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Ocean Knight to Tampa Bay Derby

Ocean Knight has displayed an affinity for Tampa  (S V Photography)

After being considered probable for Saturday's Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, Stonestreet Stable's Ocean Knight (Curlin) has been confirmed for Saturday's $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Ocean Knight improved to two for two in his brief career when capturing the January 31 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said at the time that he would return for the Tampa Bay Derby. But those plans changed after trainer Todd Pletcher announced on February 8 that Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), who is co-owned by Stonestreet, would make his 2015 debut in the Tampa Bay Derby.

"(Stonestreet owner Barbara Banke) called this morning and we talked between her team and she said after talking about, it she preferred to stay in Florida and run in Tampa," McLaughlin told the Lexington, Kentucky Herald-Leader on Tuesday. "We're happy. We were happy to go to New York, we were happy to run in either place. But Tampa is a little different track and he did win there.

"And it's a little easier going on a 3 1/2 hour van ride (from the colt's South Florida base at Palm Meadows) than to New York. So Barbara made the decision."

Weather was another potential factor, with Aqueduct expected to receive more snow this week and the potential for thawing-out conditions on Saturday at the Jamaica, New York track.

A debut winner at six furlongs on December 13, Ocean Knight overcame a wide trip to capture the Sam Davis. That race didn't serve as a qualifier to the Kentucky Derby, but the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby offers points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers.

The Tampa Bay Derby field will be drawn Wednesday.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up and Breeders' Futurity (G1) winner Carpe Diem is the likely favorite and Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), an impressive maiden winner at Gulfstream Park, will make his anticipated stakes debut. Ocean Knight is also expected to face Divining Rod (Tapit), My Johnny Be Good (Colonel John) and Ami's Flatter (Flatter), the respective second- through fourth-place finishers in the Sam Davis.

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Hall of Fame announces 10 finalists for 2015 class

Four jockeys, four Thoroughbreds and two trainers comprise the 10 finalists on the National Museum of Racing's 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, as selected by the Museum's Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The finalists are: jockeys Chris Antley, Victor Espinoza, Corey Nakatani and Craig Perret; Thoroughbreds Black Tie Affair, Kona Gold, Lava Man and Xtra Heat; and trainers King Leatherbury and David Whiteley.

Espinoza, Nakatani, Black Tie Affair, Lava Man, Leatherbury and Whiteley are first-time finalists. Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. The four candidates with the highest vote totals will be elected.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame's 14-member Nominating Committee from a total of 68 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been active for 25 years, while jockeys must have been active for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, but a five-year waiting period is then observed before they become eligible. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review process.

The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced on April 20. The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 7 at 10:30 a.m. (EDT). The ceremony is free and open to the public.

Antley won 3,480 races and had purse earnings of $92,261,894 in a career that spanned from 1983 until his death in 2000 at the age of 34. He won 127 graded stakes races and 293 overall stakes. The leading North American rider by wins in 1985 with 469, Antley was a two-time Kentucky Derby (G1) winner, taking the Run for the Roses with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Charismatic in 1999. He also won the Preakness (G1) with Charismatic. He ranked in the top 10 nationally in wins each year from 1984 through 1987.

On October 31, 1987, Antley won nine races when he had four victories at Aqueduct and five at the Meadowlands. He also had a streak of 64 consecutive days with at least one win in 1989.

Espinoza, 42, began his career in 1993 and has won 3,188 races through Feb. 24. He ranks 19th all time in earnings with $171,130,260. A two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Espinoza has won 209 graded stakes and 412 overall stakes. He has ranked in the top 10 nationally in earnings six times since 2000, including a peak position of No. 3 in 2004 and 2006. Espinoza won 19 graded stakes in 2014, including nine Grade 1s. He won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Santa Anita Derby (G1), Hollywood Derby (G1) and San Felipe (G2) with Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit). His other Grade 1 wins in 2014 included the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Starlet with champion Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) and the FrontRunner and Del Mar Futurity with champion American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile).

In 2002, Espinoza won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with War Emblem. At Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, Espinoza has won two riding titles at each track. He won a Del Mar record seven races on September 4, 2006.

Nakatani, 44, has won 3,766 races and ranks 11th all time in earnings with $224,484,846 through February 24. He began his career in 1988 and has won 332 graded stakes and 599 overall stakes. A winner of 10 Breeders' Cup races -- including three consecutive editions of the Sprint (G1) from 1996 through 1998 -- Nakatani ranks seventh all time in stakes wins at Santa Anita with 131 and ninth in overall wins there with 1,031. During the 2006-07 Santa Anita meet, Nakatani won 19 stakes, tying the record of Hall of Famer Laffit Pincay Jr. He has ranked in the top 10 nationally in earnings nine times in his career.

Hall of Fame finalist Lava Man was a star older horse in California on all surfaces (Alex Evers/

Nakatani won five Grade 1 races aboard Lava Man and has multiple stakes wins with champions Shared Belief (Candy Ride) and Sweet Catomine. He has won four riding titles at Oak Tree, three at Del Mar, two at Santa Anita and one at Hollywood Park.

Perret, 64, won 4,415 races and had purse earnings of $113,837,299 in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. He was North America's leading apprentice jockey in earnings in 1967 and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1990. In 1987, Perret rode Bet Twice to a 14-length victory in the Belmont S. (G1), denying the Triple Crown hopes of Alysheba. During his Eclipse Award year of 1990, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled and Grade 1s with Housebuster, Safely Kept, Rhythm and With Approval.

Along with four Breeders' Cup victories, Perret also won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1988.

Black Tie Affair was bred in Ireland by American businessman Stephen D. Peskoff. Initially owned by Edward P. Swyer, Black Tie Affair was sold as a three-year-old to Jeffrey Sullivan for $125,000. He was trained by Walter Reese at age two and Ernie Poulos for the remainder of his career.

The Eclipse Award winner for Horse of the Year and champion older male in 1991, Black Tie Affair posted a career record of 18-9-6 from 45 starts with earnings of $3,370,694. Black Tie Affair won a total of 12 stakes races, including 11 graded events. In 1991, he closed his career with six consecutive wins (all in graded races), including a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) in which he defeated Twilight Agenda, Unbridled, Strike the Gold and Summer Squall. Black Tie Affair's wins that year also included the Stephen Foster H. (G3), Michigan Mile and One-Eighth H. (G2), Cornhusker H. (G3), Philip H. Iselin H. (G1) and Washington Park H. (G2) and the Commonwealth (G3).

Kona Gold was bred in Kentucky by Carlos Perez at Twilite Farm and sold for $35,000 at Keeneland to a partnership that included trainer Bruce Headley, Irwin and Andrew Molasky and Michael Singh's High Tech Stable.

The Eclipse Award winner for champion sprinter and runner-up for Horse of the Year as a six-year-old in 2000, Kona Gold posted a career record of 14-7-2 from 30 starts with earnings of $2,293,384. During his championship year, Kona Gold won the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), Ancient Title H. (G2), Bing Crosby H. (G2), Potrero Grande H. (G2) and Palos Verdes H. (G2). In winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Kona Gold broke the Churchill Downs and Breeders' Cup record for six furlongs with a time of 1:07.77. A five-time Breeders' Cup Sprint participant, Kona Gold won the Bing Crosby and Potrero Grande again in 2001. He also had multiple victories in the El Conejo H. (G3), including a Santa Anita track record in 1999. Kona Gold's other major wins included the San Carlos H. (G1) and Los Angeles H. (G3).

Lava Man was bred in California by Lonnie Arterburn, Eve Kuhlmann and Kim Kuhlmann. Arterburn trained Lava Man until he was claimed during his three-year-old season for $50,000 by trainer Doug O'Neill for STD Racing Stable and partner Jason Wood.

King Leatherbury has been a legend on the backstretches of Maryland for decades (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)

Lava Man posted a career record of 17-8-5 from 47 starts with earnings of $5,268,706. Among California-bred horses, only Hall of Famers Tiznow and Best Pal have higher career earnings. Lava Man won three consecutive editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup ([G1] 2005-07), matching a feat Hall of Famer Native Diver accomplished from 1965 through 1967. Lava Man also won back-to-back runnings of the Santa Anita H. (G1) in 2006 and 2007. His other significant wins included the Pacific Classic (G1) and Charles Whittingham Memorial H. (G1). With his victory in the Whittingham in 2006, Lava Man became the first horse since Vanlandingham 21 years earlier to win a Grade 1 on both dirt and turf in the same year. Lava Man was also the first horse to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, Santa Anita H. and Pacific Classic in the same year (a feat since equaled by Game On Dude).

Xtra Heat was bred in Kentucky by Pope McLean's Crestwood Farm and sold as a two-year-old for $5,000 at Maryland's Timonium sale to trainer John Salzman Sr. and partners Ken Taylor and Harry Deitchman.

The Eclipse Award winner for champion three-year-old filly in 2001, Xtra Heat compiled a career record of 26-5-2 from 35 starts and earnings of $2,389,635. Xtra Heat won a total of 25 stakes races, 10 of which were graded events. She registered two six-race win streaks and had two victories in the Barbara Fritchie H. (G2) and Endine S. (G3). Xtra Heat's wins included the Prioress (G1) as well as the Vagrancy H. (G2) and Genuine Risk H. (G2) and the Astarita (G2) and Beaumont (G2).

Leatherbury, 81, won his first race at Florida's Sunshine Park in 1959 and currently ranks fourth all time with 6,449 wins. He has won 52 training titles in Maryland (26 each at Pimlico and Laurel) and four at Delaware Park and has career purse earnings of $62,792,375. Leatherbury led all North American trainers in wins in 1977 and 1978 and won 300 or more races each year from 1975 through 1978. He ranked in the top three in North American wins each year from 1975 through 1980 and has finished in the top 10 nationally in wins 18 times and in earnings four times. Leatherbury has won 23 graded stakes races and 153 overall stakes.

In 1987, Leatherbury won the Hempstead H. (G1) with Catatonic and in 1994 won the Philip H. Iselin with Taking Risks. Leatherbury also bred, owns and trains Ben's Cat, a winner of $2.3 million. Ben's Cat has won 22 stakes to date, including four graded events. Other top winners trained by Leatherbury include Ah Day (winner of 10 stakes) and Thirty Eight Paces (winner of six stakes).

Whiteley, 70, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Frank Whiteley Jr., trained the champions Revidere, Waya and Just A Game II and won 678 races in a career that spanned from 1970 through 1995. He won 33 percent of his starts (678-for-2,068) and had purse earnings of $11,837,823. Whiteley won 45 graded stakes races and 62 overall stakes. He won the 1979 Belmont S. with Coastal, thwarting the Triple Crown hopes of Spectacular Bid.

Other notables trained by Whiteley included Highland Blade, Tiller, French Colonial, Instrument Landing and Bailjumper.

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Wise Dan, Main Sequence top Woodford Reserve nominations

Two-time winner Wise Dan is not back in full training yet, but he's rejoined trainer Charlie LoPresti's barn (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
Defending winner and two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan (Wiseman's Ferry) and 2014 Eclipse Award turf and older male champion Main Sequence (Aldebaran) are the brightest lights among 74 older grass stars on the roster of early nominations to compete in the 29th running of the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, May 2.

Should Mort Fink's homebred Wise Dan be entered in this year's renewal of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, he would seek an unprecedented third straight victory -- and a record third win overall -- in the 1 1/8-mile grass race for four-year-olds and up that has become one of the United States' most important turf races since its debut in 1987. The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is positioned each year as the race that immediately precedes the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby (G1) on the 13-race Derby Day racing program that his year will include seven stakes events.

The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is scheduled to be televised as part of NBC's broadcast of the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.

The 2015 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic attracted 74 nominees during its early nomination phase, compared to 90 a year ago. Early nominations to the Turf Classic were due by February 21 and each required a payment of $100.

Late nominations for the race are now being accepted. The deadline for late nominations is 11:59 p.m. (all times Eastern) on Wednesday, April 8, and each nomination during the late phase must be accompanied by a payment of $1,000. Supplemental nominations to the race may be made at the time of entry on Wednesday, April 29, and each will require payment of a $15,000 fee. The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic is limited to 14 starters, with two "also-eligible" entrants.

Wise Dan, an eight-year-old gelding trained by Charlie LoPresti, was unbeaten in four 2014 races, but his perfect campaign was interrupted twice by health concerns. After season-opening victories in Keeneland's Maker's 46 Mile (G1) and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, he suffered a bout with colic that required emergency surgery. He returned to action in the late summer with wins in the Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga and Keeneland's Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). Wise Dan was being pointed toward a third consecutive victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1), but an October ankle injury ended the season for the chestnut.

Wise Dan held off Juddmonte Farm's homebred Seek Again (Speightstown) to win the 2014 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, one of 15 wins in 16 turf outings during his stellar career. Last year's Woodford Reserve victory enabled Wise Dan to join Einstein (2008-09) as the race's only two-time winners. His career record heading into 2015 stands at 23-2-0 in 31 races and he has earned $7,552,920. Along with his pair of gold "Horse of the Year" Eclipse Award statuettes, Wise Dan has four other Eclipse Awards -- two each in the categories of turf champion and top older male.

Flaxman Holdings Ltd.'s Main Sequence, who started his career in England and is unbeaten in five stakes races since his stateside debut last July, completed his championship season with a victory in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). He opened his 2015 campaign with a victory in the Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream Park on February 21. The six-year-old is trained by Graham Motion, who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom and is seeking his first triumph in the Woodford Reserve.

Main Sequence has an upcoming mission in Dubai (Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Main Sequence dazzled in his U.S. bow when he rallied for a narrow victory in the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth Park. He followed his successful debut with dramatic late-running victories in the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) at Saratoga and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park prior to capping his unbeaten season in the Breeders' Cup Turf. His five triumphs in the U.S. boosted the career record for Main Sequence to 9-3-3 in 19 races and lifted his bankroll to $3,418,591.

Prominent among the other stars nominated to the 2015 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic are 2014 runner-up Seek Again, Donegal Racing and Rockingham Ranch's Finnegans Wake (Powerscourt), Phipps Stable's Imagining (Giant's Causeway), Terry Hamilton's rising star Heart to Heart (English Channel)and David Heerensperger and Jose Nelson's Winning Prize (Pure Prize).

Seek Again lost by a head to Wise Dan in last year's renewal. One of four Woodford Reserve nominees from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer and all-time Churchill Downs win leader Bill Mott, Seek Again won Saratoga's Fourstardave Handicap (G2) in 2014. Mott won the Woodford Reserve with turf champion Paradise Creek in 1994 and Claiborne Farm's Stroll in 2004.

Finnegans Wake showed an affinity for new surroundings when he moved to the Southern California barn of trainer Peter Miller last fall and has crafted a 3-1-0 record in five races on the West Coast. Those triumphs include a current three-race streak in Del Mar's Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) in late 2014 and a pair of Grade 2 wins this year in Santa Anita's San Gabriel and San Marcos.

Imagining won the 2014 Man O' War (G1) at Belmont Park and lost by a head to champion Main Sequence in the Sword Dancer for trainer Shug McGaughey, who won the 1999 Woodford Reserve with Claiborne Farm's superstar Lure. Heart to Heart, a fan favorite because of the distinctive and prominent heart-shaped star on his face, reeled off three consecutive wins in 2014 that included the Better Talk Now at Saratoga and Churchill Downs' Jefferson Cup (G3) and Commonwealth Turf (G3). The Brian Lynch trainee ended his year with a fourth-place run in Santa Anita's Mathis Brothers Mile (G2). Winning Prize won the 2014 Kilroe Mile (G1) and Arcadia (G2) at Santa Anita for trainer Neil Drysdale.

Other 2015 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic nominees include Donato Lanni and John F. Youngblood's Avanzare (Grand Reward), winner of the 2015 Arcadia; Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Big Blue Kitten (Kitten's Joy), winner of the Sword Dancer and United Nations in 2013; John Wentworth's Fair Grounds Handicap (G3) winner Chocolate Ride (Candy Ride); the Ramseys' John B. Connally (G3) winner Coalport (Kitten's Joy); Let's Go Stable's W.L. McKnight (G3), Kent (G3) and American Derby (G3) winner Divine Oath (Broken Vow); Glen Hill Farm's homebred Enterprising (Elusive Quality), winner of Del Mar's La Jolla (G3); Glen Hill's Global View (Galileo), winner of Churchill Downs' 2014 American Turf (G2); Wachtel Stable and George J. Kerr's Canadian Turf (G3) winner Long on Value (Value Plus); St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds' Ring Weekend (Tapit), winner of the Hill Prince (G3), Saranac (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G3) for Motion; Gainesway Stable's Villandry (Mr. Greeley), the winner of Churchill Downs' River City Handicap (G3); and Diamond M Stable's War Dancer (War Front), winner of Churchill Downs' Louisville Handicap (G3) for trainer Kenny McPeek.

The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic's early nominees include a pair of prominent females in the Ramseys' Stephanie's Kitten (Kitten's Joy), the six-year-old winner of Belmont Park's Flower Bowl (G1) and runner-up to champion Dayatthespa in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) in 2014 for trainer Chad Brown, and G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm Racing's Personal Diary (City Zip), a four-year-old homebred who won last summer's Del Mar Oaks (G1) for trainer Vicki Oliver.

Todd Pletcher nominated 13 grass stars to the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic to lead all trainers. Brown nominated five horses, while Mark Casse, Kiaran McLaughlin, Motion and Mott each made four horses eligible.

The Ramseys, who earned Eclipse Awards in 2014 as America's top owner and breeder, led all owners with seven nominations. Shadwell Stable was next with four, one more than Charles Fipke and John Oxley.

The Woodford Reserve Turf Classic made an auspicious debut in 1987 when reigning Eclipse Award turf champion Manila took its inaugural running. Manila had won a memorable running of the Breeders' Cup Turf the previous year, defeating luminaries that included Theatrical, Estrapade and European star Dancing Brave. Along with Manila and Wise Dan, American turf champions that have competed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Paradise Creek, who won the race during his 1994 championship campaign, and 1992 Eclipse Award champion Sky Classic, runner-up to Cudas in that year's Turf Classic renewal. Two-time winner Einstein, a versatile Brazilian-bred son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck, was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for and a finalist for turf champion in 2008 and top older male in 2008 and 2009.

Priscilla Vaccarezza's Little Mike won the race in 2012, a year during which the Dale Romans-trained gelding also won the Arlington Million (G1) and Breeders' Cup Turf and was one of three finalists for U.S. turf champion.

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In brief

The Texas Racing Commission has suspended jockey Roman Chapa for five years and fined him $25,000 for carrying an illegal electrical device in a race at Sam Houston on January 17. The penalties are the maximum allowed under Texas law...

The American Graded Stakes Committee (AGSC) announced that it will not reinstate the Grade 3 status of the Herecomesthebride Stakes after it was washed off the turf at Gulfstream Park last Saturday. Graded stakes are automatically downgraded, pending a review by the AGSC, when forced to switch surfaces due to conditions...

Garrett Gleeson, who has developed and successfully executed major gift campaigns for a variety of charitable organizations, has been named director of development and major gifts for the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. He will be based in The Jockey Club's New York City office, and he began his new duties on March 2. The appointment was announced by Dell Hancock, chairman of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. "Garrett has a proven track record of motivating individuals and organizations to expand their involvement and investment in various causes, and we are thrilled he will now be doing so on behalf of our foundation," Hancock said. "He is a wonderful addition to our team and his presence helps ensure that Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation remains well prepared to meet the challenging and ever-increasing demands of equine research." For the past three years, Gleeson has served as program director, major gifts for the Children's Tumor Foundation. He joined that staff in 2007 as a communications associate and was promoted to communications director two years later. After a one-year stint as a senior development associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, he returned to the Children's Tumor Foundation in 2012...

Todd Pletcher entered three-year-old colts Stanford (Malibu Moon) and Materiality (Afleet Alex) for Friday's $60,000 Islamorada, an overnight handicap scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Gulfstream Park. Stanford returned from a six-month layoff to capture his sophomore debut, a six-furlong optional claiming allowance over favored stablemate Blame Jim (Sharp Humor) on February 8 at Gulfstream. Materiality was a 4 1/4-length winner in his career debut over a sloppy, sealed main track January 11 at Gulfstream. Tradesman (Street Sense), disqualified from a maiden win over eventual John Battaglia winner Royal Son (Tiznow), goes to bat for Tom Albertrani.



MARCH 4, 2015

by James Scully

No points' races for the Kentucky Derby were offered last week but some interesting developments took place.

Dortmund to run, Far From Over to wait

Dortmund (Big Brown) became a new addition to the March 7 San Felipe (G2) field, with trainer Bob Baffert deciding not to wait for the April 4 Santa Anita Derby (G1) as originally planned following a victory in the February 7 Robert B. Lewis (G2).

Baffert's decision stands in stark contrast to Todd Pletcher's recent announcement that Far From Over (Blame) will bypass the March 7 Gotham (G3), a race previously considered likely for the late-starting colt with only two career starts. Far From Over, who earned 10 points winning the February 7 Withers (G3), will make his lone remaining prep in the April 4 Wood Memorial (G1).

Dortmund is a physically imposing sophomore who towers over most rivals. But after easily dispatching maiden and entry-level allowance foes in his first two starts last fall, the massive chestnut colt displayed signs of immaturity recording narrow wins in the December 20 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and Robert Lewis.

He did not maintain a straight path in the Los Alamitos Futurity, waiting until deep stretch to offer his best stride, and continued to run in spots during the Robert Lewis, with jockey Martin Garcia going to a full-out drive on the far turn as Firing Line (Line of David) rolled past what appeared to be a tiring Dortmund. But Dortmund had more to offer, gamely re-rallying through a tight spot along the rail to win going away in deep stretch.

The talent's clearly there but Dortmund still has something to learn from a mental standpoint. Baffert figures two more races will provide valuable seasoning, helping to toughen up his charge for the 20-horse congestion and rowdy 150,000-plus crowd that awaits him at Churchill Downs on May 2.

Pletcher employs a different approach, keeping his top horses as fresh as possible before the big event.

Case in point is how both trainers have handled talented but unraced juveniles in recent years. The Baffert-trained Bodemeister didn't make his career debut until January 16 in 2012, while the Pletcher-trained Khozan (Distorted Humor) was unveiled on January 24 this season.

Bodemeister received four starts, including a pair of stakes attempts before finishing second in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher will give Khozan only three starts prior to the Kentucky Derby, with the March 28 Florida Derby (G1) serving as his only stakes outing.

Pletcher not only avoided a stakes race with Khozan following his flashy first-out score, he kept the colt at a one-turn allowance distance on February 22. It's extremely rare to see a top hopeful like Khozan wait until the end of March for his two-turn debut.

Pletcher's strategy does protect the value of very expensive stallion prospects, eliminating the chances for multiple defeats in the months leading up to the first Saturday in May. Thoroughbreds can be fragile and Pletcher has had several top contenders with enormous stud value -- Eskendreya, Uncle Mo and Constitution -- sidelined by injury in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

But keeping lightly-raced horses safe with extra time off between starts in the months preceding the Kentucky Derby, or in the case of Khozan providing limited stakes opportunities, has never translated into success for Pletcher, who possesses a 40-1-2-3 record since sending out his first Kentucky Derby starter in 2000.

Remarkably, four of the last five horses that hit the board for Pletcher, including 2010 winner Super Saver and 2014 third-placer Danza, raced only three weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Those results run counter to Pletcher's preference for giving horses more time between starts.

Derby pursuit begins for Brandi

D. Wayne Lukas will tell you there is nothing more important than winning the Kentucky Derby. He leads all modern-day trainers with four wins, including the front-running filly Winning Colors in 1988, and never lacks in confidence.

That's why it should be no surprise to see champion two-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) committed to the March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. Lukas knows he can beat males in the Kentucky Derby with a filly and if Take Charge Brandi can't earn enough points to qualify, she will run in the Kentucky Oaks the day before.

The 79-year-old Hall of Famer finished only a neck back of Dortmund with Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) in the Los Alamitos Futurity and probably isn't worried about the male sophomore division this year.

It's been easy so far to call the Kentucky Oaks the goal since it serves as the ultimate back-up plan. But if Take Charge Brandi qualifies against males in either the Rebel or a following points' race, the Kentucky Derby becomes a no-brainer for her connections.

Royal Son wins, The Great War departs

Royal Son (Tiznow) recorded his first stakes win in the February 28 John Battaglia Memorial, leading all the way over the Polytrack at Turfway Park. The 1 1/16-mile race didn't offer any points, but the Pletcher runner will get the opportunity next time, with the March 21 Spiral (G3) at Turfway representing a logical option.

By two-time Breeders' Cup Classic hero Tiznow, Royal Son receives more stamina from his dam side being out of a mare by A.P. Indy. The WinStar Farm homebred counts champion two-year-old filly Countess Diana as his second maternal dam.

The bay colt registered a career-best 103 BRIS Speed rating for a widening 5 1/4-length decision.

The Great War's (War Front) Kentucky Derby hopes came to an end in the Battaglia. Favored at 1-5, the Wesley Ward-trained colt bled despite being on Lasix, fading to last in the 10-horse field. Ward said afterward The Great War will be given some time off to recuperate.

Louisiana Derby bound

A Day in Paradise (Yes It's True) made his stakes bow a winning one in the February 28 Texas Heritage at Sam Houston and trainer Larry Jones said the March 28 Louisiana Derby will be next for the New York-bred gelding.

A maiden winner at Keeneland last fall, A Day in Paradise was making his first start since finishing second to War Story (Northern Afleet) in a Fair Grounds' allowance on December 28. War Story went on to finish second in the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) in his next two outings, but A Day in Paradise will need to improve significantly from a BRIS Speed figure perspective to be competitive at that level, registering only an 85 in the Texas Heritage.


A blockbuster weekend is up ahead.

The California contingent is extremely deep at this stage and Dortmund will be squaring off against a quartet of well-regarded rivals in Saturday's San Felipe that consists of unbeaten Grade 3 winner Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense), who will be making his 2015 return; Lord Nelson (Pulpit), who exits a nice win over Texas Red (Afleet Alex) in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) for Baffert and will be looking to establish his prowess at a two-turn distance; Bolo (Temple City), a spectacular winner of the grassy Eddie Logan (G3) who many believe can carry his outstanding form to the main track; and Prospect Park (Tapit), a convincing allowance winner who will make his anticipated stakes debut.

Other runners based in California include champion American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), who is headed to the Rebel; Texas Red, who is being pointed toward the Santa Anita Derby; and Firing Line, who appears to have the March 22 Sunland Derby (G3) on his agenda.

Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby (G2) marks the return of Grade 1 winner Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), who was last seen taking runner-up honors in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). He'll be favored against a nice group of challengers that includes Ocean Knight (Curlin) and Divining Rod (Tapit), the top two finishers from the January 31 Sam F. Davis (G3); and Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), an impressive maiden winner at Gulfstream Park who is making his first stakes attempt for Mark Casse.

The Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct took a significant hit with the defections of Far From Over and Ocean Knight in recent days, leaving El Kabeir (Scat Daddy) as the horse to beat. The John Terranova-trained colt already has 25 points to his credit, posting wins in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and Jerome (G3) as well as placings in the Withers and Champagne (G1), and the speedy gray figures to add to his total against an unaccomplished cast on Saturday.



MARCH 4, 2015

by John Mucciolo

There was one graded tilt this week at Santa Anita.

Santa Ysabel S. (G3): Hronis Racing's STELLAR WIND (Curlin) relaxed early off the pace while wide, made a bold move in early stretch and roared home a fine 2 3/4-length winner under Victor Espinoza. The John Sadler trainee, who was making her debut for this outfit, clocked 1 1/16 miles on the fast main oval in 1:43 en route to her first graded score.

Track Stats

From a total of 34 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 41 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 59 percent of the wins. From 24 frays contested on the dirt oval, four animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (17 percent), while three of the 10 grassy tilts were taken all the way on the front end (30 percent).

Horses breaking from post four and wider accounted for 20 of the 24 wins on the main track last week and those running from off the pace took advantage of a fair oval for the second straight week here. Speed can still surely win, but it's been far from dominant over the past two weeks.

From a trio of turf winners who led all the way from the first call, two of those came in sprint runs.

Meet Totals

RACES:   344
DIRT:   240
TURF:   104
FAVORITES:   133 (39 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   66 (19 percent)
TURF WIRE:   13 (13 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   49 (20 percent)


Thursday (2/26)

3RD -- ELEKTRUM (High Chaparral) did not experience a very smooth trip and that may have cost him the win under Mike Smith. The talented Euro import has just missed in both U.S. starts but will need to break through soon for us to be on the bandwagon.

7TH -- MAJESTIC PRESENCE (Majestic Warrior) had to reel in a clear leader who was odds-on in this dash and the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee nearly pulled it off, falling just short. The sophomore miss has a nice closing kick at a one-turn distance.

Friday (2/27)

3RD -- We were fairly surprised that HORIZONTALYSPEAKIN (Medallist) was not claimed out of this claiming run, as the five-year-old made pretty easy work of this field. The  gelding is still of stakes quality in our view and might not be offered for a claim in his return.

8TH -- In what turned out to be a match race from the start, SURFER MOON (Malibu Moon) won the bob on the line in a very game score under Rafael Bejarano. The Melody Conlon trainee did have an edge on recent fitness over his main foe but the four-year-old still showed nice improvement, swiftly finishing six panels along the way.

Saturday (2/28)

2ND -- We liked the Patrick Biancone-trained PATRIOTIC BROTHER (Brother Derek) in advance of this race and he made us look good in posting a solid tally second time off the layoff. The five-year-old mare is a pretty solid performer for this level and could easily win right back if placed with similar.

Sunday (3/1)

1ST -- BOBBY Z MAN (Unusual Heat) was always well placed and dominated in the lane on his way to a fine maiden tally for conditioner Barry Abrams. The four-year-old Cal-bred ran a decent one in preparation of this and we like the capable sort going forward as he gets more seasoning.

4TH -- CODACIOUS (Desert Code) was on or dueling through very swift early fractions and stayed on well late to just miss second in a second straight positive performance. The Cliff Sise trainee should break through at some point after two good runs to start her career.

7TH -- FROSTY FRIDAY (Eskendereya) came off the shelf for her second lifetime outing and made easy work of her foes in a fine maiden conquer for trainer Mark Casse. The three-year-old miss surely appreciated the move to the lawn and stretch out in distance, and she could be a real nice one going forward.

8TH -- We have no clue why FRENSHAM (Square Eddie) was in for a claiming tag or why nobody claimed the colt, but he was the class of this field and shouldn't be in for such a price in the near future in our opinion. The Doug O'Neill trainee, who ran a big one in the Malibu (G1) in his sophomore finale, sped six panels in 1:08 4/5 and has a lot of talent.

A Look Ahead

A huge day of racing is upon us this Saturday at "The Great Race Place." The topper is the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (G1), featuring champion Shared Belief (Candy Ride). Also on the card is the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) and $250,000 San Carlos Stakes (G2).

Sunday will play host to the $100,000 Las Flores Stakes (G3).

Top Speed/Class ratings


Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (2/23-3/1) - 3&up Dirt Routes
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Rebranded 4C 1 1/16m (ft) SUN 2/28 Curribot H. 96
Albano 4C 1 1/8m (ft) HOU 2/28 Maxxam Gold Cup S. 95
Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (2/23-3/1) - 3&up Dirt Sprints
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Lake Piru 4F 6f (ft) RIL 3/1 DeFazio Distaff S. 88
Mount Stepney 6M 4f (ft) FON 2/28 Bold Accent S. 82
Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (2/23-3/1) - 3&up Turf
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Kitten's Queen 5M 1 1/16m (fm) HOU 2/28 Jersey Lilly S. 88
McGehee's Mercy 5G a1m (fm) FG 2/28 Dixie Poker Ace S. 88
Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (2/23-3/1) - 3 year olds (Dirt & Turf)
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Royal Son 3C 1 1/16m (ft) TP 2/28 John Battaglia Memorial S. 103
Stellar Wind 3F 1 1/16m (ft) SA 2/28 Santa Ysabel S. 95
Tuba 3G a7 1/2f (fm) FG 2/28 Black Gold S. 91
Devine Aida 3F 1 1/16m (sy) GP 2/28 Herecomesthebride S. 87
A Day in Paradise 3G 1m (ft) HOU 2/28 Texas Heritage S. 85


Horse   Track   Dist(Cond)   Date   BRIS Class
Afford   FG   1 1/16m (ft)   3/1   121.2
Cousin Stephen   PRX   1m 70y (gd)   2/23   121.1
Sam Sparkle   GP   7f (ft)   2/25   121.1
Devine Aida   GP   1 1/16m (sy)   2/28   120.7
The Big Beast   OP   6f (gd)   3/1   120.7
Tarpy's Goal   GP   7f (ft)   2/25   120.3
Masochistic   SA   6 1/2f (ft)   2/28   120.2
Lucky Lotto   AQU   1m 70y (ft)   3/1   120.2
Royal Son   TP   1 1/16m (ft)   2/28   120.1
Quiet Hour   GP   6 1/2f (ft)   2/26   120.1
Doc Almon   AQU   6f (ft)   3/1   120.0
Harlington Romance   PRX   1m 70y (gd)   3/1   119.8
Donita's Ruler   PRX   6 1/2f (gd)   2/23   119.7
Amulay   AQU   1m (ft)   2/27   119.6
Stellar Wind   SA   1 1/16m (ft)   2/28   119.3

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Wednesday

Charles Town   (3rd) Shiloh Is Coming, 9-2
    (4th) Faithful Sinner, 5-1
Delta Downs   (2nd) Prince Wonder, 5-1
    (3rd) Irish Salute, 7-2
Mahoning Valley   (4th) Just a Minute, 3-1
    (5th) Safety Valve, 5-1
Mountaineer   (2nd) Watchin the Babes, 5-1
    (9th) Who's in Front, 9-2
Penn National   (3rd) Regal Ron, 7-2
    (6th) Harlington Night, 5-1
Tampa Bay Downs   (3rd) Millpoint Creek, 3-1
    (8th) Deciding Moment, 7-2

HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.


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