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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2015

Racing Headlines

Dortmund looking to remain unblemished in Santa Anita Derby

Dortmund will square off against familiar foes in his final Kentucky Derby prep (Benoit Photos)

Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) features a rematch between the top three finishers in the March 7 San Felipe (G2), including race winner Dortmund (Big Brown), who was made the 3-5 morning line favorite to remain undefeated going into next month's Kentucky Derby (G1).

Currently pegged as no worse than second choice in the Run for the Roses, rated above or slightly behind champion stablemate American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), Dortmund has carved out an impressive resume winning all five starts to date. The massive Bob Baffert-trained chestnut, who displayed stalk-and-pounce tendencies at two, has shown tactical versatility at Santa Anita this winter winning the San Felipe, and the Robert B. Lewis (G3) before that, racing on or near the lead.

While forced to courageously re-rally in the Lewis, Dortmund had a relatively easier time in the San Felipe, taking the lead from the start and leaving plenty in the tank to safely repel a late charge from Prospect Park (Tapit) to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

The San Felipe was the stakes debut for Prospect Park, who was exiting back-to-back wins going a route. Following a photo-finish maiden win going 1 1/16 miles in late December, the Clifford Sise trainee romped by more than five lengths against allowance foes at the end of January.

Bolo (Temple City) was third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Dortmund, in the San Felipe while making his dirt debut. Bolo had won two of three starts on grass prior to that, including the $75,000 Eddie Logan. Mike Smith regains the mount on Bolo after riding also-ran Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) in the San Felipe.

Baffert has a second rooting interest in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby in One Lucky Dane (Lookin at Lucky), who has dominated maiden and allowance foes over the track. Exiting a 9 3/4-length allowance win March 19, the bay was sixth in his only prior stakes appearance in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

Completing the field are Cross the Line (Line of David), the California Derby winner and El Camino Real Derby (G3) runner-up, and Bad Read Sanchez (Warrior's Reward), who has not raced since finishing third in the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar last August.

The winner of the Santa Anita Derby will receive 100 qualifying points as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Among the supporting features on Saturday is the $150,000 Providencia (G3), a nine-furlong turf race for three-year-old fillies. Former European mainstays Prize Exhibit (Showcasing), Spirit of Xian (Kodiac), and Havana Belle (Teofilo) are likely to have significant backing, as might recent maiden scorers Entrechat (Giant's Causeway) and Spanish Queen (Tribal Rule).

Looking for more stakes glory are Ol' Fashion Gal (Sky Mesa), who took the Jimmy Durante (G3) at Del Mar in November, and Lutine Belle (Bellamy Road), who landed the one-mile Blue Norther on New Year's Day.

A high-quality renewal of the $75,000 Thunder Road for older horses features Winning Prize (Pure Prize), who seeks to reverse a streak of three unplaced efforts since his victory in the 2014 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1). Also in the lineup is Grade 3 winner Quick Casablanca (Until Sundown), who makes his first start since a runner-up finish in the San Juan Capistrano (G2) last June.

Drawn outside in the one-mile grass test are Ganesh (Sulamani), a Group 1 winner in Argentina when last seen in September, and the Grade 2-winning mare Moulin de Mougin (Curlin). Stuck on the also-eligible list is Gabriel Charles (Street Hero), who captured a division of the 2013 Del Mar Derby (G2) but has been sidelined since running second in that season's Twilight Derby (G2).

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Dortmund looking to remain unblemished in Santa Anita Derby

Dortmund will square off against familiar foes in his final Kentucky Derby prep (Benoit Photos)

Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) features a rematch between the top three finishers in the March 7 San Felipe (G2), including race winner Dortmund (Big Brown), who was made the 3-5 morning line favorite to remain undefeated going into next month's Kentucky Derby (G1).

Currently pegged as no worse than second choice in the Run for the Roses, rated above or slightly behind champion stablemate American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), Dortmund has carved out an impressive resume winning all five starts to date. The massive Bob Baffert-trained chestnut, who displayed stalk-and-pounce tendencies at two, has shown tactical versatility at Santa Anita this winter winning the San Felipe, and the Robert B. Lewis (G3) before that, racing on or near the lead.

While forced to courageously re-rally in the Lewis, Dortmund had a relatively easier time in the San Felipe, taking the lead from the start and leaving plenty in the tank to safely repel a late charge from Prospect Park (Tapit) to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

The San Felipe was the stakes debut for Prospect Park, who was exiting back-to-back wins going a route. Following a photo-finish maiden win going 1 1/16 miles in late December, the Clifford Sise trainee romped by more than five lengths against allowance foes at the end of January.

Bolo (Temple City) was third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Dortmund, in the San Felipe while making his dirt debut. Bolo had won two of three starts on grass prior to that, including the $75,000 Eddie Logan. Mike Smith regains the mount on Bolo after riding also-ran Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) in the San Felipe.

Baffert has a second rooting interest in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby in One Lucky Dane (Lookin at Lucky), who has dominated maiden and allowance foes over the track. Exiting a 9 3/4-length allowance win March 19, the bay was sixth in his only prior stakes appearance in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

Completing the field are Cross the Line (Line of David), the California Derby winner and El Camino Real Derby (G3) runner-up, and Bad Read Sanchez (Warrior's Reward), who has not raced since finishing third in the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar last August.

The winner of the Santa Anita Derby will receive 100 qualifying points as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Among the supporting features on Saturday is the $150,000 Providencia (G3), a nine-furlong turf race for three-year-old fillies. Former European mainstays Prize Exhibit (Showcasing), Spirit of Xian (Kodiac), and Havana Belle (Teofilo) are likely to have significant backing, as might recent maiden scorers Entrechat (Giant's Causeway) and Spanish Queen (Tribal Rule).

Looking for more stakes glory are Ol' Fashion Gal (Sky Mesa), who took the Jimmy Durante (G3) at Del Mar in November, and Lutine Belle (Bellamy Road), who landed the one-mile Blue Norther on New Year's Day.

A high-quality renewal of the $75,000 Thunder Road for older horses features Winning Prize (Pure Prize), who seeks to reverse a streak of three unplaced efforts since his victory in the 2014 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1). Also in the lineup is Grade 3 winner Quick Casablanca (Until Sundown), who makes his first start since a runner-up finish in the San Juan Capistrano (G2) last June.

Drawn outside in the one-mile grass test are Ganesh (Sulamani), a Group 1 winner in Argentina when last seen in September, and the Grade 2-winning mare Moulin de Mougin (Curlin). Stuck on the also-eligible list is Gabriel Charles (Street Hero), who captured a division of the 2013 Del Mar Derby (G2) but has been sidelined since running second in that season's Twilight Derby (G2).

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

El Kabeir the one to beat in TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial

El Kabeir will be seeking his fourth graded stakes win since late November (Adam Coglianese Photo)

El Kabeir (Scat Daddy) thrived over the winter at Aqueduct, posting convincing wins in the Gotham (G3) and Jerome (G3), and will enter the Kentucky Derby (G1) as the points' leader if able to carry his form forward in Saturday's $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (G1).

The 1 1/8-mile race serves as one of the final major prep races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers, and El Kabeir presently sits fifth on the Leaderboard with 75 points. No other Kentucky Derby prospect will be able to match a 175-point total if he captures the prestigious event.

The Zayat Stables colorbearer's lone setback this winter, a runner-up in the Withers (G3) two starts back, came at the hands of Far From Over (Blame), who was sidelined earlier this week due to an injury. That defection could easily lead to El Kabeir being favored on Saturday, especially given the outstanding turn of foot he offered to win the Gotham going away by 2 3/4 lengths, but track oddsmaker Eric Donovan has tabbed the gray colt as the 3-1 third choice on the morning line.

El Kabeir will be switching from the inner oval to the main track and the John Terranova trainee drew post 5 in the seven-horse field with regular rider C.C. Lopez.

A pair of Florida invaders, Daredevil (More Than Ready) and Frosted (Tapit), are the top two morning line choices at 9-5 and 5-2, respectively.

Dareveil earned a 104 BRIS Speed rating when capturing the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park last October and received an outstanding 106 for his 2015 bow, a runner-up finish in the seven-furlong Swale (G2) on March 7. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt will be seeking his first victory around two turns, faltering to last after a troubled trip in his lone previous attempt, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), but jockey Javier Castellano has not lost faith in the chestnut and will retain the assignment.

The Big Beast has captured four straight  (Lauren King/Coglianese Photography)

Frosted broke his maiden on Aqueduct's main track in late October and concluded his sophomore campaign with a runner-up in the Remsen (G2). He opened this year with a respectable second to Upstart (Flatter) in the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park but suddenly went off form for Kiaran McLaughlin in the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2), coughing up the lead in upper stretch as he quickly retreated to fourth. The gray colt picks up a new rider in Joel Rosario as he attempts to rebound.

Tiz Shea D (Tiznow) is potentially dangerous in his third career start. Sold and transferred to Bill Mott following a February 7 debut maiden win at Parx, the well-bred colt closed courageously up the rail in tight quarters to grab second when making his first start against winners in the Gotham. The late Triple Crown nominee is a candidate for further improvement and is listed at 8-1 from the rail with new jockey Manny Franco.

A trio of expected longshots -- Lieutenant Colonel (Colonel John), Tencendur (Warrior's Reward) and Toasting Master (Congrats) -- completes the line-up.

One race after the Wood, a nice group of eight sprinters will contest the $400,000 Carter H. (G1) at seven furlongs. The Big Beast (Yes It's True) made his stakes bow a winning one in the King's Bishop (G1) at Saratoga last August but was sidelined afterward. He returned with a facile allowance tally at Oaklawn Park on March 16, generating his third consecutive century-topping BRIS Speed rating in the process, and the Tony Dutrow charge will be reunited with Castellano in this spot.

Palace (City Zip), who established himself as a top sprinter on the East Coast last year with victories in the Forego (G1), A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) and True North (G2), merits respect in his 2015 debut. The Linda Rice pupil was last seen finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). Wild Dude (Wildcat Heir) has shipped for Jerry Hollendorfer off a victory in the March 7 San Carlos (G2) at Santa Anita and will add local rider Irad Ortiz Jr. to the irons.

Dads Caps (Discreet Cat) makes a title defense, posting a 10-1 wire-to-wire upset last year, and will get to avoid Salutos Amigos (Salute the Sarge) after finishing second to that rival in the Tom Fool (G3) and Toboggan (G3) in his last two outings. And multiple Grade 3 scorer Clearly Now (Horse Greeley) is also past of the salty field.

Earlier on the program, Ready to Rye (City Zip) heads a field of eight sophomores in the $300,000 Bay Shore (G3) at seven furlongs. The Tom Albertrani-trained gelding exits a 2 3/4-length score over Daredevil in the aforementioned Swale, generating a career-best 110 BRIS Speed figure, and will keep Luis Saez up.

His top challengers include San Vicente (G2) winner Lord Nelson (Pulpit), who is now pointing toward one-turn races for Bob Baffert after failing in all three route attempts (three for three in sprints), and local stakes victor Ackeret (Mach Ride).

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

El Kabeir the one to beat in TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial

El Kabeir will be seeking his fourth graded stakes win since late November (Adam Coglianese Photo)

El Kabeir (Scat Daddy) thrived over the winter at Aqueduct, posting convincing wins in the Gotham (G3) and Jerome (G3), and will enter the Kentucky Derby (G1) as the points' leader if able to carry his form forward in Saturday's $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (G1).

The 1 1/8-mile race serves as one of the final major prep races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers, and El Kabeir presently sits fifth on the Leaderboard with 75 points. No other Kentucky Derby prospect will be able to match a 175-point total if he captures the prestigious event.

The Zayat Stables colorbearer's lone setback this winter, a runner-up in the Withers (G3) two starts back, came at the hands of Far From Over (Blame), who was sidelined earlier this week due to an injury. That defection could easily lead to El Kabeir being favored on Saturday, especially given the outstanding turn of foot he offered to win the Gotham going away by 2 3/4 lengths, but track oddsmaker Eric Donovan has tabbed the gray colt as the 3-1 third choice on the morning line.

El Kabeir will be switching from the inner oval to the main track and the John Terranova trainee drew post 5 in the seven-horse field with regular rider C.C. Lopez.

A pair of Florida invaders, Daredevil (More Than Ready) and Frosted (Tapit), are the top two morning line choices at 9-5 and 5-2, respectively.

Dareveil earned a 104 BRIS Speed rating when capturing the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park last October and received an outstanding 106 for his 2015 bow, a runner-up finish in the seven-furlong Swale (G2) on March 7. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt will be seeking his first victory around two turns, faltering to last after a troubled trip in his lone previous attempt, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), but jockey Javier Castellano has not lost faith in the chestnut and will retain the assignment.

The Big Beast has captured four straight  (Lauren King/Coglianese Photography)

Frosted broke his maiden on Aqueduct's main track in late October and concluded his sophomore campaign with a runner-up in the Remsen (G2). He opened this year with a respectable second to Upstart (Flatter) in the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park but suddenly went off form for Kiaran McLaughlin in the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2), coughing up the lead in upper stretch as he quickly retreated to fourth. The gray colt picks up a new rider in Joel Rosario as he attempts to rebound.

Tiz Shea D (Tiznow) is potentially dangerous in his third career start. Sold and transferred to Bill Mott following a February 7 debut maiden win at Parx, the well-bred colt closed courageously up the rail in tight quarters to grab second when making his first start against winners in the Gotham. The late Triple Crown nominee is a candidate for further improvement and is listed at 8-1 from the rail with new jockey Manny Franco.

A trio of expected longshots -- Lieutenant Colonel (Colonel John), Tencendur (Warrior's Reward) and Toasting Master (Congrats) -- completes the line-up.

One race after the Wood, a nice group of eight sprinters will contest the $400,000 Carter H. (G1) at seven furlongs. The Big Beast (Yes It's True) made his stakes bow a winning one in the King's Bishop (G1) at Saratoga last August but was sidelined afterward. He returned with a facile allowance tally at Oaklawn Park on March 16, generating his third consecutive century-topping BRIS Speed rating in the process, and the Tony Dutrow charge will be reunited with Castellano in this spot.

Palace (City Zip), who established himself as a top sprinter on the East Coast last year with victories in the Forego (G1), A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) and True North (G2), merits respect in his 2015 debut. The Linda Rice pupil was last seen finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). Wild Dude (Wildcat Heir) has shipped for Jerry Hollendorfer off a victory in the March 7 San Carlos (G2) at Santa Anita and will add local rider Irad Ortiz Jr. to the irons.

Dads Caps (Discreet Cat) makes a title defense, posting a 10-1 wire-to-wire upset last year, and will get to avoid Salutos Amigos (Salute the Sarge) after finishing second to that rival in the Tom Fool (G3) and Toboggan (G3) in his last two outings. And multiple Grade 3 scorer Clearly Now (Horse Greeley) is also past of the salty field.

Earlier on the program, Ready to Rye (City Zip) heads a field of eight sophomores in the $300,000 Bay Shore (G3) at seven furlongs. The Tom Albertrani-trained gelding exits a 2 3/4-length score over Daredevil in the aforementioned Swale, generating a career-best 110 BRIS Speed figure, and will keep Luis Saez up.

His top challengers include San Vicente (G2) winner Lord Nelson (Pulpit), who is now pointing toward one-turn races for Bob Baffert after failing in all three route attempts (three for three in sprints), and local stakes victor Ackeret (Mach Ride).

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Final four major Oaks preps on tap

Condo Commando looks much the best in the Gazelle (Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The final four major preps for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) take place on Saturday throughout the United States, and each one offers up points on a 100-40-20-10 scale toward a starting berth in the "Run for the Lilies" at Churchill Downs on May 1. One more will follow, the $250,000 Beaumont S. (G2) on April 12 at Keeneland, but it's only worth 10-4-2-1.

Aqueduct's $300,000 Gazelle S. (G2) will kick off the Oaks action Saturday when sending seven sophomore fillies 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Condo Commando (Tiz Wonderful) easily tops the group off a pair of romping wins in the Demoiselle S. (G2) and Busher S. in her past two. The Demoiselle closed out the dark bay filly's juvenile season over track and distance, while the Busher took place on the inner dirt at 1 1/16 miles. It was a nice 4 3/4-length opening volley from the Rudy Rodriguez trainee, who gets Joel Rosario, aboard for the Demoiselle, back in the saddle.

Noble and Beauty (Noble Causeway) will do her best to challenge Condo Commando while stretching out for the first time. Previously the Rick Violette Jr. pupil was an eight-length scorer in the six-furlong Cicada S. on March 15, which followed a close nose second in the Ruthless S. going the same distance. Noble and Beauty took her maiden debut on the main track last November while going 6 1/2 furlongs, and retains regular rider Jose Ortiz for this test.

Puca (Big Brown) and Wonder Gal (Tiz Wonderful) already own a spot on the Oaks leaderboard, but need a win on Saturday if they want a guaranteed spot in the starting gate on May 1. With the other preps taking place, even second couldn't ensure they make the Oaks field.

Puca has a slight advantage on Wonder Gal in that she's already started this season. The Bill Mott filly exited a sixth-placing in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to be fourth in the Davona Dale S. (G2) on February 21. Manuel Franco has the call Saturday. Wonder Gal is making her three-year-old bow in this spot off a third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, with followed placings in the Frizette S. (G1) and Adirondack S. (G2) in New York. Leah Gyarmati has tabbed Irad Ortiz Jr. for the mount.

Sarah Sis already defeated some of her Fantasy foes in the Honeybee (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

About an hour following the Gazelle, another field of seven will go 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in the $500,000 Ashland S. (G1). Around 40 minutes later, the largest group of Oaks hopefuls will take to Oaklawn Park's main track in the $400,000 Fantasy S. (G3).

That latter 8 1/2-furlong affair drew 11 runners, including six from the Oaks leaderboard. Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor) is one of those six after taking the Honeybee S. (G3) over track and distance on March 7. That followed a nice head second to sidelined champion and early Oaks favorite Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) in the Martha Washington S. on January 31 and a neck second 16 days earlier in the Dixie Belle S. Julio Felix was aboard Sarah for each of those runs and will holds the reins on the Ingrid Mason charge Saturday.

Feathered (Indian Charlie) currently has seven points and sits in 27th on the Oaks leaderboard, so the Todd Pletcher pupil really needs to win the Fantasy for a guaranteed spot in the Oaks starting gate. She'll also have to run better than her fourth-placing against allowance/optional claimers on March 6 in her sophomore debut. Ricardo Santana Jr. will be in the saddle for the first time.

Oceanwave (Harlan's Holiday), Pangburn (Congrats) and Purr (Bluegrass Cat) finished behind Sarah Sis in that order in the Honeybee and will be looking to turn the tables while securing an Oaks berth. Achiever's Legacy (City Zip) is the final filly from the leaderboard in the Fantasy field, having run fourth in the Santa Ysabel S. (G3) and third in the Las Virgenes S. (G1) in her last two.

Stellar Wind is looking for her third straight victory on Saturday in the Santa Anita Oaks (Benoit Photos)

The $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) completes the preps on Saturday and drew a field of eight to go 1 1/16 miles. Stellar Wind (Curlin), Light the City (Street Sense) and Glory (Tapit) were the respective top three in the February 28 Santa Ysabel S. (G3) and line back up here.

Stellar Wind boasts 50 points and position eight on the Oaks leaderboard, while Light the City is three back in 11th with 24 points. Neither they nor Glory has started since the Santa Ysabel, though they have been working up a storm for this rematch.

Singing Kitty (Ministers Wild Cat), Curlin's Fox (Curlin) and She's a Big Winner (Bellamy Road) are something of an enigma in the race in that they were one-two-three, respectively, in the grassy China Doll S. last out on March 7. Singing Kitty also captured the California Cup Oaks on the turf, She's a Big Winner scored in the Sweet Life S. on Santa Anita's sod and Curlin's Fox will be making her main track debut in the Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Final four major Oaks preps on tap

Condo Commando looks much the best in the Gazelle (Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The final four major preps for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) take place on Saturday throughout the United States, and each one offers up points on a 100-40-20-10 scale toward a starting berth in the "Run for the Lilies" at Churchill Downs on May 1. One more will follow, the $250,000 Beaumont S. (G2) on April 12 at Keeneland, but it's only worth 10-4-2-1.

Aqueduct's $300,000 Gazelle S. (G2) will kick off the Oaks action Saturday when sending seven sophomore fillies 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Condo Commando (Tiz Wonderful) easily tops the group off a pair of romping wins in the Demoiselle S. (G2) and Busher S. in her past two. The Demoiselle closed out the dark bay filly's juvenile season over track and distance, while the Busher took place on the inner dirt at 1 1/16 miles. It was a nice 4 3/4-length opening volley from the Rudy Rodriguez trainee, who gets Joel Rosario, aboard for the Demoiselle, back in the saddle.

Noble and Beauty (Noble Causeway) will do her best to challenge Condo Commando while stretching out for the first time. Previously the Rick Violette Jr. pupil was an eight-length scorer in the six-furlong Cicada S. on March 15, which followed a close nose second in the Ruthless S. going the same distance. Noble and Beauty took her maiden debut on the main track last November while going 6 1/2 furlongs, and retains regular rider Jose Ortiz for this test.

Puca (Big Brown) and Wonder Gal (Tiz Wonderful) already own a spot on the Oaks leaderboard, but need a win on Saturday if they want a guaranteed spot in the starting gate on May 1. With the other preps taking place, even second couldn't ensure they make the Oaks field.

Puca has a slight advantage on Wonder Gal in that she's already started this season. The Bill Mott filly exited a sixth-placing in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to be fourth in the Davona Dale S. (G2) on February 21. Manuel Franco has the call Saturday. Wonder Gal is making her three-year-old bow in this spot off a third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, with followed placings in the Frizette S. (G1) and Adirondack S. (G2) in New York. Leah Gyarmati has tabbed Irad Ortiz Jr. for the mount.

Sarah Sis already defeated some of her Fantasy foes in the Honeybee (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

About an hour following the Gazelle, another field of seven will go 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in the $500,000 Ashland S. (G1). Around 40 minutes later, the largest group of Oaks hopefuls will take to Oaklawn Park's main track in the $400,000 Fantasy S. (G3).

That latter 8 1/2-furlong affair drew 11 runners, including six from the Oaks leaderboard. Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor) is one of those six after taking the Honeybee S. (G3) over track and distance on March 7. That followed a nice head second to sidelined champion and early Oaks favorite Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) in the Martha Washington S. on January 31 and a neck second 16 days earlier in the Dixie Belle S. Julio Felix was aboard Sarah for each of those runs and will holds the reins on the Ingrid Mason charge Saturday.

Feathered (Indian Charlie) currently has seven points and sits in 27th on the Oaks leaderboard, so the Todd Pletcher pupil really needs to win the Fantasy for a guaranteed spot in the Oaks starting gate. She'll also have to run better than her fourth-placing against allowance/optional claimers on March 6 in her sophomore debut. Ricardo Santana Jr. will be in the saddle for the first time.

Oceanwave (Harlan's Holiday), Pangburn (Congrats) and Purr (Bluegrass Cat) finished behind Sarah Sis in that order in the Honeybee and will be looking to turn the tables while securing an Oaks berth. Achiever's Legacy (City Zip) is the final filly from the leaderboard in the Fantasy field, having run fourth in the Santa Ysabel S. (G3) and third in the Las Virgenes S. (G1) in her last two.

Stellar Wind is looking for her third straight victory on Saturday in the Santa Anita Oaks (Benoit Photos)

The $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) completes the preps on Saturday and drew a field of eight to go 1 1/16 miles. Stellar Wind (Curlin), Light the City (Street Sense) and Glory (Tapit) were the respective top three in the February 28 Santa Ysabel S. (G3) and line back up here.

Stellar Wind boasts 50 points and position eight on the Oaks leaderboard, while Light the City is three back in 11th with 24 points. Neither they nor Glory has started since the Santa Ysabel, though they have been working up a storm for this rematch.

Singing Kitty (Ministers Wild Cat), Curlin's Fox (Curlin) and She's a Big Winner (Bellamy Road) are something of an enigma in the race in that they were one-two-three, respectively, in the grassy China Doll S. last out on March 7. Singing Kitty also captured the California Cup Oaks on the turf, She's a Big Winner scored in the Sweet Life S. on Santa Anita's sod and Curlin's Fox will be making her main track debut in the Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

The Truth or Else sizzles five-eighths for Arkansas Derby

The Truth or Else's one win came last September at Belmont Park (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The Truth Or Else will add blinkers for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 11 at Oaklawn Park, trainer Kenny McPeek said following the colt's sizzling workout Wednesday morning under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel.

The chestnut colt, in his second breeze while sporting blinkers, covered five furlongs over the fast dirt in :58 4/5 shortly after the renovation break, easily the quickest of 27 works recorded at the distance. on the day.

The Truth Or Else broke off approximately eight lengths behind three-year-old stablemate Fracula (Rockport Harbor). He easily collared his work partner on the outside in midstretch and was drawing away at the finish as Borel remained chilly. Following splits of :11 4/5, :23 1/5 and :35 4/5, The Truth Or Else galloped out six furlongs in 1:11 4/50. Fracula was credited with five furlongs in 1:00 3/5.

McPeek said The Truth Or Else, exiting a fourth-place finish in the March 14 Rebel S. (G2), went a little faster than he wanted, but added that the colt "obviously has a lot of talent."

"He broke off a little bit far behind that horse," McPeek said. "He was supposed to be about two or three lengths back and ended up eight or 10. But he still outran him, so, I mean, it was a pretty impressive breeze, other than I probably wanted him to go closer to 1:00. But, this is a good problem to have."

After finishing a closing second in the February 22 Southwest S. (G3), The Truth Or Else was beaten 10 lengths by champion American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) in the Rebel. McPeek said he wants The Truth Or Else more forwardly placed in the Arkansas Derby, which is scheduled to attract, among others, the wire-to-wire Rebel winner.

"He just got too far back the last time," McPeek asserted, referring to why he's adding blinkers. "We've got to find another gear, another level with our horse. I do think this will help him be more focused. He needs to get himself up in the game the first half-mile next week."

Assuming the weather is good, McPeek said The Truth Or Else will have an "easy" work Tuesday morning.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

The Truth or Else sizzles five-eighths for Arkansas Derby

The Truth or Else's one win came last September at Belmont Park (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The Truth Or Else will add blinkers for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 11 at Oaklawn Park, trainer Kenny McPeek said following the colt's sizzling workout Wednesday morning under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel.

The chestnut colt, in his second breeze while sporting blinkers, covered five furlongs over the fast dirt in :58 4/5 shortly after the renovation break, easily the quickest of 27 works recorded at the distance. on the day.

The Truth Or Else broke off approximately eight lengths behind three-year-old stablemate Fracula (Rockport Harbor). He easily collared his work partner on the outside in midstretch and was drawing away at the finish as Borel remained chilly. Following splits of :11 4/5, :23 1/5 and :35 4/5, The Truth Or Else galloped out six furlongs in 1:11 4/50. Fracula was credited with five furlongs in 1:00 3/5.

McPeek said The Truth Or Else, exiting a fourth-place finish in the March 14 Rebel S. (G2), went a little faster than he wanted, but added that the colt "obviously has a lot of talent."

"He broke off a little bit far behind that horse," McPeek said. "He was supposed to be about two or three lengths back and ended up eight or 10. But he still outran him, so, I mean, it was a pretty impressive breeze, other than I probably wanted him to go closer to 1:00. But, this is a good problem to have."

After finishing a closing second in the February 22 Southwest S. (G3), The Truth Or Else was beaten 10 lengths by champion American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) in the Rebel. McPeek said he wants The Truth Or Else more forwardly placed in the Arkansas Derby, which is scheduled to attract, among others, the wire-to-wire Rebel winner.

"He just got too far back the last time," McPeek asserted, referring to why he's adding blinkers. "We've got to find another gear, another level with our horse. I do think this will help him be more focused. He needs to get himself up in the game the first half-mile next week."

Assuming the weather is good, McPeek said The Truth Or Else will have an "easy" work Tuesday morning.

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California Chrome, Karakontie among 36 entries for Lockinge

Breeders' Cup Mile upsetter Karakontie has the May 16 Lockinge at Newbury on his agenda (Lauren Pomeroy/Horsephotos.com)

A fantastic entry of 36 has been received for the Lockinge S. (Eng-G1) at Newbury on May 16. The mile contest on turf is an early-season highlight for older horses and boasts a much-improved prize fund of £350,000, 64 per cent up on last year's £214,000.

Exciting international entries are headlined by U.S. Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit). The four-year-old won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) impressively last year, and was mostly recently runner-up in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) on March 28.

He won on his only appearance on turf, capturing the Hollywood Derby (G1) over nine furlongs at Del Mar in November and could make his European debut in the Lockinge.

Another U.S.-trained entry is Mshawish (Medaglia d'Oro), successful in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) in February and third in the Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) at Meydan on March 28.

The Lockinge Stakes is the likely starting point for last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) hero Karakontie (Bernstein). The four-year-old, who also enjoyed classic success in the French Two Thousand Guineas (Fr-G1), is one of five French-trained contenders for the Newbury race over a straight mile.

Alan Cooper, racing manager to Karakontie's owner the Niarchos Family, said: "Karakontie has wintered well and the Lockinge Stakes is the race we are looking at. We will obviously have to see nearer the time but we feel he is a horse who needs good ground so he may well make his reappearance at Newbury. We have also entered a pacemaker, Maximum Velocity (Muhtathir).

"Karakontie won very well at the Breeders' Cup and there was no fluke about his performance in America. After he won the French Two Thousand Guineas, we got him ready for the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-G1) but he did not appreciate the extra distance and it took him a long time to get over it.

"He was not really sparking and it was not until the second half of September that he really began to flourish again. He got massacred in the (Prix de la) Foret (Fr-G1) but kept improving and in California he was in top form.

"The objective after the Lockinge Stakes will be the Queen Anne S. (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot. Then you have got races like the Sussex S. (Eng-G1) and the Prix Jacques les Marois (Fr-G1) -- essentially he will be kept to the top mile races."

The French-trained contenders for the Lockinge are completed by 1 winner Ectot (Hurricane Run), last season's French Two Thousand Guineas runner-up Prestige Vendome (Orpen) and high-class filly Bawina (Dubawi).

Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien has entered last season's Diamond Jubilee S. (Eng-G1) runner-up Due Diligence (War Front) plus Cougar Mountain (Fastnet Rock) and Oklahoma City (Oasis Dream).

Britain's champion trainer Richard Hannon Jr. is likely to run last year's Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) victor Night of Thunder (Dubawi) and Toormore (Arakan), who was Europe's champion two-year-old in 2013.

Other high-profile entries include Integral (Dalakhani) and Rizeena (Iffraaj), who are both dual Grade 1 winners.

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California Chrome, Karakontie among 36 entries for Lockinge

Breeders' Cup Mile upsetter Karakontie has the May 16 Lockinge at Newbury on his agenda (Lauren Pomeroy/Horsephotos.com)

A fantastic entry of 36 has been received for the Lockinge S. (Eng-G1) at Newbury on May 16. The mile contest on turf is an early-season highlight for older horses and boasts a much-improved prize fund of £350,000, 64 per cent up on last year's £214,000.

Exciting international entries are headlined by U.S. Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit). The four-year-old won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) impressively last year, and was mostly recently runner-up in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) on March 28.

He won on his only appearance on turf, capturing the Hollywood Derby (G1) over nine furlongs at Del Mar in November and could make his European debut in the Lockinge.

Another U.S.-trained entry is Mshawish (Medaglia d'Oro), successful in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) in February and third in the Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) at Meydan on March 28.

The Lockinge Stakes is the likely starting point for last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) hero Karakontie (Bernstein). The four-year-old, who also enjoyed classic success in the French Two Thousand Guineas (Fr-G1), is one of five French-trained contenders for the Newbury race over a straight mile.

Alan Cooper, racing manager to Karakontie's owner the Niarchos Family, said: "Karakontie has wintered well and the Lockinge Stakes is the race we are looking at. We will obviously have to see nearer the time but we feel he is a horse who needs good ground so he may well make his reappearance at Newbury. We have also entered a pacemaker, Maximum Velocity (Muhtathir).

"Karakontie won very well at the Breeders' Cup and there was no fluke about his performance in America. After he won the French Two Thousand Guineas, we got him ready for the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-G1) but he did not appreciate the extra distance and it took him a long time to get over it.

"He was not really sparking and it was not until the second half of September that he really began to flourish again. He got massacred in the (Prix de la) Foret (Fr-G1) but kept improving and in California he was in top form.

"The objective after the Lockinge Stakes will be the Queen Anne S. (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot. Then you have got races like the Sussex S. (Eng-G1) and the Prix Jacques les Marois (Fr-G1) -- essentially he will be kept to the top mile races."

The French-trained contenders for the Lockinge are completed by 1 winner Ectot (Hurricane Run), last season's French Two Thousand Guineas runner-up Prestige Vendome (Orpen) and high-class filly Bawina (Dubawi).

Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien has entered last season's Diamond Jubilee S. (Eng-G1) runner-up Due Diligence (War Front) plus Cougar Mountain (Fastnet Rock) and Oklahoma City (Oasis Dream).

Britain's champion trainer Richard Hannon Jr. is likely to run last year's Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) victor Night of Thunder (Dubawi) and Toormore (Arakan), who was Europe's champion two-year-old in 2013.

Other high-profile entries include Integral (Dalakhani) and Rizeena (Iffraaj), who are both dual Grade 1 winners.

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Prix Djebel, Imprudence start Guineas trial season

Thursday's Prix Djebel (Fr-G3) at Maisons-Laffitte offers the opportunity for a clutch of French colts to stake a claim for the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1), with one of the most intriguing being the unbeaten Andre Fabre project Make Believe (Makfi).

A half-brother to the high-class Dubawi Heights (Dubawi), Prince Faisal's rare foal purchase had the re-opposing fellow Guineas entry Sinfonietta (Sinndar) back in second on his debut over 7 1/2 furlongs at Deauville in late October before following up over the same trip at Saint-Cloud the following month. By Makfi, who annexed this race in 2010 prior to taking Newmarket by storm, the unexposed colt will make a serious impact on the upcoming classic if he is able to upstage some solid if unexciting rivals.

Chief among them is Nucifera (More Than Ready), who met his match in Full Mast (Mizzen Mast) when second in the Prix la Rochette (Fr-G3) at Longchamp in September before finishing eighth of nine in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Fr-G1) back there on Arc day.

Full Mast's stable companion Alpha Bravo (Oasis Dream) represents Khalid Abdullah and Criquette Head-Maarek here, having filled the runner's-up spot behind the enterprisingly ridden Fabre-trained filly Alea Iacta (Invincible Spirit) in the Prix Thomas Bryon (Fr-G3) over a mile at Saint-Cloud in October. Despite being comprehensively outgunned by that lone runner, the homebred still managed to best Karaktar (High Chaparral) as he won the battle for minor honors on the far rail and the Aga Khan's colt was very impressive in the Prix Francois Mathet on Saturday.

In the absence of the One Thousand Guineas(Eng-G1)-bound High Celebrity (Invincible Spirit), Thursday's Prix Imprudence (Fr-G3) looks a soft touch for Ervedya (Siyouni). Whether or not the leading three-year-old filly of the Pau stable of Jean-Claude Rouget will be in the line-up across the sea in just over four weeks' time remains to be seen, but she would be one of the main contenders if she builds on her solid juvenile form.

Last seen finishing runner-up to Ballydoyle's current Guineas ante-post favorite Found (Galileo) in the flagship Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-G1) on Longchamp's Arc card, the homebred who had previously won over six furlongs in Deauville's Prix de Cabourg (Fr-G3) and finished third in that track's Prix Morny (Fr-G1) in August sets the standard.

If there is a "dark horse" lurking among the field, it could be Fontanelice (Vale of York), who has been switched to the Criquette Head-Maarek barn which holds the record of 10 winners of this prize. Formerly with Stefano Botti, one of the luminaries of a beleaguered Italian racing scene in 2014 dead-heated in the six-furlong Premio Primi Passi (Ity-G3) and captured the Premio Dormello (Ity-0G3) over a mile at the San Siro in June and October, respectively. Effective from the front, the bay encounters testing ground for the first time and that could prove her achilles heel.

Ameenah (American Post}) had the highly promising but ultimately disappointing Night of Light (Sea the Stars) and Kenouska (Kendargent) back in second and third, respectively, in the Prix Miesque (Fr-G3) over this course and distance in November and could yet enter the fray for Newmarket, despite not holding an entry at present.

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Prix Djebel, Imprudence start Guineas trial season

Thursday's Prix Djebel (Fr-G3) at Maisons-Laffitte offers the opportunity for a clutch of French colts to stake a claim for the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1), with one of the most intriguing being the unbeaten Andre Fabre project Make Believe (Makfi).

A half-brother to the high-class Dubawi Heights (Dubawi), Prince Faisal's rare foal purchase had the re-opposing fellow Guineas entry Sinfonietta (Sinndar) back in second on his debut over 7 1/2 furlongs at Deauville in late October before following up over the same trip at Saint-Cloud the following month. By Makfi, who annexed this race in 2010 prior to taking Newmarket by storm, the unexposed colt will make a serious impact on the upcoming classic if he is able to upstage some solid if unexciting rivals.

Chief among them is Nucifera (More Than Ready), who met his match in Full Mast (Mizzen Mast) when second in the Prix la Rochette (Fr-G3) at Longchamp in September before finishing eighth of nine in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Fr-G1) back there on Arc day.

Full Mast's stable companion Alpha Bravo (Oasis Dream) represents Khalid Abdullah and Criquette Head-Maarek here, having filled the runner's-up spot behind the enterprisingly ridden Fabre-trained filly Alea Iacta (Invincible Spirit) in the Prix Thomas Bryon (Fr-G3) over a mile at Saint-Cloud in October. Despite being comprehensively outgunned by that lone runner, the homebred still managed to best Karaktar (High Chaparral) as he won the battle for minor honors on the far rail and the Aga Khan's colt was very impressive in the Prix Francois Mathet on Saturday.

In the absence of the One Thousand Guineas(Eng-G1)-bound High Celebrity (Invincible Spirit), Thursday's Prix Imprudence (Fr-G3) looks a soft touch for Ervedya (Siyouni). Whether or not the leading three-year-old filly of the Pau stable of Jean-Claude Rouget will be in the line-up across the sea in just over four weeks' time remains to be seen, but she would be one of the main contenders if she builds on her solid juvenile form.

Last seen finishing runner-up to Ballydoyle's current Guineas ante-post favorite Found (Galileo) in the flagship Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-G1) on Longchamp's Arc card, the homebred who had previously won over six furlongs in Deauville's Prix de Cabourg (Fr-G3) and finished third in that track's Prix Morny (Fr-G1) in August sets the standard.

If there is a "dark horse" lurking among the field, it could be Fontanelice (Vale of York), who has been switched to the Criquette Head-Maarek barn which holds the record of 10 winners of this prize. Formerly with Stefano Botti, one of the luminaries of a beleaguered Italian racing scene in 2014 dead-heated in the six-furlong Premio Primi Passi (Ity-G3) and captured the Premio Dormello (Ity-0G3) over a mile at the San Siro in June and October, respectively. Effective from the front, the bay encounters testing ground for the first time and that could prove her achilles heel.

Ameenah (American Post}) had the highly promising but ultimately disappointing Night of Light (Sea the Stars) and Kenouska (Kendargent) back in second and third, respectively, in the Prix Miesque (Fr-G3) over this course and distance in November and could yet enter the fray for Newmarket, despite not holding an entry at present.

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Carpe Diem an even-money Blue Grass favorite

Carpe Diem outclassed his Tampa Bay Derby foes (S V Photography)

Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) displayed an affinity for Keeneland's newly-installed dirt track when romping to a 6 1/4-length victory in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) last October and the Todd Pletcher-trained colt will look to confirm his status as a leading Kentucky Derby contender when he returns to the Lexington, Kentucky oval in Saturday's $1 million Blue Grass (G1).

He tops an eight-horse field and has been installed as the even-money favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. The 1 1/8-mile event serves as one of the final major preps in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.

After sustaining his lone career setback with a Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up, Carpe Diem returned this season in stellar form, romping to a five-length decision as the even-money choice in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2). John Velazquez rides the chestnut, who figures to be forwardly-placed after breaking from post 5.

Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) will invade from California after sustaining his first loss, a troubled eighth in the March 7 San Felipe (G2) in which he got nicked up after being knocked around in the early stages. The Jim Cassidy trainee captured all three starts at two, including a gutsy nose tally in his lone previous foray outside of California, the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G1) in November, and the speedy colt figures to be much more involved from the start than he was last time. He's listed as the 6-1 co-second choice with new jockey Santiago Gonzalez.

Classy Class (Discreetly Mine), third in the Gotham (G3) and Withers (G3) in his last two starts, is also 6-1. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt will be making his first start outside of New York and Junior Alvarado will be along for the ride.

Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), Frammento (Midshipman) and Gorgeous Bird (Unbridled's Song) come next on the morning line at 8-1.

Danzig Moon opened 2015 with a smart 4 3/4-length maiden score at Gulfstream Park and followed with a fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby. The promising Mark Casse pupil is eligible to improve upon his first start against winners and will retain the services of top Keeneland jockey Julien Leparoux.

Frammento was no factor as well in his stakes debut, the January 24 Holy Bull (G2), but will attempt to keep moving forward after offering an encouraging late run for third in the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2). Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, is excited to get his charge away from Gulfstream Park and Frammento recorded his lone victory over maiden special weight rivals at Keeneland last October. Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary Stevens picks up the mount on the confirmed closer.

Gorgeous Bird will make his second stakes attempt for Ian Wilkes following a fifth in the Fountain of Youth. Bet down to 6-1, the gray colt did not appear to like the tiring track last time after opening his sophomore campaign with an excellent seven-length score over allowance/optional claiming foes. Brian Hernandez Jr., who was up for Gorgeous Bird's maiden win at Churchill Downs last fall, will retake the reins.

Completing the Blue Grass line-up are Unrivaled (Super Saver), who exits a five-length allowance romp at Parx Racing in his seasonal bow; and John Battaglia Memorial runner-up Pepper Roani (Broken Vow). Both are 12-1 on the morning line.

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Carpe Diem an even-money Blue Grass favorite

Carpe Diem outclassed his Tampa Bay Derby foes (S V Photography)

Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) displayed an affinity for Keeneland's newly-installed dirt track when romping to a 6 1/4-length victory in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) last October and the Todd Pletcher-trained colt will look to confirm his status as a leading Kentucky Derby contender when he returns to the Lexington, Kentucky oval in Saturday's $1 million Blue Grass (G1).

He tops an eight-horse field and has been installed as the even-money favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. The 1 1/8-mile event serves as one of the final major preps in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.

After sustaining his lone career setback with a Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up, Carpe Diem returned this season in stellar form, romping to a five-length decision as the even-money choice in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2). John Velazquez rides the chestnut, who figures to be forwardly-placed after breaking from post 5.

Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) will invade from California after sustaining his first loss, a troubled eighth in the March 7 San Felipe (G2) in which he got nicked up after being knocked around in the early stages. The Jim Cassidy trainee captured all three starts at two, including a gutsy nose tally in his lone previous foray outside of California, the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G1) in November, and the speedy colt figures to be much more involved from the start than he was last time. He's listed as the 6-1 co-second choice with new jockey Santiago Gonzalez.

Classy Class (Discreetly Mine), third in the Gotham (G3) and Withers (G3) in his last two starts, is also 6-1. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt will be making his first start outside of New York and Junior Alvarado will be along for the ride.

Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), Frammento (Midshipman) and Gorgeous Bird (Unbridled's Song) come next on the morning line at 8-1.

Danzig Moon opened 2015 with a smart 4 3/4-length maiden score at Gulfstream Park and followed with a fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby. The promising Mark Casse pupil is eligible to improve upon his first start against winners and will retain the services of top Keeneland jockey Julien Leparoux.

Frammento was no factor as well in his stakes debut, the January 24 Holy Bull (G2), but will attempt to keep moving forward after offering an encouraging late run for third in the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2). Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, is excited to get his charge away from Gulfstream Park and Frammento recorded his lone victory over maiden special weight rivals at Keeneland last October. Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary Stevens picks up the mount on the confirmed closer.

Gorgeous Bird will make his second stakes attempt for Ian Wilkes following a fifth in the Fountain of Youth. Bet down to 6-1, the gray colt did not appear to like the tiring track last time after opening his sophomore campaign with an excellent seven-length score over allowance/optional claiming foes. Brian Hernandez Jr., who was up for Gorgeous Bird's maiden win at Churchill Downs last fall, will retake the reins.

Completing the Blue Grass line-up are Unrivaled (Super Saver), who exits a five-length allowance romp at Parx Racing in his seasonal bow; and John Battaglia Memorial runner-up Pepper Roani (Broken Vow). Both are 12-1 on the morning line.

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Peace and War returns to Keeneland for Ashland

Peace and War upset her U.S. rivals in the Alcibiades last fall (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Peace and War (War Front) will seek another successful raid on Keeneland when she lines up against six other three-year-old fillies in the $500,000 Ashland (G1) on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile event, a leading prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), will be run on the dirt for the first time since 2006.

Qatar Racing's color bearer was a 23-1 outsider with three outings in England when she took down top honors last October in the Alcibiades (G1) after rallying from 13 lengths back. Among the vanquished were eventual juvenile filly champion Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) and Top Decile (Congrats), who narrowly missed catching Take Charge Brandi in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

Returned to England following the Alcibiades after what was described as a minor setback, trainer Olly Stevens has liked what he's seen from the filly this year.

"She is better mentally now than she was last year," Stevens said.

The only other Grade 1 winner in the field is Angela Renee (Bernardini), who took the Chandelier (G1) at Santa Anita last fall, but Todd Pletcher's filly was subsequently beaten by wide margins in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Demoiselle (G2). She was fourth in her season debut, the Rachel Alexandra (G3) at Fair Grounds, after a slow start.

Lovely Maria (Majesticperfection) and West Coast Belle (Tapit), second and sixth, respectively, in the Rachel Alexandra, return for the Ashland. Lovely Maria has been first or second in all five outings conducted on a fast track, while West Coast Belle seeks to fare better than what she showed in two starts at Fair Grounds over the winter. She won two stakes at Churchill Downs last fall, including the Golden Rod (G2).

Completing the field are Forward Gal (G2) runner-up Lassofthemohicans (Indian Charlie), fifth in the Davona Dale (G2) last time; New York-bred stakes winner Temper Mint Patty (Congrats); and maiden winner Silverpocketsfull (Indian Charlie).

The $350,000 Madison (G1), a seven-furlong dash for fillies and mares, marks the season debut of Stopchargingmaria (Tale of the Cat). One of the more accomplished three-year-old fillies in the country last season, with consecutive wins in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), and Alabama (G1), she ended her campaign with a distant second to older mares in the Beldame (G1).

Stopchargingmaria makes her four-year-old debut in the Madison (Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue)

Other notables include Lady Sabelia (Majestic Warrior), a winner of four straight including the Barbara Fritchie H. (G2) at Laurel; Barbara Fritchie and Go for Wand H. (G3) runner-up Princess Violet (Officer); Santa Monica (G2) heroine Sam's Sister (Brother Derek), fourth in the Barbara Fritchie; and Grade 3 winner Wedding Toast (Street Sense), third in the Rampart (G3) last time.

The $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) for older horses at seven furlongs features Grade 2 veteran Bourbon Courage (Lion Heart), fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) and third in the Cigar Mile (G1) last fall. The six-year-old was buried on the inside last out in the General George H. (G3) at Laurel and was a non-factor.

Invading from the West Coast is Grade 2 winner Kobe's Back (Flatter), a close second in the San Carlos (G2) most recently. Also in with a chance are Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G3) victor C. Zee (Elusive Bluff); last year's Iowa Derby (G3) winner Jessica's Star (Magna Graduate); the capable Rocket Time (Tiz Wonderful), a sharp winner of the Tenacious H. at Fair Grounds two back; and I Got It All (Tiz Wonderful), a course-and-distance allowance winner at last year's fall meet.

Undrafted (Purim), owned by NFL star Wes Welker and trained by Wesley Ward, is the star attraction of the $125,000 Shakertown (G3) at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. After taking the Jaipur (G3) at Belmont last June, the gelding was a respectable fourth in the July Cup (Eng-G1) at Newmarket and later missed by a half-length in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Undrafted will have to overcome the far outside post in the field of 13.

Australian import Power Alert (Alert) is two-for-two since arriving in America, most recently taking the $75,000 Silks Run at Gulfstream over Amelia's Wild Ride (D'wildcat), the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint winner with whom he renews acquaintance in the Shakertown.

Something Extra (Indian Charlie), a multiple Grade 2 winner in Canada, has placed in two prior starts over the course, including a neck loss in the 2014 Shakertown. Another threat is Tightend Touchdown (Pure Precision), a multiple winner of the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup at Penn National and past runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Also in the lineup is Zee Bros, a course-and-distance allowance winner in October who later claimed the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel. The D. Wayne Lukas charge has placed in one of three outings so far this year.

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Peace and War returns to Keeneland for Ashland

Peace and War upset her U.S. rivals in the Alcibiades last fall (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Peace and War (War Front) will seek another successful raid on Keeneland when she lines up against six other three-year-old fillies in the $500,000 Ashland (G1) on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile event, a leading prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), will be run on the dirt for the first time since 2006.

Qatar Racing's color bearer was a 23-1 outsider with three outings in England when she took down top honors last October in the Alcibiades (G1) after rallying from 13 lengths back. Among the vanquished were eventual juvenile filly champion Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) and Top Decile (Congrats), who narrowly missed catching Take Charge Brandi in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

Returned to England following the Alcibiades after what was described as a minor setback, trainer Olly Stevens has liked what he's seen from the filly this year.

"She is better mentally now than she was last year," Stevens said.

The only other Grade 1 winner in the field is Angela Renee (Bernardini), who took the Chandelier (G1) at Santa Anita last fall, but Todd Pletcher's filly was subsequently beaten by wide margins in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Demoiselle (G2). She was fourth in her season debut, the Rachel Alexandra (G3) at Fair Grounds, after a slow start.

Lovely Maria (Majesticperfection) and West Coast Belle (Tapit), second and sixth, respectively, in the Rachel Alexandra, return for the Ashland. Lovely Maria has been first or second in all five outings conducted on a fast track, while West Coast Belle seeks to fare better than what she showed in two starts at Fair Grounds over the winter. She won two stakes at Churchill Downs last fall, including the Golden Rod (G2).

Completing the field are Forward Gal (G2) runner-up Lassofthemohicans (Indian Charlie), fifth in the Davona Dale (G2) last time; New York-bred stakes winner Temper Mint Patty (Congrats); and maiden winner Silverpocketsfull (Indian Charlie).

The $350,000 Madison (G1), a seven-furlong dash for fillies and mares, marks the season debut of Stopchargingmaria (Tale of the Cat). One of the more accomplished three-year-old fillies in the country last season, with consecutive wins in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), and Alabama (G1), she ended her campaign with a distant second to older mares in the Beldame (G1).

Stopchargingmaria makes her four-year-old debut in the Madison (Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue)

Other notables include Lady Sabelia (Majestic Warrior), a winner of four straight including the Barbara Fritchie H. (G2) at Laurel; Barbara Fritchie and Go for Wand H. (G3) runner-up Princess Violet (Officer); Santa Monica (G2) heroine Sam's Sister (Brother Derek), fourth in the Barbara Fritchie; and Grade 3 winner Wedding Toast (Street Sense), third in the Rampart (G3) last time.

The $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) for older horses at seven furlongs features Grade 2 veteran Bourbon Courage (Lion Heart), fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) and third in the Cigar Mile (G1) last fall. The six-year-old was buried on the inside last out in the General George H. (G3) at Laurel and was a non-factor.

Invading from the West Coast is Grade 2 winner Kobe's Back (Flatter), a close second in the San Carlos (G2) most recently. Also in with a chance are Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G3) victor C. Zee (Elusive Bluff); last year's Iowa Derby (G3) winner Jessica's Star (Magna Graduate); the capable Rocket Time (Tiz Wonderful), a sharp winner of the Tenacious H. at Fair Grounds two back; and I Got It All (Tiz Wonderful), a course-and-distance allowance winner at last year's fall meet.

Undrafted (Purim), owned by NFL star Wes Welker and trained by Wesley Ward, is the star attraction of the $125,000 Shakertown (G3) at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. After taking the Jaipur (G3) at Belmont last June, the gelding was a respectable fourth in the July Cup (Eng-G1) at Newmarket and later missed by a half-length in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Undrafted will have to overcome the far outside post in the field of 13.

Australian import Power Alert (Alert) is two-for-two since arriving in America, most recently taking the $75,000 Silks Run at Gulfstream over Amelia's Wild Ride (D'wildcat), the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint winner with whom he renews acquaintance in the Shakertown.

Something Extra (Indian Charlie), a multiple Grade 2 winner in Canada, has placed in two prior starts over the course, including a neck loss in the 2014 Shakertown. Another threat is Tightend Touchdown (Pure Precision), a multiple winner of the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup at Penn National and past runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Also in the lineup is Zee Bros, a course-and-distance allowance winner in October who later claimed the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel. The D. Wayne Lukas charge has placed in one of three outings so far this year.

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Keeneland opens 15-day spring meet with Transylvania featured

Palm Beach victor Eh Cumpari will go for two stakes wins in a row in the Transylvania on Keeneland's opening day (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Keeneland begins its 2015 Spring Meet on Friday with an exciting two days of racing headlined by the $1 million Blue Grass (G1), which moves up a week as part of a richer, re-ordered Spring Meet stakes calendar. The card for Saturday features five graded stakes races worth $2.275 million, including the Blue Grass and $500,000 Ashland (G1).

The Blue Grass is a prestigious 1 1/8-mile prep race for top three-year-olds aiming to run in the Kentucky Derby (G1). For 2015, Keeneland increased the purse of the spring's signature race by $250,000 to make the stakes worth $1 million and one of North American's richest Kentucky Derby preps. The Blue Grass was previously worth $750,000. The race also was moved to the first Saturday of the Spring Meet, which is four weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and will be run the same day as the Ashland, a fixture on the opening Saturday card and a significant Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep.

NBC Sports Network will provide live coverage of the Blue Grass and a replay of the Ashland on Saturday from 5-7 p.m.

In all, Keeneland's 15-day Spring Meet features 16 stakes races worth $4.35 million.

The Spring Meet runs through April 24, with live racing Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. (EDT); post time for the first race is 1:05 p.m. except on April 4 and April 11, when first post is 12:35 p.m. Keeneland is closed this Sunday due to the Easter holiday.

The shift of the Blue Grass to the first Saturday of the Spring Meet makes opening weekend one of the most impressive slates in racing. Three other graded stakes traditionally featured on the Blue Grass undercard will join the opening Saturday lineup and each has earned a purse enhancement: the $350,000 Madison (G1) for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs, up $50,000 from last year; the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3), for older horses at seven furlongs, up $125,000; and the $125,000 Shakertown (G3) for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, up $25,000.

Other prominent stakes this spring are the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (G1) on the turf for older horses on April 10, and the $250,000 Lexington (G3), a 1 1/16-mile race on April 11 for three-year-olds with Triple Crown hopes.

The opening day feature is the $100,000 Transylvania (G3), a 1 1/16-mile turf race for three-year-olds. Luck of the Kitten (Kitten's Joy), a close second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) when last seen in November, is the likely favorite in his sophomore debut. Prior to the Breeders' Cup, Luck of the Kitten had won the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita and finished second in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.

Other leading contenders are Eh Cumpari (Elusive Quality), recent winner of the Palm Beach at Gulfstream; Divisidero (Kitten's Joy), a close third in the Palm Beach in his stakes debut; Night Prowler (Giant's Causeway), who captured the Dania Beach (G3) at Gulfstream prior to a troubled fifth in the Palm Beach; A Lot (Tapit), a recent allowance winner after running second in the Dania Beach; Tuba (Magna Graduate), upset winner of the Black Gold at Fair Grounds; and last-out maiden winners Saham (Lemon Drop Kid) and Danish Dynaformer (Dynaformer).

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Keeneland opens 15-day spring meet with Transylvania featured

Palm Beach victor Eh Cumpari will go for two stakes wins in a row in the Transylvania on Keeneland's opening day (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Keeneland begins its 2015 Spring Meet on Friday with an exciting two days of racing headlined by the $1 million Blue Grass (G1), which moves up a week as part of a richer, re-ordered Spring Meet stakes calendar. The card for Saturday features five graded stakes races worth $2.275 million, including the Blue Grass and $500,000 Ashland (G1).

The Blue Grass is a prestigious 1 1/8-mile prep race for top three-year-olds aiming to run in the Kentucky Derby (G1). For 2015, Keeneland increased the purse of the spring's signature race by $250,000 to make the stakes worth $1 million and one of North American's richest Kentucky Derby preps. The Blue Grass was previously worth $750,000. The race also was moved to the first Saturday of the Spring Meet, which is four weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and will be run the same day as the Ashland, a fixture on the opening Saturday card and a significant Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep.

NBC Sports Network will provide live coverage of the Blue Grass and a replay of the Ashland on Saturday from 5-7 p.m.

In all, Keeneland's 15-day Spring Meet features 16 stakes races worth $4.35 million.

The Spring Meet runs through April 24, with live racing Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. (EDT); post time for the first race is 1:05 p.m. except on April 4 and April 11, when first post is 12:35 p.m. Keeneland is closed this Sunday due to the Easter holiday.

The shift of the Blue Grass to the first Saturday of the Spring Meet makes opening weekend one of the most impressive slates in racing. Three other graded stakes traditionally featured on the Blue Grass undercard will join the opening Saturday lineup and each has earned a purse enhancement: the $350,000 Madison (G1) for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs, up $50,000 from last year; the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3), for older horses at seven furlongs, up $125,000; and the $125,000 Shakertown (G3) for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, up $25,000.

Other prominent stakes this spring are the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (G1) on the turf for older horses on April 10, and the $250,000 Lexington (G3), a 1 1/16-mile race on April 11 for three-year-olds with Triple Crown hopes.

The opening day feature is the $100,000 Transylvania (G3), a 1 1/16-mile turf race for three-year-olds. Luck of the Kitten (Kitten's Joy), a close second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) when last seen in November, is the likely favorite in his sophomore debut. Prior to the Breeders' Cup, Luck of the Kitten had won the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita and finished second in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.

Other leading contenders are Eh Cumpari (Elusive Quality), recent winner of the Palm Beach at Gulfstream; Divisidero (Kitten's Joy), a close third in the Palm Beach in his stakes debut; Night Prowler (Giant's Causeway), who captured the Dania Beach (G3) at Gulfstream prior to a troubled fifth in the Palm Beach; A Lot (Tapit), a recent allowance winner after running second in the Dania Beach; Tuba (Magna Graduate), upset winner of the Black Gold at Fair Grounds; and last-out maiden winners Saham (Lemon Drop Kid) and Danish Dynaformer (Dynaformer).

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Pimlico meet commences with hi-def signal, low-takeout Pick 5

The spring meet at Old Hilltop will feature a high-definition TV signal and 12 percent takeout Pick 5 (Jeff Synder/Maryland Jockey Club)

The Maryland Jockey Club announced Monday it has invested $1.5 million to broadcast the 2015 spring meet at Pimlico, which begins Thursday, in high-definition television.

Along with the installation of approximately 150 new high-definition televisions throughout Pimlico, opening day will also feature all new graphics on its daily broadcast. The Maryland Jockey Club has partnered with International Sound Corporation on the upgrades at Pimlico.

The Maryland Jockey Club's upgrade to its daily broadcast at Pimlico comes after investing approximately $7 million in Laurel.

"We are very excited about going high-definition and anxious for the public to see the new graphics on our daily show," said Maryland Jockey Club General Manager Sal Sinatra. "Pimlico is an historic track, and it plays hosts to one of sport's most iconic events in the Preakness S. (G1). I think our fans will be pleased with the new direction we're taking for a more vibrant telecast."

There will be free admission and live programs Thursday. First race post is 1:10 p.m. (EDT). The spring meet runs through June 6 and will be highlighted by the 140th running of the Preakness on May 16 and Black-Eyed Susan Day on May 15.

The Maryland Jockey Club announced earlier this month that it would offer a Pick 5 with an industry-low 12-percent takeout during the Pimlico meet, as well as a 10-cent Rainbow 6.

The Rainbow 6 will be offered on the last six races of each race day. The Rainbow 6 carryover jackpot is paid out only when there is a single ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 60 percent of that day's pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 40 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.

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Pimlico meet commences with hi-def signal, low-takeout Pick 5

The spring meet at Old Hilltop will feature a high-definition TV signal and 12 percent takeout Pick 5 (Jeff Synder/Maryland Jockey Club)

The Maryland Jockey Club announced Monday it has invested $1.5 million to broadcast the 2015 spring meet at Pimlico, which begins Thursday, in high-definition television.

Along with the installation of approximately 150 new high-definition televisions throughout Pimlico, opening day will also feature all new graphics on its daily broadcast. The Maryland Jockey Club has partnered with International Sound Corporation on the upgrades at Pimlico.

The Maryland Jockey Club's upgrade to its daily broadcast at Pimlico comes after investing approximately $7 million in Laurel.

"We are very excited about going high-definition and anxious for the public to see the new graphics on our daily show," said Maryland Jockey Club General Manager Sal Sinatra. "Pimlico is an historic track, and it plays hosts to one of sport's most iconic events in the Preakness S. (G1). I think our fans will be pleased with the new direction we're taking for a more vibrant telecast."

There will be free admission and live programs Thursday. First race post is 1:10 p.m. (EDT). The spring meet runs through June 6 and will be highlighted by the 140th running of the Preakness on May 16 and Black-Eyed Susan Day on May 15.

The Maryland Jockey Club announced earlier this month that it would offer a Pick 5 with an industry-low 12-percent takeout during the Pimlico meet, as well as a 10-cent Rainbow 6.

The Rainbow 6 will be offered on the last six races of each race day. The Rainbow 6 carryover jackpot is paid out only when there is a single ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 60 percent of that day's pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 40 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.

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In brief

Six-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen earned his 7,000th North American victory Wednesday when Drama Coach (Montbrook) won the 2ND race at Oaklawn. "I'm extremely proud for the whole barn; Darren (Fleming) being here at Oaklawn, Scott (Blasi), the job that everybody's done," Asmussen said. “Everybody's stuck together. It's an extremely significant milestone that we're extremely proud of and, hopefully, we can continue. Asmussen, who saddled his first winner in July 1986, is second only to the late Dale Baird, who had saddled 9,445 winners at the time of his death in 2007 and is currently ranked fifth all-time among North American trainers in career earnings with $226,714,081...

Although Work All Week (City Zip) worked a half-mile bullet in :47 4/5 on Tuesday morning at Oaklawn Park, trainer Roger Brueggemann said the reigning male sprint champion isn't a candidate to make his 2015 debut in the $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) on April 9 at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, track. Brueggemann said Work All Week is doing well physically, but is at least a month away from running. The six-year-old chestnut gelding had his first published workout since winning the November 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) last week at Oaklawn. Stakes victor Picko's Pride (Cactus Ridge), who is pointing for the Count Fleet, worked six furlongs out of the gate in 1:12 2/5 Wednesday morning for trainer Mac Robertson. Trainer Tom Howard said multiple stakes scorer Ivan Fallunovalot's (Valid Expectations) final work for the Count Fleet is scheduled for Friday...

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), Keeneland and Churchill Downs will join in a unique partnership designed to generate funds for the work of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), the non-profit organization that serves as both an accrediting body for facilities that care for Thoroughbreds at the conclusion of their racing careers and a fundraising engine to support aftercare facilities approved by the alliance. A partnership agreement signed by leaders of the three organizations calls for Kentucky HBPA member owners to contribute $5 to the TAA for each of their horses that start in races at the two tracks. Churchill Downs and Keeneland would then match each contribution generated in their respective races. The owner contribution and matching racetrack donations will begin on the opening day of each track's spring racing sessions. Keeneland is set to open its 15-day spring meet on Friday, and the first of 38 days of spring meet racing at Churchill Downs is set for Saturday, April 25. Participation in the partnership by Thoroughbred owners is voluntary. Owners who wish to opt-out of the TAA funding partnership can do so by contacting the Horseman's Bookkeepers at the tracks...

The Emirates Racing Authority has said it is "extremely unlikely" that the case of strangles identified in a horse trained by Marco Botti earlier this week originated in the U.A.E. An unidentified Marco Botti-trained horse that had campaigned in Dubai over the carnival tested positive for strangles after its return to Newmarket. It is the first case of strangles in the town since 2009, and the ERA said there has not been an outbreak in the U.A.E. for more than 10 years, "and there were no signs suggestive of strangles at any time in horses participating in the Dubai International Racing Carnival." The statement continued, "It should be noted that the apparent symptoms of strangles were not identified until 14 days after the horse arrived back at Newmarket. This would indicate that the horse was infected post departure from the U.A.E. As a precautionary measure, blood samples taken from the applicable horse during its stay in the UAE and prior to its departure are currently being analyzed for strangles. The ERA will release the results once the analysis is complete as final confirmation that the horse in question was clear of the contagion before it left the UAE."...

Peter Lurie has joined the broadcast teams at Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand. Lurie will make more than one dozen appearances throughout 2015 with the first appearance this weekend at Hoosier Park beginning Friday. Lurie brings in more than three decades of experience in both the television and horse racing fields. He served as a host for HRTV's syndicated weekly show, "Across the Board," which had viewership all over the world, including Dubai and Europe. In addition to special appearances throughout the racing season, Lurie will provide daily handicapping for the live production at Indiana Grand. His selections may be found in both the live racing program as well as Indiana Grand's website. In addition, he will provide frequent call-ins and video to both facilities as well as conduct interviews and additional television coverage while on property during the season. Lurie will provide support to the current broadcast team of Emily Gaskin, racing personality and on-track analyst, and Steve Cross, announcer, at Hoosier Park. He will also bring his expertise to the broadcast team at Indiana Grand, which consists of Bill Downes, announcer; Rachel McLaughlin, racing personality and on-track analyst; and Nancy Ury-Holthus, paddock analyst. In addition to his work in horse racing, the multi-talented Lurie will continue to lend his voice to numerous projects including animated series, commercials and video games in the Los Angeles area. He has served as an actor for more than 30 years and brings characters to life with his voice over work, including Leatherhead from the popular "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" television series. Live racing returns to Indiana Grand April 21.

In brief

Six-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen earned his 7,000th North American victory Wednesday when Drama Coach (Montbrook) won the 2ND race at Oaklawn. "I'm extremely proud for the whole barn; Darren (Fleming) being here at Oaklawn, Scott (Blasi), the job that everybody's done," Asmussen said. “Everybody's stuck together. It's an extremely significant milestone that we're extremely proud of and, hopefully, we can continue. Asmussen, who saddled his first winner in July 1986, is second only to the late Dale Baird, who had saddled 9,445 winners at the time of his death in 2007 and is currently ranked fifth all-time among North American trainers in career earnings with $226,714,081...

Although Work All Week (City Zip) worked a half-mile bullet in :47 4/5 on Tuesday morning at Oaklawn Park, trainer Roger Brueggemann said the reigning male sprint champion isn't a candidate to make his 2015 debut in the $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) on April 9 at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, track. Brueggemann said Work All Week is doing well physically, but is at least a month away from running. The six-year-old chestnut gelding had his first published workout since winning the November 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) last week at Oaklawn. Stakes victor Picko's Pride (Cactus Ridge), who is pointing for the Count Fleet, worked six furlongs out of the gate in 1:12 2/5 Wednesday morning for trainer Mac Robertson. Trainer Tom Howard said multiple stakes scorer Ivan Fallunovalot's (Valid Expectations) final work for the Count Fleet is scheduled for Friday...

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), Keeneland and Churchill Downs will join in a unique partnership designed to generate funds for the work of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), the non-profit organization that serves as both an accrediting body for facilities that care for Thoroughbreds at the conclusion of their racing careers and a fundraising engine to support aftercare facilities approved by the alliance. A partnership agreement signed by leaders of the three organizations calls for Kentucky HBPA member owners to contribute $5 to the TAA for each of their horses that start in races at the two tracks. Churchill Downs and Keeneland would then match each contribution generated in their respective races. The owner contribution and matching racetrack donations will begin on the opening day of each track's spring racing sessions. Keeneland is set to open its 15-day spring meet on Friday, and the first of 38 days of spring meet racing at Churchill Downs is set for Saturday, April 25. Participation in the partnership by Thoroughbred owners is voluntary. Owners who wish to opt-out of the TAA funding partnership can do so by contacting the Horseman's Bookkeepers at the tracks...

The Emirates Racing Authority has said it is "extremely unlikely" that the case of strangles identified in a horse trained by Marco Botti earlier this week originated in the U.A.E. An unidentified Marco Botti-trained horse that had campaigned in Dubai over the carnival tested positive for strangles after its return to Newmarket. It is the first case of strangles in the town since 2009, and the ERA said there has not been an outbreak in the U.A.E. for more than 10 years, "and there were no signs suggestive of strangles at any time in horses participating in the Dubai International Racing Carnival." The statement continued, "It should be noted that the apparent symptoms of strangles were not identified until 14 days after the horse arrived back at Newmarket. This would indicate that the horse was infected post departure from the U.A.E. As a precautionary measure, blood samples taken from the applicable horse during its stay in the UAE and prior to its departure are currently being analyzed for strangles. The ERA will release the results once the analysis is complete as final confirmation that the horse in question was clear of the contagion before it left the UAE."...

Peter Lurie has joined the broadcast teams at Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand. Lurie will make more than one dozen appearances throughout 2015 with the first appearance this weekend at Hoosier Park beginning Friday. Lurie brings in more than three decades of experience in both the television and horse racing fields. He served as a host for HRTV's syndicated weekly show, "Across the Board," which had viewership all over the world, including Dubai and Europe. In addition to special appearances throughout the racing season, Lurie will provide daily handicapping for the live production at Indiana Grand. His selections may be found in both the live racing program as well as Indiana Grand's website. In addition, he will provide frequent call-ins and video to both facilities as well as conduct interviews and additional television coverage while on property during the season. Lurie will provide support to the current broadcast team of Emily Gaskin, racing personality and on-track analyst, and Steve Cross, announcer, at Hoosier Park. He will also bring his expertise to the broadcast team at Indiana Grand, which consists of Bill Downes, announcer; Rachel McLaughlin, racing personality and on-track analyst; and Nancy Ury-Holthus, paddock analyst. In addition to his work in horse racing, the multi-talented Lurie will continue to lend his voice to numerous projects including animated series, commercials and video games in the Los Angeles area. He has served as an actor for more than 30 years and brings characters to life with his voice over work, including Leatherhead from the popular "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" television series. Live racing returns to Indiana Grand April 21.

Results

NORTH AMERICAN NON-GRADED STAKES RESULTS

CUTLER BAY S., GP, $60,000, 3YO, 1MT, 4-1.
8—FORCE THE PASS, c, 3, Speightstown--Social Queen, by Dynaformer. O-Richard Santulli, B-Colts Neck Stables LLC (KY), T-Alan E. Goldberg, J-Rajiv Maragh, $36,084.
4—High Noon Rider, c, 3, Distorted Humor--Modesty Blaise, by A.P. Indy. ($400,000 '13 KEESEP). O-R A Hill Stable, B-Flaxman Holdings Limited (KY), $11,640.
1—Black Martino, c, 3, Two Step Salsa--Eyes a Fox, by Foxhound. ($22,000 2014 FTMMAY). O-Honors Stable Corp, B-Bailey Bolen (FL), $5,820.
Also Ran: Call Me Crazy, Nutty Futty, Escondido, Rockemagain, Unsaintly.
Winning Time: 1:36 (fm)
Margins: NK, 2 1/4, NK.
Odds: 0.80, 4.30, 16.90.

Features

HANDICAPPING INSIGHTS

APRIL 2, 2015

by Dick Powell

What a crazy 24 hours of racing. Between Australian racing at Randwick Friday night into early Saturday morning, the Dubai World Cup card Saturday and then Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park hosting 14-race marathons, lucky for us New Yorkers that state law forbids horse racing wagering Palm Sunday. I need a rest.

Saturday morning began with the first Thoroughbred race from Meydan in Dubai around 8:40 a.m. (ET). Tamarkuz (Speightstown), winner of his last three starts over the new dirt main track, used post 1 to his best advantage despite his customary slow start.

Paul Hanagan took over in the stretch and had to overcome a furious rally from Sloane Avenue (Candy Ride) who was breaking from post 15. According to Trakus, Sloane Avenue raced eight feet farther than Tamarkuz and after the race, his trainer Jeremy Noseda could not contain himself.

Trying to resist the temptation that he felt the draw was fixed, Noseda told the international simulcast feed, "I'm just gutted about the draw," said Noseda. "As soon as I got that draw I knew I would need a miracle and we nearly pulled it off.

"The horse did great and it was a great ride by Frankie (Dettori), but it was impossible with that draw. I don't know how a horse (Tamarkuz) gets drawn in stall one or two in four consecutive races. I've got no doubt Sloane's the best horse in the race and he didn't win. I'm just a bit upset with the draw as I think it's cost him. I don't want to, but I feel like a bad loser after that."

When the major races are drawn in Dubai, the customary pill system is not used but is replaced by a computerized process that randomly assigns post positions. Noseda, in the heat of the moment, questioned how random it was. I am sure he will calm down, but it was interesting to hear what was on his mind.

Tamarkuz, besides post one, had the advantage of having four races over the Meydan dirt to prep for this. Historically, we have seen that the horses that race in the Dubai Carnival have an advantage on the big night even if it seems like they are moving up in class.

I was lucky enough to be at Nad al Sheba when Asiatic Boy (Not For Sale) won the 2007 U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) with a stunning display of acceleration in the stretch. Eight years later, Mike de Kock sent out another special three-year-old racing in Sheikh Mohammed bin Khaliffa's colors and Mubtaahij (Dubawi) was every bit as impressive.

Sitting in behind dueling leaders while saving ground on a dirt track that was playing much tighter than expected, Christophe Soumillon tipped him three wide with a quarter-mile to go and he exploded to an easy eight-length victory. Unlike Asiatic Boy, who was bred on Southern Hemisphere time and not eligible for our classic races, de Kock stated after the race that Mubtaahij's next start would be the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Like Tamarkuz, Mubtaahij had four races over the Meydan dirt to get ready for his U.A.E. Derby victory.

Sole Power (Kyllachy) is a neat eight-year-old that has won races everywhere but Dubai. Winner of two Group 1 sprints last year and voted Ireland's Horse of the Year, he was winless in seven Dubai starts over the years before Saturday's Al Quoz Stakes (UAE-G1) going five furlongs on the turf straightaway. Richard Hughes produced him on the grandstand side from the back of the field and he was much the best, and Sole Power is the odd come-from-behind turf sprinter that does better at five furlongs than six.

Secret Circle (Eddington) won the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) two years ago and was a game second last year. Now at the age of six, Bob Baffert shipped him to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) and he was a head winner. Victor Espinoza kept him three wide throughout and despite not having a race over the dirt track, Secret Circle was able to prevail.

In what was becoming a bizarre night, Secret Circle was brought back to the winner's circle. Baffert and co-owner Mike Pegram were not in attendance but who wandered into to it like he was the owner was none other than California Chrome's (Lucky Pulpit) co-owner Steve Coburn. The only connection I could see was he was ridden by Chrome's rider Espinoza. And, Coburn was an American and an American horse won. I can think of a lot of Americans that were present at Meydan other than him to have his picture taken.

Depending on the exchange rate, the $6 million Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) and Sheema Classic (UAE-G1) could be the most lucrative races run on turf this year. In the Dubai Turf, Freddie Head raved about Solow's (Singspiel) chances based on his four straight victories.

However, this was his Group 1 stakes debut but under an extremely confident Maxime Guyon, Solow took over on the outside in the stretch and won as he pleased in the good time of 1:47.76 for the 1800 meters (approximately 1 1/8 miles). For Head, the trainer of three-time Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) winner Goldikova, it's another horse that can compete against the top middle distance horses in the world.

Like Goldikova, Solow races for the Wertheimer brothers, Alain and Gerard. It should be another fun year for the Head family as Freddie's sister, Criquette, will try to make history this October when Treve(Motivator) goes for her third straight Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1).

The Sheema Classic was next and it was quite simple. Main Sequence (Aldeberan) wins with Lasix and doesn't without it. Flintshire (Dansili) should have won the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) when Main Sequence got the jump on him and then went to Hong Kong to win a Group 1 in December.

Flintshire was second in his prep for this on a synthetic track at Chantilly but it was the winner of that prep that shined here. Christophe Soumillon sent Dolniya (Azamour) up after the lead out of the gate, yielded to Just the Judge (Lawman) and sat the inside pocket. Soumillon had her perfectly relaxed and despite others making wide moves, never hit the panic button.

In the stretch, One and Only (Heart's Cry) began to weaken from his first-over position and that was all Soumillon needed. Dolniya quickened before the rest knew what hit them and she cruised to a 2 1/4-length victory over Flintshire. It was classic Soumillion riding and the newly-turned four-year-old filly will have the Arc as her target as long as the course does not come up soft.

The $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) was the finale and the result might have been more predictable had we just stuck to the "race over the track" angle. Instead, I liked Hokko Tamurae (King Kamehameha), a Japanese dirt specialist that had earned over $8 million. He raced up on the pace and weakened late while Jose Espinoza had California Chrome four wide on the outside.

William Buick had Prince Bishop (Dubawi) towards the rear of the field and bided his time while saving ground around the first turn. Just like in the final round of the Maktoum Challenge (UAE-G1) last month, Prince Bishop showed a strong turn of foot once he tipped to the outside and had a clear run. California Chrome was not keeping up and Prince Bishop went right on by while opening up an improbable lead.

California Chrome held well to be second while Lea (First Samurai) was an even third. At the wire, Candy Boy (Candy Ride) flew home and nipped Hokko Tamurae for fourth so the Americans finished second, third and fourth although Candy Boy is no longer American-owned and now races for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

Eight-year-old Prince Bishop had never raced on dirt until this year and like anything else, was able to handle it with experience and training. Too often we expect miracles the first time a horse tries something new and we do not take advantage of a horse's adaptability and intelligence if it doesn't do it right the first time. Even at the age of eight, trainer Saeed bin Suroor was able to teach this old dog some new tricks.

After the race, and before the world's largest fireworks display was about to begin, California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn had his foot back in his mouth as he waxed about another perceived element of unfairness in the racing game.

First, it was the unfairness of horses like Tonalist (Tapit) skipping the first two legs of the Triple Crown and taking advantage of those that competed in them at the Belmont Stakes (G1). I didn't have too much of a problem with that but here he was again, after a loss, at a moment when he should be pleased as punch with how well his horse ran, lamenting how they got there recently and did not have enough time to acclimate to the track and surroundings.

The book was written by Steve Asmussen on how to ship to Dubai when he took Curlin over early, got a race over the Nad al Sheba track, then came back a month later to romp in that year's World Cup. Nothing stopped California Chrome from going over early other than California Chrome's connections.

Okay, Coburn is new to the game but is starting to run out of benefits of the doubt. But then he absolutely dug himself another hole when he talked about them shipping to Dubai and challenged Sheikh Mohammed to do the same and race in America. Uh?

Everyone, even Coburn, is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Coburn now goes on the mute list. When they open their mouth, I hit the mute button.

Thankfully, the day of racing at Meydan was rescued by Prince Bishop's owner, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. He donated the entire $6 million first-place prize to the Dubai Autism Centre of which he is the chairman. Fantastic!

Gulfstream Park began its 14-race marathon at noon on Saturday and the listed post time for the last race, the $1 million Florida Derby (G1), was 6:48 p.m.. Considering that all meet they never ran a race within four minutes of the listed post time and sundown was scheduled for 7:17, this was going to be interesting.

The field of nine left the starting gate at 6::59 and complicating the dwindling daylight issue was how slow the track was paying. Just like when the Fountain of Youth (G2) was run, the Gulfstream Park main track was deep and tiring due to a strong wind that was evaporating the water that the maintenance crew was putting down. By the time the Florida Derby rolled around, the times of the races had slowed dramatically and the inside part of the track seemed to be the deepest.

From post nine, even-money favorite Upstart (Flatter) was wide around the far turn where he stayed for the entire race. Materiality (Afleet Alex) went up after the lead under Johnny Velazquez and disputed the pace with longshot Jack Tripp (Flatter) through fractions of 48.24 for the half and 1:12.51 for six furlongs.

Jose Ortiz had Upstart poised on the outside and around the far turn, it was just those two in contention -- Materiality on the inside and Upstart on the outside. Somewhere inside the eighth pole, Materiality veered out and Ortiz reacted by pulling Upstart to the outside. On the pan shot, it was hard to tell if there was contact so we would have to wait to see the head-on replay when the stewards took a look.

With the sun setting and the big crowd expecting the toteboard to start blinking, the race was declared official as the horses just started to head back around the clubhouse turn.

Goodnight everybody! Have a safe ride home. Don't stop; nothing to see here.

Somehow after the race, one of the outriders that is in communication with the stewards, radioed in that there were no claims of foul by the riders. The race was declared official and that was that. It was like when Joe Pesci's character got whacked at his "induction" ceremony in Goodfellas. "And there was nothing we could do about it."

I waited for the replay to be shown on the simulcast feed and they did show the head-on one. It didn't show conclusively whether a foul had occurred and the reality was that had they conducted a proper inquiry, they probably would have ruled the race official with no change to the order of finish.

What was unacceptable was the circumstances around the decision; not the decision itself. Since when do the riders decide the outcome of an inquiry? Even if there were a mechanical failure, the stewards are supposed to be able to make up their own minds without the input of the riders. When did you ever hear about a rider copping to a foul?

"Yes, judge. I cut him off turning for home. I don't know what got into me and promise not to do it again." Not going to happen. It is up to the stewards to adjudicate the incident and it can be done without little if any input from the riders.

This was not a rush to judgment -- this was no judgment at all. How they could have made their decision in such a short period of time was impossible and to say that they did is an insult to the industry.

Horseplayers have their own levels of paranoia but how else could a rational person feel after Saturday? There was a big crowd, the races were running behind schedule, the sun was going down and now an infraction happened in front of the big crowd. Do we stay and not only get it right but prove to the betting public that we took the time to get it right or do we just make it official and go home?

Any horseplayer worth his salt knew what was going to happen. We have seen it numerous times under different circumstances but inevitably we accept it since there is nobody to complain to. Florida doesn't really have a racing commission but a Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. An investigation should be conducted with interviews of the stewards, track management, the outriders and Ortiz and Velazquez. Develop a timeline and determine not only what happened but how can it be prevented from happening again.

If you believe that will happen, say hello to the Easter Bunny for me next Sunday.

Results

NORTH AMERICAN ALLOWANCE RESULTS

AQU, 8TH, AOC, $81,000, 4YO/UP, 1M, 4-1.
5—RED VINE, h, 5, Candy Ride (ARG)--Murky Waters, by Storm Creek. ($200,000 '11 FTSAUG). O-Kelly, Jon and Sarah, B-Alastar Thoroughbred Co (KY), T-Christophe Clement, J-Manuel Franco, $48,600.
4—Kid Cruz, c, 4, Lemon Drop Kid--Layreebelle, by Tale of the Cat. ($80,000 '12 KEESEP). O-Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds LLC and Black Swan Stable, B-Machmer Hall (KY), $16,200.
1A—Three Alarm Fire, g, 4, Pyro--Tres Tres Joli, by Gone West. ($140,000 '12 KEESEP). O-West Point Thoroughbreds and Basone, Michael, B-Runnymede Farm & Peter J Callahan (KY), $8,100.
Winning Time: 1:36 2/5 (ft)
 
OP, 8TH, AOC, $68,500, 3YO, 6F, 4-1.
5—HENRY JONES, c, 3, Temple City--Gold Bowl, by Seeking the Gold. O-Holy Cow Stable, LLC, B-Zeke Kobak (KY), T-D. Wayne Lukas, J-Ramon A. Vazquez, $41,100.
7—Ike Walker, g, 3, Bellamy Road--Quite Familiar, by Hold That Tiger. ($125,000 '13 KEESEP). O-Thrash, Ike and Dawn, B-Buck Pond Farm, Inc (KY), $13,700.
2—Tapit Wicked, c, 3, Tapit--Wicked Deed, by Harlan's Holiday. O-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, B-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (KY), $6,850.
Winning Time: 1:10 (ft)
 
GP, 7TH, AOC, $48,200, 4YO/UP, 5FT, 4-1.
8—SUMMATION TIME, c, 4, In Summation--Load Up, by Dove Hunt. ($25,000 '12 OBSAUG; $250,000 2013 OBSAPR). O-Waterford Stable, B-Oakleaf Farm (FL), T-Christophe Clement, J-Edgard J. Zayas, $30,600.
1—Bye Bye Bernie, h, 5, Bernstein--Eternal Grace, by Gilded Time. O-Hall, George and Lori, B-K & G Stables (KY), $9,240.
3—Wild Mongolia, g, 4, Offlee Wild--Sail Cloth, by Mizzen Mast. ($19,000 '12 KEESEP). O-Mongolian Stable, B-Martha H Buckner (KY), $4,400.
Winning Time: :54 3/5 (fm)

Features

KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT

APRIL 1, 2015

by James Scully

The first round of major final prep races is in the books, with favorites International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus) and Mubtaahij (Dubawi) capturing the Louisiana Derby (G2) and U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2), respectively, and 9-5 second choice Materiality (Afleet Alex) extending his mark to three-for-three in the Florida Derby (G1).

Anticipation runs even higher for this Saturday's races as top contenders square off in the Blue Grass (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1) and TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (G1).

Florida Derby

Materiality is an up-and-coming colt with good speed. He broke well in the Florida Derby, racing on the front end with a longshot before asserting control entering the far turn, and took everything the well-regarded Upstart (Flatter) had to offer before edging away late to a 1 1/2-length decision.

Over a slow and tiring Gulfstream Park track, the bay colt registered 103 E1 and 115 E2 Pace numbers en route to an excellent 105 BRIS Speed rating. And Upstart posted a 103 Speed while finishing 12 1/2 lengths clear of third. The final time (1:52.30) is misleading given the way the track was playing.

It was a grueling performance for the top two finishers, one they'll need to keep moving forward from while stretching out another eighth of a mile five weeks later, but Materiality and Upstart will at least exit an encouraging performance as opposed to Itsaknockout (Lemon Drop Kid), who stamped his Kentucky Derby ticket winning the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2) via disqualification but never fired in a dismal fourth-place showing Saturday, beaten 21 lengths.

Materiality didn't make his career bow until January 11, easily winning a six-furlong maiden special weight in the slop by 4 1/4 lengths, and was freshened nearly two months in advance of his next appearance, rolling to a 5 3/4-length win in the March 6 Islamorada at 1 1/8 miles. He came back only three weeks later in the Florida Derby, a quick turnaround for a Todd Pletcher trainee, and received the first real test in his brief career.

The unbeaten colt has never lost ground in the stretch, increasing his margin at the last two calls in every start, and Materiality owns a nice set of BRIS Speed figures (96-100-105) as well as a commendable pedigree for 10 furlongs. But he's also had things his own way most of the time and rates as a prime candidate for a regression at Churchill Downs.

Lightly-raced horses with no two-year-old foundation have a terrible record in the Kentucky Derby. Foundation is important given the extreme demands of the 1 1/4-mile race early in a horse's three-year-old season.

I've said previously that an unraced juvenile will eventually win the Kentucky Derby, especially in this era of lightly-raced horses, but that individual needs to be able to overwhelm the competition (think of the field Big Brown was facing in 2008). That scenario appears highly unlikely for Materiality this year given the talent at the top.

Materiality remains a highly-promising individual, one that must be considered a prime contender for important future races such as the Belmont Stakes (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1) and Travers (G1), but the fact that he's never raced outside of Gulfstream hurts his chances as well. The Kentucky Derby is not the spot to try something new and it should come as no surprise that every winner in the modern era raced at multiple venues beforehand -- experience matters.

I liked Upstart entering the year and jumped on the bandwagon following his convincing win in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G2) in late January, but his last two performances have left something to be desired. And I'm doubting his ability to stretch out effectively next time.

Upstart opened his racing career with flashy wins in a pair of Saratoga sprints, including a career-best 106 BRIS Speed rating for the restricted Funny Cide at 6 1/2 furlongs. That's not something you want to see, a Kentucky Derby contender run his fastest race sprinting at age two, and the presence of champion sprinter Housebuster as the second damsire is probably more pronounced than I originally wanted to believe.

Upstart steadily lost ground over the final five-sixteenths of a mile in the Florida Derby, laboring mightily in the latter stages. He's still a talented colt who would be tough to ignore if the Kentucky Derby was at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles, but I can't envision him thriving on the stretch out.

Third-place Ami's Flatter (Flatter) has quality concerns but the stoutly-bred sophomore can't be ruled out of Kentucky Derby exotics consideration due to his finishing kick, with late-running longshots Commanding Curve and Golden Soul finishing second the last two years behind hot early paces.

Didn't like the decision to run Itsaknockout in the Florida Derby given that he had raced exclusively at Gulfstream and the colt appeared to get very little out of the race. He could still have a nice future, but difficult to imagine him being ready for his best on May 2.

Louisiana Derby

International Star's ability to corner well on the far turn could prove beneficial in the Kentucky Derby. He launched another eye-catching move in the Louisiana Derby, accelerating past rivals along the rail before swinging out for the stretch drive, and determinedly ran down the pacesetting Stanford (Malibu Moon) to win by a neck.

He wasn't facing the stiffest opposition all year at the New Orleans oval, and his BRIS Class rating Saturday (119.8) paled in comparison to Materiality's Florida Derby (122.4), but International Star's improving form for Mike Maker is easy to admire.

The son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus had never won on dirt before this season, breaking his maiden on Belmont Park's turf and capturing the Grey (G3) on Woodbine's Polytrack last year, and he's moved forward in each start since opening 2015 with a victory in the Lecomte (G3), posting BRIS Speed ratings of 94-97-99.

His 99 Louisiana Derby figure was compromised by a moderate early pace that didn't play to his strengths. International Star laid it all on the line while switching back to the wrong lead in deep stretch, registering an impressive 107 BRIS Late Pace number given the early fractions, and the hard-trying colt is extremely game.

He may not be good enough to win on the class hike, but International Star figures to receive the right set-up in the Kentucky Derby and I'll include the fast-finishing colt underneath in exotics.

Stanford turned in a big performance in his first Kentucky Derby qualifying race and the improving colt will bring speed to the first leg of the Triple Crown.

He's bred for longer distances, but the Pletcher charge has recorded his lone wins at five furlongs (maiden) and six furlongs (February allowance/optional claimer). His ability to get away to an uncontested early advantage led to a career-best performance in the Louisiana Derby, but different circumstances next time could easily compromise his chances. I'll look for more down the road from the promising runner.

War Story (2.40-1) nearly went favored over International Star ( 2.30-1) but supporters hoping to see him put it all together came away deeply disappointed. He never threatened recording a well-beaten third, a step back from respectable runner-up efforts in the Lecomte and Risen Star (G2).

I've seen nothing that suggests a turnaround for the gelding in the Kentucky Derby -- War Story has now lost ground to International Star in the stretch of three straight races -- and he's a bad actor in the starting gate, which won't help his chances in a 20-horse field.

The moderate pace didn't benefit fourth-placer Keen Ice (Curlin) but his inability to make up any ground on the far turn was the most disappointing facet of his performance. The deep closer only passes rivals after straightening into the stretch and that recipe doesn't work in the Kentucky Derby -- Keen Ice would need to be accelerating into contention on the final bend to have even a puncher's chance at a minor award.

U.A.E. Derby

I tabbed U.A.E. Derby winner Mubtaahij as a serious contender in a blog I wrote for TwinSpires.com earlier this week (click here for my analysis) and will reiterate one key point: Mubtaahij does not resemble any of the false contenders that shipped over previously from Dubai.

Previous Dubai horses were either too lightly-raced and/or ill-equipped to handle the 1 1/4-mile distance, but trainer Michael De Kock hasn't followed the failed playbook employed by conditioners Aidan O'Brien and Saaed bin Suroor in past years.

Since breaking his maiden on December 31, Mubtaahij has raced four more times on Meydan's dirt track. The colt upped the ante in every start, narrowly dropping his stakes debut at a mile before posting a comfortable 2 1/2-length decision over the well-regarded Sir Fever (Texas Fever) in the March 7 Al Baskiya at 1 3/16 miles.

He continued to improve while stepping up to face deeper company at the same distance last Saturday, offering an outstanding turn of foot to take a commanding lead by midstretch before being taken under wraps through the final furlong of an eight-length decision. Mubtaahij is peaking at the right time for a dangerous trainer and faces a 1 1/4-mile trip that he should relish -- he will certainly change the narrative regarding Dubai shippers (who are dismissed outright by many handicappers) if able to challenge our best three-year-olds on dirt.

Mubtaahij will be one to follow once he gets to Churchill Downs -- his stock figures to keep rising if he trains forwardly under the Twin Spires.

Upcoming

The California region is arguably much deeper than the rest of the country and Dortmund (Big Brown) will headline a strong Santa Anita Derby field that includes Prospect Park (Tapit), Bolo (Temple City) and One Lucky Dane (Lookin at Lucky). This grouping could play a serious part in the Kentucky Derby outcome.

Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) is listed as the even-money favorite over seven rivals in the Blue Grass at Keeneland and his affinity for the oval -- romped by 6 1/4 lengths in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) last fall -- is an advantage. He figures to be tighter for his second start back and I want to see improvement from a speed-figure perspective given that Carpe Diem earned only a 96 BRIS Speed rating for a most facile Tampa Bay Derby (G2) win. Grade 3 hero Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) is looking to rebound from a troubled effort in his 2015 bow and brings excellent speed to the mix. The rest of the field, including Classy Class (Discreetly Mine), Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon) and Frammento (Midshipman), are all either maiden or allowance winners only.

The TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial lost a key contender when Far From Over (Blame), who hadn't raced since early February, was removed from consideration Tuesday due to an injury. That leaves Gotham (G3) and Jerome (G3) scorer El Kabeir (Scat Daddy) as the one to beat at Aqueduct. His main foes are expected to include Daredevil (More Than Ready), Frosted (Tapit) and Tiz Shea D (Tiznow).

Notebooks

SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK

APRIL 2, 2015

by John Mucciolo

A single graded tilt headlined the week of racing at Santa Anita.

Tokyo City Cup (G3): Westrock Stables' SKY KINGDOM (Empire Maker) pressed the early pace, got a head in front at the mile marker and drove home a facile 5 3/4-length victor of this race for conditioner Bob Baffert. The six-year-old Kentucky-bred endured 1 1/2 miles on the fast main strip in 2:28 4/5 with Martin Garcia in the controls.

Track Stats

From a total of 34 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 47 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 62 percent of the wins. From 24 frays contested on the dirt oval, six animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (25 percent), while three of the 10 grassy tilts were taken all the way on the front end (30 percent).

Speed on the main oval was good for a third straight week and we will give an edge to forwardly placed runners going forward. This strip was benefiting closers for a while but has gotten back to normal, for us, anyhow.

Of the six wire jobs on the dirt, five came in sprint runs. Two of the three turf wire-to-wire winners came through in downhill dashes, also.

Meet Totals

RACES:   483
DIRT:   334
TURF:   149
FAVORITES:   180 (37 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   90 (19 percent)
TURF WIRE:   21 (14 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   70 (21 percent)

HORSES TO WATCH

Thursday (3/26)

5TH -- BROTHER SOLDIER (Brother Derek) was chasing in second behind a clear one to late stretch and gamely stayed on and wore that foe down late in a very strong tally for conditioner Richard Baltas. The four-year-old gelding should be a factor right back on a slight class rise, perhaps, and a bit of extra ground might work for him as well.

6TH -- A layoff of more than 15 months was no issue for Bob Baffert's talented FIVE PALMS (Unbridled's Song), who took command at the top of the lane and powered home a decisive allowance victor under Martin Garcia. The five-year-old is of stakes quality and should be heading there in a start or two.

Friday (3/27)

2ND -- L X SUNRISE (Kodiak Kowboy) was involved early and held well for second under the wire in another decent showing at this level. The Michael Pender-trained filly loves running second, and while she may never break through, but she is mostly dependable to fire her best shot and a key exotics piece every time she runs.

6TH -- ABBEY VALE (Moss Vale) tracked in a nice spot to the top of the lane, inched to the lead nearing midstretch and closed with fine energy to make a winning return off the 11-month layoff. The Phil d'Amato trainee beat a solid field like a good thing today and should be stakes bound with another run to add fitness.

Saturday (3/28)

5TH -- We liked CODACIOUS (Desert Code) a lot going into this race and he delivered with a breakout performance, dusting her maiden foes with ease in the lane. The Cliff Sise pupil didn't beat a great field but did so with authority, and she should be a player with winners in her comeback appearance.

MAJOR RAGER (Tribal Rule) tracked the winner while second to the top of the lane before tiring late, but this is the type that could improve a big deal in her second lifetime outing next up. Trainer Eric Kruljac doesn't win first out of the box that often, so tab this one for success going forward.

6TH -- We tabbed MAY B (Werblin) as one to watch a few runs back, and while the Mike McCarthy charge showed little in his last pair, he came back with a strong run here and almost lit up the toteboard for us when second. The gelding is a solid sprinter when on his game and this was an encouraging performance in a well-matched field.

A Look Ahead

The $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) will headline a big day of racing on Saturday at Santa Anita. Also carded is the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1), $150,000 Providencia Stakes (G3), $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes, $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes and $75,000 Thunder Road Stakes.

North American Maiden Winners
Admiral's Cruise--Reality Greenwood by Greenwood Lake; DICAYAGUA, f, 3, GP, Mcl 16000, 4-1, 1mT, 1:37 2/5. B-Daniel D. Martinez (FL.).
Freud--Beyond the Limit by Unbridled; BEYOND THE GREEN, c, 3, AQU, Msw, 4-1, 1m, 1:39 . B-Patricia Generazio (NY.).
Heckle--Our Revival by Ide; OUR ADIEU, f, 3, OP, Mcl 12500, 4-1, 6f, 1:12 1/5. B-Keith I. Asmussen (TX.).
In Summation--Capdiva by Capote; SUMDIVO, g, 3, MNR, Msw, 3-31, 5f, 1:02 2/5. B-John B. Penn (FL.). $57,000 '13 OBSAUG; $15,000 2014 OBSJUN.
Latent Heat--Sister to the Nth by Ecton Park; COLORADO GRANDSLAM, g, 3, AQU, Mcl 40000, 4-1, 1m, 1:39 2/5. B-Rodney J. Winkler (NY.).
Leroidesanimaux (BRZ)--Pure Adrenalin by Saint Ballado; NORTH OF OSWEGO, c, 3, OP, Mcl 16000, 4-1, 1m, 1:39 3/5. B-Andy Cant, Susy Cant & Charles H. Deters (FL.). $85,000 '13 KEESEP. *1/2 to John Johny Jak (G2P$342,279).
Majestic Warrior--Little Star by Forestry; ECO STAR, f, 3, OP, Mcl 30000, 4-1, 6f, 1:11 1/5. B-Virginia H. Tarra Trust (IL.).
Majestic Warrior--Baba Gonzo by Elusive Quality; MAJESTICMASQUERADE, f, 3, TAM, Mcl 16000, 4-1, 5 1/2f, 1:04 2/5. B-Marshall Thoroughbreds (KY.). $5,000 '12 KEENOV; $1,200 '13 OBSJAN.
Pomeroy--Wonderously by Awesome Again; MAURO AND JESUS, c, 3, AQU, Mcl 25000, 4-1, 6 1/2f, 1:20 2/5. B-The Peter J. Callahan Revocable Trust Dated 2/28/02 (NY.). $35,000 '13 FTMSEP; $40,000 '13 KEEJAN; $40,000 2014 OBSAPR. *1/2 to Baffle Me(MSW$476,556).
Sharp Humor--Fallseed by Forest Wildcat; QUE FACIL, g, 3, HAW, Msw, 4-1, 6f, 1:11 1/5. B-T/C Stable, LLC (IL.). $30,000 '13 KEESEP.
Shore Breeze--Sonja Sue by Snuck In; GRACIOUS DIVA, f, 3, HAW, Mcl 15000, 4-1, 5 1/2f, 1:07 3/5. B-John F. Haran (IL.).
Sky Hollister--Miss Rocket Jag by Cape Canaveral; MRS PEACOCK, f, 3, MNR, Msw, 3-31, 6f, 1:17 . B-Rags to Riches Racing Stable, Dr. & Vincent Ziegler, et al (KY.). ***FIRST WINNER FOR SIRE
Spensive--A Rose for You by Orientate; ACES FOR JOHN, g, 3, GP, Mcl 35000, 4-1, 1m, 1:40 4/5. B-Y-Lo Racing Stables, LLC (FL.). $4,500 2014 OBSJUN. *1/2 to Harlington's Rose (G3$371,040).
Decarchy--Troubleinshangrila by Hazaam; DECANTERED, g, 4, TUP, Mcl 5000, 3-31, 6 1/2f, 1:17 2/5. B-Wine Alot Stables (CA.).
Deputy Rummy--Patti's Lass by Bold Executive; P. F.'S RUMMY, g, 4, MNR, Mcl 5000, 3-31, 5 1/2f, 1:10 . B-Harold Shotwell (WV.).
Devil Hunter--Scarlet Princess by Dr. Caton; GETWUTUPREYFOR, g, 4, HAW, Mcl 15000, 4-1, 6 1/2f, 1:21 . B-Margo Wimmer (IL.).
Hesabull--Brittney by Late Act; LATE ACT HERE, g, 4, OP, Mcl 16000, 4-1, 1 1/16m, 1:48 . B-T + L Thoroughbred Farm LLC (AR.).
In Summation--Princess Biagi by Quaker Ridge; PUT SUMM BACK, g, 4, TAM, Mcl 25000, 4-1, 7f, 1:24 . B-Just For Fun Stable (FL.). $22,000 2013 OBSJUN.
Medaglia d'Oro--Sahara Gold (G2), by Seeking the Gold; LUCKNOW, f, 4, GP, Msw, 4-1, 7 1/2fT, 1:28 3/5. B-Darley (KY.). *1/2 to Sahara Heat (G3) *1/2 to Better Lucky (MG1$1,278,950).
Bob and John--Little Martha by Broad Brush; BEACON INTHE NIGHT, m, 5, TAM, Mcl 16000, 4-1, 1 1/16mT, 1:43 1/5. B-Jim Plemmons (KY.).
Kipling--Crystal n Pennies by Vanlandingham; HADAL ZONE, g, 5, MNR, Mcl 5000, 3-31, 1m, 1:46 1/5. B-Thomas J.Young (KY.).

Features

HANDICAPPING INSIGHTS

APRIL 2, 2015

by Dick Powell

What a crazy 24 hours of racing. Between Australian racing at Randwick Friday night into early Saturday morning, the Dubai World Cup card Saturday and then Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park hosting 14-race marathons, lucky for us New Yorkers that state law forbids horse racing wagering Palm Sunday. I need a rest.

Saturday morning began with the first Thoroughbred race from Meydan in Dubai around 8:40 a.m. (ET). Tamarkuz (Speightstown), winner of his last three starts over the new dirt main track, used post 1 to his best advantage despite his customary slow start.

Paul Hanagan took over in the stretch and had to overcome a furious rally from Sloane Avenue (Candy Ride) who was breaking from post 15. According to Trakus, Sloane Avenue raced eight feet farther than Tamarkuz and after the race, his trainer Jeremy Noseda could not contain himself.

Trying to resist the temptation that he felt the draw was fixed, Noseda told the international simulcast feed, "I'm just gutted about the draw," said Noseda. "As soon as I got that draw I knew I would need a miracle and we nearly pulled it off.

"The horse did great and it was a great ride by Frankie (Dettori), but it was impossible with that draw. I don't know how a horse (Tamarkuz) gets drawn in stall one or two in four consecutive races. I've got no doubt Sloane's the best horse in the race and he didn't win. I'm just a bit upset with the draw as I think it's cost him. I don't want to, but I feel like a bad loser after that."

When the major races are drawn in Dubai, the customary pill system is not used but is replaced by a computerized process that randomly assigns post positions. Noseda, in the heat of the moment, questioned how random it was. I am sure he will calm down, but it was interesting to hear what was on his mind.

Tamarkuz, besides post one, had the advantage of having four races over the Meydan dirt to prep for this. Historically, we have seen that the horses that race in the Dubai Carnival have an advantage on the big night even if it seems like they are moving up in class.

I was lucky enough to be at Nad al Sheba when Asiatic Boy (Not For Sale) won the 2007 U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) with a stunning display of acceleration in the stretch. Eight years later, Mike de Kock sent out another special three-year-old racing in Sheikh Mohammed bin Khaliffa's colors and Mubtaahij (Dubawi) was every bit as impressive.

Sitting in behind dueling leaders while saving ground on a dirt track that was playing much tighter than expected, Christophe Soumillon tipped him three wide with a quarter-mile to go and he exploded to an easy eight-length victory. Unlike Asiatic Boy, who was bred on Southern Hemisphere time and not eligible for our classic races, de Kock stated after the race that Mubtaahij's next start would be the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Like Tamarkuz, Mubtaahij had four races over the Meydan dirt to get ready for his U.A.E. Derby victory.

Sole Power (Kyllachy) is a neat eight-year-old that has won races everywhere but Dubai. Winner of two Group 1 sprints last year and voted Ireland's Horse of the Year, he was winless in seven Dubai starts over the years before Saturday's Al Quoz Stakes (UAE-G1) going five furlongs on the turf straightaway. Richard Hughes produced him on the grandstand side from the back of the field and he was much the best, and Sole Power is the odd come-from-behind turf sprinter that does better at five furlongs than six.

Secret Circle (Eddington) won the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) two years ago and was a game second last year. Now at the age of six, Bob Baffert shipped him to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) and he was a head winner. Victor Espinoza kept him three wide throughout and despite not having a race over the dirt track, Secret Circle was able to prevail.

In what was becoming a bizarre night, Secret Circle was brought back to the winner's circle. Baffert and co-owner Mike Pegram were not in attendance but who wandered into to it like he was the owner was none other than California Chrome's (Lucky Pulpit) co-owner Steve Coburn. The only connection I could see was he was ridden by Chrome's rider Espinoza. And, Coburn was an American and an American horse won. I can think of a lot of Americans that were present at Meydan other than him to have his picture taken.

Depending on the exchange rate, the $6 million Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) and Sheema Classic (UAE-G1) could be the most lucrative races run on turf this year. In the Dubai Turf, Freddie Head raved about Solow's (Singspiel) chances based on his four straight victories.

However, this was his Group 1 stakes debut but under an extremely confident Maxime Guyon, Solow took over on the outside in the stretch and won as he pleased in the good time of 1:47.76 for the 1800 meters (approximately 1 1/8 miles). For Head, the trainer of three-time Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) winner Goldikova, it's another horse that can compete against the top middle distance horses in the world.

Like Goldikova, Solow races for the Wertheimer brothers, Alain and Gerard. It should be another fun year for the Head family as Freddie's sister, Criquette, will try to make history this October when Treve(Motivator) goes for her third straight Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1).

The Sheema Classic was next and it was quite simple. Main Sequence (Aldeberan) wins with Lasix and doesn't without it. Flintshire (Dansili) should have won the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) when Main Sequence got the jump on him and then went to Hong Kong to win a Group 1 in December.

Flintshire was second in his prep for this on a synthetic track at Chantilly but it was the winner of that prep that shined here. Christophe Soumillon sent Dolniya (Azamour) up after the lead out of the gate, yielded to Just the Judge (Lawman) and sat the inside pocket. Soumillon had her perfectly relaxed and despite others making wide moves, never hit the panic button.

In the stretch, One and Only (Heart's Cry) began to weaken from his first-over position and that was all Soumillon needed. Dolniya quickened before the rest knew what hit them and she cruised to a 2 1/4-length victory over Flintshire. It was classic Soumillion riding and the newly-turned four-year-old filly will have the Arc as her target as long as the course does not come up soft.

The $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) was the finale and the result might have been more predictable had we just stuck to the "race over the track" angle. Instead, I liked Hokko Tamurae (King Kamehameha), a Japanese dirt specialist that had earned over $8 million. He raced up on the pace and weakened late while Jose Espinoza had California Chrome four wide on the outside.

William Buick had Prince Bishop (Dubawi) towards the rear of the field and bided his time while saving ground around the first turn. Just like in the final round of the Maktoum Challenge (UAE-G1) last month, Prince Bishop showed a strong turn of foot once he tipped to the outside and had a clear run. California Chrome was not keeping up and Prince Bishop went right on by while opening up an improbable lead.

California Chrome held well to be second while Lea (First Samurai) was an even third. At the wire, Candy Boy (Candy Ride) flew home and nipped Hokko Tamurae for fourth so the Americans finished second, third and fourth although Candy Boy is no longer American-owned and now races for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

Eight-year-old Prince Bishop had never raced on dirt until this year and like anything else, was able to handle it with experience and training. Too often we expect miracles the first time a horse tries something new and we do not take advantage of a horse's adaptability and intelligence if it doesn't do it right the first time. Even at the age of eight, trainer Saeed bin Suroor was able to teach this old dog some new tricks.

After the race, and before the world's largest fireworks display was about to begin, California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn had his foot back in his mouth as he waxed about another perceived element of unfairness in the racing game.

First, it was the unfairness of horses like Tonalist (Tapit) skipping the first two legs of the Triple Crown and taking advantage of those that competed in them at the Belmont Stakes (G1). I didn't have too much of a problem with that but here he was again, after a loss, at a moment when he should be pleased as punch with how well his horse ran, lamenting how they got there recently and did not have enough time to acclimate to the track and surroundings.

The book was written by Steve Asmussen on how to ship to Dubai when he took Curlin over early, got a race over the Nad al Sheba track, then came back a month later to romp in that year's World Cup. Nothing stopped California Chrome from going over early other than California Chrome's connections.

Okay, Coburn is new to the game but is starting to run out of benefits of the doubt. But then he absolutely dug himself another hole when he talked about them shipping to Dubai and challenged Sheikh Mohammed to do the same and race in America. Uh?

Everyone, even Coburn, is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Coburn now goes on the mute list. When they open their mouth, I hit the mute button.

Thankfully, the day of racing at Meydan was rescued by Prince Bishop's owner, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. He donated the entire $6 million first-place prize to the Dubai Autism Centre of which he is the chairman. Fantastic!

Gulfstream Park began its 14-race marathon at noon on Saturday and the listed post time for the last race, the $1 million Florida Derby (G1), was 6:48 p.m.. Considering that all meet they never ran a race within four minutes of the listed post time and sundown was scheduled for 7:17, this was going to be interesting.

The field of nine left the starting gate at 6::59 and complicating the dwindling daylight issue was how slow the track was paying. Just like when the Fountain of Youth (G2) was run, the Gulfstream Park main track was deep and tiring due to a strong wind that was evaporating the water that the maintenance crew was putting down. By the time the Florida Derby rolled around, the times of the races had slowed dramatically and the inside part of the track seemed to be the deepest.

From post nine, even-money favorite Upstart (Flatter) was wide around the far turn where he stayed for the entire race. Materiality (Afleet Alex) went up after the lead under Johnny Velazquez and disputed the pace with longshot Jack Tripp (Flatter) through fractions of 48.24 for the half and 1:12.51 for six furlongs.

Jose Ortiz had Upstart poised on the outside and around the far turn, it was just those two in contention -- Materiality on the inside and Upstart on the outside. Somewhere inside the eighth pole, Materiality veered out and Ortiz reacted by pulling Upstart to the outside. On the pan shot, it was hard to tell if there was contact so we would have to wait to see the head-on replay when the stewards took a look.

With the sun setting and the big crowd expecting the toteboard to start blinking, the race was declared official as the horses just started to head back around the clubhouse turn.

Goodnight everybody! Have a safe ride home. Don't stop; nothing to see here.

Somehow after the race, one of the outriders that is in communication with the stewards, radioed in that there were no claims of foul by the riders. The race was declared official and that was that. It was like when Joe Pesci's character got whacked at his "induction" ceremony in Goodfellas. "And there was nothing we could do about it."

I waited for the replay to be shown on the simulcast feed and they did show the head-on one. It didn't show conclusively whether a foul had occurred and the reality was that had they conducted a proper inquiry, they probably would have ruled the race official with no change to the order of finish.

What was unacceptable was the circumstances around the decision; not the decision itself. Since when do the riders decide the outcome of an inquiry? Even if there were a mechanical failure, the stewards are supposed to be able to make up their own minds without the input of the riders. When did you ever hear about a rider copping to a foul?

"Yes, judge. I cut him off turning for home. I don't know what got into me and promise not to do it again." Not going to happen. It is up to the stewards to adjudicate the incident and it can be done without little if any input from the riders.

This was not a rush to judgment -- this was no judgment at all. How they could have made their decision in such a short period of time was impossible and to say that they did is an insult to the industry.

Horseplayers have their own levels of paranoia but how else could a rational person feel after Saturday? There was a big crowd, the races were running behind schedule, the sun was going down and now an infraction happened in front of the big crowd. Do we stay and not only get it right but prove to the betting public that we took the time to get it right or do we just make it official and go home?

Any horseplayer worth his salt knew what was going to happen. We have seen it numerous times under different circumstances but inevitably we accept it since there is nobody to complain to. Florida doesn't really have a racing commission but a Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. An investigation should be conducted with interviews of the stewards, track management, the outriders and Ortiz and Velazquez. Develop a timeline and determine not only what happened but how can it be prevented from happening again.

If you believe that will happen, say hello to the Easter Bunny for me next Sunday.

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather

SPOT PLAYS

For Thursday

TRACK   (RACE) HORSE, MORNING LINE
Aqueduct   (1st) Hythe Gardens, 6-1
    (7th) Have a Taste, 7-2
Charles Town   (1st) Queen Tatalina, 6-1
    (7th) In Place, 7-2
Golden Gate Fields   (1st) Tiz Titus, 7-2
    (5th) Wink and Wish, 7-2
Gulfstream Park   (4th) Belstorm, 9-2
    (6th) Explore, 4-1
Oaklawn Park   (2nd) Springboard, 7-2
    (9th) Magic Five, 3-1
Penn National   (2nd0 The Great Romp, 4-1
    (6th) Hula Party, 5-1
Pimlico   (6th) Seventy Niner, 3-1
    (7th) Aruban Truth, 7-2
Santa Anita   (2nd) Warren's Sallyized, 4-1
    (7th) Chester B, 6-1

Features

KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT

APRIL 1, 2015

by James Scully

The first round of major final prep races is in the books, with favorites International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus) and Mubtaahij (Dubawi) capturing the Louisiana Derby (G2) and U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2), respectively, and 9-5 second choice Materiality (Afleet Alex) extending his mark to three-for-three in the Florida Derby (G1).

Anticipation runs even higher for this Saturday's races as top contenders square off in the Blue Grass (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1) and TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (G1).

Florida Derby

Materiality is an up-and-coming colt with good speed. He broke well in the Florida Derby, racing on the front end with a longshot before asserting control entering the far turn, and took everything the well-regarded Upstart (Flatter) had to offer before edging away late to a 1 1/2-length decision.

Over a slow and tiring Gulfstream Park track, the bay colt registered 103 E1 and 115 E2 Pace numbers en route to an excellent 105 BRIS Speed rating. And Upstart posted a 103 Speed while finishing 12 1/2 lengths clear of third. The final time (1:52.30) is misleading given the way the track was playing.

It was a grueling performance for the top two finishers, one they'll need to keep moving forward from while stretching out another eighth of a mile five weeks later, but Materiality and Upstart will at least exit an encouraging performance as opposed to Itsaknockout (Lemon Drop Kid), who stamped his Kentucky Derby ticket winning the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2) via disqualification but never fired in a dismal fourth-place showing Saturday, beaten 21 lengths.

Materiality didn't make his career bow until January 11, easily winning a six-furlong maiden special weight in the slop by 4 1/4 lengths, and was freshened nearly two months in advance of his next appearance, rolling to a 5 3/4-length win in the March 6 Islamorada at 1 1/8 miles. He came back only three weeks later in the Florida Derby, a quick turnaround for a Todd Pletcher trainee, and received the first real test in his brief career.

The unbeaten colt has never lost ground in the stretch, increasing his margin at the last two calls in every start, and Materiality owns a nice set of BRIS Speed figures (96-100-105) as well as a commendable pedigree for 10 furlongs. But he's also had things his own way most of the time and rates as a prime candidate for a regression at Churchill Downs.

Lightly-raced horses with no two-year-old foundation have a terrible record in the Kentucky Derby. Foundation is important given the extreme demands of the 1 1/4-mile race early in a horse's three-year-old season.

I've said previously that an unraced juvenile will eventually win the Kentucky Derby, especially in this era of lightly-raced horses, but that individual needs to be able to overwhelm the competition (think of the field Big Brown was facing in 2008). That scenario appears highly unlikely for Materiality this year given the talent at the top.

Materiality remains a highly-promising individual, one that must be considered a prime contender for important future races such as the Belmont Stakes (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1) and Travers (G1), but the fact that he's never raced outside of Gulfstream hurts his chances as well. The Kentucky Derby is not the spot to try something new and it should come as no surprise that every winner in the modern era raced at multiple venues beforehand -- experience matters.

I liked Upstart entering the year and jumped on the bandwagon following his convincing win in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G2) in late January, but his last two performances have left something to be desired. And I'm doubting his ability to stretch out effectively next time.

Upstart opened his racing career with flashy wins in a pair of Saratoga sprints, including a career-best 106 BRIS Speed rating for the restricted Funny Cide at 6 1/2 furlongs. That's not something you want to see, a Kentucky Derby contender run his fastest race sprinting at age two, and the presence of champion sprinter Housebuster as the second damsire is probably more pronounced than I originally wanted to believe.

Upstart steadily lost ground over the final five-sixteenths of a mile in the Florida Derby, laboring mightily in the latter stages. He's still a talented colt who would be tough to ignore if the Kentucky Derby was at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles, but I can't envision him thriving on the stretch out.

Third-place Ami's Flatter (Flatter) has quality concerns but the stoutly-bred sophomore can't be ruled out of Kentucky Derby exotics consideration due to his finishing kick, with late-running longshots Commanding Curve and Golden Soul finishing second the last two years behind hot early paces.

Didn't like the decision to run Itsaknockout in the Florida Derby given that he had raced exclusively at Gulfstream and the colt appeared to get very little out of the race. He could still have a nice future, but difficult to imagine him being ready for his best on May 2.

Louisiana Derby

International Star's ability to corner well on the far turn could prove beneficial in the Kentucky Derby. He launched another eye-catching move in the Louisiana Derby, accelerating past rivals along the rail before swinging out for the stretch drive, and determinedly ran down the pacesetting Stanford (Malibu Moon) to win by a neck.

He wasn't facing the stiffest opposition all year at the New Orleans oval, and his BRIS Class rating Saturday (119.8) paled in comparison to Materiality's Florida Derby (122.4), but International Star's improving form for Mike Maker is easy to admire.

The son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus had never won on dirt before this season, breaking his maiden on Belmont Park's turf and capturing the Grey (G3) on Woodbine's Polytrack last year, and he's moved forward in each start since opening 2015 with a victory in the Lecomte (G3), posting BRIS Speed ratings of 94-97-99.

His 99 Louisiana Derby figure was compromised by a moderate early pace that didn't play to his strengths. International Star laid it all on the line while switching back to the wrong lead in deep stretch, registering an impressive 107 BRIS Late Pace number given the early fractions, and the hard-trying colt is extremely game.

He may not be good enough to win on the class hike, but International Star figures to receive the right set-up in the Kentucky Derby and I'll include the fast-finishing colt underneath in exotics.

Stanford turned in a big performance in his first Kentucky Derby qualifying race and the improving colt will bring speed to the first leg of the Triple Crown.

He's bred for longer distances, but the Pletcher charge has recorded his lone wins at five furlongs (maiden) and six furlongs (February allowance/optional claimer). His ability to get away to an uncontested early advantage led to a career-best performance in the Louisiana Derby, but different circumstances next time could easily compromise his chances. I'll look for more down the road from the promising runner.

War Story (2.40-1) nearly went favored over International Star ( 2.30-1) but supporters hoping to see him put it all together came away deeply disappointed. He never threatened recording a well-beaten third, a step back from respectable runner-up efforts in the Lecomte and Risen Star (G2).

I've seen nothing that suggests a turnaround for the gelding in the Kentucky Derby -- War Story has now lost ground to International Star in the stretch of three straight races -- and he's a bad actor in the starting gate, which won't help his chances in a 20-horse field.

The moderate pace didn't benefit fourth-placer Keen Ice (Curlin) but his inability to make up any ground on the far turn was the most disappointing facet of his performance. The deep closer only passes rivals after straightening into the stretch and that recipe doesn't work in the Kentucky Derby -- Keen Ice would need to be accelerating into contention on the final bend to have even a puncher's chance at a minor award.

U.A.E. Derby

I tabbed U.A.E. Derby winner Mubtaahij as a serious contender in a blog I wrote for TwinSpires.com earlier this week (click here for my analysis) and will reiterate one key point: Mubtaahij does not resemble any of the false contenders that shipped over previously from Dubai.

Previous Dubai horses were either too lightly-raced and/or ill-equipped to handle the 1 1/4-mile distance, but trainer Michael De Kock hasn't followed the failed playbook employed by conditioners Aidan O'Brien and Saaed bin Suroor in past years.

Since breaking his maiden on December 31, Mubtaahij has raced four more times on Meydan's dirt track. The colt upped the ante in every start, narrowly dropping his stakes debut at a mile before posting a comfortable 2 1/2-length decision over the well-regarded Sir Fever (Texas Fever) in the March 7 Al Baskiya at 1 3/16 miles.

He continued to improve while stepping up to face deeper company at the same distance last Saturday, offering an outstanding turn of foot to take a commanding lead by midstretch before being taken under wraps through the final furlong of an eight-length decision. Mubtaahij is peaking at the right time for a dangerous trainer and faces a 1 1/4-mile trip that he should relish -- he will certainly change the narrative regarding Dubai shippers (who are dismissed outright by many handicappers) if able to challenge our best three-year-olds on dirt.

Mubtaahij will be one to follow once he gets to Churchill Downs -- his stock figures to keep rising if he trains forwardly under the Twin Spires.

Upcoming

The California region is arguably much deeper than the rest of the country and Dortmund (Big Brown) will headline a strong Santa Anita Derby field that includes Prospect Park (Tapit), Bolo (Temple City) and One Lucky Dane (Lookin at Lucky). This grouping could play a serious part in the Kentucky Derby outcome.

Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) is listed as the even-money favorite over seven rivals in the Blue Grass at Keeneland and his affinity for the oval -- romped by 6 1/4 lengths in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) last fall -- is an advantage. He figures to be tighter for his second start back and I want to see improvement from a speed-figure perspective given that Carpe Diem earned only a 96 BRIS Speed rating for a most facile Tampa Bay Derby (G2) win. Grade 3 hero Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) is looking to rebound from a troubled effort in his 2015 bow and brings excellent speed to the mix. The rest of the field, including Classy Class (Discreetly Mine), Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon) and Frammento (Midshipman), are all either maiden or allowance winners only.

The TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial lost a key contender when Far From Over (Blame), who hadn't raced since early February, was removed from consideration Tuesday due to an injury. That leaves Gotham (G3) and Jerome (G3) scorer El Kabeir (Scat Daddy) as the one to beat at Aqueduct. His main foes are expected to include Daredevil (More Than Ready), Frosted (Tapit) and Tiz Shea D (Tiznow).

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.

Announcements

Help Wanted

A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.

Notebooks

SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK

APRIL 2, 2015

by John Mucciolo

A single graded tilt headlined the week of racing at Santa Anita.

Tokyo City Cup (G3): Westrock Stables' SKY KINGDOM (Empire Maker) pressed the early pace, got a head in front at the mile marker and drove home a facile 5 3/4-length victor of this race for conditioner Bob Baffert. The six-year-old Kentucky-bred endured 1 1/2 miles on the fast main strip in 2:28 4/5 with Martin Garcia in the controls.

Track Stats

From a total of 34 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 47 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 62 percent of the wins. From 24 frays contested on the dirt oval, six animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (25 percent), while three of the 10 grassy tilts were taken all the way on the front end (30 percent).

Speed on the main oval was good for a third straight week and we will give an edge to forwardly placed runners going forward. This strip was benefiting closers for a while but has gotten back to normal, for us, anyhow.

Of the six wire jobs on the dirt, five came in sprint runs. Two of the three turf wire-to-wire winners came through in downhill dashes, also.

Meet Totals

RACES:   483
DIRT:   334
TURF:   149
FAVORITES:   180 (37 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   90 (19 percent)
TURF WIRE:   21 (14 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   70 (21 percent)

HORSES TO WATCH

Thursday (3/26)

5TH -- BROTHER SOLDIER (Brother Derek) was chasing in second behind a clear one to late stretch and gamely stayed on and wore that foe down late in a very strong tally for conditioner Richard Baltas. The four-year-old gelding should be a factor right back on a slight class rise, perhaps, and a bit of extra ground might work for him as well.

6TH -- A layoff of more than 15 months was no issue for Bob Baffert's talented FIVE PALMS (Unbridled's Song), who took command at the top of the lane and powered home a decisive allowance victor under Martin Garcia. The five-year-old is of stakes quality and should be heading there in a start or two.

Friday (3/27)

2ND -- L X SUNRISE (Kodiak Kowboy) was involved early and held well for second under the wire in another decent showing at this level. The Michael Pender-trained filly loves running second, and while she may never break through, but she is mostly dependable to fire her best shot and a key exotics piece every time she runs.

6TH -- ABBEY VALE (Moss Vale) tracked in a nice spot to the top of the lane, inched to the lead nearing midstretch and closed with fine energy to make a winning return off the 11-month layoff. The Phil d'Amato trainee beat a solid field like a good thing today and should be stakes bound with another run to add fitness.

Saturday (3/28)

5TH -- We liked CODACIOUS (Desert Code) a lot going into this race and he delivered with a breakout performance, dusting her maiden foes with ease in the lane. The Cliff Sise pupil didn't beat a great field but did so with authority, and she should be a player with winners in her comeback appearance.

MAJOR RAGER (Tribal Rule) tracked the winner while second to the top of the lane before tiring late, but this is the type that could improve a big deal in her second lifetime outing next up. Trainer Eric Kruljac doesn't win first out of the box that often, so tab this one for success going forward.

6TH -- We tabbed MAY B (Werblin) as one to watch a few runs back, and while the Mike McCarthy charge showed little in his last pair, he came back with a strong run here and almost lit up the toteboard for us when second. The gelding is a solid sprinter when on his game and this was an encouraging performance in a well-matched field.

A Look Ahead

The $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) will headline a big day of racing on Saturday at Santa Anita. Also carded is the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1), $150,000 Providencia Stakes (G3), $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes, $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes and $75,000 Thunder Road Stakes.

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.

Announcements

Help Wanted

A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.