Lea blows out for World Cup; Mshawish's foot bruise 'much improved'
"He schooled great," said assistant trainer Alan Sherman. "Didn't turn a hair. Now it's time for him to strut his stuff and get it done."
Candy Boy (Candy Ride), last seen finishing sixth of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) last November, will also be making his first start for owner Ramzan Kadyrov and trainer Doug Watson.
"We would have really liked to have had a prep race but it wasn't to be," Watson said. "All seems fine and we are just looking forward to the big race. It is great to have a good runner in such a prestigious contest."
"We could be very happy with the result or left scratching our heads. Either way, we will have a gauge on what we have and where we are at moving forward. What that will be, I'm not sure. Either a turf race or a break."
The trainers of Japan's World Cup duo, Epiphaneia (Symboli Kris S) and Hokko Tarumae (King Kamehameha), were pleased with their charges on the eve of raceday.
"He is in a really good form right now," Epiphaneia's trainer Katsuhiko Sumii said. "Everything is going well as planned.
"This is the first experience on dirt for everybody and it is like a first stage to show the ability of the Japanese horse on this surface. Also it will be a good chance to give the Japanese horses more options to compete in the world.
"I plan to put the same type of horse shoes as he has in Japan, but I will make a final decision by walking on the dirt tonight."
Trainer Katsuichi Nishiura watched Hokko Tarumae put in a routine canter on the dirt track at Meydan on Friday morning and was very satisfied with the effort.
"Everything has gone well so far. I can really see he has a great mood and is very happy to run. The dirt has quite a different quality from what we have in Japan, and I cannot tell how it will suit him at this stage.
"(We have) not found any clearly answer what type of horses will suit the surface here. We will see on raceday."
"He was able to lead all the way last year and it's no good to us if he is taken on in front. But he is as good as we can have him and you have to take a horse of his quality seriously, especially with a jockey like Ryan Moore on board."
Trainer Michael Chang commented on Rich Tapestry's progress ahead of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1).
"He didn't travel very well," Chang said. "He had a bit of a stomach problem, but everything is back to normal now.
"He was also a bit dehydrated but he has recovered. He always goes well fresh and this track is pretty similar to Santa Anita where he won a Grade 1 late last year.
"I am never concerned about him on any dirt track and he enjoyed himself in his canter this morning. He will jump and sit just behind the pace. I don't want him to lead. There is a lot of pace in the race. My level of confidence right now out of 10 would be a seven or eight."
Trainer Kojiro Hashiguchi offered a vote of confidence in Japanese Derby (Jpn-G1) hero One and Only (Heart's Cry), an outsider in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-G1).
"He is really fit. I think he is more relaxed than I am. He has moved into a top gear," said Hashiguchi, who saddled two winners on World Cup night in 2006 -- Utopia in the Godolphin Mile and Heart's Cry, One and Only's sire, in the Sheema.
"What I experienced here in Dubai 10 years ago has brought me a lot of strategies and knowledge for racing overseas.
"I would like to show all the people how good the Japanese Derby-winning horse is and how prestigious the Japanese Derby is. I have to win the race to do that, and I also look forward to Saturday.
"His father Heart's Cry also won the same race back in 2006. Hopefully he is able to grab the same title as his father. This time my son Shinsuke, who has passed the exam of the JRA trainer's license and will start the stable operations from next year, is joining the team to support us.
"The pair of Heart's Cry and One and Only were able to have an opportunity to come here, so I also asked my son to come here with me to see the horse's big feat."
DUBAI WORLD CUP 2015
GODOLPHIN MILE (UAE-G2), 1600M, 8:40 a.m. (all times EDT)
DUBAI GOLD CUP (UAE-G2), 3200MT, 9:15 a.m.
U.A.E. DERBY (UAE-G2), 1900M, 9:55 a.m.
AL QUOZ SPRINT (UAE-G1), 1000MT, 10:30 a.m.
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (UAE-G1), 1200M, 11:05 a.m.
DUBAI TURF (UAE-G1), 1800MT, 11:40 a.m.
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (UAE-G1), 2410MT, 12:15 p.m.
DUBAI WORLD CUP (UAE-G1), 2000M, 1 p.m.
Competitive Edge wins comeback at Gulfstream
Mr. Jordan was making his first start since kicking clear to win the Smooth Air at Gulfstream Park West on November 29. The gray colt underwent surgery at the end of last year to repair an injured check ligament that he suffered during a December workout.
"No excuses," Saez said of his mount. "He broke good. I think the layoff might have cost him a little. The winner is a nice horse."
Pletcher said the Pat Day Mile (G3), formerly the Derby Trial, at Churchill Downs on May 2 could be the next target for Competitive Edge.
"What we talked about prior to this was the Pat Day Mile as a possibility, which, timing-wise, is good, and it's a gradual stretch-out, so that's what we might do," he said. "I still think he's a horse that will run farther, but he's a very laid back horse, very relaxed."
Competitive Edge returned $3.40 to win. The winning time was 1:24 1/5 for seven furlongs.
One Lucky Dane headed to Santa Anita Derby
The Kentucky Derby, which Baffert has won three times but not since 2002 with War Emblem, will be run this year on May 2. The 62-year-old Hall of Fame trainer already has the two favorites for the Run for the Roses in American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) and Dortmund.
Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Dortmund, Prospect Park (Tapit), Bolo (Temple City), One Lucky Dane, Cross the Line (Line of David), and Bad Read Sanchez (Warrior's Reward).
Bad Read Sanchez would be making his first start since last August, a span of eight months, and be going beyond 6 1/2 furlongs for the first time in his career of just three races.
Bad Read Sanchez won his debut by 10 lengths at Santa Anita on June 20, then was second as the 9-10 favorite in the Willard Proctor Memorial at Los Alamitos before running third in the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar on August 3.
"Bad Read Sanchez is doing super and he's always displayed better-than-average talent," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He's got one more key work this Sunday, so he needs to put in a good one. If he does and you've got a special three-year-old this time of year, you try the Derby. That's the plan."
Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, said El Camino Real Derby (G3) runner-up Cross the Line would ship to Santa Anita shortly from Golden Gate Fields and work here early next week before his status for the Santa Anita Derby is determined.
Keeneland reveals opening weekend stakes probables
Keeneland has released probable fields for their opening weekend stakes, April 3-4.
The opening day feature on April 3 is the $100,000 Transylvania (G3) for three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Probable starters include A Lot (Tapit), Another Lemon Drop (Lemon Drop Kid), Danish Dynaformer (Dynaformer), Divisidero (Kitten's Joy), Eh Cumpari (Elusive Quality), Night Prowler (Giant's Causeway), Saham (Lemon Drop Kid) and Tuba (Magna Graduate).
Five stakes will be run on April 4. Probables for the $1 million Blue Grass (G1) for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles include Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), Classy Class (Discreetly Mine), Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), Frammento (Midshipman), Gorgeous Bird (Unbridled's Song), Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense), Pepper Roani (Broken Vow), Rock Shandy (Lemon Drop Kid), Toasting Master (Congrats) and Unrivaled (Super Saver). Tiz Shea D (Tiznow) is possible.
The $500,000 Ashland (G1) for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles might include Achiever's Legacy (City Zip), Angela Renee (Bernardini), Lassofthemohicans (Indian Charlie), Lovely Maria (Majesticperfection), Peace and War (War Front), Silverpocketsfull (Indian Charlie), Sweet Swingin (Street Sense), Temper Mint Patty (Congrats) and West Coast Belle (Tapit). Puca (Big Brown) is possible.
The $350,000 Madison (G1) for fillies and mares at seven furlongs could feature Clearly Confused (Successful Appeal), Lady Sabelia (Majestic Warrior), Princess Violet (Officer), Sam's Sister (Brother Derek), Sugar Shock (Candy Ride), Thank You Marylou (Birdstone) and Wedding Toast (Street Sense).
Likely to line up for the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) for older horses and seven furlongs includes Bourbon Courage (Lion Heart), C. Zee (Elusive Bluff), Edge of Reality (Lawyer Ron), Hip Four Sixtynine (Southern Image), Jessica's Star (Magna Graduate) and Kobe's Back (Flatter). Wild Dude (Wildcat Heir) is possible.
The $125,000 Shakertown (G3) for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf might have Amelia's Wild Ride (D'wildcat), Channel Marker (Purim), Choctaw Chuck (Bwana Charlie), Mellow Fellow (The Cliff's Edge), Mongolian Saturday (Any Given Saturday), Power Alert (Alert), Speechify (Harlan's Holiday) and Tightend Touchdown (Pure Precision).
There will be no racing on Easter Sunday, April 5.
NYRA reports on-track handle rise in 2014
Total on-track handle at the New York Racing Association's three tracks rose 2 percent to $374,387,425 in 2014, the second-highest such total over the past six years.
For the year, the New York Racing Association hosted 245 race days at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga, six more than in 2013, which saw $367,022,646 wagered on track.
Key factors in the rise were the success of five "must-see" days during the year, including a super-charged Belmont Stakes Day. With California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) pursuing a Triple Crown and 10 outstanding stakes races, June 7 was a smashing hit, with a crowd of 102,199 wagering a record $19.2 million on track and a record all-sources handle of $151,109,373.
A month later, more than $2.8 million was wagered on track on the inaugural "Stars & Stripes Day" on July 5 at Belmont Park, featuring an internationally-themed day of turf racing.
At Saratoga, more than $7 million was wagered on track for the enhanced Whitney Day card, August 2, with total handle surpassing $27.7 million, while more than $10.8 million was wagered on track on Travers Day, August 23. Total handle for Travers Day was more than $39.9 million.
Finally, Super Saturday at Belmont Park on September 27, which featured six graded stakes worth $3.4 million, generated $3.29 million in on track handle and a total handle of more than $19.99 million.
Total handle on NYRA races from all sources was $2,177,979,073, a dip of 0.9 percent from 2013's $2,198,393,408. Gross total handle, including imports, was $2,477,916,278, down 0.7 percent from $2,495,582,258 in 2013.
While staging just 5.6 percent of all races run in the United States in 2014, wagering on NYRA's 2,313 races again accounted for more than 20 percent of all monies bet on Thoroughbred racing in the United States.
According to Equibase, handle on all 41,277 races in the United States in 2014 fell 2.84 percent to $10.55 billion from $10.88 billion in 2013.
Total attendance for the year was 1,732,253, up from 1,657,661 in 2013.
International Star tops nine-horse Louisiana Derby
"We have a good enough horse; we'll be fine," Maker said of the outside post.
Campaigned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the reigning back-to-back Eclipse Award-winning owners, International Star would be the first sophomore to sweep all three races since Friesan Fire in 2009.
War Story (Northern Afleet) will be looking to turn the tables on his rival after finishing second in the Lecomte and Risen Star. Installed as the 4-1 co-second choice, the Tom Amoss-trained gelding has never finished worse than second in four career outings, capturing his first two outings at Churchill Downs (maiden special weight) and Fair Grounds (entry-level allowance). Joe Talamo will pick up the mount on the stalker.
Risen Star third-placer Keen Ice (Curlin) and fourth-placer St. Joe Bay (Saint Anddan) will also be back for the Louisiana Derby. The late-running Keen Ice is listed as 5-1 co-fourth choice for Dale Romans and retains the services of James Graham. Risen Star pacesetter St. Joe Bay is expected to show speed once again for Peter Miller and the 10-1 outside adds a new pilot in Robby Albarado.
Mr. Z (Malibu Moon), who is 4-1 on the morning line, invades from Oaklawn Park for Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas. Third in both the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) this season, the chestnut colt has placed in a total of seven stakes since capturing his debut last June. Mr. Z will shed blinkers after wearing the headgear in his last five starts and Kent Desormeaux will take over the reins.
Stanford (Malibu Moon) will represent leading trainer Todd Pletcher in the Louisiana Derby. An allowance/optional claiming scorer in 2015 bow at Gulfstream, the bay colt finished second most recently in the 1 1/8-mile Islamorada on March 6 but was disqualified and placed sixth by the stewards. He receives a new jockey in Florent Geroux and is an early 5-1.
Rounding out the field are a trio of expected longshots: A Day in Paradise (Yes It's True), Defondo (El Corredor) and Fusaichi Flame (Fusaichi Pegasus).
I'm a Chatterbox seeks Fair Grounds sweep in Oaks
I'm a Chatterbox will face seven rivals in the Fair Grounds Oaks, which will award points on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the respective top four toward a starting berth in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks.
Forever Unbridled (Unbridled's Song) has thus far picked up 14 points, good for 16th place on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard, thanks to running second in the Silverbulletday and third in the Rachel Alexandra. The Dallas Stewart will jump all the way to first with a win in the Fair Grounds Oaks, a race her older full sister Unbridled Forever finished third in last year. Unbridled Forever would go on to fill that same spot in the Kentucky Oaks, a race the duo's dam, Lemons Forever (Lemon Drop Kid), actually captured in 2006.
Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call on Forever Unbridled for the Fair Grounds Oaks.
The rest of Saturday's field would need some improvement to beat I'm a Chatterbox, with the most likely candidate being maiden Danette (Curlin). The Keith Desormeaux pupil has yet to post a win, but she has finished third in the Chandelier S. (G1) and ran fifth by just 1 1/2 lengths in last season's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Shook Up (Tapit), a 13-length maiden victress, is also in with a chance after a wide-trip fifth in the Rachel Alexandra most recently.
Ekati's Phaeton faces familiar foes in Gulfstream Park Oaks
Luis Saez has been aboard for all three of Ekati's Phaeton's starts this year and retains the mount Saturday as the filly tries two turns for the first time.
"She's doing outstanding. She has a tremendous amount of speed, and we are seeing if we can lengthen it out," Kaplan said. "It's all a progression, and this is a test of two turns. Training-wise, she's doing well going into this race and she's learned how to relax a little bit, and I'm hoping we get the two turns without a problem.
"Speed and talent and heart, she's got all that. Now we've got to make sure we've got the ability to not use the speed early and that's what the two turns is all about."
The Oaks will be the season opener for a pair of fillies in Cristina's Journey (Any Given Saturday) and Danessa Deluxe (Summer Bird). The former captured the Pocahontas S. (G2) at Churchill last September before being unplaced in her next two, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Golden Rod S. (G2), while Danessa Deluxe took a Gulfstream Park West allowance/optional claimer by 5 1/4 lengths before running fourth while making her stakes bow in the Delta Downs Princess S. (G3).
Twilight Eclipse gets time to shine in Pan American
"In our previous races, I thought we were a little bit unlucky. When we faced him in the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth, we were unfortunately pinned inside a little bit, and Main Sequence got the jump on us, and also in the next race at Belmont (Turf Classic [G1]), something similar happened where he got first jump on us, but I had no excuses last time. We got the first jump and we still got caught, but our horse is doing really good, and I feel really good about our chances this weekend."
Imagining (Giant's Causeway), last year's Man o' War (G1) winner, is looking to rebound in the 1 1/2-mile turf event after sub-par performances in the Gulfstream Park H. (G1) and Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) in his last two. The seven-year-old chestnut finished in close attendance to Twilight Eclipse multiple times last season.
Trainer Graham Motion, who conditions Main Sequence, has a serious contender in Glenard (Arch), a sharp second in the Fair Grounds H. (G3) in his U.S. debut. Also exiting that race is third-place finisher Pyrite Mountain (Silent Name), who narrowly missed winning a Grade 3 at Kentucky Downs last fall.
The likely pacesetter is Change of Command (Gators N Bears), who held on for third in the Mac Diarmida at odds of 30-1.
Riposte (Dansili), a Group 2 winner in England and the U.S., is the one to beat in the $150,000 Orchid (G3) for fillies and mares, also at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. The Juddmonte Farms homebred captured the Ribblesdale (Eng-G2) at Royal Ascot at three, the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and New York (G2) at Belmont last year, and enters off a second in the February 21 The Very One (G3) in her first start in nearly eight months.
Primary challengers include Tabreed (Sakhee), third in The Very One last time and making her final start before retiring to WinStar Farm for broodmare duty; Photo Call (Gallileo) third in the December 27 La Prevoyante H. (G3) in her stakes debut for Graham Motion; and French stakes-winning import Beauty Parlor (Elusive Quality), who makes her U.S. debut for Christophe Clement.
Among those set to oppose is multiple Grade 3 winner Sandiva (Footstepsinthesand), most recently the heroine of the Suwannee River (G3); Grade 2-winning speedster Istanford (Istan); Lady Lara (Excellent Art), first in the Pebbles and second in the Mrs. Revere (G2) in her two U.S. outings last fall; Marbre Rose (Smart Strike), who took the South Beach when last seen in December; and the multiple stakes-placed Party Now (Tiznow).
The male counterpart to the Honey Fox, the $150,000 Appleton (G3), features local Grade 1 scorer Lochte (Medaglia d'Oro) and the promising War Correspondent (War Front), third by a length in the Gulfstream Park Turf last time. Other contenders include Mr. Online (Silent Name), second by a neck in this event last season; Grand Tito (Candy Ride) and Aripeka (Bernstein), second and third, respectively, in the Canadian Turf (G3) last out; and gate-to-wire threat Excaper (Exchange Rate).
Encryption (Exchange Rate) could parlay an impressive second-level allowance win on February 22 into victory over 1 3/16 miles in the $150,000 Skip Away (G3). Grade 3-placed last season, the Kelly Breen trainee won the aforementioned allowance by eight lengths going 1 1/16 miles.
Among the hard-knocking opponents are Commissioner (A.P. Indy), last year's Belmont (G1) runner-up who is still seeking his first career stakes win, and East Hall (Graeme Hall), who landed the Indiana Derby (G2) and Millions Classic Preview before a second-place effort to returning rival Sr. Quisqueyano (Exclusive Quality) in the January 17 Sunshine Millions Classic.
The leading contenders in the $100,000 Sir Shackleton, a seven-furlong dash for older horses, are Fred W. Hooper (G3) winner Valid (Medaglia d'Oro), third last out in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2); multiple Grade 2 veteran Pants On Fire (Jump Start), unraced since mid-December; and the multiple Grade 3-placed Confrontation (War Pass).
New Orleans 'Cap, Mervin Muniz highlight Fair Grounds undercard
Since then Moreno has captured the Whitney H. (G1) and placed in the Woodward S. (G1) and Suburban H. (G2). The five-year-old bay gelding gets Joe Talamo in the saddle as he seeks his first win of 2015 on Saturday.
The New Orleans 'Cap also features the second- and third-place finishers from the February 21 local prep, the Mineshaft H. (G3). Mystery Train (Not for Sale) just missed by three parts of a length in the Mineshaft while making his fourth U.S. start. The Darrell Vienna charge is dual Group 1-placed in his native Argentina, but didn't show much in his first three U.S. starts against graded rivals until the Mineshaft. Grade 2 hero Red Rifle was making his five-year-old bow in the Mineshaft for trainer Todd Pletcher, and ran well to be third.
Florent Geroux was in the irons for Red Rifle's Hawthorne Gold Cup H. (G2) win last November and takes back the mount here while Francisco Torres stays aboard Mystery Train.
Also in with a shot is Grade 3 scorer Albano (Istan), who posted a 6 1/2-length triumph in the Maxaam Gold Cup at Sam Houston on February 28 in his final prep for this race.
The $75,000 Crescent City Oaks kicks off the day's black-type action when sending a field of 11 sophomore fillies a mile and 70 yards on the main track. Sibling War (Brother Derek) beat a number of others in this field last out in the Azalea S. including Forest Lake (Forestry), who will try to break a case of seconditis from her past three races, and Wind Chill Factor (Successful Appeal), who saw her three-race win streak against state-bred stakes rivals broken when third in the Louisiana Premier Night Starlet to the re-opposing Private Promise (Private Vow).
One race later, a full field of 14 three-year-old colts and geldings will go 1 1/16 miles in the $75,000 Crescent City Derby. The respective top three from the March 7 Pelican S. -- Cat Sup (Discreet Cat), Four Leaf Chief (Lookin at Lucky) and Charlie's Affair (My Pal Charlie) -- will once again challenge each other, while maiden winners Cajun Spirit (Bernstein) and Mobile Bay (Lone Star Special) make their stakes debuts.
The $60,000 Star Guitar S. will wrap up the state-bred stakes two races following the Crescent City Derby after attracting a field of 10 older runners going 1 1/16 miles. It's preceded by the $60,000 Costa Rising S., which drew 11 runners to go 5 1/2 furlongs on the Fair Grounds turf.
Upstart breaks outside as favorite in Florida Derby
Itsaknockout, who was elevated to first in the Fountain of Youth, remains undefeated from three starts, all at Gulfstream. He preceded that victory with maiden and allowance scores, both around one turn, but looked more than capable at a distance in his first two-turn attempt.
Pletcher trains Itsaknockout and Materiality (Afleet Alex), who enters the Florida Derby off two wins in as many starts. After a 4 1/4-length maiden romp going six furlongs, Materiality came back to win the nine-furlong Islamorada H. by 5 3/4 lengths earlier this month. Pletcher has experience getting lightly-raced colts into the Florida Derby winner's circle, having saddled Constitution (Tapit) last year in just his third lifetime start.
"To be running in the Florida Derby off three starts and two starts is fairly uncommon," Pletcher said. "We were able to do it with Constitution last year but it takes exceptional horses to do it, and so far these two have handled every step up that we’ve given them."
Ami's Flatter (Flatter) has placed in two of three stakes appearances this season, finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) most recently. Trainer Josie Carroll found the timing of the Florida Derby worked out better than waiting a week for the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland.
"The time-frame between this race and the (Kentucky) Derby is better," said Carroll, who saddled Ami’s Flatter for a second-place finish in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream in January. "He seems to like this surface very much."
The remainder of the Florida Derby field are longshots Jack Tripp (Flatter), Indianaughty (Indian Charlie), Quimet (Birdstone), My Point Exactly (Concord Point), and Dekabrist (Street Boss). My Point Exactly, who broke his maiden by more than 10 lengths at Gulfstream last summer, will be making his first start since September 6 when he captured the Sunday Silence on grass at Louisiana Downs.
American Pharoah early favorite in final KDFW
Wagering in the three-day Kentucky Derby Future Wager finale opens at noon (EDT) on Friday and is set to conclude on Sunday at 6 p.m. (EDT). Betting will be available at Churchill Downs and other racetracks and off-track betting and satellite wagering facilities across North America. Wagering also is available at TwinSpires.com, the official online wagering platform of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, and other online wagering outlets.
Interest has been strong in this season's three previous KDFW pools. The betting total of $422,331 in Pool 3 pushed combined betting on earlier pools in November, February and March to $1,105,503. This is the second year that the Kentucky Derby Future Wager has been offered in a four-pool format that opens with three days of betting in late November.
The Kentucky Derby Future Wager enables fans to wager on America's greatest race well in advance of the famed Run for the Roses at odds that could be much more attractive than those offered on the day of the race. Winning payouts on all KDFW pools are determined by the odds that are in place at the end of the respective betting pool. Those winning mutuel payouts for the $2 minimum win and exacta wagers placed in each Kentucky Derby Future pool will be made following the running of the Kentucky Derby on on May 2.
No scratches or refunds are permitted during a KDFW pool. If Churchill Downs officials confirm that an individual horse will not participate in the Derby because of injury or other circumstance, wagering on that interest will be suspended immediately.
Other horses expected to draw strong support in Pool 4 include Sunland Park Derby (G3) winner Firing Line (Line of David) (#12, 12-1), unbeaten Withers (G3) winner Far From Over (Blame) (#10, 15-1), Holy Bull (G2) winner Upstart (Flatter) (#22, 15-1) and San Felipe runner-up Prospect Park (Tapit) (#21, 15-1).
The upcoming fourth pool features seven horses that were not a part of Pool 3, with six of them appearing in a Derby Future pool for the first time. Holy Bull runner-up Frosted (Tapit) (#13, 30-1) returns after appearing in Pools 1 and 2, and is joined by newcomers Ami's Flatter (Flatter) (#2, 50-1), Bold Conquest (#3, 50-1), Spiral (G3) winner Dubai Sky (Candy Ride) (#8, 30-1), Rebel runner-up Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky) (#17, 30-1), unbeaten Materiality (Afleet Alex) (#18, 20-1) and U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) contender Mubtaahij (Dubawi) (#20, 30-1).
Wagering interests for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools are selected by a committee that includes Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, Senior Director of Communications Darren Rogers, Director of On-Air Racing Communications Jill Byrne, Pari-Mutuel Marking Manager Gary Palmisano and Vice President of Communications John Asher.
Real-time odds for each KDFW pool and other information on the wager and the Kentucky Derby are available at the official event web site at http://www.kentuckyderby.com/racing-wagering/future-wager/pool-4-final-odds.
Free Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances for wagering interests in Pool 4 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are available at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/KDFW4.pdf. Brisnet also has complimentary past performances for all Triple Crown nominees at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/TC15noms.pdf.
Future plans for Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) remain on hold after it was announced recently that he would miss the Triple Crown due to abscess issues with his right front foot. "I still have him here at Santa Anita," said trainer and part owner Keith Desormeaux. "I haven't found any major problems with him, really, and that being so, I'll keep him here and play around with him The only place we found maybe a tad bit of soreness is in his upper suspensory, but other than that, no real issues. I'll keep him here and maybe I can get him back quicker than we're expecting, but there is no time table right now. We want to make sure he's right and go from there."...
Monarch Content Management Company and the MidAtlantic Cooperative announced Friday that they have reached an agreement regarding the purchase by MidAtlantic members of the simulcast signals of racetracks affiliated with Monarch. Monarch-affiliated racetracks currently running live race meets include Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, Tampa Bay Downs, Meadowlands, Turf Paradise and Laurel. Pursuant to the agreement, patrons attending wagering facilities operated by MidAtlantic members may begin wagering on Monarch content immediately...
Many of the 33 horses scheduled to compete in Fair Grounds' four graded stakes on Saturday were seen on the track Friday morning at the New Orleans oval, but few -- if any -- left a better impression than Coalport (Kitten's Joy). A six-year-old Ramsey homebred trained by Mike Maker, the chestnut galloped a lap under assistant trainer Dallas King -- somehow managing to move fluidly while also attacking the ground with his hooves. Expected to go off as one of the favorites in the $400,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. (G2), Coalport exits a career-best effort when wiring the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston on January 24. "He's a horse who loves his job and always tries hard," Maker said. "It's a good race and my horse is doing excellent. The only worry is if it rains. He had a couple of rained-off races before that didn't go too well." Coalport has been in Maker's care for his last six starts -- having previously been conditioned by Wayne Catalano -- including crossing the wire first in four consecutive races leading into Saturday's 22nd renewal of the Muniz. In addition to his Connally conquest, the Illinois-bred won the restricted Buck's Boy S. at Hawthorne and finished first in the Unbridled S. at Louisiana Downs before being disqualified to second -- both at 1 1/16 miles on the grass...
Jugni (Colonel John) will step up in class and distance in Saturday's $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) for trainer Bernie Flint. The speedy bay miss exits a handy gate-to-wire victory in a Fair Grounds allowance on February 14 and sports a series of impressive works, including a five-furlong bullet move on March 15 in 1:00 4/5. "She's been working very well," Flint said. "We wanted to stretch her out in an allowance and we've been training her toward running two turns, but we couldn't find one." Jugni gets the riding services of James Graham for the first time on Saturday when she breaks from post 3. "I know she'll probable be on the front, whether we like it or not," Flint said. "She's a very high-speed mare. It's a big step up, but I'm afraid they're going to have to come and get us. She's on top of her game. Graham worked the horse last time, which is why he got the ride. Hopefully she can make it or get a piece of it."...
Grade 3-placed multiple stakes queen Good Deed (Broken Vow) is likely to take on her male counterparts next out in the $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) on May 1. The Steve Margolis-trained six-year-old exits a tough-trip second in the Lady's Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park as the even-money favorite. "If all goes well, we're going to run in the Twin Spires (Turf Sprint) on (Kentucky) Oaks Day at Churchill Downs," Margolis said. "She's feeling great and worked good yesterday. She's two-for-two at Churchill and it gives her more time after the Gulfstream race than running at Keeneland. She got slammed leaving the gate (at Gulfstream) and has had three good races this winter, so we'll give her that extra time and see how it goes." In two starts before the Lady's Turf Sprint this winter, the Kentucky-bred broke the 5 1/2-furlong turf course record at Fair Grounds in a December allowance and then easily took the Pan Zareta S. over that same trip in January. In 2013, Good Deed nearly broke Churchill's five-furlong turf track record when blitzing the course in :55.73. She zipped a bullet half-mile on Thursday morning in :47 1/5 at Fair Grounds...
Stakes heroine Mizz Money (Mizzen Mast) is likely to carry the momentum of her three-for-three turf record in her last three starts to Keeneland and a graded stakes attempt, specifically the $125,000 Appalachian S. (G3) going a mile on the turf April 12, for trainer and part-owner Bernie Flint. The gray lass broke her maiden at third asking on January 19 going about 5 1/2 furlongs on the Fair Grounds green and then returned a mere 20 days later to win a conditioned allowance at 7 1/2 grassy furlongs. In that latter event she defeated highly regarded Larry Jones trainee Divine Dawn (Divine Park), and last out Mizz Money completed her turf hat-trick in the March 7 Allen Lacombe Memorial, once again beating Divine Dawn. "She's going to run at Keeneland in the Appalachian," Flint confirmed. "She's three-for-three and you can't ask for more than that. She's been doing great." Briefly considered for Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Mizz Money was rerouted back to the grass. In the Appalachian, she is likely to face unbeaten Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) victress and Eclipse Award finalist Lady Eli (Divine Park)...
Several of the 14 runners in Friday's William Reid S. (Aus-G1) at Moonee Valley were chasing a first victory at the highest level, but while most market analysts expected the fair sex to dominate courtesy of Earthquake (Exceed and Excel) or Vain Queen (Artie Schiller), it was the five-year-old gelding Lucky Hussler (Husson) who landed the spoils at 11-1. The Darren Weir trainee, who was last seen when beaten a head in the Emirates S. (Aus-G1) going a mile, was slowly away before recovering to race in midpack under jockey Glen Boss, who was able to angle his mount wide in the straight while some of the more fancied runners suffered hard-luck stories on the rail. Hitting the front with 100 meters to run, Lucky Hussler sprinted clear of his rivals to win by 1 3/4 lengths from the pacesetting Vain Queen. The bay has seemed rejuvenated since switching from the yard of Kent Fleming to that of Weir in the summer of 2014, hitting the board in all six starts for his new connections. Weir praised Boss's ride and pivotal role in allowing the horse to tackle this race as the owners leaned in favor of the TJ Smith S. (Aus-G1) on April 4, day one of The Championships. "I actually had a five-minute phone call to talk the owners into running," Boss said. "I said there was A$240,000 there to take. I finally talked (the owner) into running because Weiry (Darren Weir) really wanted to run him here." Lucky Hussler is the first and only foal out of the unraced Talaq Dancer (Black Hawk), who is a half-sister to Australian and South African Horse of the Year Weekend Hussler (Hussonet). The William Reid winner is the first Group 1 winner for his sire, Husson...
Two-time Irish champion jockey Joseph O'Brien will not ride at The Curragh's season-opening meeting Sunday, and will instead make his hurdling debut at Limerick. O'Brien will partner Egyptian Warrior (Galileo), who is trained by his father, Aidan O'Brien. The elder O'Brien said his son will return to riding on the flat this season. "Joseph is a little heavy at the moment but plans to be back riding on the flat shortly," he said. "He has his first ride over hurdles on Egyptian Warrior at Limerick on Sunday after which he will travel to the Curragh to ride work after racing. Ryan (Moore) will ride all of our first-string horses at the Curragh on Sunday."...
Bob and Rosemary Scarborough's Wood Nook Farm will disperse its stock at the Magic Millions National Sale scheduled for May 25 through June 5. The draft of 34 will include Grade 3 victress and British listed winner Cheetah (Tiger Hill) and her Street Cry weanling filly; Irish Group 2 heroine Gaudeamus (Distorted Humor) and her weanling Pierro colt; Group 3 scorer Lectrice (Encosta de Lago) in foal to Fastnet Rock, as well as her Fastnet Rock weanling colt; Group 3 diva Oh Goodness Me (Galileo) in foal to Fastnet Rock and her weanling filly by that sire; Wakeful S. (Aus-G2) vixen Rocha (Encosta de Lago) in foal to Sebring and her weanling colt by Pierro; and Group 3 queen Slapstick (Anabaa) in foal to Redoute's Choice and her weanling filly by Fastnet Rock.
MARCH 27, 2015
by Dick Powell
The $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) will be run for the 20th time at Meydan in the United Arab Emirates and for the first time since Meydan opened up six years ago, it will be run on dirt.
As I have pointed out in the past, when Meydan was opened with the main track being surfaced by Tapeta Footings, the races had full fields every year. On the dirt at the old Nad al Sheba track, there were times when the World Cup only had seven starters. At Meydan, a full gate of 14 to 16 starters was the norm.
With all the attention that the switch to dirt has garnered, and the appearance of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) because of it, this year's Dubai World Cup has only attracted nine starters and one of them was quickly added when there was a defection last weekend due to injury.
Before the Dubai Carnival begins, a condition sheet is released with all the races laid out months ahead of time. On Tapeta, there was not a single main track race that did not fill.
This year, on the dirt, there were numerous instances of scheduled races not filling and being replaced by cheaper, $60K handicap races for horses rated 60 to 80. This is quite the comedown for a track that always had horses rated at least 95. Trainers like Mike de Kock came out at the start of the Carnival and said that he would not race over the dirt, but he quickly changed his mind as he trains for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's Shadwell Stables and it was Sheikh Hamdan who was the primary proponent to move the main track races back to dirt.
So we have dirt at Meydan and we have California Chrome as a premier American presence on a card that is very strong. The Dubai World Cup will be decided by either the Americans (California Chrome, Lea [First Samurai] and the imported Candy Boy [Candy Ride]), the locals (last year's winner African Story [Pivotal] and Prince Bishop [Dubawi]) or the Japanese (Hokko Tamurae [King Kamehameha] and Epiphaneia [Symboli Kris S]).
The Americans will be very tough to beat. California Chrome can handle the distance but could lose a lot of ground from post 9. Because of the severe kickback on the dirt surface, horses that race in behind others usually hate it so their riders move outside to avoid it. Victor Espinoza, it says here, will have to send him to gain better position as the connections of the other horses have all publicly stated they need to race forwardly.
If the race turns into a slugfest and falls apart in the stretch, Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) winner Epiphaneia might pick up the pieces. Most of his races have been going longer and all came on the turf. He handled shipping when he went to Hong Kong and was beaten four lengths by Designs on Rome (Holy Roman Emperor) in the QE II Cup (HK-G1) and after winning the Japan Cup by four lengths, he finished out last season with a close finish in the Arima Kinen (Jpn-G1) behind Gentildonna, who made mince meat of her competition in last year's Sheema Classic (UAE-G1).
Epiphaneia is a mystery on dirt and the kickback could be a big problem, but he will be the strong horse in the stretch. His countrymate, Hokko Tamurae, is not a mystery on dirt as he is a Grade 1 winner over it in Japan and like 2011 World Cup winner Victoire Pisa, he does his best racing at 10 furlongs.
All reports coming out of Meydan this week indicate that Lea has thrived since arriving. He just missed in the Donn Handicap (G1) last out at Gulfstream Park and that race should set him up well for this. Nine furlongs is the farthest he has ever raced, but he certainly has the right running style and Joel Rosario should break him running from the gate.
The local horses have competed at the Dubai Carnival for years and a pair of eight-year-olds (African Story and Prince Bishop) could be taken for granted. Big Mistake! African Story won this race last year on the Tapeta and captured the final round of the 1 1/4-mile Maktoum Challenge (UAE-G1) on the dirt last out. His final time of 2:04 4/5 seconds was especially good since the race was run much earlier in the day and the track had not firmed up like it will this Saturday night when the sun goes down. Stablemate Prince Bishop unleashed furious rallies in the stretch to just miss in the last two legs of the Maktoum Challenge. He likes to go way outside for a clear run and will be coming again.
These veteran performers have taken to the dirt like they have raced on it all their lives.
One horse that deserves honorable mention is world traveler Side Glance (Passing Glance). At the age of eight, the multi-millionaire's accomplishments include a Group 3 victory in England; a Group 1 score placings in the prestigious Cox Plate (Aus-G1) and Caulfield Cup (Aus-G1) in Australia; a pair of thirds in the last two runnings of the Arlington Million (G1) stateside; and a fourth in the past two runnings of the Dubai World Cup. Throw in some trips to Hong Kong and Singapore and this guy's passport has been filled up in a remarkable career.
In an upset, I am going to go with Japanese invader Hokko Tamurae to take down the $6 million first prize. He has won his last three starts, two of them Group 1s, and had the perfect setup last month when he beat listed stakes foes as the 1-to-20 favorite. An earner of more than $8 million, Hokko Tamurae has won 15 of his 29 lifetime starts.
Last year, Hokko Tamurae raced in the World Cup on the Tapeta, ran poorly, then suffered a severe case of colic and had to be left behind before he was well enough to return to Japan. He has recovered nicely and should take full advantage of the dirt course to pull off the upset.
MARCH 26, 2015
Chrome lands outside for World Cup
by Emma Berry
California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) may have drawn widest of all for the world's richest race, Saturday's $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), but his position in stall 9 came as welcome news for trainer Art Sherman.
"I love it," proclaimed the trainer at the glitzy gathering in the Meydan theatre. "Nine is a perfect position for our horse. I've got all the speed horses to the inside of me and he loves to run from the outside."
Sherman added, "(Jockey) Victor (Espinoza) knows him really well. I'm just really glad to be here. We've gotten a lot of texts. He's a rock star in California, I can tell you that."
"This horse has got some natural speed, and he can get out, get in and keep the dirt out of his face. This is a good post for us -- we're really happy with it," stated co-owner Steve Cobourn, who stood alongside Sherman for the draw.
"This has been an amazing journey for us, to end up here," Cobourn concluded. "The hospitality we've received here -- you know that tall building out there, the tallest building in the world? Take that times 10, that's the hospitality we've received here -- it's been fantastic."
California Chrome will have to get rolling early to take on Godolphin's defending champion African Story (Pivotal), who has been drawn in stall 3 and fared much better in his recent start when winning from a more prominent position throughout in the Al Maktoum Challenge (UAE-G1). The runner-up in that race, his stablemate Prince Bishop (Dubawi), drew the inside gate.
"He won this race last year. I'm happy with stall 3," trainer Saeed bin Suroor said in regards to African Story. "He won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 -- good horses go on any surface and this is a very good horse."
Splitting the two Godolphin runners in stall 2 is Hokko Tarumae (King Kamehameha), whose compatriot Epiphaneia (Symboli Kris S) will be racing from one inside California Chrome in gate number 8.
Epiphaneia's trainer Katsuhiko Sumii was also happy with his draw, stating of last year's Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) winner, "He jumps out of the gates really well. This is a good draw to be able to see the inside horses."
Five was given to another of the American contenders, Lea (First Samurai), whose trainer Bill Mott lifted the first ever Dubai World Cup with Cigar. Mott attended the draw along with Walker Hancock and Bernie Sams of Claiborne Farm, where the six-year-old was bred.
"We're proud to have been associated with Cigar who won the first Dubai World Cup and we're excited to be back with Lea," Mott said. "I've heard that speed is a big asset here and he has tactical speed. We'll let him place himself and see what happens."
Mott added, "I think we got lucky. We'd have been happy with anything from the middle to outside draw. In a perfect world, we'd have liked to have been outside California Chrome, but we are still in a good spot."
The Doug Watson-trained Candy Boy (Candy Ride) was last to be selected and is in stall 6. Completing the field is the Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Long River (A.P. Indy) in stall 7 and Andrew Balding's admirable globetrotter Side Glance (Passing Glance), who was fourth in the last two World Cups and is drawn in stall 4.
Emerald shines bright for Powell
When Dark Emerald (Dark Angel) lines up for the $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2) Saturday, it won't just be a Dubai World Cup night first for the horse but also for his trainer Brendan Powell and jockey Adam Kirby.
Though an admirable campaigner at home in England, with five wins to his credit prior to shipping to Dubai, the hardy five-year-old has been something of a revelation since his arrival in the UAE in early January. From four starts on the turf at Meydan he has won twice and been second twice, most recently finishing runner-up to Safety Check (Dubawi) in the Zabeel Mile (UAE-G2) on February 26.
"The first time he ran I came over for a week to see the setup," said the Irish-born Powell, whose success as a jump jockey included winning the 1988 Grand National on Rhyme n' Reason. Since setting up as a trainer in 2000, he has prepared horses under both codes and currently has 23 Flat horses alongside his "10 or 12 jumpers."
"In Lambourn, we're so used to hill gallops and I got there and thought, 'How am I going to train him?'" he said. "We thought we'd run him twice and see how we got on. At the minute his work has improved so much I'm now wondering how I'm going to train him back in England, but a lot of it has to do with the warm weather and he's really blossomed since he's been out here."
As well as putting the finishing touches to the biggest runner of his career, Powell is also in the process of moving his horses from his Berkshire yard to next-door to David Lanigan at Kingsdown Stables, the former home to fellow World Cup night runner Main Sequence (Alderbaran). Though frustrating, the move takes him only a mile up the road, to a new base at Frenchman's Lodge.
While the trainer has been commuting between his horses in Lambourn and his stable star in Dubai, Dark Emerald has been looked after during his time at Meydan by Tom Cox.
"Tom's done a wonderful job with him -- he used to be a bit of wild lad but he's stepped up and taken the responsibility for him over here while I've been to and fro. I think he and the horse have grown up together," said the trainer, who first set eyes on Dark Emerald at the Goffs breeze-up sale in 2012.
"The horse had another two-year-old leading him and that doesn't happen very often these days," Powell recalled. "He was being pushed along past us but then I watched him go past the winning post and he half looked at the bend and his rider Rory Cleary gave him a slap on the shoulder and he just took off and galloped on halfway down the back straight.
"So we went and saw him with Bobby O'Ryan and we bought him -- his owners Ken and Caroline Rhatigan loved him. He ran against some good horses in nice maidens at two and all his form was good. Then he came back and won first time out at three -- he's best fresh, really."
Having been bought by the Rhatigans for £26,000, Dark Emerald now has earnings in excess of £215,000, with almost three-quarters of that tally having been earned in Dubai alone.
"I've nicknamed him the slumdog millionaire. He just keeps doing it for us," said Powell, who admits to relief that his pride and joy failed the strict vetting process required for Hong Kong when an offer came for him early in his racing career.
"He's never taken a lame step. He had some work done on his back when I noticed he was moving a bit short last year but he's been very sound," he said. "Last year he was running in the good handicaps at Goodwood and Ascot and he kept running well, finishing third and fourth, and that kept his mark high. I'm glad it did as we crept up to about a mark of 98 and I started to think he might be one to take to Dubai.
"I said to Ken that there was prize money down to sixth in these races and if he ran a couple of races in fourth or fifth he might pick up £15,000. We figured it would cost us £10,000 to come so we thought we might make a little bit but mostly have a bit of fun. He's now won £158,000. Before him I'd never even had a runner in a listed race and now he's been second in a Group 2."
Powell is deservedly enjoying his chance to shine on the big stage as a trainer, just as he once did in his riding days. The skills he possessed as a jockey have been inherited by both his children. Brendan Jr., 20, rides over jumps primarily for Colin Tizzard and his sister Jenny, 18, is a Flat apprentice formerly with Brown Panther's trainer Tom Dascombe but now attached to Henry Candy's stable after a winter riding trackwork in the United Stakes for Simon Callaghan.
"I'm proud of them both and they're both a lot cooler in their races than I ever was -- they are much more patient," Powell said. "When I rode in big races I was never nervous and I was never particularly animated when I won but with Dark Emerald this is something else. You're out there with all the big trainers -- Saeed bin Suroor came and congratulated me after his first win and I didn't think he even knew who I was."
Dark Emerald will face 15 rivals for the biggest challenge of his career on Saturday -- and his first on the dirt -- but the battler won't be running scared and neither will his trainer.
"He's a tough horse and he doesn't like to let others pass him," Powell explained. "He's been on the dirt for three and a half weeks and he's been training great. We've been working on making sure he jumps out of the stalls quickly -- all I want is for him to get out of the gate and be handy. Whatever he does, he's already done us proud.
"Being here in Dubai means an awful lot and we've had so much support from people, it's just brilliant," the trainer added. "I think it helps the sport to see smaller owners and trainers having some success like this. It makes everyone think that one day they could have a chance against some of the big names."
MARCH 25, 2015
American-based horses looking to make a serious impact in Dubai
by John Mucciolo
A very strong contingent of U.S.-based horses will take aim at various races during the 20th edition of the Dubai World Cup on Saturday at Meydan. With top runners in the most lucrative races on the day, the U.S. group might be leaving the desert with a lot of dirhams (dollars).
I've taken a look at a few of the major contenders below before departing overseas and will be reporting on-site this Saturday for the TwinSpires.com/blog.
World Cup (UAE-G1)
Reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) looms the one to beat and could be a fairly short-priced favorite in the marquee event of the day. The Art Sherman trainee was a big second in the San Antonio (G2) in his 2015 bow, finishing behind arguably the best dirt horse in training right now, and 'Chrome appears to be training forwardly since the tightener. Proven at the trip, the four-year-old has reportedly settled in nicely since his arrival and could spearhead a one-two finish from the U.S. runners.
Lea (First Samurai) is a most intriguing contender in the race and it should come as no surprise to see the six-year-old right there at the finish. Conditioned by Bill Mott, the Kentucky-bred is lightly raced since 2014 but has recorded four big efforts during that interval, coming up just short most recently in the Donn H. (G1). I'm expecting a big performance from the tactical chestnut as he makes his third start off a long layoff and Lea may wind up being my top selection. His running style, form and pedigree to thrive at the trip, combined, makes him most interesting.
Sheema Classic (UAE-G1)
Champion turf star Main Sequence (Aldebaran) has blossomed into a sensational performer since being importing to the U.S. and teamed with savvy horseman Graham Motion. The late-blooming six-year-old gelding does his best running late but leaves little doubt at the same time, and his last two performances were visually phenomenal. A decisive winner over a top the field in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) two prior, Main Sequence showed off his rapid acceleration in the stretch to take the February 21 Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) with ease and could be even stronger for this test. In a field loaded like this one, it's possible that we might get a hint of value on the explosive closer.
Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1)
A three-pronged attack of U.S. entrants figure to have a big say in the outcome of this sprint event. Secret Circle (Eddington) has dropped six straight starts since winning the 2013 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) and it's possible to doubt whether he'll be in absolute peak form on Saturday, but the Bob Baffert-trained horse almost always runs big (with five placings in his six losses) and figures to be ready for his Hall of Fame conditioner.
Grade 1 hero Big Macher (Beau Genius) is a touch below the top contenders in this heat, though the Richard Baltas-trained former claimer is more than capable on his best day, and American runners have had a huge impact on this race when on dirt, historically.
Salutos Amigos (Salute the Sarge) brings razor-sharp form with a four-race win streak and the five-year-old gelding packs an outstanding late punch for trainer David Jacobson. One of the top sprinters on the East Coast, he must avoid leaving himself too much to do, especially over a track that has played kindly to front-running types, but Salutos Amigos rates as a viable top-three contender if he shows up with his best.
Dubai Turf (UAE-G1)
The Todd Pletcher-trained Mshawish (Medaglia d'Oro) has been a fine performer this winter in Florida, reeling off a trio of stakes wins in succession, and is another who has impressed from a visual standpoint. The five-year-old may be a cut below a few of these from a class perspective, perhaps, but the Grade 1 winner has been in superb form. He checked in fourth last year behind the mighty Just A Way in this event and could be knocking at the door inside the final furlong on Saturday at a fair price.
Godolphin Mile (G2)
This race always seems difficult for me to gauge and it's the same situation in regards to the U. S. contingent this year. A three-pronged attack with Bradester (Lion Heart), Prayer for Relief (Jump Start) and Quadrivium (Henrythenavigator) will go postward, and while I am not fond with any of the trio, their dirt experience could be a big edge in a field that is often wide open. Of the group, Prayer for Relief has perhaps the best chance to pick up some pieces late after having knocked heads in some big spots stateside and could be a nice horse to key underneath in the vertical exotics.
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