004 Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner John Servis, Mischevious Alex has dominated at distances around one turn and will once again get to strut his stuff for the one-turn mile event.
Saturday’s action will conclude with a potential stellar matchup at Santa Anita in the $400,000 San Felipe (GII) that features undefeated stablemates Authentic and Thousand Words. Both trained by five-time Kentucky Derby-winner Bob Baffert, the duo is joined in the gate by stout maiden winner Honor A. P. and Eclipse Award-winner Storm the Court.
Also featured this weekend is Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. The field of 23 individual betting interests along with “All Other 3-Year-Olds” is available at www.kentuckyderby.com/futurewager. The pool opens Friday at noon and closes Sunday at 6 p.m. The pool, which features Win and Exacta wagering, will run concurrently with the lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager. The betting menu also will include an Oaks/Derby Double. The Oaks Future Wager will close Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
SAN FELIPE FEATURES BAFFERT DUO AUTHENTIC, THOUSAND WORDS – Authentic and Thousand Words will put their unbeaten records on line when they square off in Saturday’s $400,000 San Felipe (GII) at Santa Anita. The Bob Baffert-trained duo highlights a field of seven in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier.
Contested over 1 1/16 miles, the San Felipe awards points on a 50-20-10-5 scale toward a berth in the 146th Kentucky Derby on May 2. Authentic and Thousand Words have both earned points winning Kentucky Derby qualifiers this season, but did so in vastly different fashion.
A convincing debut maiden winner at Del Mar in mid-November, Authentic romped wire-to-wire by 7 ¾ lengths when stepping up in the Jan. 4 Sham (GIII) for his five-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer. The $350,000 son of Into Mischief looms as a serious front-running threat Saturday with regular rider Drayden Van Dyke.
Thousand Words has grinded out narrow wins in all three starts, getting up late to prevail by three-quarters of a length when opening 2020 in the Feb. 1 Robert B. Lewis (GIII), and the two-time stakes winner has been able to race up close in every race. A $1 million son of Pioneerof the Nile, sire of 2015 American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Thousand Words may race farther back given the presence of his stablemate and wire-to-wire Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) winner Storm the Court, and look to finish strongly beneath Flavien Prat.
Storm the Court used the seven-furlong San Vicente (GII) as a tune-up, finishing 2 ¼ lengths back of well-regarded Nadal in fourth, and the Juvenile upsetter is eligible to improve off the tightener while stretching back to two turns for Peter Eurton. Joel Rosario picks up the mount on the Kentucky-bred son of Court Vision.
Honor A. P., a sharp 5 ¼-length maiden victor at Santa Anita when last seen in mid-October, will make his anticipated stakes debut for John Shirreffs, trainer of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo. Mike Smith will be back up on the son of Honor Code.
Rounding out the field are Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third-placer Wrecking Crew, who will need to rebound after giving way badly in his most recent outing; Turf Paradise Derby winner Swagsational; and Gulfstream Park West maiden winner Fort McHenry, who has been transferred to two-time Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner Doug O’Neill. – James Scully/TwinSpires.com
CHANCE IT, SOLE VOLANTE MEET AGAIN IN TAMPA BAY DERBY – Saturday’s $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (GII) was always the target for Sole Volante following his local victory in the Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis (GIII). Chance It was rerouted after being withdrawn from last Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park due to a wide draw.
They highlight a 12-horse field in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier at Tampa Bay Downs.
A total of 85 points (50-20-10-5 scale) will be up for grabs toward a Kentucky Derby berth, and the top draws will meet again after squaring off in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park. Chance It got the better of his rival that afternoon, posting a head victory with Sole Volante 2 ¼ lengths back in third, and the Florida-bred son of Currency Swap will look to carry his momentum forward Saturday.
Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., Chance It reeled off a 7 ¼-length victory over state-bred rivals when annexing the In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Series two starts back at Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile distance. He cut back to a one-turn mile in the Mucho Macho Man, rallying from just off the pace up the inside to gamely defeat subsequent Fountain of Youth third-placer As Seen On Tv, and Chance It will add Paco Lopez and break from post 4 Saturday.
Sole Volante was making his first dirt start in the Mucho Macho Man after capturing a pair of turf starts for Patrick Biancone. The late-running gelding moved forward while stretching out to two turns in the Sam F. Davis, rallying boldly past odds-on favorite Independence Hall to win a widening 2 ½-length margin, and the son of Karakontie registered a commendable 102 Brisnet Speed rating. Florent Geroux will replace an injured Luca Panici in the saddle.
Sole Volante has been established as the 2-1 morning line favorite, with Chance It the 5-2 second choice.
Market Analysis, who at 8-1 is the only other runner listed at single digit odds on the morning line, will make his stakes debut for two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher. A $250,000 son of Honor Code, the gray colt was prominent from the start winning his first outing at Gulfstream on Jan. 25, scoring by nearly a length. He was flattered when runner-up Attachment Rate, who will run in Saturday’s Gotham (GIII) at Aqueduct, came back to graduate by open lengths the next time out, and John Velazquez will be in to guide the promising Market Analysis.
Spa City jumps to stakes competition for Kiaran McLaughlin after posting a fast maiden win at Gulfstream. Stretching out to two turns last time, the Godolphin homebred son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense earned a 103 Brisnet Speed rating for his front-running tally. Daniel Centeno takes over the reins from an injured Jose Ortiz. Unrighteous, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Spa City in second last time, will also make his initial stakes attempt Saturday. Pletcher trains the dark bay son of Violence, and Unrighteous adds blinkers and shows a five-furlong bullet work at Palm Beach Downs in preparation. Joe Bravo rides the maiden.
Pletcher has also entered Texas Swing, a last-out maiden winner at Tampa. King Guillermo, third as the favorite to Sole Volante in the grassy Pulpit S. when last seen in late November, will go turf to dirt for Juan Avila in his 3-year-old opener. Samy Camacho will be up on the Uncle Mo colt. Other runners include Holy Bull (GIII) fourth-placer Relentless Dancer; last-out maiden victor Mo Mosa; and Bye Bye Melvin, who will switch surfaces after winning two straight on the Tampa turf for Graham Motion. – James Scully/TwinSpires.com
MISCHEVIOUS ALEX LOOKS TO KEEP ROLLING IN GOTHAM – Whether he can get the Kentucky Derby (GI) distance of 1 ¼ miles remains to be seen, but for the purposes of Saturday’s $300,000 Gotham (GIII) at Aqueduct, Mischevious Alex just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing lately.
Winner of his last two starts over seven furlongs by a combined margin of 16 ¾ lengths, Mischevious Alex will step up an additional furlong in trip for the Gotham, a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep that will award qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers.
Trainer John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones to Derby glory in 2004, has in Mischevious Alex one of the best 3-year-old sprinters of this young season following a seven-length romp in the Swale (GIII) last month.
“If he runs good in the Gotham, we’ll have to try him two turns again to see how he handles it,” Servis said. “I think the Wood (Memorial) would be the most logical spot, but nothing is etched in stone. We have to get by Saturday first.”
There will be 10 rivals for Mischevious Alex to get by, a number of whom were impressive last-out maiden winners. Among them are Attachmate Rate, who won by more than six lengths going a mile at Gulfstream for Dale Romans; War Stomper, a track-and-distance graduate by four lengths for Rudy Rodriguez; and Sixto, who won on debut going six furlongs and is sure to improve being by Curlin.
“He’s really a push-button horse,” trainer Eric Guillot said of Sixto. “He’s a late foal and I think once he develops more, he’ll be a nice two-turn horse but for now, the one-turn mile should suit him fine.”
A duo of Swale also-rans have also shown up in the Gotham. Untitled was fourth as the beaten favorite after a rough start, but returned two weeks later to finish second to Gouveneur Morris in a Tampa Bay Downs allowance. Necker Island was fifth in the Swale after a wide trip in what was his first outing since a Nov. 30 allowance score at Churchill Downs in which he nosed out Silver State.
Montauk Traffic, who’s won two in a row including the Jimmy Winkfield S., should find the step up to a mile, and the possibility of a strong pace, agreeable, while Flap Jack was last seen in early September taking the Arlington-Washington Futurity by four lengths over Polytrack. – Vance Hanson/Brisnet.com
Notable quotes provided by owners, trainers and jockeys to track officials:
#6 Mischievous Alex: “If you look at his (Sept. 1) Sapling, he looks like a horse that maybe doesn’t want to go that far but (jockey) Trevor McCarthy was adamant after the race that he should have won but the horse got to the front and started waiting on horses. I think blinkers have solved that. … If he runs good in the Gotham we’ll have to try him at two turns again to see how he handles it. I think the (April 4) Wood Memorial would be the most logical spot but nothing is etched in stone. We have to get by Saturday first.” – trainer John Servis
#7 Sixto: “His last time to the track we just gave him an easy work from the gate. It was a deep track and he finished up strong. Stepping up into the Gotham against better horses we knew he had to be sharper so we just gave him that reminder to focus on breaking good and it worked out.” – trainer Eric Guillot
#8 Montauk Traffic: “We like to think the added distance will only help him. I was a little concerned around the turn (in the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield). Jose (Lezcano) opted to quit chasing faster fractions and just let the horse settle. Around the turn it looked like he was getting some kickback and trying to work his way through that as well. He made a nice move at the end of it and we believe that the further the better for him” – trainer Linda Rice
#11 Untitled: “He’s a beautiful horse. He’s a big, long, good-moving horse. The problem he has sometimes is he breaks a bit slow. After we bought him we breezed him from the gate trying to get him to be a little quicker from there. I always wanted to run him long and I figure the longer I run him the less important the start is.” – trainer Mark Casse
Tampa Bay Derby
#4 Chance It: “We just weren’t comfortable running him (in the Holy Bull) with that outside post. I know horses have overcome that post in the past but it is very difficult to do at Gulfstream. … He’s so good that I never want to get him beat. If he gets beat, it’s our fault. That’s why I wanted to make sure he was fit enough (for the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man) that if he had to belly down he could, and he did. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s a really good horse.” – trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.
#7 Sole Volante: “It’s a shame what happened to Luca (Panici) breaking his collar bone and not being able to ride. I was able to get on him last week for Patrick (Biancone) and he seems like a very nice horse.” – jockey Florent Geroux
#8 Letmeno: “He ran well in his last race off of that layoff. I think he’d only improve off of that race.” – jockey Chris Landeros
#4 Authentic: “I think the noise from the crowd made him react the way he did in the stretch (in the Jan. 4 Sham Stakes). … I told Bob (Baffert) when he broke his maiden he was my favorite 2-year-old.” – jockey Drayden Van Dyke
#4 Authentic: “Authentic has been working unbelievably. The horse has already shown he can get two turns and he might be talented enough to get a mile and a quarter.” – private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young
#5 Thousand Words: “Thousand Words is a tough read because he won the Robert B. Lewis off very ordinary works. Baffert said you can’t pay too much attention to them because he trains like Silver Charm.” – private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young
#5 Thousand Words: “He’s been a really exciting Derby prospect for us since he was at the farm with Dennis’ Moment. We just need to hold our breath and hope to get him to the first Saturday in May.” – Albaugh Family Stables’ racing manager Jason Loutch
Brinset.com Kentucky Derby Contenders Past Performances
Gotham Past Performances*
Tampa Bay Derby Past Performances*
San Felipe Past Performances*
Gotham Stakes History
Tampa Bay Derby Stakes History
San Felipe Stakes History
Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 Past Performances
Kentucky Oaks Future Wager Past Performances
*Past Performance links will be updated once final PPs are released
TAMPA DERBY RUNS HISTORICALLY THROUGH PLETCHER – Todd Pletcher has dominated the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) over the last decade with five victories in the 1 1/16-mile race, including victories in three of the last five runnings.
Pletcher has three horses entered in Saturday’s 40th renewal of the race including recently touted maiden winner Market Analysis. The 52-year-old conditioner has gone winless in the last two editions of the Tampa Bay Derby following three-straight victories in the race with Tapwrit, Destin and Carpe Diem.
Pletcher’s other Tampa Bay Derby victories occurred in 2013 with Verrazano and 2004 with Limehouse.
GEROUX NABS ANOTHER ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY VICTORY – Florent Geroux and his agent Doug Bredar have been hard at work since the Fall to secure a mount for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
With 14 races remaining on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Geroux has ridden five contenders on the Leaderboard including last week’s winner of the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) Ete Indien.
Geroux, who was the regular rider for Mr. Monomoy who was removed from Triple Crown consideration due to a minor ankle injury, is slated to ride Sole Volante in this weekend’s $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (GII) and has the call on Southwest Stakes (GIII) runner-up Wells Bayou in next Saturday’s Rebel (GII).
SPRING STALL APPLICATIONS DUE FRIDAY, – Churchill Downs Spring Meet stall applications are due Friday.
For more information and to download a stall application, visit: https://bit.ly/2viIT6h
ADDITIONAL TRIPLE CROWN NEWS AND NOTES – Risen Star Stakes (GII) winner Mr. Monomoy was removed from consideration for this year’s Triple Crown due to a minor ankle injury, according to trainer Brad Cox. … Trainer Mark Casse’s assistant David Carroll reported that Risen Star runner-up Enforceable is due to work Saturday and still remains on target for the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (GII) on March 21. … Trainer Mike Trombetta reported Sam F. Davis (GIII) runner-up Independence Hall is targeting the $1 million Florida Derby on March 28. The colt has been stabled at Tampa Bay Downs. … The backside at Churchill Downs is scheduled to open on Tuesday, March 17 with the first day of training tentatively scheduled for Friday, March 20.
Ete Indien put on a show in the Feb. 29 Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park, drawing off decisively to win by 8 ½ lengths. He has made tremendous strides since switching from turf to dirt three starts ago, and the front-runner looks poised to play catch-me-if-you-can in the Kentucky Derby.
Florent Geroux picked up the mount from an injured Luca Panici and hustled Ete Indien straight to the lead from post 10, with the dark bay sophomore crossing in front of the field before the first turn. The Patrick Biancone-trained colt just cruised the rest of the way, widening the advantage dramatically nearing the conclusion of the far turn, and Ete Indien appeared to lose focus while drifting out under the finish line unopposed.
It was a big-time performance. Considering he dictated terms at 1 1/16 miles, Ete Indien must still prove himself over longer distances, but he now has a star quality to him. A Kentucky-bred son of Summer Front, Ete Indien earned 50 points winning the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier, increasing his total to 54, and virtually guaranteed himself a spot in the projected 20-horse field on May 2.
Overlooked at 14-1 when switching to dirt in an entry-level allowance in mid-December, Ete Indien toyed with rivals recording a 2 ½-length decision. The Feb. 1 Holy Bull (GIII) represented a serious class check, and Ete Indien held nicely for second, 11 ½ lengths clear of third, while proving no match late against Tiz the Law, who established himself as an early Kentucky Derby favorite posting an impressive three-length win.
The Fountain of Youth drew more speed than the Holy Bull, and saddled with the far outside post following the defection of Chance It, Ete Indien was dismissed by bettors as the 3.30-1 third choice. He displayed a dynamic turn of early foot on Saturday, and speed can be a valuable tool in the Kentucky Derby, with Orb (2013) being the last confirmed late-running winner.
Other front-running types are aiming for this year’s Derby, and they will face a serious challenge to establish early positioning. With century-topping Brisnet E1 Pace ratings in every dirt start, Ete Indien promises to be on the engine at Churchill Downs. His Brisnet numbers are strong across the board, registering a commendable 103 Speed rating in the Fountain of Youth, the third consecutive triple-digit number since switching surfaces.
Next comes a tantalizing rematch against Tiz the Law in the $1 million Florida Derby (GI) on March 28.
Ete Indien’s run style serves as a compliment to stablemate Sole Volante, who will bring his late kick to Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby (GII) for Biancone.
Dennis’ Moment came up empty in his first start since early November, weakening to last as the 13-10 Fountain of Youth favorite, and the exciting 2-year-old performer has now failed to beat a horse in back-to-back starts. Dale Romans plans to regroup and point for the April 4 Blue Grass (GII) at Keeneland, where Dennis’ Moment can still qualify for the first leg of the American Triple Crown, but the colt’s frail psyche may be poorly suited for a 20-horse Derby field.
Candy Tycoon got up for second, edging As Seen On Tv by a neck. After performing marginally at one-turn distances and on turf, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt improved significantly when stretching out to two turns on Jan. 25, breaking his maiden going away by four lengths. Candy Tycoon took plenty of kickback while saving ground from his rail post in the Fountain of Youth, and the 23-1 outsider proceeded to lose ground while being carried extremely wide into the stretch. He showed determination out-finishing a trio of rivals, with second-through-fifth being separated by less than a length, while Candy Tycoon still has much to prove, I’m intrigued to see if he keeps moving forward in the final prep.
Fifth-placer Country Grammer, unraced since breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in mid-November, also ran well from off the pace to just miss second in his first stakes attempt. He’s one to watch going forward for Chad Brown.
Maxfield recorded his third workout Sunday, a half-mile bullet move at Palm Meadows. The Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner still need points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, and trainer Brendan Walsh indicated Maxfield won’t be ready for the races before April. He may not make it back in time for the final round of Kentucky Derby preps, which would make the May 16 Preakness (GI) a likely target.
Mr. Monomoy, wire-to-wire winner of the Risen Star first division, has been sidelined. He is expected back later in the season, but the Brad Cox-trained colt will bypass the Triple Crown races.
Kentucky Derby Future Wager
Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens Friday at noon (ET) and run through Sunday at 6 p.m. (ET).
The San Felipe (GII) and Tampa Bay Derby (GII) are eligible to impact the Kentucky Derby picture this weekend, and I will preview both fields below.
Saturday’s Gotham (GIII) at Aqueduct will be contested over a one-turn mile, which makes it an attractive option for speedy 3-year-olds, and Mischevious Alex rates as a top contender in the 11-horse field following his seven-length triumph in the seven-furlong Swale (GIII) at Gulfstream Park.
Tampa Bay Derby:
#1 Texas Swing: One of three for Todd Pletcher, Curlin colt steps up after breaking his maiden at Tampa on the Davis undercard in his second start. Javier Castellano picks up mount.
#2 Spa City: He posted the fastest 3-year-old maiden race this year, receiving a 103 Brisnet Speed rating when taking a 1 1/8-mile event at Gulfstream on Feb. 8, and Kiaran McLaughlin trains the Godolphin homebred son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. Daniel Centeno replaces an injured Jose Ortiz.
#3 Relentless Dancer: Louisiana-bred stakes winner weakened to be a well-beaten fourth when trying open stakes rivals in Holy Bull.
#4 Chance It: Mucho Macho Man S. winner was re-routed after receiving a wide draw in last week’s Fountain of Youth (GII). Saffie Joseph trainee has registered strong Speed numbers in the last three starts (103-102-103), and versatile colt showed his tractability rating just off the early speed last time. Paco Lopez will be up.
#5 Market Analysis: Pletcher pupil exits a sharp debut score at Gulfstream, winning by nearly a length at seven furlongs, and was flattered when the runner-up came back to crush maiden foes. Gray son of Honor Code shows a half-mile bullet work in preparation, and serious contender will be forwardly placed with John Velazquez.
#6 Mo Mosa: Turfway maiden winner looks too slow based on Speed figures.
#7 Sole Volante: Impressed when making first two-turn dirt start in Sam F. Davis (GIII), rallying past odds-on favorite Independence Hall to post a 2 ½-length triumph, and received a commendable 102 Brisnet Speed rating. Florent Geroux, who was up on stablemate Ete Indien in the Fountain of Youth, replaces an injured Luca Panici aboard the confirmed closer.
#8 Letmeno: Makes second start back this year for Ian Wilkes, but stakes-placed juvenile a non-factor in his last two outings.
#9 Unrighteous: Maiden adds blinkers for third start and jumps straight to stakes competition for Pletcher after finishing a clear second to Spa City.
#10 Bye Bye Melvin: Enters in good form for Graham Motion, recording back-to-back wins over maiden and entry-level allowance foes on Tampa’s turf, but his lack of dirt form is a concern from an outside post.
#11 King Guillermo: Turf maiden scorer didn’t fire in lone dirt start and returns from a 98-day hiatus in a difficult spot.
#12 Tons of Gold: Winless from eight starts, he appears overmatched.
#1 Fort McHenry: Makes first start for Doug O’Neill, but gelding appears in too deep.
#2 Honor A. P.: Eye-catching maiden winner rates as a wildcard in return from a five-month layoff. An $850,000 son of Honor Code, John Shirreffs trainee doesn’t have to win the first race back; eligible to keep moving forward with respectable effort.
#3 Wrecking Crew: Thrice stakes-paced, including a third at 39-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), he exits a dull showing in the Los Alamitos Futurity (GII).
#4 Authentic: A brilliant 7 ¾-length winner of the Sham (GIII), Into Mischief colt brings serious speed to his third career start for five-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert.
#5 Thousand Words: $1 million purchase by Pioneerof the Nile, two-time stakes victor has narrowly prevailed in all three starts, and long-striding colt looks like the type who will keep progressing for Baffert. His Brisnet Speed ratings need to increase, registering a 92 taking the Robert B. Lewis (GIII) last time, and we’ll see if he has the acceleration to reel in speedy foes Saturday.
#6 Storm the Court: A 45-1 upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, bay colt is eligible to improve after recording an even fourth in his comebacker, the seven-furlong San Vicente (GII). Questions remain whether he is good enough to handle this assignment.
#7 Swagsational: He’s won three straight for Heath Lawrence, but late runner netted only a 74 Speed rating capturing the Turf Paradise Derby last out.
Kentucky Derby top 10
1 Tiz the Law: Breezed half-mile Monday after brief absence from worktab; Florida Derby next
2 Thousand Words: San Felipe represents key test
3 Enforceable: Commendable runner-up effort in Risen Star first division
4 Ete Indien: Florida Derby next for spectacular Fountain of Youth winner
5 Sole Volante: Looks to make a late impact in Tampa Bay Derby
6 Nadal: Rebel next for exciting Baffert trainee
7 Silver Prospector: Southwest winner to meet new challengers in Rebel
8 Wells Bayou: Southwest runner-up headed to Rebel for Cox
9 Candy Tycoon: Fountain of Youth runner-up progressing for Pletcher
10 Basin: Hopeful winner to return in Rebel
I will recap three Kentucky Derby qualifiers, and preview the fields for the Rebel (GII) at Oaklawn Park and Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) at Turfway on March 14. – James Scully/TwinSpires.com
LAKE AVENUE RETURNS IN BUSHER; HONEYBEE ATTRACTS NINE OAKS PROSPECTS – They dominated the major 2-year-old filly races at Aqueduct last fall, and on Saturday Lake Avenue and Maedean will renew acquaintance over the Queens track in the $250,000 Busher Invitational.
The one-mile Busher, along with the $300,000 Honeybee (GIII) at Oaklawn Park over 1 1/16 miles, are both Road to the Kentucky Oaks series preps that will award qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to their respective top four finishers.
The Godolphin homebred Lake Avenue, who romped by more than 12 lengths against maiden foes in November, was back four weeks later and led throughout again in the nine-furlong Demoiselle (GII), defeating Maedean by four lengths. The latter was similarly impressive in her prior start, taking the 1-mile Tempted S. by 5 ½ lengths.
“She’s doing excellent,” trainer Mark Hennig said of Maedean who, like Lake Avenue, is a daughter of Tapit. “The race is a good starting point. Ultimately, she wants more ground.”
Another who might want more distance is Mo City, who ran out of it when missing by a neck in the seven-furlong Gasparilla S. at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 18.
Nine will line up in the Honeybee, with stakes newcomer Alta’s Award likely to attract attention. The Steve Asmussen trainee comes in off back-to-back wins over the 1 1/16-mile trip at Fair Grounds, the latter a head score in a first-level allowance.
Motu, a close second to Finite in the Golden Rod (GII) two back, will look to rebound from a third-place finish in the Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs, where she finished three parts of a length behind runner-up Turtle Trax.
Second in an Oaklawn allowance in her debut for Brad Cox, Grade II-placed Shedaresthedevil is eligible to improve in this spot, while Ring Leader stretches out after scoring by a half-length in the six-furlong Dixie Belle S. earlier in the meet.
Action on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks will continue Sunday for the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII). Entries are scheduled to be drawn on Thursday afternoon. – Vance Hanson/Brisnet.com