SOUTH / PLETCHER ADDS ANOTHER CONTENDER AS MISSION IMPAZIBLE SURPRISES IN LOUISIASNA DERBY – Twin Creeks’ Racing Stable’s lightly-raced Mission Impazible wore down pacesetter A Little Warm in the long Fair Grounds stretch to win Saturday’s $750,000 Louisiana Derby (GII) by three-quarters of a length.
The victory probably earned a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) for the son of Unbridled’s Song, and gave the loaded stable of trainer Todd Pletcher another contender for the “Run for the Roses.” Seven of the 23 individual horses among the wagering interests in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are trained by Pletcher, but Mission Impazible was not in that group.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh was in the saddle as Mission Impazible survived a four-horse battle in the final yards to edge A Little Warm for the victory. The Bill Mott-trained Drosselmeyer encountered major traffic problems on his way to a third-place finish, while Pletcher’s favored Discreetly Mine, the winner of Fair Grounds’ Risen Star (GII), finished fourth.
Mission Impazible won for the second time in five career races and boosted his career earnings to $512,754. He had finished fourth in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in his most recent start.
"I thought it was a big, big effort,” Pletcher told the Courier-Journal. “He showed some real guts from the eighth pole to the wire. If he can do what he did from the Southwest to the Louisiana Derby in the next five weeks, if he can repeat that kind of improvement, it puts him in the mix.”
WEST/ ENDORSEMENT SURPRISES CONVEYANCE IN SUNLAND DERBY – WinStar Farm’s Endorsement challenged heavily-favored and previously unbeaten Conveyance on the far turn and put that rival away in the stretch on his way to a surprising victory in his stakes debut in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (GIII) at New Mexico’s Sunland Park.
The son of Distorted Humor came into the 1 1/8-mile race at Sunland Park off of a maiden win at Oaklawn Park for trainer Shannon Ritter, who is now poised to saddle her first starter in America’s greatest race. Ridden for the first time by Robby Albarado, the 12-1 longshot covered the distance over traditional dirt in 1:48.46.
Endorsement tracked the front-running Conveyance, who had won the Southwest (GIII) at Oaklawn Park last time out for three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, before challenging the favorite on the far turn. Jockey Martin Garcia quickly went to work on Conveyance in an effort to keep up with the surging Endorsement, who pulled clear in mid-stretch to win by three lengths. He earned $400,000 for his first sakes victory.
Conveyance was a clear second and Tempted to Tapit finished a distant third.
This year’s running of the Sunland Derby was the first since the race was granted Grade III status from the American Graded Stakes Committee. Mine That Bird finished fourth in the race a year ago before he travelled across the country to win the Kentucky Derby at odds of 50-1.
LOOKIN AT LUCKY WORKS, BAFFERT LEANING TOWARD SANTA ANITA DERBY – Reigning 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky will probably stay home and make Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (GI) his final prep for the May 1 Kentucky Derby.
The son of Smart Strike worked six furlongs over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in 1:12, after which trainer Bob Baffert said he was “90 percent” sure the colt would run in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby rather than wait a week to run in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) at Oaklawn Park, where Lookin At Lucky won the Rebel (GIII) in his 2010 debut.
KENTUCKY / DEAN’S KITTEN EARNS DERBY SHOT FOR RAMSEY IN LANE’S END VICTORY – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten earned a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate when he rallied for a 2 ½-length victory in the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (GII) on Saturday at Turfway Park.
Ken Ramsey, a Nicholasville, Ky. owner and breeder, has long dreamed of winning a Kentucky Derby and, if all goes well, could have two horses in the starting gate with the homebred Dean’s Kitten and Pleasant Prince, the runner-up in the Florida Derby (GI).
Dean’s Kitten, a son of Ramsey’s turf champion Kitten’s Joy, rallied to the lead under Cornelio Velasquez approaching the top of the stretch and easily held the late-running Northern Giant safe by 2 ½ lengths. Favored Connemara finished third as the winner completed 1 1/8 miles over the synthetic Polytrack surface in 1:50.59.
Ken Ramsey was in Dubai on Saturday, but his son, Jeff, talked with his father via cellphone after the race.
“It’s been my father’s lifelong dream to win the Kentucky Derby, and not just get there but to win it,” Jeff told the Courier-Journal. “Now maybe he’s going to have two chances.”
Trainer Mike Maker scored his second victory in the Lane’s End.
Earlier on Saturday, the Todd-Pletcher-trained Exhi won the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park. The son of Maria’s Mon covered 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack in 1:44.47.
DUBAI / MUSIR TAKES UAE DERBY AS GODOLPHIN’S MENDIP RUNS THIRD – The participation of Dubai-based racing powerhouse Godolphin in the Kentucky Derby is in question after a setback for its primary Derby hopeful in Saturday’s $2 million UAE Derby (GII) at the new Meydan Race Course.
Mendip finished a solid third behind the Mike de Kock-trained duo of the victorious Musir and runner-up Raihana, a filly. Both are 4-year-olds bred in the Southern Hemisphere.
Musir, who won by 1 1/4 lengths, is expected to continue racing this year in Australia.
SANTA ANITA DERBY, WOOD MEMORIAL ON SATURDAY’S ‘ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY’ – Races that could feature the favorites for the Kentucky Derby are featured Saturday on the second of NBC Sports and Churchill Downs’ trio of “Road to the Kentucky Derby” telecasts of Kentucky Derby prep races.
NBC Sports will present live coverage of the Santa Anita Derby (GI), which could feature reigning juvenile champion Lookin At Lucky, and the Wood Memorial, headlined by Eskendereya, on Saturday, April 3 from 5-6 p.m. (EDT).
Along with the races and handicapping segments, the hour-long telecasts will feature lifestyle elements designed to broaden the audience and appeal of the Kentucky Derby prep races and drive viewership of the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races.
The final “Road to the Kentucky Derby” program on NBC Sports April 10 will feature the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland and Arkansas Derby (GI) from Oaklawn Park.