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Graded Recaps

Lord Nelson outmaneuvers Texas Red in San Vicente

Lord Nelson got up by a neck over Texas Red in a pleasing performance on the part of both Derby hopefuls (Benoit Photos)
Peachtree Stable's Lord Nelson (Pulpit) foiled Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) on the cutback to one turn in Sunday's $200,250 San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita. But Texas Red fans should take great heart from his near-miss effort at seven furlongs. Conceding five pounds as the 123-pound highweight, the 3-5 favorite came up only a neck short of Lord Nelson, a Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful himself who was better suited by this distance.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Lord Nelson brought a two-for-two mark in sprints -- a 6 3/4-length conquest of the six-furlong Speakeasy here on October 13 as well as his July 19 unveiling over five furlongs at Del Mar. Both of his losses came in routes. Lord Nelson was fourth to champion stablemate American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) in the September 27 FrontRunner (G1), in which Texas Red was third, and he was most recently fifth in the November 29 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.

In contrast, both of Texas Red's career victories have come around two turns. Their varying strengths were on display in the San Vicente, enabling Lord Nelson to turn the tables as the 9-5 second choice.

The speedy Serbian Syclone (Wildcat Heir) went to the lead, pressed by Jazzy Josh (Kantharos) through splits of :23 and :45 4/5. Sir Samson (Smart Strike) was prominent throughout, loomed up to challenge turning for home, and edged ahead in midstretch.

Meanwhile, Lord Nelson, who hopped at the start from his rail post, had been tucked in behind the leaders. Switched out widest of all by Rafael Bejarano, he advanced into contention in the stretch. Texas Red, ambling comfortably in last early, made good-looking headway and dove to an inside path down the lane. So smooth was Texas Red's progress that he briefly appeared poised to win, but Lord Nelson proved a touch quicker in a final time of 1:22.

"I had a perfect trip," Bejarano said. "He broke a little slow but then he took off and I was able to find position right away. I knew (Serbian Syclone, Jazzy Josh and Sir Samson) were going to have speed so I let them go and tried to save ground around the turn. I let him go once we were clear and I knew at the five-eighths pole.

"Texas Red was the horse to beat and I was waiting for him. When he came to us I let him (Lord Nelson) go and my horse took off again."

"I was concerned with the one hole," Baffert said, "but they were going easy and he was behind them. I thought they were going slow and he's a fast horse, but Rafael's been working him and he knows the horse really well.

"He had him going nice and easy and he went wide and looked like he was sort of hanging. I saw the Desormeaux horse (Texas Red) coming up the rail and I thought, 'Well, he's (Lord Nelson) gone.' But he sort of kicked back in."

Texas Red (far right) made a nifty move from last, setting himself up perfectly for the Risen Star (Benoit Photos)
Texas Red's band of brothers, trainer Keith and jockey Kent Desormeaux, commented on his gallant effort in defeat.

"It was a tough beat because he flew home," his Hall of Fame rider said. "I had to carry another horse around the turn, there was a little bumping and shoving. That horse was trying to keep getting in my line and I was just trying to move forward in my line so I'd say that was the difference today.

"He had a real rally at the end. The pace wasn't much so they had something left. He was trying to catch horses with gas in the tank still.

"There's no love lost here."

"Oh, absolutely," his trainer said when asked if Texas Red got what he needed from the race. "It's a little disappointing, you know, 'cause it's so close to winning, but the long-term goal is well within reach.

"The pace was slow. They go faster for maiden 30s ($30,000), so you'd have seen a more visible cut if the pace was quicker. Still, to do what he did, you can't be disappointed.

"Right now, the plans are still as I've been saying. He's probably going to go to the Risen Star ([G2] at Fair Grounds on February 21) and then we'll come back for the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 4."

Sir Samson reported home three-quarters of a length astern of Texas Red. Next came Bench Warrant (Street Boss), Jazzy Josh and Serbian Syclone. Baffert scratched his other entrant, Punctuate (Distorted Humor), and the Marcelo Polanco-trained Magic Taste (Taste of Paradise) was also withdrawn.

Baffert indicated that Lord Nelson has been improving, and that he will get another chance to stretch out.

"We'll play it by ear," the Hall of Famer said regarding his next target. "We're just trying to stay healthy. But I like what he did today. Coming up to the race he was really training well, but sometimes they'll do that and won't run. But he ran like he'd been working."

Lord Nelson's scorecard now stands at 5-3-0-0, $249,571. Bred by Clearsky Farms in Kentucky, he went to his current connections for $340,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. The chestnut colt is the first registered foal from African Jade (Seeking the Gold), a daughter of Argentinean champion and U.S. Grade 1 star Miss Linda (Southern Halo).

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Racing Headlines

Calculator to miss Triple Crown with injury

Calculator will reportedly be sidelined for six months (Benoit Photo)
Richard C. Pell's Calculator (In Summation), who vaulted into prominence on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail with a dynamic victory in the January 10 Sham S. (G3), has been ruled out of Triple Crown consideration with an undisclosed injury. Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form broke the news Sunday.

Calculator just worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 2/5 Saturday, best of 10 moves at the distance at San Luis Rey Downs, and even merited a "breezing" designation. Unfortunately, in the aftermath, trainer Peter Miller realized something was amiss.

"We're hoping for a full recovery, for a fall campaign," Miller told Privman.

Although a maiden through four starts as a juvenile, Calculator garnered a high profile with runner-up efforts behind champion American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) in both the September 3 Del Mar Futurity (G1) and September 27 FrontRunner (G1). He was entered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), only to be scratched because of an injury to his left front foot.

Rebounding with a vengeance to break his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths in the Sham, Calculator was expected to contest the February 21 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds. He has compiled a record of 5-1-2-1, $193,500.

Chrome team has difference of opinion over San Antonio drill

Chrome (pictured last week) was supposed to work faster, according to trainer Art Sherman, while jockey Victor Espinoza thought it was just right (Courtesy of Los Alamitos via Twitter)
Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) rounded off his major preparations for Saturday's San Antonio (G2) by breezing five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 at Los Alamitos Sunday. With blinkers on and regular rider Victor Espinoza up, Chrome posted fractional times of :25 1/5 and :49 4/5, according to Los Alamitos head clocker Russ Hudak.

Espinoza was delighted, while trainer Art Sherman wanted something faster.

"I think he went excellent," Espinoza said. "He was steady all the way around, just cruising in the middle of the racetrack. I thought he went in a minute flat -- it felt like that anyway. I think it was a perfect work for him, he's ready. The way he's going and the way he's been working tells me he's ready to go.

"I think he's stronger this year. The way he feels when I work him, he's bigger and more mature. From last year to this is a big difference. He's been working really strong. I believe he'll run as good as a four-year-old as he did at three."

"I thought he was going to work him faster," Sherman said. "Victor told me that he goes so easy he was afraid he would go too fast if he clucked to him. I was looking for a minute and change. That would have helped me a lot more going into this race.

"I think it's a good work but I would have liked a sharper workout for this race. He's doing so good though, so...his gallop out was stronger than it has been. He galloped out in 1:11 and four (fifths).

"He was so strong pulling up. He'll be fresh and ready, I can tell you that."

Hudak, however, caught California Chrome's six-furlong gallop-out in 1:14.

Alan Sherman, the trainer's son and assistant, was satisfied with the move.

"He went good; we're happy with him," Alan said. "He'll ship to Santa Anita on Tuesday and gallop on the track Wednesday."

In other San Antonio news:

Hoppertunity will try to upstage the Chrome-Shared Belief clash (Benoit Photos)
Chrome is expected to face once-beaten male two-year-old champion of 2013 Shared Belief (Candy Ride) and eye-catching San Pasqual (G2) winner Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday), among others in the eagerly anticipated San Antonio Invitational, which will decided at 1 1/8 miles for older horses.

Victorious in the Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs two back, Hoppertunity was also under consideration for Saturday's Donn H. (G1) at Gulfstream Park, but he worked himself into the San Antonio.

"He's running," trainer Bob Baffert said unequivocally after Hoppertunity worked six furlongs in company at Santa Anita Sunday morning in 1:14 1/5 under Martin Garcia. Stablemate Doctor Dempsey (Harlan's Holiday) was clocked in 1:14 3/5.

"That's good for him," the Hall of Famer said of Hoppertunity's time.

Shared Belief is scheduled to have his final major breeze for the San Antonio at his Golden Gate Fields base on Tuesday, then ship to Santa Anita on Wednesday.

"He'll work a half-mile under Russell Baze," Jerry Hollendorfer said by phone Sunday morning.

Shared Belief, who could very well be unbeaten had his chances of winning the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) not been compromised by a rough start, will be seeking his ninth win from 10 career starts in the San Antonio.

"He's a very consistent horse," Hollendorfer said.

Trainer Bob Hess Jr. said Sunday morning he was "50-50" on running San Pasqual third-place finisher Blue Tone (Birdstone) in the San Antonio or the Donn at Gulfstream the same day.

"If he runs here," Hess said, "Kent (Desormeaux) will ride him."

Blue Tone worked five furlongs Sunday morning in a bullet :59, fastest of 59 drills at the distance at Santa Anita, the average time of which was 1:01.31.

Trainer Mark Casse said he "wasn't sure" on Dynamic Sky (Sky Mesa), who also is nominated to Saturday's San Marcos S. (G2)  at 1 1/8 miles on turf, where the John Oxley colorbearer has run seven times in his 21-race career.

"We've been preparing him like he's going to run in the dirt race," Casse said. "We're definitely thinking about it and appreciate being invited. We'll talk to Mr. Oxley and decide."

Trainer Sean McCarthy said Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) winner Majestic Harbor (Rockport Harbor) will go in the San Marcos, not the San Antonio. Majestic Harbor worked five furlongs on Santa Anita's main track Sunday in 1:00 2/5.

Chilean import Bronzo (Fusaichi Pegasus) covered six panels in 1:14 2/5 ahead of a probable tilt at the San Antonio. Gary Stevens has the mount.

Probable for the San Antonio, which will be limited to 10 starters: Bronzo; California Chrome; Clubhouse Ride (Candy Ride), Aaron Gryder; Hoppertunity; Shared Belief, Mike Smith; Tonito M. (Rock Hard Ten), Rafael Bejarano; Alfa Bird (Birdstone), Tyler Baze; and Imperative (Bernardini), Flavien Prat.

The race will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.

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Lukas: Take Charge Brandi targeting Kentucky Oaks, not Derby

Take Charge Brandi is sticking to filly races for now (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

Moments after Take Charge Brandi's (Giant's Causeway) victory in Saturday's Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn Park, owner Willis Horton left the door open for his champion to challenge males in upcoming months.

As expected, the three-year-old filly's Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, quickly closed that door early Sunday morning.

Lukas, who said Take Charge Brandi emerged from her Martha Washington victory in good order, reiterated she's being pointed for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), not the Kentucky Derby (G1), and her next two scheduled starts remain the $150,000 Honeybee S. (G3) on March 7 and $400,000 Fantasy S. (G3) on April 4, both at Oaklawn.

"He's having fun with it, I think," Lukas said of Horton's post-race reference to running Take Charge Brandi in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby. "The plan is still the Honeybee, Fantasy and Oaks."

Take Charge Brandi edged Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor) by a head to win the Martha Washington, the fourth consecutive victory for the Eclipse Award winner.

Ridden for the first time by Jon Court, Take Charge Brandi cruised on a clear, uncontested lead through a modest :48 half-mile before Sarah Sis, on the inside, drew abreast in deep stretch. Take Charge Brandi fought back in the short run to the wire (one-mile races at Oaklawn begin and end at the sixteenth-pole) to record her fourth career stakes victory.

Lukas said the outcome again illustrated Take Charge Brandi's will to win. None of her five career victories have been by more than 2 1/2 lengths. Three of those career victories, including the December 13 Starlet S. (G1) at Los Alamitos, have been by a half-length or less.

"She's very workmanlike," Lukas said. "She knows how to win races. She's cruising along, very relaxed, and then that horse comes to her and she surges back and wins. At Los Alamitos, two or three of them did that to her, and she surged every time they came. Jon, I think, got a little bit complacent and relaxed there, too."

Victor Espinoza rode Take Charge Brandi to her victories in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Starlet, but was unavailable for the Martha Washington because of commitments in Southern California, Lukas said.

Lukas said he "assumes" Court will ride the filly back in the Honeybee because the $1 million Santa Anita H. (G1) is also run March 7, and Espinoza is the regular rider of reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), an expected starter. There are also three other graded contests on the March 7 program at Santa Anita.

Lukas said Court followed instructions Saturday, notably not to use the whip. The trainer said Take Charge Brandi normally doesn't need the stick because she's so "genuine".

"We told him to just cruise around there, get the money and let's go for the next one," Lukas said.

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Donn candidates, notable sophomores work for Pletcher

Liam's Map is expected to join stablemates Constitution, Commissioner and Protonico in the Donn (Natalie Fawkes/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Trainer Todd Pletcher's quartet of candidates for Saturday's $500,000 Donn H. (G1) at Gulfstream Park all breezed four furlongs at Palm Beach Downs Sunday morning.

Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song), who captured the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday on December 13, turned in a sharp clocking of :47 4/5 while working in company with graded-stakes winner Golden Lad (Medaglia d'Oro), a candidate for Saturday's $100,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3). The late developer has won three races in a row following a second-place finish in his debut at Saratoga in August.

"He's proud of himself. He's looks good. He's carrying his conditioning well," Pletcher said. "He put in a good breeze this morning. He's a very good work horse."

Constitution (Tapit), who captured the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream last March, breezed a half-mile in :49 under jockey Javier Castellano. The four-year-old hasn't seen action since finishing third in the Clark H. (G1) on November 28.

"I thought it was a pretty good breeze, typical of what we see from him. Javier worked him. He seems to get along well with him. They went away easy, finished up well and galloped out strong," Pletcher said. "It was what we were hoping to see. He's an ambitious work horse, so we didn't want to do too much with him."

Mshawish worked "fantastic" for the Gulfstream Park Turf (Kenny Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Commissioner (A.P. Indy) worked in company with Tropical Park Oaks winner Sandiva (Footstepsinthesand) while breezing a half-mile in :48 2/5. The four-year-old, who finished second in the Belmont S. (G1) last year, returned from a seven-month layoff to finish third in a three-horse photo in a January 10 allowance at Gulfstream.

"I thought he worked very well. He's not exactly like Constitution. He's not a tremendously willing work horse," Pletcher said. "For him, I thought it was a spirited work."

Protonico, who finished second in the Clark in his last start, was timed in :47 4/5 while working in company with Race Day (Tapit), who is nominated to the Hooper.

Mshawish (Medaglia d'Oro), Pletcher's prime prospect for Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1), breezed a sharp half-mile in a bullet :47 3/5. The Al Shaqab colorbearer is two-for-two during the Championship Meet, capturing the El Prado on December 13 and the Ft. Lauderdale (G2) on January 10.

"He worked fantastic. He's an exceptional work horse. He's full of run," Pletcher said. "He's similar to what we saw before the Fort Lauderdale."

Several Pletcher-trained three-year-olds were also on the Palm Beach Downs worktab, including undefeated Competitive Edge (Super Saver). Sidelined since capturing the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga on September 1, he breezed a half-mile in :48 2/5.

Competitive Edge is on the comeback trail (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
"He's coming back. That was his third half back. He seems to be rounding into form," Pletcher said. "We'll give him a five-eighths next week, but he's still probably a month away."

Champagne S. (G1) winner Daredevil (More Than Ready) breezed four furlongs in :48 1/5 in preparation for his first start since finishing a troubled last of 11 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) on November 1.

"That was his third work back. He's also rounding into form. He's on a similar schedule to Competitive Edge," said Pletcher, who mentioned the $200,000 Swale (G2) at Gulfstream on February 28 as a possible target.

J S Bach (Tale of the Cat), a smashing 8 1/2-length maiden winner at Gulfstream on January 17, breezed four furlongs in :48 3/5.

"We're considering the Risen Star ([G2] at Fair Grounds) or the Fountain of Youth ([G2] at Gulfstream) on February 21," Pletcher said.

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Sise taking one step at a time with Prospect Park

Cliff Sise Jr. couldn't be blamed for being smitten with Derby Fever after Prospect Park (Tapit) aired to a 5 1/4-length victory in a one-mile overnight race at Santa Anita on Friday.

It wasn't just the margin of victory that impressed not only Sise, but hard-core race trackers. The Marty and Pam Wygod homebred barely took a deep breath as Kent Desormeaux had the Kentucky-bred colt in hand the final sixteenth. It was the second straight win from five starts for Prospect Park, who does his training at San Luis Rey Downs where the 63-year-old Sise has some 30 horses in training, including some promising youngsters.

"Marty always wanted me to break his babies," Sise said. "Marty was nice enough last year to send all the two-year-olds to me. I didn't know if I was going to get them ready for other trainers, or what.

"But he came out one day and we had a little celebration at the barn and told me he was going to let me run Prospect Park, so as of right now, everything's good.

"I loved the horse on Friday. He changed so much from the race before (a neck victory in a maiden allowance route at Santa Anita on December 27). He ran good that day but he got sick two nights before with a little colic. We don't know how much that took out of him.

"He was OK the morning of the race so we ran him and he won. After that race he came back and trained like a different horse. He was stronger, and everything's going good at the right time now."

Asked if he had a race in mind, Sise said, "Not really. I'll leave that up to Marty Wygod. We'll try to find the easiest spot for him."

Sise, who at 20 was the youngest to get a trainer's license at that time when he started his career, has never run a horse in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but that doesn't stop him from dreaming.

"I had a couple I hoped would run there," he said, "but something always happened."

Sise recently returned to training a year after another endeavor.

"I stopped as a trainer to run Rancho Paseana for Jenny Craig for two years," Sise said. "That was enjoyable, but when San Luis Rey reopened, I came back to training in January of last year."

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The Great War blasts foes in 96Rock

The Great War never got out of second gear (Turfway Park/Coady Photography)
Classy repatriate The Great War (War Front) bombarded his foes into submission in Saturday night's $69,345 96Rock S. at Turfway Park, beginning his new association with trainer Wesley Ward on a sensational note. Transferred from Aidan O'Brien after a fourth in the November 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the 1-10 favorite ran up to billing in a 7 1/4-length victory. The Triple Crown nominee is expected to continue his tour of Turfway in the next two preps, the February 28 John Battaglia Memorial and March 21 Spiral (G3).

The Great War was shortening up to 6 1/2 furlongs here, but the $1 million Keeneland September yearling had too much firepower for his overmatched opponents. Breaking alertly for Albin Jimenez, the well-bred bay matched strides with pacesetter Serious Talk (Forestry) through splits of :23 and :46 1/5 on the Polytrack. The Great War was winging along more easily, however, and when Jimenez took a peek back, the result was not in doubt. Leaving Serious Talk toiling in a matter of strides, the heavy favorite opened up while still under wraps and coasted home in 1:18 3/5.

Two Step Temper (Two Step Salsa) rallied from well back for second, seven lengths clear of Serious Talk, his stablemate from the Mike Maker barn. Ekati Told Me (Tale of Ekati) finished fourth in the 11-horse field.

Campaigned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Joseph Allen, The Great War has now bankrolled $248,856 from his 9-4-1-0 line. He concluded his European career with a 3 1/2-length decision in the September 28 Blenheim S. at the Curragh. Stretching out past a sprint and trying dirt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he stayed on creditably for fourth after racing close to the pace meltdown.

The Great War was bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm. He is a close relative of multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Departing -- both are by War Front and out of full sisters. The Great War's dam is the winning Guide (Pulpit), and Departing's dam is Leave. Both mares are also full siblings to multiple stakes scorer Laity. Their half-siblings include multiple Grade 3 queen Trip (Lord at War), the dam of stakes winner Passport (Pulpit), and multiple stakes victress Joke (Phone Trick), who produced multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Zensational (Unbridled's Song).

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Champions American Pharoah, Take Charge Brandi among 429 early Triple Crown nominees

Zayat Stables LLC's American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), the Eclipse Award winner for champion two-year-old colt of 2014, and Willis D. Horton's Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway), who mounted a year-end charge to earn the honor of America's 2014 juvenile filly champion, head an accomplished roster of 429 sophomore Thoroughbreds made eligible to compete in the 2015 Triple Crown during the early nomination phase for the series of three classic races that includes the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1), $1.5 million Preakness S. (G1) and $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1).

The early nomination total for the 2015 Triple Crown reflects an increase of 15 nominations -- or 3.6 percent -- from 2014 when 414 three-year-olds were made eligible during the Triple Crown's early nomination phase. The 414 early nominations in 2014 was a 12.2 percent increase over the 369 horses made eligible during that phase in 2013.

Ten horses were nominated in last year's late nomination period for a final total of 424. The total was the largest since a record 460 horses were nominated to the Triple Crown in 2008.

The 2015 Triple Crown series opens Saturday, May 2, with the 141st running of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The 140th Preakness, the 1 3/16-mile second jewel, is set for Saturday, May 16, at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland. The 147th running of the Belmont, the 1 1/2-mile final leg, is scheduled for Saturday, June 6, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

The early nomination period for the 2015 Triple Crown opened December 20 and closed at 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, January 17. Nominations were required to be accompanied by payment of a $600 fee.

A late nomination period for the Triple Crown is underway and requires payment of a $6,000 for each nominated three-year-old. The late nomination period runs through Monday, March 23, at 11:59 p.m.

This year's 429 early Triple Crown nominees represent 1.8 percent of the 2012 North American foal crop, which was estimated at 23,500 Thoroughbreds.

Reigning champions American Pharoah and Take Charge Brandi hail from the stables of two of the most successful stables in Triple Crown history.

American Pharoah, whose two wins in three races include Grade 1 triumphs in the Del Mar Futurity and Santa Anita's FrontRunner S., is one of 15 nominees trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has nine Triple Crown wins on his career résumé. The total includes three victories in the Kentucky Derby, five Preakness triumphs and one win in the Belmont Stakes. Also among Baffert's nominees is Kaleem Shah's unbeaten Dortmund (Big Brown), winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).

Racing legend D. Wayne Lukas trains Take Charge Brandi, one of 11 fillies nominated to the 2015 Triple Crown. Lukas trained Winning Colors, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, and is the all-time leading trainer in Triple Crown victories with 14, the most recent of which being a victory by Calumet Farm's Oxbow in the 2013 Preakness.

The 79-year-old Hall of Fame conditioner has won the Kentucky Derby four times, collected six victories in the Preakness and won the Belmont Stakes four times. Also among Lukas' 2015 Triple Crown nominees is Zayat Sables LLC's Mr. Z (Malibu Moon), runner-up in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity S. (G1) and third in the Los Alamitos Futurity.

Other stars among the early nominees to this year's Triple Crown include Texas Red (Afleet Alex), trained by co-owner Keith Desormeaux and winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1); Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), winner of the Breeders' Futurity and runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; Upstart (Flatter), third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and winner of Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull S. (G2) to kick off his sophomore campaign; Calculator (In Summation), runner-up to American Pharoah in the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner and winner of the Sham S. (G3) at Santa Anita; Daredevil (More Than Ready), winner of the Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont Park; Competitive Edge (Super Saver), unbeaten winner of Saratoga's Hopeful S. (G1); El Kabeir (Scat Daddy), winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct's Jerome S. (G3); Imperia (Medaglia d'Oro), runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club and winner of the Pilgrim S. (G3) over Belmont's turf; International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus), winner of the Grey S. (Can-G3) at Woodbine and Lecomte S. (G3) at Fair Grounds; and Far Right (Notional), winner of the Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Park and third in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).

The leader among trainers in total Triple Crown nominees is seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, who made 34 horses eligible for the series during the early nomination phase. His individual total is down from 2014 when nominating 41 horses during the early period.

The 47-year-old Pletcher has won three Triple Crown races, a total that includes one Kentucky Derby victory and a pair of triumphs in the Belmont Stakes. Pletcher's 2015 army of Triple Crown hopes is headed by the Grade 1-winning trio of Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge and Daredevil.

Chad Brown nominated 24 horses to rank second to Pletcher. Others with double-figure early nomination totals include Jerry Hollendorfer (16), Baffert (15), Lukas (14), Steve Asmussen (13) and Dale Romans (10).

Calumet Farm, a Thoroughbred racing icon which campaigned Triple Crown winners Citation (1948) and Whirlaway (1941) and is the all-time leader in victories in the elusive series with 18, is the nomination leader among owners after making 15 horses eligible for America's spring classics. Calumet won the Kentucky Derby a record eight times, has won a record eight renewals of the Preakness and collected its pair of Belmont Stakes wins when Whirlaway and Citation completed their Triple Crown sweeps. The victory by Oxbow in the 2013 Preakness was the first Triple Crown victory for Calumet Farm under the leadership of new owner Brad Kelley, and first for the namesake since Forward Pass won the 1968 Preakness.

Ten Triple Crown early nominees are owned by Charles Fipke, the only other owner with a nomination total in double figures. Godolphin Racing LLC, Michael Tabor and Zayat Stables LLC are next with nine nominees, owned either individually or in partnership.

Leading breeders are Darley and WinStar Farm LLC, with each being the breeder of 11 nominees. Stonestreet Stables is next with 10 and Fipke bred nine early nominees.

The roster of 2015 Triple Crown-eligible horses includes 379 colts, 30 geldings, 11 fillies and nine ridglings. Of the 429 early nominees, 409 of those were bred in the United States and 323 of that number, or 75 percent, were foaled in Kentucky.

Twenty horses were bred outside of the United States. Thirteen of those were bred in Canada, with six foaled in Ireland and one in France.

The Kentucky Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975 and the horses that enter the starting gate for this year's running will again be determined by points earned in the 35-race "Road to the Kentucky Derby" eligibility system, which debuted in 2013. If Derby entries total more than the maximum field of 20, up to four "also eligible" entrants will be permitted. If one or more starters is scratched prior to 9 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, May 1, the also-eligible horse or horses with the highest preference in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" system will be allowed to replace the scratched horse or horses in the starting gate.

The field for the Preakness is limited to 14 starters, while the Belmont Stakes permits a maximum of 16 horses in its starting gate.

Three-year-olds that were not nominated for the Triple Crown series during either the early or late nomination phases have a final opportunity to become eligible for the races through the payment of a supplemental nomination fee. Due at the time of entry for either the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes, the supplemental fee process makes a horse eligible for the remainder of the Triple Crown series. A supplemental nomination at the time of entry to the Kentucky Derby requires payment of $200,000. The fee is $150,000 if paid prior to the Preakness or $75,000 at time of entry to the Belmont Stakes.

Churchill Downs adjusted its entry process in 2014 to permit horses who are made nominations prior to the Kentucky Derby to be treated the same as original nominees. If one or more supplemental nominees possess sufficient "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points to qualify for the Derby field, they will be allowed to start over original nominees with lesser qualifications. Under its previous policy, Churchill Downs gave preference to original nominees to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown over supplemental nominees.

A sweep of the three Triple Crown races -- one of the most difficult feats in all of sports -- has been accomplished on only 11 occasions. The roster of Triple Crown winners includes Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).

The 36-year gap since the most recent Triple Crown sweep by Affirmed in 1978 is the longest in the history of the series. The previous record was the 25-year span between the 1948 Triple Crown earned by Citation and Secretariat's record-shattering three-race sweep in 1973.

Steve Coburn and Perry Martin's homebred fan favorite California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) scored impressive victories in the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but could not end the Triple Crown drought and finished fourth to Tonalist (Tapit) in the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome was the 52nd sophomore to win two of the three Triple Crown races.

Despite his setback in the Belmont, the Art Sherman-trained California-bred was honored as racing's 2014 Horse of the Year and also earned the Eclipse Award for champion three-year-old.

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In brief

Chester and Mary Broman Sr.'s homebred Hard to Say Notgo (More Than Ready) romped by 5 1/2 lengths in Sunday's $125,000 Franklin Square S. at Aqueduct with jockey Angel Arroyo in the saddle. Sent off the 6-1 fourth choice in the nine-filly field, the James Jerkens trainee was much the best while 9-5 favorite Golden Gem (Wildcat Heir) finished second. Hard to Say Notgo ran six furlongs on the fast inner dirt in 1:12 1/5 to earn her first stakes victory. The dark bay miss broke her maiden at first asking by five lengths last August at Saratoga prior to running second in the Seeking the Ante S. and third in the Joseph A. Gimma S. to close out her juvenile season. Making her sophomore bow in this spot, she improved her career record to 4-2-1-1, $173,800. Hard to Say Notgo's fourth dam is Narrate (Honest Pleasure), whose descendents include Grade 2-winning top sires Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat) and Pulpit (A.P. Indy) as well as multiple Grade/Group 1-scoring European champion Johannesburg (Hennessy)...

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said multiple Grade 1-placed Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) will work Tuesday morning under Jon Court in preparation for the $300,000 Southwest S. (G3) on February 16 at Oaklawn Park. Lukas said Court will retain the mount for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest on Mr. Z, who is coming off a troubled third in the Smarty Jones S. on January 19...

Fox Hill Farm's Bluff (Tapit), an impressive 5 3/4-length maiden winner in January, has set his gaze upon a possible run in the $400,000 Risen Star S. (G2) on February 21 for trainer Larry Jones. After two losses to kick off his career at a mile and 70 yards, the chestnut colt finally got things right on January 22 when dominating nine other sophomores at the same distance. "We're not for sure yet, but we're thinking about the Risen Star for him," Jones confirmed. "We haven't worked him since the race, but the way he's going we have to put that on the radar. We've always liked him. We think we know what Bluff is -- he just wasn't showing up in his first two races because of bad trips. We're pretty happy with him right now."...

Grade 1 heroine La Tia (City Place) turned in a visibly impressive work on Sunday morning, going five furlongs in 1:00 over Fair Grounds' fast main track with jockey Florent Geroux aboard for trainer Armando De La Cerda. The Illinois-bred mare has not raced since annexing the Matriarch S. (G1) at Del Mar last November, and is aiming for the $200,000 Buena Vista S. (G2) at Santa Anita Park on February 16. "She worked in a minute flat and galloped out in 1:12," De La Cerda said. "Florent said it was her best work. I told him to not go too fast, but she did it on her own. We leave (Monday) morning from the track at 10:30 a.m. (CST) and she will have two weeks to get comfortable at Santa Anita. We are going to the Mark Casse barn, like we did at Del Mar -- I've known the assistant Randi (Melton) for a long time. (Joel) Rosario will be in to ride her in the race."...

Trainer Randy Morse said he decided not to breeze Grade 1 victor Moonshine Mullin (Albert the Great) Sunday morning because of a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park. Morse said the seven-year-old will have his first breeze back in the next few days and he is hopeful the Kentucky-bred can still make his 2015 debut in the $250,000 Razorback H. (G3) on March 14 at Oaklawn. Moonshine Mullin hasn't started since becoming a millionaire, and providing Morse with his biggest career victory, in the Stephen Foster H. (G1) last June 14 at Churchill Downs because of a tiny ligament tear in an ankle...

Trainer Jeff Bonde said Distinctiv Passion (With Distinction) came out of his fourth-place finish as the 2-1 favorite in Saturday's Palos Verdes S. (G2) in good order after the speedster broke from the rail post position in the six-furlong sprint. Asked about a possible run in the $2 million Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) in Dubai on March 28, Bonde said, "We'll regroup. He's a good horse. We'll find a race."...

Trainer Randy Morse said Street Strategy (Street Sense), an exciting 4 1/4-length entry-level allowance winner Friday at Oaklawn Park, came out the race well, but "won't run back for a while." He said when Street Strategy resurfaces it will be in another allowance spot, although the $600,000 Oaklawn H. (G2) on April 11 could be a long-range target if the colt continues to progress. "But we're going to take it step by step," Morse said Sunday morning. "We're not going to get ahead of ourselves." The four-year-old son gray was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Rebel S. (G2) last March. Morse said Street Strategy tore the main supporting ligament in his stifle in the Rebel, an injury the trainer believed occurred at the start 1 1/16-mile race. He described as the injury as "real rare." Friday's victory came exactly a year since the lightly raced gray colt broke his maiden by 6 1/2 lengths in his two-turn debut. "Any time a horse is coming off almost a year's layoff going a mile on this deep of a track, yeah, you have to be concerned," Morse said. "On the other hand, if he was good as I think he is, he's supposed to beat those kind of horses."...

Godolphin's retained jockeys William Buick and James Doyle are likely to rack up some considerable air miles this year after Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock advisor John Ferguson confirmed the riders would likely partake in the Sydney Autumn Carnival, and could also receive assignments in America. Ferguson noted he has had positive conversations with Godolphin's trainers in both countries about the possibility of using Buick and Doyle, who have both ridden winners in Dubai this year. "We have a very strong team of horses in Australia, as well as in America, and when you have world-class jockeys it makes sense for them to ride for you in the world-class races," Ferguson said. "I know all the trainers we have in Australia and the United States have been impressed with William and James. John O'Shea, who trains for Godolphin in Australia, was at Meydan on Thursday to see James ride a treble. We shouldn't forget we also have James McDonald riding for us in Australia, who is seriously talented." Buick and Doyle look set to divide their time between Dubai and Australia until the Dubai World Cup card March 28. "Timing-wise things fit quite well," Ferguson noted. "The Golden Slipper meeting at Rosehill is the weekend before the Dubai World Cup and then some of the big meetings at Randwick immediately follow the World Cup."...

Moment of Change (Barely a Moment), winner of last year's C.F. Orr S. (Aus-G1) and Futurity S. (Aus-G1), will miss an Australian autumn campaign after undergoing colic surgery Sunday. The six-year-old gelding was being prepared to defend that double by trainer Peter Moody. "We took him to the vet clinic and we tried to treat him without surgery and waited as long as we could but they had to operate on him just before lunchtime," Moody told Racing and Sports. "He's up and recovering at this point, which is good, but he's not yet out of the woods. He's an old stable favorite that's done a hell of a job for us so his welfare will be paramount going forward. Hopefully for all of us it will involve racing but that's something we'll determine down the track." Moment of Change also won the 2012 Sir Rupert Clarke S. (Aus-G1)...

John Deer's Al Kazeem (Dubawi), a triple Group 1 winner in 2013 and second in last year's Champion S. (Eng-G1) after returning to training due to subfertility, could start off his seven-year-old campaign in France. "We'll see how things go, but my thoughts would be that he could come back in a Group 2 at Longchamp in early April (Prix d'Harcourt)," Deer said. "That would obviously have to be run by (trainer) Roger (Charlton), but that's what I'm thinking at the moment. He's a big, strong, older horse now, so hopefully he'll be ready to return, and then there's a Group 1 in France three weeks later (Prix Ganay) that he could run in." Al Kazeem was purchased by The Royal Studs to stand last year. After he got a small number of mares in foal, Deer purchased his homebred back. Al Kazeem won last year's Winter Hill S. (Eng-G3) at Windsor, and after finishing off the board in the Irish Champion S. (Ire-G1) and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) ran Noble Mission to a neck in the Champion S. "It was wonderful to see him run so well at Ascot at the end of last season," Deer reflected. "I was so pleased, it was almost like winning, to be honest, as it is very unusual for a horse to come back from stud and run as well as he did. The Champion S. also came only 13 days after the Arc, so there must be a question mark over whether he was at his very best."...

The 48th annual Santa Anita Jockeys vs. Holy Angels School Charity Basketball Game will take place February 12 at La Salle High School in Pasadena, California, with proceeds to benefit the Holy Angels athletic program, the Kentucky-based Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) and the Eye on Jacob Foundation. Sponsored by J. Paul Reddam's CashCall and Santa Anita Park, game time is 7:15 p.m. (PST), with admission doors opening at 6:15 p.m. Hall of Fame jockeys Kent Desormeaux, Laffit Pincay Jr., Mike Smith, Alex Solis and Gary Stevens will be available for an autograph signing session beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person, and for every two tickets purchased, individuals receive one free admission ticket to Santa Anita. Additionally, there will be opportunities to win a trip to Las Vegas and a Paintball Package to Hollywood Sports Paintball and Airsoft Park. Admission tickets and promotional tee shirts are on sale now at Champions! Gifts and Apparel in Santa Anita's East Paddock Gardens, or through Holy Angels School.

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Monday

Mahoning Valley   (1st) Silent Hero, 5-1
    (2nd) Sharp Dancer, 4-1
Parx Racing   (7th) Strong Shaft, 10-1
    (10th) Storm Summation, 5-1
Sam Houston   (6th) Gold Tale, 4-1
    (10th) On the Beach, 3-1
Sunland Park   (3rd) Kalihi Sun, 3-1
    (6th) Spooky Moves, 3-1
Turf Paradise   (1st) Prospector's Blues, 5-1
    (7th) Nora's Song, 3-1

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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