FLORIDA / BUDDY’S SAINT MAKES 2010 BOW IN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH – An important weekend of preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) offers opportunities to view intriguing contenders in several locations, but few of those 3-year-olds will attract more scrutiny than Buddy’s Saint.
The impressive winner of last fall’s Remsen (GII) at Aqueduct makes his 2010 debut against nine rivals in Saturday’s $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (GII) over 1 1/8 miles at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.
Regular jockey Jose Lezcano will be in the saddle for trainer Bruce Levine. The son of Saint Liam, who also won Aqueduct’s Nashua by 14 lengths, will break from post two.
Major rivals to the favorite include Jackson Bend, a Nick Zito-trained winner of five-of-seven races who finished second in the Holy Bull (GIII) last out at Gulfstream; the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Eskendereya and Aikenite; and Lost Aptitude, a Kentucky-based colt trained by Dale Romans who makes his debut on dirt following a narrow loss on grass in the Tropical Park Derby (GIII). Zito also trains Ice Box, who is coming off a recent allowance win at the Fountain of Youth distance at the Florida track.
Also on Saturday’s Gulfstream Park card is the $150,000 Hutcheson (GII) at seven furlongs. The race matches brother-against-brother as trainer Rick Dutrow, who saddled Big Brown to win the 2008 Kentucky Derby, sends Saratoga Special (GII) and Belmont Futurity (GII) winner D’Funnybone and British import Radiohead out to face younger sibling Tony Dutrow’s A Little Warm, winner of the Spectacular Bid (GIII) at Gulfstream Park.
A strong Gulfstream allowance race on Sunday has attracted potential Kentucky Derby contenders that include the Zito-trained Fly Down, Pletcher’s Colizeo and Romans’ First Dude.
On Wednesday, Padua Stables’ Odysseus stamped himself as a 3-year-old to watch when he crushed a field in an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs by 15 lengths. The Tom Albertrani-trained son of Malibu Moon could run next in the Tampa Bay Derby (GIII),
On the same day, Lentenor – the little brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro – finished second to the rail-skimming Doubles Partner in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on the grass at Gulfstream Park.
“I thought he performed well,” said Lentenor’s trainer Michael Matz, who also trained Barbaro. “He was a little immature and green down the stretch. He just needs experience.”
SOUTH / LECOMTE WINNER RON THE GREEK TAKES ON TOUGH GROUP IN RISEN STAR – Ron the Greek, a stretch-running winner of the Lecomte (GIII) at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds, faces a group of invaders headed by highly regarded Florida shipper Drosselmeyer, the speedy Tempted to Tapit and stakes veteran Discreetly Mine in the 1 1/16 mile Risen Star (GII).
Jockey James Graham will be back aboard Ron the Greek, whose stiffest challenge could come from Drosselmeyer, a winner of back-to-back races at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who is looking for his first Kentucky Derby victory.
Other major players include Stay Put, who brings a two-race winning streak into the Risen Star for Louisville, Ky.-based owners Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein and trainer Steve Margolis, and Hotep, a son of A.P. Indy owned by Canada’s famed Sam-Son Farm who scored a recent allowance victory for trainer Mark Frostad. The latter is a brother to Eye of the Leopard, the winner of the 2009 Queen’s Plate, Canada’s equivalent to the Kentucky Derby.
DUBLIN GETS BETTER POST IN RE-DRAWN SOUTHWEST – The $250,000 Southwest Stakes (GIII) was postponed Monday because of icy conditions at Oaklawn Park, but all 10 horses originally entered in the one-mile race were back in the entry box when it was re-drawn on Thursday at the Hot Springs, Ark. track.
Dublin, trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, ended up in post three on Saturday after having drawn the outside post in the earlier version of the race. Lukas’ colt won the Three Chimneys Hopeful (GI) at Saratoga and underwent throat surgery to correct a breathing problem after suffering back-to-back losses to end his 2-year-old season.
A trio of California invaders headed by the unbeaten Conveyance figure to be among Dublin’s chief rivals. Conveyance won the San Rafael (GIII) over synthetic footing at Santa Anita and is perfect in three starts for three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. He makes his debut on real dirt, as will Cardiff Giant and Domonation, the 2-3 San Rafael finishers.
Other major players include Smarty Jones winner Dryfly, who is trained by Lynn Whiting, who saddled Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby, and Kitty’s Turn, a flying third in the Smarty Jones after a poor start.
WEST / EL CAMINO REAL, TURF PARADISE DERBY ARE HEADLINERS – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Connemara, an upset victim when he suffered his first career loss as the odds-on favorite in the California Derby, will attempt to make amends in Saturday’s $150,000 El Camino Real Derby at Northern California’s Golden Gate Fields. Despite his runner-up finish in the earlier race, the son of Giant’s Causeway is the 2-1 favorite as he faces nine rivals under jockey Russell Baze.
Ranger Heartley, who defeated Connemara in the earlier race, is the 5-2 second choice.
Arizona native Bob Baffert has shipped Indian Firewater to Turf Paradise in Phoenix for the $50,000 Turf Paradise Derby at 1 1/16 miles. The son of Indian Charlie is coming off a runner-up finish to stablemate The Program in a Santa Anita allowance race.
DERBY 136 NOTES: South African-based 4-year-old Musir defeated Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby-nominated 3-year-old Frozen Power in the UAE 2000 Guineas on Thursday at Dubai’s Meydan Race Course … The Courier-Journal’s Jennie Rees reports that Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s William’s Kitten, a wagering interest in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, is off the Kentucky Derby Trail after suffering a minor ankle injury during a workout at Gulfstream Park.