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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2015

Racing Headlines

The Great War blasts foes in 96Rock

Classy repatriate The Great War (War Front) bombarded his foes into submission in Saturday night's $69,345 96Rock S. at Turfway Park, beginning his new association with trainer Wesley Ward on a sensational note. Transferred from Aidan O'Brien after a fourth in the November 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the 1-10 favorite ran up to billing in a 7 1/4-length victory. The Triple Crown nominee is expected to continue his tour of Turfway in the next two preps, the February 28 John Battaglia Memorial and March 21 Spiral (G3).

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

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

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

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

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

The Great War blasts foes in 96Rock

Classy repatriate The Great War (War Front) bombarded his foes into submission in Saturday night's $69,345 96Rock S. at Turfway Park, beginning his new association with trainer Wesley Ward on a sensational note. Transferred from Aidan O'Brien after a fourth in the November 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the 1-10 favorite ran up to billing in a 7 1/4-length victory. The Triple Crown nominee is expected to continue his tour of Turfway in the next two preps, the February 28 John Battaglia Memorial and March 21 Spiral (G3).

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

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

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

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

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

Results

NORTH AMERICAN GRADED STAKES RESULTS

SAM F. DAVIS S. (G3), TAM, $201,500, 3YO, 1 1/16M, 1-31.
11—OCEAN KNIGHT, c, 3, Curlin--Ocean Goddess, by Stormy Atlantic. ($320,000 2014 OBSMAR). O-Stonestreet Stables LLC, B-Thor-Bred Stables, LLC (KY), T-Kiaran P. McLaughlin, J-Irad Ortiz, Jr., $120,000.
5—Divining Rod, c, 3, Tapit--Precious Kitten, by Catienus. O-Lael Stables, B-Mr & Mrs M Roy Jackson (KY), $40,000.
9—My Johnny Be Good, c, 3, Colonel John--Im So Fine, by Elusive Quality. O-Casner Racing, LP, B-Casner Racing LP (KY), $20,000.
Also Ran: Ami's Flatter, Catalina Red, Crittenden, Royal Son, Coomer, Bears Personality, Brother Bobo, Bandages, G Five.
Winning Time: 1:43 3/5 (ft)
Margins: NK, 5, 1 1/4.
Odds: 1.60, 28.50, 3.70.

Ocean Knight takes long way around to win Sam F. Davis

Ocean Knight remained undefeated with this stakes debut victory (SV Photography)

Ocean Knight (Curlin) took the overland route to victory in Saturday's $250,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, the local prelude to next month's Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Breaking from post 11 under Irad Ortiz Jr., the 8-5 favorite was four wide entering the first turn and remained in that stalking position down the backside. Saving only a minor bit more ground rounding the final turn, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee steadily advanced through the lane and caught 28-1 longshot Divining Rod (Tapit) very late to win by a neck.

Ocean Knight, owned by Stonestreet Stables, paid $5.20 after completing 1 1/16 miles in a time of 1:43 3/5 over a fast track.

"I had ridden (Ocean Knight) before so I knew he would wait until I asked him," Ortiz said. "We were good from the gate and I was able to get position just outside the lead group. Mr. McLaughlin told me he had been training up to the race very well and to just relax, wait with him and set him down into the stretch.

"When I asked for run he just went after the horse on the lead a like a good horse should. I really hope I get to ride him back in those big races coming up."

The early pace was set by Catalina Red, who ran the opening quarter in :24 1/5, but Divining Rod took over approaching the half and set later splits of :48 3/5 and 1:12 4/5. At the finish, Divining Rod was five lengths clear of My Johnny Be Good (Colonel John), who was followed by Ami's Flatter (Flatter), Catalina Red (Munnings), Crittenden, Royal Son (Tiznow), Coomer (Midshipman), Bears Personality (Awesome Again), Brother Bobo (Kantharos), Bandages (Any Given Saturday), and G Five (Flashy Bull).

This was the second career start for Ocean Knight, who broke his maiden impressively by 4 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct going six furlongs on December 14. Bred in Kentucky by Thor-Bred Stables and purchased for $320,000 at the OBS March two-year-old sale, Ocean Knight has now earned $156,000.

Neal McLaughlin, assistant and brother to Kiaran McLaughlin, said they would confer with Stonestreet's Barbara Banke but it is likely Ocean Knight will return for the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby.

"We are not afraid to go anywhere with him, but if we like the surface here and can have a good experience, why not come back?" Neal said. "Irad rode him great, but he was wide and he had to make a couple of moves to get position. He gutted it out down the stretch. For a lightly raced young horse, it’s very exciting.

"He just took a while to come around last summer; no big problems, just little things to get him to the gate and through the process," he added.

Ocean Knight was produced by the winning Ocean Goddess (Stormy Atlantic), a half-sister to stakes winner Libby's Halo (Halo's Image) and the stakes-placed Mister Alimony (Skip Trial). This extended family produced Grade 3 winners Winter Melody (Frosty the Snowman) and Godmother (Show'em Slew).

LAS VIRGENES S. (G1), SA, $301,000, 3YO, F, 1M, 1-31.
7—CALLBACK, f, 3, Street Sense--Quickest, by Forest Wildcat. ($375,000 '13 FTSAUG). O-Spendthrift Farm LLC, B-Vincent Colbert (KY), T-Bob Baffert, J-Martin Garcia, $180,000.
10—Light the City, f, 3, Street Sense--Light From Above, by A.P. Indy. ($80,000 '13 KEESEP). O-Cheyenne Stables LLC, B-Hargus & Sandra Sexton (KY), $60,000.
4—Achiever's Legacy, f, 3, City Zip--Lure the Bear, by Lure. ($9,000 '13 FTKOCT). O-Campbell, G, Cellucci, M, Horowitz, D, Robertson, R et al, B-Richard D Maynard (KY), $36,000.
Also Ran: Majestic Presence, Lutine Belle, Suva Harbor, Miss Mandate, Maybellene, Mio Me.
Winning Time: 1:36 4/5 (ft)
Margins: HF, 3HF, 2HF.
Odds: 2.60, 7.30, 11.70.

Callback refuses to yield in Las Virgenes

Callback likely as the Santa Anita Oaks on her schedule of upcoming races (Benoit Photo)

Spendthrift Farm LLC's Callback (Street Sense) played second fiddle to stablemate Maybellene (Lookin at Lucky) in the wagering for Saturday's $301,000 Las Virgenes S. (G1), but proved best of all when crossing under the wire first, a half-length in front of Light the City (Street Sense).

Callback took command out of the gate and proceeded to set splits of :22 4/5 and :46 4/5 while tracked by Suva Harbor (Rockport Harbor) to her outside. That filly dropped back as the field neared the turn, leaving the way clear for Light the City to move up and challenge.

Callback never flinched, maintaining her momentum into the stretch and turning back Light the City's bid. Racing for the first time without blinkers, the Bob Baffert trainee finished a mile on the fast Santa Anita dirt in 1:36 4/5 to return $7.20 as the 5-2 second choice under jockey Martin Garcia. Fellow Baffert pupil Maybellene was the 2-1 in the race but faded to eighth in the nine-filly field.

"I was just cruising all the way around there," Garcia said. "I asked her a little going into the far turn and then again when Light the City came back at us, she took off. There was no way they were going to go by us.

"I don't see why stretching out further would be any problem; she's a good filly. She can do anything you want."

"She broke really good from the gate. I was right behind the speed and I followed the winner. I had a perfect trip, but at the three-eighths (marker), I was done. I didn't have enough horse," explained Maybellene's rider, Rafael Bejarano.

Now boasting $245,450 in career earnings, Callback has run up a 4-2-1-0 scorecard. She didn't show much when ninth in her debut last November at Santa Anita but then traveled to Los Alamitos to break her maiden by 2 1/2 lengths one month later. Making her sophomore bow on January 3 in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez S. (G2), the bay lass proved second best on that occasion but successfully passed the stretch-out test here.

"We've always been pretty high on her. They were high on her when they sent her in. I wanted to run one-two. My other filly (Maybellene), she just didn't kick today," Baffert remarked.

"You train them for two turns; I knew she was going to be forwardly placed and she worked really well coming into it," he continued. "I thought her last race was really good. She was a little bit intimidated down in the one hole and with the blinkers. The first time I ran her, she was the heavy favorite, she didn't run well, but I think she bounced.

"It was nice to get a win for (Spendthrift Farm owner B.) Wayne Hughes. He couldn't make it today. He was ill with a little cold (in Malibu)."

In addition to padding her resume Callback also earned 10 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 2 at Churchill Downs. She now owns 14 total points, thanks in part to the Santa Ynez runner-up effort, as the Las Virgenes was the final race in the prep season portion on the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" schedule and offered up 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers.

When asked what he has planned for Callback now, Baffert quipped, "Yeah (the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks [G1] going 1 1/16 miles on April 4) would be considered, unless the earth moves or something."

Bred in Kentucky by Vincent Colbert, Callback was purchased by Spendthrift for $375,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected yearling. She is out of the unraced Quickest (Forest Wildcat), making her a half-sister to dual stakes winner Defy Gravity (Bandini) and stakes-placed Miss Super Quick (Rock Hard Ten). Quickest is herself a half-sister to Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Super Saver (Maria's Mon) and Grade 3 scorer Brethren (Distorted Humor).

Callback's third dam is Grade 3 victress Get Lucky (Mr. Prospector) -- from whom is descended Grade 1 winners Girolamo (A.P. Indy), Imagining (Giant's Causeway) and Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat), just to name a few -- while her fifth dam is champion Numbered Account (Buckpasser).

ARCADIA S. (G2), SA, $200,500, 4YO/UP, 1MT, 1-31.
9—AVANZARE, g, 5, Grand Reward--Turn the Tide, by Theatrical (IRE). ($1,100 '11 FTMOCT; $52,000 2012 OBSJUN). O-Lanni, Donato and Youngblood, John F, B-Snow Lantern Thoroughbreds (KY), T-Thomas F. Proctor, J-Gary L. Stevens, $120,000.
8—Za Approval, g, 7, Ghostzapper--Win Approval, by With Approval. O-Live Oak Plantation, B-Live Oak Stud (KY), $40,000.
2—Home Run Kitten, c, 4, Kitten's Joy--Grand Slam Girl, by Grand Slam. O-Tarabilla Farms, Inc, B-Kenneth L & Sarah K Ramsey (KY), $24,000.
Also Ran: Kaigun, Edge of Reality, El Nino Terrible, Baccelo (BRZ).
Winning Time: 1:34 (fm)
Margins: 1 1/4, 3/4, 1 3/4.
Odds: 5.90, 3.00, 3.40.

Avanzare helps Stevens advance closer to milestone in Arcadia

Avanzare has put Hall of Famer Gary Stevens one win away from number 5,000 in North America (Benoit Photos)
Donato Lanni and John F. Youngblood's Avanzare (Grand Reward) was the recipient of a heady ride from Gary Stevens in Saturday's $200,500 Arcadia S. (G2) at Santa Anita, and he returned the favor by giving the Hall of Famer his 4,999th North American victory. Attending the moderate pace set by El Nino Terrible (Malibu Moon) through splits of :23, :46 4/5 and 1:10 2/5, the 5-1 chance got the jump on Za Approval (Ghostzapper) and Home Run Kitten (Kitten's Joy) and held sway by 1 1/4 lengths.

Avanzare, who toured the firm-turf mile in 1:34, was also capping a productive day for trainer Tom Proctor. Earlier at Tampa Bay Downs, fellow Proctor trainee Include Betty (Include) uncorked a furious late rally to get up in the Suncoast S.

"He had tunnel vision in the starting gate," Stevens said of Avanzare. "I was able to go out there and Fernando (Perez on El Nino Terrible) set a decent pace that was comfortable. He kicked home really nice and he was giving me that feeling down the backside.

"I breezed him five days ago on the dirt, and when I looked at the work, he had the second-fastest work that morning (at the distance.) I thought he went in 1:01 and he actually went in :59, and usually when they do that they're doing awfully well."

Za Approval, a wide-trip fourth in the January 10 Ft. Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park, took the overland route again while besting Home Run Kitten by three-quarters of a length for second. The 6-5 favorite, Kaigun (Northern Afleet), was a non-threatening fourth. Edge of Reality (Lawyer Ron), El Nino Terrible and Baccelo (Northern Afleet) concluded the order under the wire, and Talco (Pivotal) and Play Hard to Get (Purim) were scratched. Talco was re-entered in Thursday's 7TH race.

Avanzare paid $13.80 for his second graded victory, but first on turf. The bay gelding stole the August 30 Washington Park H. (G3) on the Polytrack at Arlington, and in his only other synthetic attempt, was third in the November 29 Native Diver (G3) at Del Mar last out. He had performed well in his two previous stakes turf stakes appearances, finishing a close fourth in the Arlington H. (G3) and third in the October 4 City of Hope Mile (G2). His resume now reads 12-6-3-2, $385,180.

"He's a great turf horse and he's still improving," Stevens said. "He's gained some confidence from the Native Diver, which was the first time I rode him. It was kind of gooey and he didn't seem like he was enjoying it but he still ran third."

Bred by Snow Lantern Thoroughbreds in Kentucky, Avanzare brought a scant $1,100 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's Eastern Fall Yearlings Sale. He later sold for $52,000 as an OBS June two-year-old in training. The five-year-old is out of the unraced Turn the Tide (Theatrical), from the further family of multiple Group 1-winning German highweight Mamool (In the Wings).

PALOS VERDES S. (G2), SA, $200,250, 4YO/UP, 6F, 1-31.
3—CONQUEST TWO STEP, c, 4, Two Step Salsa--Homesteader, by Pioneering. ($20,000 '12 OBSAUG; $420,000 2013 OBSAPR). O-Conquest Stables, LLC, B-Manuel Andrade (FL), T-Mark E. Casse, J-Joseph Talamo, $120,000.
4—Secret Circle, h, 6, Eddington--Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band. ($165,000 2011 OBSMAR). O-Watson, Karl, Pegram, Michael E and Weitman, Paul, B-Willmott Stables (KY), $40,000.
5—Wild Dude, h, 5, Wildcat Heir--Courtly Choice, by Doneraile Court. ($9,000 '10 OBSOCT; $42,000 2012 OBSAPR). O-Hollendorfer, Jerry and Smith, Green, B-Versatile Thoroughbreds LLC (FL), $24,000.
Also Ran: Distinctiv Passion, Big Macher, Chief Lion.
Winning Time: 1:08 (ft)
Margins: 1 1/4, 2 1/4, 3 1/4.
Odds: 5.50, 2.30, 3.20.

Conquest Two Step flies late for Palos Verdes

Conquest Two Step has found his niche in dirt sprints (Benoit Photos)

Conquest Two Step (Two Step Salsa) recorded his first stakes victory in Saturday's $200,250 Palos Verdes (G2) at Santa Anita, rallying to catch Secret Circle (Eddington) in deep stretch for his first stakes victory. The Mark Casse-trained colt completed six furlongs in a sizzling 1:08 with Joe Talamo up.

The four-year-old is proving to be the real deal after surprising observers in his previous outing, a neck second to Shared Belief (Candy Ride) at 72-1 odds in the December 26 Malibu (G1).

"We were high on his last race, when he ran second to Shared Belief and I know a lot of people thought it was a fluke but he really ran that same race again today," Talamo said.

Off as the 5-1 fourth choice among six rivals, Conquest Two Step settled 6 1/2 lengths off the pace through an opening quarter-mile in :21 1/5. Distinctiv Passion (With Distinction), the 2-1 favorite, showed the way early from his rail post but was pressured during the early stages by Big Macher (Beau Genius) and Secret Circle.

The pacesetter was still clinging to a head advantage through a half-mile in :43 2/5, but Secret Circle surged past Distinctiv Passion shortly after entering the stretch drive, reaching the eighth-pole with a one-length lead.

Conquest Two Step began to make up ground rounding the far turn and accelerated quickly into contention in upper stretch. Secret Circle proved game when confronted, but Conquest Two Step was able to carry his momentum to a 1 1/4-length win.

"He had a perfect trip," Talamo said. "I was very happy to see three horses in a speed duel. I just stayed outside and he wasn't even getting any dirt in his face. What a race he ran."

"They set it up nice for him," Casse added. "I was smiling pretty big down the backside (at the fractions) watching those three go at it. I thought he was a big price based on his last effort, but I understand everybody likes to see two in a row. I kind of like it myself.

"When they run a big race, you want to see them come back and do it again."

Secret Circle easily held second by a 2 1/4-length margin over the late-running Wild Dude (Wildcat Heir), who wound up a clear third in a title defense.

Conquest Two Step captured his career debut in 2013 and concluded his two-race juvenile season with a runner-up in the Colin S. at Woodbine. He dropped his first six starts of 2014 before turning things around, capturing an allowance/optional claiming turf sprint on October 25 prior to the Malibu.

With Saturday's $120,000 payday, the dark bay has now earned $309,408 from a 10-3-5-1 scorecard.

Bred in Florida by Manuel Andrade, Conquest Two Step is out of the multiple stakes-placed mare Homesteader (Pioneering), a half-sister to stakes winner King and Crusader. After initially selling for $20,000 as a yearling at the 2012 OBS August sale, Conquest Two Step proved to be a nice pin-hooking success when commanding $420,000 at the OBS April two-year-old sale.

ENDEAVOUR S. (G3), TAM, $150,000, 4YO/UP, F/M, 1 1/16MT, 1-31.
*1—TESTA ROSSI (FR), f, 4, Dr Fong--Peggy Lane (FR), by Dancing Spree. O-Covello, James, Coleman, Thomas and Doheny Racing Stable, B-Barbara Moser (FR), T-Chad C. Brown, J-Irad Ortiz, Jr., $90,000.
11—Hard Not to Like, m, 6, Hard Spun--Like a Gem, by Tactical Cat. ($1,500,000 2014 KEENOV). O-Speedway Stable LLC, B-Garland E Williamson (ON), $30,000.
12—Lots o' Lex, f, 4, Kitalpha--Via Lactea, by Capote. ($7,000 '12 FTKOCT). O-Lisa Lex, B-Kitalpha LLC & Paradise Productions, (KY), $15,000.
Also Ran: Principessa Ava (IRE), Medea (IRE), Maria Maria, I'm Already Sexy, Julie's Love (GB), Save the Park, Why Katherine, Naughty Holiday.
Winning Time: 1:42 (fm)
Margins: NK, 3/4, NK.
Odds: 1.60, 2.20, 76.70.
     ***Hard Not to Like finished first but was disqualified and placed second.

Hard Not to Like DQ'd for Endeavour-ing to hamper Testa Rossi

Testa Rossi (left) had to take up abruptly when Hard Not to Like shifted paths (SV Photography)
Purchased for $1.5 million at Keeneland last November, Hard Not to Like (Hard Spun) appeared to make a winning debut for new owner Speedway Stable and trainer Christophe Clement in Saturday's $150,000 Endeavour S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. But the Grade 1 veteran veered out sharply across the path of the hard-charging Testa Rossi (Dr Fong), forcing the 8-5 favorite to check in deep stretch, and she was accordingly disqualified.

Testa Rossi, a 3 1/2-length winner of last spring's Florida Oaks (G3) in her only prior Tampa appearance, had raced only twice since. Fourth in the Ashland (G1) over Keeneland's Polytrack, the Chad Brown filly was not seen again until the November 15 Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs, where she was a subpar seventh off the seven-month layoff.

Hard Not to Like was last seen landing the April 12 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland. The 2-1 second choice in this comeback, the gray was well placed just off the early pace. Why Katherine (Whywhywhy) led narrowly through an opening quarter in :23 3/5 on the firm turf. After the prompting Naughty Holiday (Harlan's Holiday) bore to the far outside on the backstretch and was pulled up, the 76-1 Lots o' Lex (Kitalpha) took over and carved out fractions of :48 2/5 and 1:12 1/5. The longest shot on the board threatened to pull the upset when still in front in midstretch.

Then Hard Not to Like asserted and forged ahead. Testa Rossi flashed on the outside, and Principessa Ava (Ad Valorem) gained ground on the inside. Testa Rossi lost valuable momentum when Hard Not to Like lurched starboard, and she came up three-quarters of a length shy. Hard Not to Like completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.

The inquiry sign lit up promptly. Testa Rossi's jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., also claimed foul against Johnny Velazquez on Hard Not to Like. The stewards agreed that the favorite was the victim of interference. The promoted winner returned $5.20.

"It seemed like she was rolling down the center of the stretch," said Brown, who watched the race from Gulfstream, "and I don't have any doubt she would have won if she hadn't been impeded."

"She took off and I thought we were going to win it big," Ortiz said. "But when we were bumped and carried out, she had to show how brave she is.

"Even after we got pushed out and off-stride, she put in another run."

Hard Not to Like's connections commented on the tough loss.

"She ducked out and we bumped the other filly," Velazquez said. "When I got her straightened out again, she found her stride and finished up like the winner she really is."

"Johnny said she jumped a shadow," assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul said. "He was sticking to a right-hand stick, but she came out. I don't think it was enough (for a disqualification), but the head-on showed Ortiz had to slow a couple of strides. The winner never got to us, but it was probably too close to the wire."

Lots o' Lex crossed the wire a neck behind Testa Rossi, with Principessa Ava the same margin back in fourth. Next came Medea (Danehill Dancer), Maria Maria (Curlin), I'm Already Sexy (Ready's Image), Julie's Love (Ad Valorem), Save the Park (Divine Park) and Why Katherine. Naughty Holiday walked off the course. Brown's other runner, Rosalind (Broken Vow), was scratched in favor of awaiting next Saturday's Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream, and Rock on Baby (Rock Hard Ten) and Tokyo Time (Medaglia d'Oro) were also withdrawn.

Campaigned by James Covello, Thomas Coleman and Doheny Racing Stable, Testa Rossi advanced her record to 11-6-2-0, $562,800. The French-bred originally raced in her homeland, winning her final three starts there as a juvenile before coming stateside. She went last to first in the 2013 Miss Grillo (G3) in her U.S. bow, and finished best of the rest behind the ill-fated Chriselliam in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Testa Rossi was bred by Barbara Moser and RNA'd for $12,804 as a yearling at Arqana November. The chestnut was produced by the winning Peggy Lane (Dancing Spree).

Graded Recaps

Ocean Knight takes long way around to win Sam F. Davis

Ocean Knight remained undefeated with this stakes debut victory (SV Photography)

Ocean Knight (Curlin) took the overland route to victory in Saturday's $250,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, the local prelude to next month's Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Breaking from post 11 under Irad Ortiz Jr., the 8-5 favorite was four wide entering the first turn and remained in that stalking position down the backside. Saving only a minor bit more ground rounding the final turn, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee steadily advanced through the lane and caught 28-1 longshot Divining Rod (Tapit) very late to win by a neck.

Ocean Knight, owned by Stonestreet Stables, paid $5.20 after completing 1 1/16 miles in a time of 1:43 3/5 over a fast track.

"I had ridden (Ocean Knight) before so I knew he would wait until I asked him," Ortiz said. "We were good from the gate and I was able to get position just outside the lead group. Mr. McLaughlin told me he had been training up to the race very well and to just relax, wait with him and set him down into the stretch.

"When I asked for run he just went after the horse on the lead a like a good horse should. I really hope I get to ride him back in those big races coming up."

The early pace was set by Catalina Red, who ran the opening quarter in :24 1/5, but Divining Rod took over approaching the half and set later splits of :48 3/5 and 1:12 4/5. At the finish, Divining Rod was five lengths clear of My Johnny Be Good (Colonel John), who was followed by Ami's Flatter (Flatter), Catalina Red (Munnings), Crittenden, Royal Son (Tiznow), Coomer (Midshipman), Bears Personality (Awesome Again), Brother Bobo (Kantharos), Bandages (Any Given Saturday), and G Five (Flashy Bull).

This was the second career start for Ocean Knight, who broke his maiden impressively by 4 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct going six furlongs on December 14. Bred in Kentucky by Thor-Bred Stables and purchased for $320,000 at the OBS March two-year-old sale, Ocean Knight has now earned $156,000.

Neal McLaughlin, assistant and brother to Kiaran McLaughlin, said they would confer with Stonestreet's Barbara Banke but it is likely Ocean Knight will return for the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby.

"We are not afraid to go anywhere with him, but if we like the surface here and can have a good experience, why not come back?" Neal said. "Irad rode him great, but he was wide and he had to make a couple of moves to get position. He gutted it out down the stretch. For a lightly raced young horse, it’s very exciting.

"He just took a while to come around last summer; no big problems, just little things to get him to the gate and through the process," he added.

Ocean Knight was produced by the winning Ocean Goddess (Stormy Atlantic), a half-sister to stakes winner Libby's Halo (Halo's Image) and the stakes-placed Mister Alimony (Skip Trial). This extended family produced Grade 3 winners Winter Melody (Frosty the Snowman) and Godmother (Show'em Slew).

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Callback refuses to yield in Las Virgenes

Callback likely as the Santa Anita Oaks on her schedule of upcoming races (Benoit Photo)

Spendthrift Farm LLC's Callback (Street Sense) played second fiddle to stablemate Maybellene (Lookin at Lucky) in the wagering for Saturday's $301,000 Las Virgenes S. (G1), but proved best of all when crossing under the wire first, a half-length in front of Light the City (Street Sense).

Callback took command out of the gate and proceeded to set splits of :22 4/5 and :46 4/5 while tracked by Suva Harbor (Rockport Harbor) to her outside. That filly dropped back as the field neared the turn, leaving the way clear for Light the City to move up and challenge.

Callback never flinched, maintaining her momentum into the stretch and turning back Light the City's bid. Racing for the first time without blinkers, the Bob Baffert trainee finished a mile on the fast Santa Anita dirt in 1:36 4/5 to return $7.20 as the 5-2 second choice under jockey Martin Garcia. Fellow Baffert pupil Maybellene was the 2-1 in the race but faded to eighth in the nine-filly field.

"I was just cruising all the way around there," Garcia said. "I asked her a little going into the far turn and then again when Light the City came back at us, she took off. There was no way they were going to go by us.

"I don't see why stretching out further would be any problem; she's a good filly. She can do anything you want."

"She broke really good from the gate. I was right behind the speed and I followed the winner. I had a perfect trip, but at the three-eighths (marker), I was done. I didn't have enough horse," explained Maybellene's rider, Rafael Bejarano.

Now boasting $245,450 in career earnings, Callback has run up a 4-2-1-0 scorecard. She didn't show much when ninth in her debut last November at Santa Anita but then traveled to Los Alamitos to break her maiden by 2 1/2 lengths one month later. Making her sophomore bow on January 3 in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez S. (G2), the bay lass proved second best on that occasion but successfully passed the stretch-out test here.

"We've always been pretty high on her. They were high on her when they sent her in. I wanted to run one-two. My other filly (Maybellene), she just didn't kick today," Baffert remarked.

"You train them for two turns; I knew she was going to be forwardly placed and she worked really well coming into it," he continued. "I thought her last race was really good. She was a little bit intimidated down in the one hole and with the blinkers. The first time I ran her, she was the heavy favorite, she didn't run well, but I think she bounced.

"It was nice to get a win for (Spendthrift Farm owner B.) Wayne Hughes. He couldn't make it today. He was ill with a little cold (in Malibu)."

In addition to padding her resume Callback also earned 10 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 2 at Churchill Downs. She now owns 14 total points, thanks in part to the Santa Ynez runner-up effort, as the Las Virgenes was the final race in the prep season portion on the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" schedule and offered up 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers.

When asked what he has planned for Callback now, Baffert quipped, "Yeah (the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks [G1] going 1 1/16 miles on April 4) would be considered, unless the earth moves or something."

Bred in Kentucky by Vincent Colbert, Callback was purchased by Spendthrift for $375,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected yearling. She is out of the unraced Quickest (Forest Wildcat), making her a half-sister to dual stakes winner Defy Gravity (Bandini) and stakes-placed Miss Super Quick (Rock Hard Ten). Quickest is herself a half-sister to Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Super Saver (Maria's Mon) and Grade 3 scorer Brethren (Distorted Humor).

Callback's third dam is Grade 3 victress Get Lucky (Mr. Prospector) -- from whom is descended Grade 1 winners Girolamo (A.P. Indy), Imagining (Giant's Causeway) and Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat), just to name a few -- while her fifth dam is champion Numbered Account (Buckpasser).

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Racing Headlines

Take Charge Brandi just holds in Martha Washington

Take Charge Brandi's (white silks) lackadaisical run in the stretch nearly cost her the Martha Washington (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

Willis D. Horton's Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) was expected to win her sophomore bow in Saturday's $100,000 Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn Park, and the D. Wayne Lukas pupil looked well on her way to romping in the one-mile contest before nearly being caught on the wire.

The chestnut miss began idling in the stretch under jockey Jon Court after setting splits of :23 3/5, :48, 1:13 2/5 and 1:26 1/5 down the backstretch. That left the way clear for Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor) to put in her bid, and the Ingrid Mason trainee nearly upset the 2-5 favorite. Four wide on both turns, Sarah Sis angled over to the rail and continued motoring in the lane as Take Charge Brandi loped along.

Suddenly catching sight of her rival, Take Charge Brandi dug in and just held by a head on the wire to finish up in 1:39 3/5 over the fast dirt. She returned $2.80 to her many backers.

Sarah Sis suffered her second straight tough beat, having just missed by a head to the undefeated Promise Me Silver (Silver City) in the Dixie Belle S. last out on January 15. It was eight lengths back to Indian Annie (Indian Charlie) and another 6 1/2 lengths farther behind to Sweet Corinna (Corinthian). High Dollar Woman (Super Saver) and Perfect Fit (Majesticperfection) completed the order of finish after Cape Town Stevie (Stephen Got Even) was withdrawn.

Take Charge Brandi is now 5-1-0 from nine career starts and has racked up $1,680,126 in lifetime earnings. The chestnut filly was just honored two weeks ago with an Eclipse Award as the champion two-year-old filly of 2014 despite an unremarkable start to her career.

After breaking her maiden and finishing second in the Schuylerville S. (G3), the Kentucky-bred lass went on a three-race, double-digit losing streak. That didn't deter Horton or Lukas from entering their filly in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on November 1 at Santa Anita Park, and Take Charge Brandi led all the way home for the half-length victory. Many were wondering if it was just a fluke result, but the talented miss quickly followed up with wins in the Delta Downs Princess (G3) and Starlet S. (G1) to close out her two-year-old campaign.

Now with this season opener added to her list of wins, Take Charge Brandi has accumulated 40 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 1 at Churchill Downs. The Martha Washington and Las Virgenes S. (G1), scheduled for later on Saturday at Santa Anita, were the final races during the prep season part of the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" schedule that offered up points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four.

All indications are that Take Charge Brandi will continue on the Oaks path as she is expected to point for $150,000 Honeybee S. (G3) back at Oaklawn on March 7, but the year is young and a bid against the boys is still possible.

"Well, you may get to see (her face the boys) in the (April 11) Arkansas Derby (G1), but let's take it one race at a time," Horton said. "Our big goal is the Kentucky Oaks. If things work out, we may run in the Arkansas Derby and possibly the Kentucky Derby (G1) with her because Wayne is good with fillies and he's won the Derby with fillies before."

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Graded Recaps

Conquest Two Step flies late for Palos Verdes

Conquest Two Step has found his niche in dirt sprints (Benoit Photos)

Conquest Two Step (Two Step Salsa) recorded his first stakes victory in Saturday's $200,250 Palos Verdes (G2) at Santa Anita, rallying to catch Secret Circle (Eddington) in deep stretch for his first stakes victory. The Mark Casse-trained colt completed six furlongs in a sizzling 1:08 with Joe Talamo up.

The four-year-old is proving to be the real deal after surprising observers in his previous outing, a neck second to Shared Belief (Candy Ride) at 72-1 odds in the December 26 Malibu (G1).

"We were high on his last race, when he ran second to Shared Belief and I know a lot of people thought it was a fluke but he really ran that same race again today," Talamo said.

Off as the 5-1 fourth choice among six rivals, Conquest Two Step settled 6 1/2 lengths off the pace through an opening quarter-mile in :21 1/5. Distinctiv Passion (With Distinction), the 2-1 favorite, showed the way early from his rail post but was pressured during the early stages by Big Macher (Beau Genius) and Secret Circle.

The pacesetter was still clinging to a head advantage through a half-mile in :43 2/5, but Secret Circle surged past Distinctiv Passion shortly after entering the stretch drive, reaching the eighth-pole with a one-length lead.

Conquest Two Step began to make up ground rounding the far turn and accelerated quickly into contention in upper stretch. Secret Circle proved game when confronted, but Conquest Two Step was able to carry his momentum to a 1 1/4-length win.

"He had a perfect trip," Talamo said. "I was very happy to see three horses in a speed duel. I just stayed outside and he wasn't even getting any dirt in his face. What a race he ran."

"They set it up nice for him," Casse added. "I was smiling pretty big down the backside (at the fractions) watching those three go at it. I thought he was a big price based on his last effort, but I understand everybody likes to see two in a row. I kind of like it myself.

"When they run a big race, you want to see them come back and do it again."

Secret Circle easily held second by a 2 1/4-length margin over the late-running Wild Dude (Wildcat Heir), who wound up a clear third in a title defense.

Conquest Two Step captured his career debut in 2013 and concluded his two-race juvenile season with a runner-up in the Colin S. at Woodbine. He dropped his first six starts of 2014 before turning things around, capturing an allowance/optional claiming turf sprint on October 25 prior to the Malibu.

With Saturday's $120,000 payday, the dark bay has now earned $309,408 from a 10-3-5-1 scorecard.

Bred in Florida by Manuel Andrade, Conquest Two Step is out of the multiple stakes-placed mare Homesteader (Pioneering), a half-sister to stakes winner King and Crusader. After initially selling for $20,000 as a yearling at the 2012 OBS August sale, Conquest Two Step proved to be a nice pin-hooking success when commanding $420,000 at the OBS April two-year-old sale.

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Racing Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Graded Recaps

Avanzare helps Stevens advance closer to milestone in Arcadia

Avanzare has put Hall of Famer Gary Stevens one win away from number 5,000 in North America (Benoit Photos)
Donato Lanni and John F. Youngblood's Avanzare (Grand Reward) was the recipient of a heady ride from Gary Stevens in Saturday's $200,500 Arcadia S. (G2) at Santa Anita, and he returned the favor by giving the Hall of Famer his 4,999th North American victory. Attending the moderate pace set by El Nino Terrible (Malibu Moon) through splits of :23, :46 4/5 and 1:10 2/5, the 5-1 chance got the jump on Za Approval (Ghostzapper) and Home Run Kitten (Kitten's Joy) and held sway by 1 1/4 lengths.

Avanzare, who toured the firm-turf mile in 1:34, was also capping a productive day for trainer Tom Proctor. Earlier at Tampa Bay Downs, fellow Proctor trainee Include Betty (Include) uncorked a furious late rally to get up in the Suncoast S.

"He had tunnel vision in the starting gate," Stevens said of Avanzare. "I was able to go out there and Fernando (Perez on El Nino Terrible) set a decent pace that was comfortable. He kicked home really nice and he was giving me that feeling down the backside.

"I breezed him five days ago on the dirt, and when I looked at the work, he had the second-fastest work that morning (at the distance.) I thought he went in 1:01 and he actually went in :59, and usually when they do that they're doing awfully well."

Za Approval, a wide-trip fourth in the January 10 Ft. Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park, took the overland route again while besting Home Run Kitten by three-quarters of a length for second. The 6-5 favorite, Kaigun (Northern Afleet), was a non-threatening fourth. Edge of Reality (Lawyer Ron), El Nino Terrible and Baccelo (Northern Afleet) concluded the order under the wire, and Talco (Pivotal) and Play Hard to Get (Purim) were scratched. Talco was re-entered in Thursday's 7TH race.

Avanzare paid $13.80 for his second graded victory, but first on turf. The bay gelding stole the August 30 Washington Park H. (G3) on the Polytrack at Arlington, and in his only other synthetic attempt, was third in the November 29 Native Diver (G3) at Del Mar last out. He had performed well in his two previous stakes turf stakes appearances, finishing a close fourth in the Arlington H. (G3) and third in the October 4 City of Hope Mile (G2). His resume now reads 12-6-3-2, $385,180.

"He's a great turf horse and he's still improving," Stevens said. "He's gained some confidence from the Native Diver, which was the first time I rode him. It was kind of gooey and he didn't seem like he was enjoying it but he still ran third."

Bred by Snow Lantern Thoroughbreds in Kentucky, Avanzare brought a scant $1,100 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's Eastern Fall Yearlings Sale. He later sold for $52,000 as an OBS June two-year-old in training. The five-year-old is out of the unraced Turn the Tide (Theatrical), from the further family of multiple Group 1-winning German highweight Mamool (In the Wings).

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Racing Headlines

Honor Code, Top Billing work at Payson

Honor Code is expected to make his season debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap on February 28 (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

With Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey on hand, Honor Code (A.P. Indy) and Top Billing (Curlin) breezed Saturday morning at Payson Park as they continued preparations for their four-year-old debuts this winter.

McGaughey said Honor Code worked five furlongs by himself on the main track in an easy 1:03, while Top Billing went five-eighths on the turf course in 1:01. Both horses are expected to open their campaign during Gulfstream Park's Championship Meet.

"They both worked fine and came back fine," McGaughey said. "Everything's good. Both of them felt good and were moving good. I was pleased with what I saw."

McGaughey is looking for a second-level allowance to get Top Billing started this year. The chestnut won an allowance at Gulfstream Park last January but hasn't raced in 11 months while recovering from a cracked right front cannon bone sustained following his third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2).

"He's ready to run," McGaughey said. "There's not any sense to running him seven-eighths or something like that; he'd get lost. When the right thing comes up, we'll look at it. There's not one in this (condition) book, but hopefully in the next book there will be something."

Honor Code is being pointed to the one-mile, $300,000 Gulfstream Park H. (G2) on February 28. He returned from an eight-month layoff due to a torn right hind upper suspensory to win an allowance on November 22 at Aqueduct.

"I just wanted to run him before I brought him down here, and I didn't want to run him in a race where I'd gut him. That race worked out perfect for him," McGaughey said. "I just didn't really want to run him in something like the Hal's Hope (G3) or the Donn (G1). I want to have a fresh horse for the summer. I debated back and forth whether to even run him down here this winter and decided if everything goes right to go ahead and run him in the mile race and then maybe run him another time or so when we get back up north. We'd like to run him in the Met Mile (G1) if everything goes right and then use the better handicap races over the summer."

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Graded Recaps

Hard Not to Like DQ'd for Endeavour-ing to hamper Testa Rossi

Testa Rossi (left) had to take up abruptly when Hard Not to Like shifted paths (SV Photography)
Purchased for $1.5 million at Keeneland last November, Hard Not to Like (Hard Spun) appeared to make a winning debut for new owner Speedway Stable and trainer Christophe Clement in Saturday's $150,000 Endeavour S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. But the Grade 1 veteran veered out sharply across the path of the hard-charging Testa Rossi (Dr Fong), forcing the 8-5 favorite to check in deep stretch, and she was accordingly disqualified.

Testa Rossi, a 3 1/2-length winner of last spring's Florida Oaks (G3) in her only prior Tampa appearance, had raced only twice since. Fourth in the Ashland (G1) over Keeneland's Polytrack, the Chad Brown filly was not seen again until the November 15 Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs, where she was a subpar seventh off the seven-month layoff.

Hard Not to Like was last seen landing the April 12 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland. The 2-1 second choice in this comeback, the gray was well placed just off the early pace. Why Katherine (Whywhywhy) led narrowly through an opening quarter in :23 3/5 on the firm turf. After the prompting Naughty Holiday (Harlan's Holiday) bore to the far outside on the backstretch and was pulled up, the 76-1 Lots o' Lex (Kitalpha) took over and carved out fractions of :48 2/5 and 1:12 1/5. The longest shot on the board threatened to pull the upset when still in front in midstretch.

Then Hard Not to Like asserted and forged ahead. Testa Rossi flashed on the outside, and Principessa Ava (Ad Valorem) gained ground on the inside. Testa Rossi lost valuable momentum when Hard Not to Like lurched starboard, and she came up three-quarters of a length shy. Hard Not to Like completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.

The inquiry sign lit up promptly. Testa Rossi's jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., also claimed foul against Johnny Velazquez on Hard Not to Like. The stewards agreed that the favorite was the victim of interference. The promoted winner returned $5.20.

"It seemed like she was rolling down the center of the stretch," said Brown, who watched the race from Gulfstream, "and I don't have any doubt she would have won if she hadn't been impeded."

"She took off and I thought we were going to win it big," Ortiz said. "But when we were bumped and carried out, she had to show how brave she is.

"Even after we got pushed out and off-stride, she put in another run."

Hard Not to Like's connections commented on the tough loss.

"She ducked out and we bumped the other filly," Velazquez said. "When I got her straightened out again, she found her stride and finished up like the winner she really is."

"Johnny said she jumped a shadow," assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul said. "He was sticking to a right-hand stick, but she came out. I don't think it was enough (for a disqualification), but the head-on showed Ortiz had to slow a couple of strides. The winner never got to us, but it was probably too close to the wire."

Lots o' Lex crossed the wire a neck behind Testa Rossi, with Principessa Ava the same margin back in fourth. Next came Medea (Danehill Dancer), Maria Maria (Curlin), I'm Already Sexy (Ready's Image), Julie's Love (Ad Valorem), Save the Park (Divine Park) and Why Katherine. Naughty Holiday walked off the course. Brown's other runner, Rosalind (Broken Vow), was scratched in favor of awaiting next Saturday's Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream, and Rock on Baby (Rock Hard Ten) and Tokyo Time (Medaglia d'Oro) were also withdrawn.

Campaigned by James Covello, Thomas Coleman and Doheny Racing Stable, Testa Rossi advanced her record to 11-6-2-0, $562,800. The French-bred originally raced in her homeland, winning her final three starts there as a juvenile before coming stateside. She went last to first in the 2013 Miss Grillo (G3) in her U.S. bow, and finished best of the rest behind the ill-fated Chriselliam in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Testa Rossi was bred by Barbara Moser and RNA'd for $12,804 as a yearling at Arqana November. The chestnut was produced by the winning Peggy Lane (Dancing Spree).

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Racing Headlines

Futura bursts clear in J&B Met

With the withdrawal of early race favorite Legislate (Dynasty) just three days before the race, Saturday's J&B Met (SAf-G1) was billed as a showdown between Queen's Plate (SAf-G1) winner Futura (Dynasty) and South African Triple Crown hero Louis the King (Black Minnaloushe). While that duel never truly materialized, Futura nonetheless provided the thrilling finish the large and vibrant Kenilworth crowd had been waiting for.

Traveling midpack in the two path behind a docile pace, Futura and jockey Bernard Fayd'Herbe opted for an inside route as the field swung into the straight. Futura burst to the lead between runners in deep stretch as Louis the King began to toil under pressure, and the bay drew clear to a decisive 2 1/4-length score over the seven-year-old Gold Onyx (Black Minnaloushe), with the pacesetting Helderberg Blue (Jet Master) sticking on for third. Louis the King checked in sixth.

"This horse has just done everything right," trainer Brett Crawford, who was winning his second Met, told SportingPost.co.za. "It is his third Grade 1 win in 11 starts. Those horses don't come by often in our lifetimes. Thanks to the owners and the team. A great effort."

The winner of five of his seven starts through the end of his three-year-old campaign last year, Futura was third in his group-race debut in the Cup Trial (SAf-G3) at Clairwood in June. Third behind Legislate when trying Group 1 company for the first time in the Durban July, Futura bounced back to take the Champions Cup (SAf-G1) at Greyville July 26. Put away for a winter holiday, Futura checked in third behind Legislate in his four-year-old debut in the  Green Point S. (SAf-G2) here November 22, and was coming into this prestigious event after picking up his second Group 1 in the Queen's Plate over Louis the King three weeks ago.

Earlier on J&B Met Day, Ertijaal (Hard Spun) slammed the odds-on Act of War (Dynasty) in the Cape Derby (SAf-G1). Ertijaal, an Australian homebred for Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Stud, has faced a number of hurdles in his short career but has overcome each one, and in just 65 days he has made four starts, going from maiden to Group 1 winner.

Prior to any of that, however, Ertijaal had to endure colic surgery shortly after arriving from Australia. The chestnut therefore lost time and was put on the fast track to make this summer feature. A smart 7 3/4-length winner on debut over the Polytrack at Greyville November 28, Ertijaal widened the margin to 8 1/4 lengths when taking a Turffontein handicap over this about 1 1/4-mile trip December 21. The decision was only a half-length when Ertijaal was dropped back to about 1 1/8 miles for the Sea Cottage S. at Turffontein January 11, but he left no doubts about his authority Saturday.

Ertijaal was allowed to bowl along on an uncontested lead with Cape Guineas (SAf-G1) winner Act of War on his heels on the rail. Act of War looked briefly as if he would deliver a threat as the field straightened for home, but Ertijaal's stamina saw out, and he promptly drew away from that rival and the rest to a facile score.

While trainer Mike de Kock was still in Dubai two days after saddling Vercingetorix (Silvano) to win the Al Rashidiya (UAE-G2), Shadwell's Angus Gold was on hand at Kenilworth, and he paid credit to the trainer's team.

"The de Kock team deserve a huge credit for bringing him back only 18 months after being so ill," Gold told SportingPost.co.za.

Ertijaal is a half to another Shadwell Australia homebred in Mushreq (Flying Spur), who campaigned in South Africa prior to shipping to Dubai to win the 2013 Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-G2). It is no secret that Sheikh Hamdan likes to see his best South African runners race in Dubai, so it would not be a surprise to see Ertijaal carnival-bound next year.

Inara (Trippi), victorious when facing elders for the first time in the Paddock S. (SAf-G1) going about 1 1/8 miles here January 10, was up just in time to make it a Group 1 double in the Majorca. Midpack while racing on the fence early, she worked her way through an opening on the rail as the field turned into the straight. She was forced to call on all her reserves when Cold As Ice (Western Winter) drew even, but Inara prevailed in a photo finish.

The Mike Bass filly finished third at about six furlongs over this course on debut last May, and the homebred put it all together in her second and final start as a juvenile when graduating over the same course and distance June 3. Inara failed to fire, checking in sixth, when stepped up to allowance company in her sophomore debut here September 6, but she put in a much-improved effort when second when stepped up to this trip at Durbanville October 11. Fourth when dropped back to about seven furlongs for the Choice Carriers Championship (SAf-G2) November 8, Inara was second only to the highly regarded Majmu(Redoute's Choice) over this track and trip December 6.

Australia

The Gai Waterhouse-trained Vancouver (Medaglia d'Oro) assumed favoritism for the March 21 Golden Slipper (Aus-G1) after running his unbeaten record to two in the Canonbury S. (Aus-G3) at Rosehill Saturday.

Vancouver earned "TDN Rising Star" status when winning the listed Breeders' Plate, the spring's most important event for juvenile colts, on debut October 4, and he is now the $7 (6-1) Slipper choice on Sportsbet.com.au. Second in the betting at $9 (8-1) is another "TDN Rising Star," the Godolphin homebred filly Ottoman (Exceed and Excel), who won on debut at Rosehill December 20.

Outpaced at the start of Saturday's 1,200-meter event, Vancouver was about five lengths off the lead in the early stages but gradually made up ground while wide approaching the turn. Swinging four wide in the six-horse field at the top of the lane, Vancouver responded to left-handed encouragement from Tommy Berry with an explosive kick. He outgunned the front-running Outreach (Exceed and Excel), a full-brother to 2013 Golden Slipper winner Overreach, by a three-quarters of a length despite racing a bit green in the closing stages.

It was later revealed that Outreach suffered a fractured pelvis.

After the race, Waterhouse was drawing comparisons between Vancouver and her 2012 Slipper winner and two-year-old Triple Crown victor Pierro.

"You just can't beat the spring form and he showed in the Breeders Plate how good he is," Waterhouse told RacingNetwork.com.au. "He is the most exciting colt since Pierro, and he actually looks a bit like him too."

Berry was not aboard Vancouver for his debut win, but he was the pilot when the dark bay finished fourth in a Randwick trial January 15.

"He works as good as any horse that Gai has and when he trialed poor I was starting to doubt myself," Berry told RacingNetwork.com.au. "But then I went back and looked at his tapes and he only does what he has too. I didn't hit him in the trial and today when I did he really responded."

An A$185,000 purchase by Gai Waterhouse and agent James Harron from Coolmore Stud at last year's Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, Vancouver is out of the Danehill mare Skates, and was bred by John Camilleri's Fairway Thoroughbreds.

Camilleri enjoyed a banner day Saturday, with his homebred two-year-old filly Fireworks (Snitzel) taking the Widden S. (Aus-G3) later on the card for trainer Gerald Ryan. The Widden has produced the last two Slipper winners.

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Take Charge Brandi just holds in Martha Washington

Take Charge Brandi's (white silks) lackadaisical run in the stretch nearly cost her the Martha Washington (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

Willis D. Horton's Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) was expected to win her sophomore bow in Saturday's $100,000 Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn Park, and the D. Wayne Lukas pupil looked well on her way to romping in the one-mile contest before nearly being caught on the wire.

The chestnut miss began idling in the stretch under jockey Jon Court after setting splits of :23 3/5, :48, 1:13 2/5 and 1:26 1/5 down the backstretch. That left the way clear for Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor) to put in her bid, and the Ingrid Mason trainee nearly upset the 2-5 favorite. Four wide on both turns, Sarah Sis angled over to the rail and continued motoring in the lane as Take Charge Brandi loped along.

Suddenly catching sight of her rival, Take Charge Brandi dug in and just held by a head on the wire to finish up in 1:39 3/5 over the fast dirt. She returned $2.80 to her many backers.

Sarah Sis suffered her second straight tough beat, having just missed by a head to the undefeated Promise Me Silver (Silver City) in the Dixie Belle S. last out on January 15. It was eight lengths back to Indian Annie (Indian Charlie) and another 6 1/2 lengths farther behind to Sweet Corinna (Corinthian). High Dollar Woman (Super Saver) and Perfect Fit (Majesticperfection) completed the order of finish after Cape Town Stevie (Stephen Got Even) was withdrawn.

Take Charge Brandi is now 5-1-0 from nine career starts and has racked up $1,680,126 in lifetime earnings. The chestnut filly was just honored two weeks ago with an Eclipse Award as the champion two-year-old filly of 2014 despite an unremarkable start to her career.

After breaking her maiden and finishing second in the Schuylerville S. (G3), the Kentucky-bred lass went on a three-race, double-digit losing streak. That didn't deter Horton or Lukas from entering their filly in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on November 1 at Santa Anita Park, and Take Charge Brandi led all the way home for the half-length victory. Many were wondering if it was just a fluke result, but the talented miss quickly followed up with wins in the Delta Downs Princess (G3) and Starlet S. (G1) to close out her two-year-old campaign.

Now with this season opener added to her list of wins, Take Charge Brandi has accumulated 40 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 1 at Churchill Downs. The Martha Washington and Las Virgenes S. (G1), scheduled for later on Saturday at Santa Anita, were the final races during the prep season part of the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" schedule that offered up points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four.

All indications are that Take Charge Brandi will continue on the Oaks path as she is expected to point for $150,000 Honeybee S. (G3) back at Oaklawn on March 7, but the year is young and a bid against the boys is still possible.

"Well, you may get to see (her face the boys) in the (April 11) Arkansas Derby (G1), but let's take it one race at a time," Horton said. "Our big goal is the Kentucky Oaks. If things work out, we may run in the Arkansas Derby and possibly the Kentucky Derby (G1) with her because Wayne is good with fillies and he's won the Derby with fillies before."

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Aqueduct, Turf Paradise cancel; Parx calls off final six

Citing cold temperatures and high winds, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) canceled Saturday's live racing at Aqueduct.

It marks the seventh cancellation in January for the Jamaica, New York track, including three Saturday cards, and the remainder of another program was called off after two races.

Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, canceled following the 4TH race on Saturday, while wet conditions prompted Turf Paradise officials in Phoenix, Arizona, to call off the entire card for the day.

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NHC Tour kicks off with record $250,000 in prize money, 150 berths to NHC 17

Less than one week since John O'Neil earned $800,000 as the winner of the 16th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) at Treasure Island Las Vegas, the NHC Tour kicked off its 2015 season on Saturday with a record $250,000 in prize money and 150 guaranteed berths to NHC 17.

The top three finishers at last weekend's NHC, including O'Neil, and five of the top 10 who comprised the Final Table, earned their way in by landing in the top 150 in the 2014 NHC Tour.

Signups for the 2015 DRF NHC Tour are now being accepted at ntra.com/en/nhc/2015-become-a-member. The complete rules are posted at ntra.com/en/nhc/2015-nhc-tour-official-rules.

The year's first NHC Tour event and NHC qualifier kicked off Saturday at NHCQualify.com, the official qualifying site for the NHC.

NHC Tour participation requires an annual NTRA individual membership fee of $50. Membership is mandatory in order to compete for a berth in the 2016 NHC and must be in place prior to participation in any given qualifier tournament in order for top finishers of sanctioned NHC qualifying events to be eligible to compete in the January 2016 NHC -- the lucrative culmination of the year's qualifying schedule.

As was the case in 2014, the top 150 Tour points leaders at the end of the year will be guaranteed entry into the 2016 NHC, where the overall, season-ending NHC Tour points leader will be eligible for a $2 million bonus should he or she capture the 2016 NHC and become the first person to earn a seat to the 2017 NHC.

The record NHC Tour prize pool of $250,000, up 25 percent over 2014, includes a total of $50,000 in midyear payouts to the top five individuals (who will receive $10,000 each) in the standings as of July 31. End-of-year payouts will total $175,000, with points based on a member's top six scores (including at least one score from a brick and mortar tournament location). The overall Tour winner will receive $75,000 and a seat to the 2017 NHC, and the top two finishers will each receive a trophy.

The top 20 finishers at the end of the year will each receive prize money and be eligible to compete for a $25,000 bonus to be paid to the individual who achieves the highest overall finish at the 2016 NHC. This individual also will earn a berth in the 2017 NHC. The bonus money is in addition to any other prize money won at the NHC.

In addition to making one eligible to earn a coveted seat to the NHC, other NHC Tour benefits include:

  • Exclusive discount from Daily Racing Form on past performance subscription packages -- 15 percent discount for first-time Tour Members and 10 percent discount for those renewing
  • Individual membership in the NTRA, which include benefits and discounts from NTRA Advantage partners and membership in the Horseplayers Coalition that supports NTRA legislative initiatives in Washington, D.C.
  • Weekly e-newsletter featuring player profiles, timely tournament information and other event information
  • Entering its 17th year, the NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers. There are no "buy-in" entries at the NHC. It is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals.

    Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The 15 NHC Champions since the event's inception, in chronological order, are Steven Walker, Judy Wagner, Herman Miller, Steve Wolfson Jr., Kent Meyer, Jamie Michelson, Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall, John Conte, Brian Troop, John Doyle, Michael Beychok, Jim Benes, Jose Arias and John O'Neil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Texas Red takes old-school approach in San Vicente

    Texas Red will be running late (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

    Call it an old-school approach for Texas Red (Afleet Alex). A 6 1/2-length winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the well-regarded colt will make his three-year-old debut at seven furlongs when he lines up for Sunday's $200,000 San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita.

    Kentucky Derby contenders with two-year-old form are rarely seen in early-season sprints nowadays -- the typical pattern has become two starts at a route. It's been 18 years since the last stakes-winning juvenile, Silver Charm, returned in a one-turn race before capturing the Kentucky Derby. And that race was the 1997 San Vicente.

    Texas Red's connections decided upon the San Vicente as the best option despite the fact that he's never won at a one-turn distance. Keith Desormeaux trains and his brother, three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent, rides.

    A well-built bay son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, Texas Red dropped his first two starts sprinting before breaking his maiden going two turns at Del Mar last summer. The Kentucky-bred recorded a non-threatening third behind American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) when making his first stakes attempt, the FrontRunner (G1) in late September, and followed with a 13-1 upset in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, netting a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating while closing from last to first.

    Texas Red will face seven rivals as the likely overwhelming favorite.

    Lord Nelson (Pulpit) finished one spot back of Texas Red when fourth in the FrontRunner and earned his first stakes win in the six-furlong Speak Easy at Santa Anita on October 13, posting a 6 3/4-length runaway score. He concluded 2014 with a fifth as the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, a race that has already produced next-out stakes winners El Kabeir and International Star, and the Bob Baffert-trained Lord Nelson figures to appreciate the cut back in trip. Rafael Bejarano picks up the mount.

    Baffert will also be represented by Punctuate (Distorted Humor). The bay colt colt makes his first appearance since an impressive debut maiden win at Santa Anita in late September and will be ridden by Martin Garcia. Punctuate is out the famous New Mexico-bred mare Peppers Pride (Desert God), who earned more than $1 million and attracted national headlines by winning all 19 career starts from 2005-08.

    Serbian Syclone (Wildcat Heir) brings plenty of speed to the mix in his stakes debut. A 6 1/4-length debut winner two starts back, the Peter Miller trainee exits a facile wire-to-wire victory over allowance/optional claiming rivals at six furlongs on December 31. Elvis Trujillo has the call.

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    Honor Code, Top Billing work at Payson

    Honor Code is expected to make his season debut in the Gulfstream Park Handicap on February 28 (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

    With Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey on hand, Honor Code (A.P. Indy) and Top Billing (Curlin) breezed Saturday morning at Payson Park as they continued preparations for their four-year-old debuts this winter.

    McGaughey said Honor Code worked five furlongs by himself on the main track in an easy 1:03, while Top Billing went five-eighths on the turf course in 1:01. Both horses are expected to open their campaign during Gulfstream Park's Championship Meet.

    "They both worked fine and came back fine," McGaughey said. "Everything's good. Both of them felt good and were moving good. I was pleased with what I saw."

    McGaughey is looking for a second-level allowance to get Top Billing started this year. The chestnut won an allowance at Gulfstream Park last January but hasn't raced in 11 months while recovering from a cracked right front cannon bone sustained following his third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2).

    "He's ready to run," McGaughey said. "There's not any sense to running him seven-eighths or something like that; he'd get lost. When the right thing comes up, we'll look at it. There's not one in this (condition) book, but hopefully in the next book there will be something."

    Honor Code is being pointed to the one-mile, $300,000 Gulfstream Park H. (G2) on February 28. He returned from an eight-month layoff due to a torn right hind upper suspensory to win an allowance on November 22 at Aqueduct.

    "I just wanted to run him before I brought him down here, and I didn't want to run him in a race where I'd gut him. That race worked out perfect for him," McGaughey said. "I just didn't really want to run him in something like the Hal's Hope (G3) or the Donn (G1). I want to have a fresh horse for the summer. I debated back and forth whether to even run him down here this winter and decided if everything goes right to go ahead and run him in the mile race and then maybe run him another time or so when we get back up north. We'd like to run him in the Met Mile (G1) if everything goes right and then use the better handicap races over the summer."

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    In brief

    Unitarian floated over Gulfstream's grass in the inaugural H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

    Robert S. Evans' homebred Unitarian (Pulpit) lived up to his 8-5 favoritism with a 3 1/2-length victory in the inaugural $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens S. at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. The bay five-year-old hadn't visited the winner's circle since earning his first stakes score in the Elkhorn S. (G2) at Keeneland last April, but entered the Jerkens off a pair of nice fourth-place finishes in the Red Smith H. (G3) and W.L. McKnight H. (G3) in the fall. With Javier Castellano up on Saturday, the Todd Pletcher charge bided his time in midpack first time around before kicking into gear well wide while rounding the turn for the final time. He took after Artic North (North Light), who had just managed to wrest control away from longtime leader Reflecting (Elusive Quality), and easily passed both those rivals to finish two miles on the firm turf in 3:23 1/5. Unitarian is now 5-3-4 from 19 career starts and has banked $395,290 in lifetime earnings...


    Include Betty circled the entire Suncoast field to just get up for the victory (SV Photography)

    Brereton Jones and Tim Thornton's Include Betty (Include) utilized the same wide sweeping move from her maiden score to take Saturday's $50,000 Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs by a neck over a tenacious Huasca (Tiz Wonderful). With Rosemary Homeister Jr. in the irons, the chestnut miss settled in last as I Zoom (Burning Roma) set the opening half-mile in :23 and :46 4/5 before Huasca took command through six furlongs in 1:12 1/5. Include Betty began her move midway around the turn while widest of all and continued in that path to challenge Huasca, who fought back before finally yielding right before the wire. Trained by Tom Proctor, Include Betty paid $39.80 as the 18-1 second longest shot in the nine-filly field while stopping the clock in 1:41 2/5 on the fast dirt. She was second and third in her initial two races sprinting before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles and finishing fifth, all in Kentucky last fall. The Kentucky-bred miss returned at Tampa Bay Downs on January 3 and circled the entire field after being 10 lengths behind the leader on the backstretch to take a mile-and-40-yard maiden special weight by a length with Homeister aboard. "Wasn't she just wonderful?" Homeister enthused. "They had me over to work her the other morning, so I knew that she would be able to relax and then run when I asked. That work and what Mr. Proctor and his people told me about what she likes and doesn't like made all the difference. We were well back, but she really turned it on getting into the stretch and she just went after that other filly." Include Betty now boasts a 5-2-1-1, $58,530, career mark thanks to taking this stakes bow...

    Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) will meet just five rivals in Sunday's San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita, following the withdrawal of Punctuate (Distorted Humor) and Magic Taste (Taste of Paradise). Texas Red's trainer, Keith Desormeaux, reiterated that the seven-furlong San Vicente is just the starting point for the Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful. "We're ready to get the show on the road," said Keith, who will give his younger brother, Hall of Famer and three-time Derby winner Kent Desormeaux, a leg up. "I'm happy with where he is right now, no doubt. I've said before that this is a building process towards the first Saturday in May. We're prepared. I just think the sprint is the right thing for him. I'm sure that's up for discussion, but it seems like the right thing to do. This is a building process and this is the first step. I've been to the Kentucky Derby before, but have never run a horse in the race. We've come close to getting there, winning a couple of prep races, but never actually participated."...

    Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday) is scheduled to work at Santa Anita Sunday, after which Bob Baffert said he would have a better line on whether to run the Clark H. (G1) and San Pasqual (G2) winner in next Saturday's $500,000 San Antonio Invitational (G2) against California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) and Shared Belief (Candy Ride). Shared Belief, meanwhile, is slated to have his final major breeze for the race on Tuesday at Golden Gate, and will ship to Santa Anita Wednesday, according to Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. Trainer George Papaprodromou said that Charles Town Classic (G2) winner Imperative (Bernardini), who worked six furlongs Saturday in 1:13, is under consideration for the San Antonio. In other notable works at Santa Anita Saturday, Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) near-misser Firing Line (Line of David) covered five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 in preparation for the Robert B. Lewis (G2) next Saturday, while Zenyatta offspring Cozmic One (Bernardini) worked six furlongs with Victor Espinoza up in 1:14. The John Shirreffs pupil went in company with stablemate Captain Tim (Candy Ride), who clocked 1:13 4/5. Both nominated to the Triple Crown, the Jerry and Ann Moss homebreds are building toward a career debut.

    Futura bursts clear in J&B Met

    With the withdrawal of early race favorite Legislate (Dynasty) just three days before the race, Saturday's J&B Met (SAf-G1) was billed as a showdown between Queen's Plate (SAf-G1) winner Futura (Dynasty) and South African Triple Crown hero Louis the King (Black Minnaloushe). While that duel never truly materialized, Futura nonetheless provided the thrilling finish the large and vibrant Kenilworth crowd had been waiting for.

    Traveling midpack in the two path behind a docile pace, Futura and jockey Bernard Fayd'Herbe opted for an inside route as the field swung into the straight. Futura burst to the lead between runners in deep stretch as Louis the King began to toil under pressure, and the bay drew clear to a decisive 2 1/4-length score over the seven-year-old Gold Onyx (Black Minnaloushe), with the pacesetting Helderberg Blue (Jet Master) sticking on for third. Louis the King checked in sixth.

    "This horse has just done everything right," trainer Brett Crawford, who was winning his second Met, told SportingPost.co.za. "It is his third Grade 1 win in 11 starts. Those horses don't come by often in our lifetimes. Thanks to the owners and the team. A great effort."

    The winner of five of his seven starts through the end of his three-year-old campaign last year, Futura was third in his group-race debut in the Cup Trial (SAf-G3) at Clairwood in June. Third behind Legislate when trying Group 1 company for the first time in the Durban July, Futura bounced back to take the Champions Cup (SAf-G1) at Greyville July 26. Put away for a winter holiday, Futura checked in third behind Legislate in his four-year-old debut in the  Green Point S. (SAf-G2) here November 22, and was coming into this prestigious event after picking up his second Group 1 in the Queen's Plate over Louis the King three weeks ago.

    Earlier on J&B Met Day, Ertijaal (Hard Spun) slammed the odds-on Act of War (Dynasty) in the Cape Derby (SAf-G1). Ertijaal, an Australian homebred for Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Stud, has faced a number of hurdles in his short career but has overcome each one, and in just 65 days he has made four starts, going from maiden to Group 1 winner.

    Prior to any of that, however, Ertijaal had to endure colic surgery shortly after arriving from Australia. The chestnut therefore lost time and was put on the fast track to make this summer feature. A smart 7 3/4-length winner on debut over the Polytrack at Greyville November 28, Ertijaal widened the margin to 8 1/4 lengths when taking a Turffontein handicap over this about 1 1/4-mile trip December 21. The decision was only a half-length when Ertijaal was dropped back to about 1 1/8 miles for the Sea Cottage S. at Turffontein January 11, but he left no doubts about his authority Saturday.

    Ertijaal was allowed to bowl along on an uncontested lead with Cape Guineas (SAf-G1) winner Act of War on his heels on the rail. Act of War looked briefly as if he would deliver a threat as the field straightened for home, but Ertijaal's stamina saw out, and he promptly drew away from that rival and the rest to a facile score.

    While trainer Mike de Kock was still in Dubai two days after saddling Vercingetorix (Silvano) to win the Al Rashidiya (UAE-G2), Shadwell's Angus Gold was on hand at Kenilworth, and he paid credit to the trainer's team.

    "The de Kock team deserve a huge credit for bringing him back only 18 months after being so ill," Gold told SportingPost.co.za.

    Ertijaal is a half to another Shadwell Australia homebred in Mushreq (Flying Spur), who campaigned in South Africa prior to shipping to Dubai to win the 2013 Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-G2). It is no secret that Sheikh Hamdan likes to see his best South African runners race in Dubai, so it would not be a surprise to see Ertijaal carnival-bound next year.

    Inara (Trippi), victorious when facing elders for the first time in the Paddock S. (SAf-G1) going about 1 1/8 miles here January 10, was up just in time to make it a Group 1 double in the Majorca. Midpack while racing on the fence early, she worked her way through an opening on the rail as the field turned into the straight. She was forced to call on all her reserves when Cold As Ice (Western Winter) drew even, but Inara prevailed in a photo finish.

    The Mike Bass filly finished third at about six furlongs over this course on debut last May, and the homebred put it all together in her second and final start as a juvenile when graduating over the same course and distance June 3. Inara failed to fire, checking in sixth, when stepped up to allowance company in her sophomore debut here September 6, but she put in a much-improved effort when second when stepped up to this trip at Durbanville October 11. Fourth when dropped back to about seven furlongs for the Choice Carriers Championship (SAf-G2) November 8, Inara was second only to the highly regarded Majmu(Redoute's Choice) over this track and trip December 6.

    Australia

    The Gai Waterhouse-trained Vancouver (Medaglia d'Oro) assumed favoritism for the March 21 Golden Slipper (Aus-G1) after running his unbeaten record to two in the Canonbury S. (Aus-G3) at Rosehill Saturday.

    Vancouver earned "TDN Rising Star" status when winning the listed Breeders' Plate, the spring's most important event for juvenile colts, on debut October 4, and he is now the $7 (6-1) Slipper choice on Sportsbet.com.au. Second in the betting at $9 (8-1) is another "TDN Rising Star," the Godolphin homebred filly Ottoman (Exceed and Excel), who won on debut at Rosehill December 20.

    Outpaced at the start of Saturday's 1,200-meter event, Vancouver was about five lengths off the lead in the early stages but gradually made up ground while wide approaching the turn. Swinging four wide in the six-horse field at the top of the lane, Vancouver responded to left-handed encouragement from Tommy Berry with an explosive kick. He outgunned the front-running Outreach (Exceed and Excel), a full-brother to 2013 Golden Slipper winner Overreach, by a three-quarters of a length despite racing a bit green in the closing stages.

    It was later revealed that Outreach suffered a fractured pelvis.

    After the race, Waterhouse was drawing comparisons between Vancouver and her 2012 Slipper winner and two-year-old Triple Crown victor Pierro.

    "You just can't beat the spring form and he showed in the Breeders Plate how good he is," Waterhouse told RacingNetwork.com.au. "He is the most exciting colt since Pierro, and he actually looks a bit like him too."

    Berry was not aboard Vancouver for his debut win, but he was the pilot when the dark bay finished fourth in a Randwick trial January 15.

    "He works as good as any horse that Gai has and when he trialed poor I was starting to doubt myself," Berry told RacingNetwork.com.au. "But then I went back and looked at his tapes and he only does what he has too. I didn't hit him in the trial and today when I did he really responded."

    An A$185,000 purchase by Gai Waterhouse and agent James Harron from Coolmore Stud at last year's Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, Vancouver is out of the Danehill mare Skates, and was bred by John Camilleri's Fairway Thoroughbreds.

    Camilleri enjoyed a banner day Saturday, with his homebred two-year-old filly Fireworks (Snitzel) taking the Widden S. (Aus-G3) later on the card for trainer Gerald Ryan. The Widden has produced the last two Slipper winners.

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    Results

    NORTH AMERICAN NON-GRADED STAKES RESULTS

    MARTHA WASHINGTON S., OP, $100,000, 3YO, F, 1M, 1-31.
    6—TAKE CHARGE BRANDI, f, 3, Giant's Causeway--Charming, by Seeking the Gold. ($435,000 '13 KEESEP). O-Willis D Horton, B-Charming Syndicate (KY), T-D. Wayne Lukas, J-Jon Kenton Court, $60,000.
    5—Sarah Sis, f, 3, Sharp Humor--Emerald Gal, by Gilded Time. ($10,000 '13 KEESEP; $20,000 2014 OBSJUN). O-Joe Ragsdale, B-Catherine Rene White DVM (KY), $20,000.
    4—Indian Annie, f, 3, Indian Charlie--Grosse Pointe Anne, by Silver Deputy. ($130,000 '13 KEESEP). O-Whispering Oaks Farm LLC, McCarty, M, Clark, D, Skoda, G et al, B-WinStar Farm, LLC (KY), $10,000.
    Also Ran: Sweet Corinna, High Dollar Woman, Perfect Fit.
    Winning Time: 1:39 3/5 (ft)
    Margins: HD, 8, 6HF.
    Odds: 0.40, 7.40, 3.70.
     
    H. ALLEN JERKENS S., GP, $75,000, 4YO/UP, 2MT, 1-31.
    2—UNITARIAN, h, 5, Pulpit--Minimalist, by Dynaformer. O-Robert S Evans, B-R S Evans (KY), T-Todd A. Pletcher, J-Javier Castellano, $43,710.
    11—Artic North, g, 6, North Light (IRE)--Ms Isadorable, by Royal Academy. ($2,000 '10 KEESEP). O-Paul P Pompa, Jr, B-Richard Shultz (KY), $14,100.
    3—Reflecting, h, 6, Elusive Quality--Daydreaming, by A.P. Indy. O-Phipps Stable, B-Phipps Stable (KY), $7,050.
    Also Ran: Desvelo (ARG), Buck Benny, Turkish, Royal Blessing, Tryer, Tattenham, Ocean Seven (IRE), Bingo Bango Bongo.
    Winning Time: 3:23 1/5 (fm)
    Margins: 3HF, 1 3/4, 4HF.
    Odds: 1.70, 7.60, 3.60.
     
    SUNCOAST S., TAM, $50,000, 3YO, F, 1M 40Y, 1-31.
    8—INCLUDE BETTY, f, 3, Include--Betty's Solutions, by Eltish. ($42,000 '13 KEESEP). O-Jones, Brereton C and Thornton, Timothy C, B-Lavin Bloodstock & Brereton C Jones (KY), T-Thomas F. Proctor, J-Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr., $30,000.
    2—Huasca, f, 3, Tiz Wonderful--Babyurthebest, by Holy Bull. O-St George Stable LLC, B-St George Stables (KY), $10,000.
    10—Ancient Goddess (FR), f, 3, Iffraaj (GB)--Jezebel (GB), by Owington (GB). (42,000EUR '13 ARQOCT). O-Sovereign Stable, B-David St John Collier (FR), $5,000.
    Also Ran: Innovative Idea, Whimsicality, A. P.'s Glory, Holywell, Irish Jasper, I Zoom.
    Winning Time: 1:41 2/5 (ft)
    Margins: NK, 8HF, HF.
    Odds: 18.90, 5.20, 4.40.

    Racing Headlines

    Aqueduct, Turf Paradise cancel; Parx calls off final six

    Citing cold temperatures and high winds, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) canceled Saturday's live racing at Aqueduct.

    It marks the seventh cancellation in January for the Jamaica, New York track, including three Saturday cards, and the remainder of another program was called off after two races.

    Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, canceled following the 4TH race on Saturday, while wet conditions prompted Turf Paradise officials in Phoenix, Arizona, to call off the entire card for the day.

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    NHC Tour kicks off with record $250,000 in prize money, 150 berths to NHC 17

    Less than one week since John O'Neil earned $800,000 as the winner of the 16th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) at Treasure Island Las Vegas, the NHC Tour kicked off its 2015 season on Saturday with a record $250,000 in prize money and 150 guaranteed berths to NHC 17.

    The top three finishers at last weekend's NHC, including O'Neil, and five of the top 10 who comprised the Final Table, earned their way in by landing in the top 150 in the 2014 NHC Tour.

    Signups for the 2015 DRF NHC Tour are now being accepted at ntra.com/en/nhc/2015-become-a-member. The complete rules are posted at ntra.com/en/nhc/2015-nhc-tour-official-rules.

    The year's first NHC Tour event and NHC qualifier kicked off Saturday at NHCQualify.com, the official qualifying site for the NHC.

    NHC Tour participation requires an annual NTRA individual membership fee of $50. Membership is mandatory in order to compete for a berth in the 2016 NHC and must be in place prior to participation in any given qualifier tournament in order for top finishers of sanctioned NHC qualifying events to be eligible to compete in the January 2016 NHC -- the lucrative culmination of the year's qualifying schedule.

    As was the case in 2014, the top 150 Tour points leaders at the end of the year will be guaranteed entry into the 2016 NHC, where the overall, season-ending NHC Tour points leader will be eligible for a $2 million bonus should he or she capture the 2016 NHC and become the first person to earn a seat to the 2017 NHC.

    The record NHC Tour prize pool of $250,000, up 25 percent over 2014, includes a total of $50,000 in midyear payouts to the top five individuals (who will receive $10,000 each) in the standings as of July 31. End-of-year payouts will total $175,000, with points based on a member's top six scores (including at least one score from a brick and mortar tournament location). The overall Tour winner will receive $75,000 and a seat to the 2017 NHC, and the top two finishers will each receive a trophy.

    The top 20 finishers at the end of the year will each receive prize money and be eligible to compete for a $25,000 bonus to be paid to the individual who achieves the highest overall finish at the 2016 NHC. This individual also will earn a berth in the 2017 NHC. The bonus money is in addition to any other prize money won at the NHC.

    In addition to making one eligible to earn a coveted seat to the NHC, other NHC Tour benefits include:

  • Exclusive discount from Daily Racing Form on past performance subscription packages -- 15 percent discount for first-time Tour Members and 10 percent discount for those renewing
  • Individual membership in the NTRA, which include benefits and discounts from NTRA Advantage partners and membership in the Horseplayers Coalition that supports NTRA legislative initiatives in Washington, D.C.
  • Weekly e-newsletter featuring player profiles, timely tournament information and other event information
  • Entering its 17th year, the NHC is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers. There are no "buy-in" entries at the NHC. It is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping websites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals.

    Each year, the NHC winner joins other human and equine champions as an honoree at the Eclipse Awards. The 15 NHC Champions since the event's inception, in chronological order, are Steven Walker, Judy Wagner, Herman Miller, Steve Wolfson Jr., Kent Meyer, Jamie Michelson, Ron Rippey, Stanley Bavlish, Richard Goodall, John Conte, Brian Troop, John Doyle, Michael Beychok, Jim Benes, Jose Arias and John O'Neil.

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    Results

    NORTH AMERICAN ALLOWANCE RESULTS

    SA, 5TH, AOC, $70,984, 4YO/UP, F/M, A6 1/2FT, 1-31.
    2—GRAZENETTE, f, 4, Grazen--Malley Girl, by Malek (CHI). O-Nicholas B Alexander, B-Nick Alexander (CA), T-Philip D'Amato, J-Joseph Talamo, $45,240.
    6—Ameliatheaviator, f, 4, Henrythenavigator--Citi Pearl, by Citidancer. ($45,000 '12 FTKOCT). O-Dennis Narlinger, B-Amy Bondon & Tom McNally (KY), $11,600.
    5—Margie's Minute, f, 4, Hard Spun--Halo Miss America, by Jolie's Halo. ($45,000 '12 KEESEP). O-Greely III, John J and Nichols, Thomas L, B-John C Oxley (KY), $6,960.
    Winning Time: 1:14 (fm)
     
    LRL, 7TH, AOC, $50,000, 4YO/UP, 7F, 1-31.
    4—SMASH AND GRAB, g, 5, Sharp Humor--Laplumas, by Posse. ($10,000 '11 FTKOCT). O-Ronald E Cuneo, B-Highclere (KY), T-Damon R. Dilodovico, J-Xavier Perez, $28,500.
    2—Behemoth, h, 6, Giant's Causeway--Quiet Reward, by Seeking the Gold. ($200,000 '10 FTSAUG). O-MCA Racing Stable LLC, B-Sam-Son Farm (ON), $10,500.
    6—Wealth to Me, g, 8, Tapit--Wealthy Belongings, by Belong to Me. O-Drawing Away Stable, B-Robert Mondun & Vickie Mondun (KY), $5,500.
    Winning Time: 1:23 (ft)
     
    GP, 6TH, AOC, $45,200, 4YO/UP, 1M, 1-31.
    7—GOODTIMEHADBYALL, g, 7, Quiet American--Miss Brickyard, by A.P. Indy. ($20,000 '09 KEESEP). O-Richard Ravin, B-John D Gunther (KY), T-Jorge Navarro, J-Paco Lopez, $26,400.
    3—Cash Rules, g, 8, Peace Rules--Cindys Sonnet, by Silver Buck. O-Larry Fugate, B-Larry Fugate, Marshall Novak & Suzanne Novak (FL), $10,440.
    2—Tiz'naz, g, 4, Tiz Wonderful--Homecoming, by Pulpit. O-Main Line Racing Stable, B-Spendthrift Farm LLC (KY), $4,400.
    Winning Time: 1:38 1/5 (ft)
     
    DED, 8TH, ALW, $43,520, 4YO/UP, 5F, 1-30.
    1—KNOCKITDOWNHARD, g, 5, Sharp Humor--Chelonia, by Teton Forest. ($10,000 '11 TEXAUG; $40,000 2012 EVDMAR). O-Maggi Moss, B-Highclere (LA), T-Thomas M. Amoss, J-Gerard Melancon, $26,400.
    4—Red Production, g, 6, Run Production--Zaminister, by Zarbyev. O-Cascio, Andrew J and Glorioso, Vincent F, B-Foxwood Plantation, Ltd (LA), $8,800.
    6—Rich'slion, g, 5, Lion Heart--Cinefila, by Skywalker. O-Bill W Cunningham, B-Rebecca Farms LLC (LA), $4,840.
    Winning Time: :58 3/5 (ft)
     
    GP, 7TH, ALW, $42,000, 4YO/UP, 1 1/16MT, 1-31.
    1—IRONICUS, c, 4, Distorted Humor--Meghan's Joy, by A.P. Indy. O-Stuart S Janney, III, B-Stuart S Janney, III LLC (KY), T-Claude R. McGaughey III, J-Javier Castellano, $25,200.
    4—Awesome Sky, g, 4, Sky Mesa--To Dream About, by Monarchos. O-John C Oxley, B-John C Oxley (KY), $7,980.
    3—Downey Gap, g, 4, Bernardini--Pico Teneriffe, by Red Ransom. ($52,000 2014 FTKJU2). O-Melnyk Racing Stables, Inc, B-Eugene Melnyk (KY), $3,780.
    Winning Time: 1:41 4/5 (fm)
     
    GP, 8TH, AOC, $42,000, 4YO/UP, F/M, 5FT, 1-31.
    6—PEDAL PRINCESS, f, 4, Empire Maker--Walker's Gal, by Woodman. O-Richard Santulli, B-Colts Neck Stables LLC (KY), T-Alan E. Goldberg, J-Jose Lezcano, $25,200.
    5—Spectacular Me, m, 5, Catienus--Spectacular Morgan, by Spectacular Bid. ($1,600 '11 FTKFEB). O-Alber, A and Tharrenos, W, B-University of Kentucky (KY), $8,400.
    1—Sweet Tooth Sweety, m, 5, Smarty Jones--Bam Bam Bull, by Holy Bull. O-Dennis A Drazin, B-Dennis A Drazin (KY), $4,200.
    Winning Time: :56 (fm)
     
    FG, 8TH, ALW, $38,000, 4YO/UP, F/M, A1MT, 1-31.
    1—MORE THAN LESS, f, 4, More Than Ready--Winter Solstice, by Unbridled. O-Marc C Ferrell, B-Fred W Hertrich III & John D Fielding (KY), T-Steven M. Asmussen, J-Robby Albarado, $22,800.
    8—Another Blue, f, 4, Midnight Lute--Amura, by Pulpit. ($107,000 '11 KEENOV; $115,000 '12 KEESEP). O-Larry J Romero, B-B D Gibbs Farm, LLC & Chancey Mill Farm (KY), $7,600.
    6—Prayed For, f, 4, Dynaformer--Be Fruitful, by Pulpit. O-Ben P Walden, Jr, B-BP Walden Jr & H Sexston (KY), $4,180.
    Winning Time: 1:39 4/5 (fm)
     
    MVR, 3RD, ALW, $22,700, 3YO/UP, 6F, 1-31.
    4—BRASS BUCKLE, g, 6, Proud Citizen--Barnsy, by Langfuhr. O-Elias Del Val, B-Blazing Meadows Farm (OH), T-Robin Schuster, J-T. D. Houghton, $13,620.
    3—Hustle Hard, g, 6, Badge of Silver--Hope for Love, by Fortunate Prospect. O-Doering, Mark and David and Gardella, Jeff, B-Peter Sheppell (OH), $4,540.
    1—Owensville, g, 5, Northern Afleet--Stormy Arctic, by Storm Broker. O-Born To Run Farm, B-Laurie L Hickman (OH), $2,270.
    Winning Time: 1:15 4/5 (ft)
     
    HOU, 6TH, ALW, $21,000, 4YO/UP, F/M, 6F, 1-30.
    1—AFOOLSBROKENHEART, f, 4, Mutakddim--Don't Blame Wayne, by Wayne's Crane. O-Mira Vista Stables LLC, B-Three Feathers Farm (TX), T-W. Bret Calhoun, J-Lindey Wade, $12,480.
    5—Arabian Ritz, m, 5, Mutakddim--Miss Ritz, by Spend a Buck. O-Ken Murphy Thoroughbreds, Ltd, B-Ken Murphy (TX), $4,160.
    7—Legacy Flyer, m, 5, Early Flyer--Flyers Legacy, by Fast Cure. O-George R Bryant, B-Jim T Evans & Marty Evans (TX), $2,288.
    Winning Time: 1:12 1/5 (ft)
     
    TAM, 12TH, ALW, $20,000, 4YO/UP, F/M, 1MT, 1-31.
    9—STOCK YARD HEN, f, 4, Rock Hard Ten--Perfect Six, by Saratoga Six. ($5,000 '12 KEEJAN; $30,000 2013 OBSAPR; $60,000 2014 KEENOV). O-Romar LLC, B-Twin Creeks Farm, Tom Clark & Nancy Clark (KY), T-Wayne D. Mogge, J-Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr., $11,800.
    6—See Trouble, f, 4, Sightseeing--Leioa (ARG), by Engrillado (ARG). O-Clarke Ohrstrom, B-Clarke Ohrstrom (KY), $4,000.
    2—Penelope Perfect, m, 7, Mongoose--Perfectlywonderful, by Mister Frisky. O-Cherrywood Racing Stables, II, B-Barr Three LLC (IL), $2,000.
    Winning Time: 1:37 (fm)

    Racing Headlines

    Texas Red takes old-school approach in San Vicente

    Texas Red will be running late (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

    Call it an old-school approach for Texas Red (Afleet Alex). A 6 1/2-length winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the well-regarded colt will make his three-year-old debut at seven furlongs when he lines up for Sunday's $200,000 San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita.

    Kentucky Derby contenders with two-year-old form are rarely seen in early-season sprints nowadays -- the typical pattern has become two starts at a route. It's been 18 years since the last stakes-winning juvenile, Silver Charm, returned in a one-turn race before capturing the Kentucky Derby. And that race was the 1997 San Vicente.

    Texas Red's connections decided upon the San Vicente as the best option despite the fact that he's never won at a one-turn distance. Keith Desormeaux trains and his brother, three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent, rides.

    A well-built bay son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, Texas Red dropped his first two starts sprinting before breaking his maiden going two turns at Del Mar last summer. The Kentucky-bred recorded a non-threatening third behind American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) when making his first stakes attempt, the FrontRunner (G1) in late September, and followed with a 13-1 upset in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, netting a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating while closing from last to first.

    Texas Red will face seven rivals as the likely overwhelming favorite.

    Lord Nelson (Pulpit) finished one spot back of Texas Red when fourth in the FrontRunner and earned his first stakes win in the six-furlong Speak Easy at Santa Anita on October 13, posting a 6 3/4-length runaway score. He concluded 2014 with a fifth as the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, a race that has already produced next-out stakes winners El Kabeir and International Star, and the Bob Baffert-trained Lord Nelson figures to appreciate the cut back in trip. Rafael Bejarano picks up the mount.

    Baffert will also be represented by Punctuate (Distorted Humor). The bay colt colt makes his first appearance since an impressive debut maiden win at Santa Anita in late September and will be ridden by Martin Garcia. Punctuate is out the famous New Mexico-bred mare Peppers Pride (Desert God), who earned more than $1 million and attracted national headlines by winning all 19 career starts from 2005-08.

    Serbian Syclone (Wildcat Heir) brings plenty of speed to the mix in his stakes debut. A 6 1/4-length debut winner two starts back, the Peter Miller trainee exits a facile wire-to-wire victory over allowance/optional claiming rivals at six furlongs on December 31. Elvis Trujillo has the call.

    Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

    North American Maiden Winners
    Afleet Alex--Try n Sue by Sir Harry Lewis; U CALL ME ALEX, g, 3, DED, Msw, 1-30, 7 1/2f, 1:35 . B-Coffee Pot Stables (NY.).
    After Market--Letha B by Wild Rush; AFTERMARKETSPOILER, f, 3, FG, Mcl 30000, 1-31, a5 1/2fT, 1:05 4/5. B-April Mayberry & Lisa Arredondo (KY.). $27,000 '13 OBSAUG; $15,000 '13 OBSJAN; $40,000 2014 OBSAPR.
    Badge of Silver--Crystal Illusion (MSW$304,752), by Silver Ghost; MAGIC OF BELIEVING, c, 3, OP, Msw, 1-31, 1 1/16m, 1:46 2/5. B-Jo Ann Luedtke (KY.). $36,000 '13 FTKOCT.
    Birdstone--Indy Charmer by A.P. Indy; CHARMING TALULLAH, f, 3, TP, Mcl 30000, 1-30, 6 1/2f, 1:23 . B-Carole Fernandez (KY.).
    Bluegrass Cat--Something Brewing by Meadowlake; CHIA LOVE, f, 3, SA, Mcl 30000, 1-30, 1m, 1:39 1/5. B-English Range Farm (FL.). $22,000 '13 OBSAUG; $50,000 2014 OBSAPR.
    Comic Strip--Ms. Booty by Roar; LA FIERA, f, 3, GG, Mcl 32000, 1-31, 1m, 1:38 3/5. B-Dr. & Mrs. William T. Gray (CA.).
    Curlin--Higher World (G2$278,948), by Peaks and Valleys; CONQUEST CURLINATE, c, 3, OP, Msw, 1-31, 1 1/16m, 1:46 3/5. B-Charles Hayden (ON.). $70,000 '13 KEESEP.
    Dunkirk--Pretty Amusing by War Chant; HUMOR ME LOLLY, f, 3, HOU, Mcl 15000, 1-30, 1m, 1:42 1/5. B-Will Kari (KY.).
    E Dubai--Maximalista (ARG) by Equalize; MISS LILLY, f, 3, DED, Mcl 10000, 1-30, 6 1/2f, 1:24 . B-Charles DeCou & Robert McDowell (LA.). $10,000 '13 LTBSEP.
    Half Ours--Dixie Toons by Dixie Union; OUR TOONS, f, 3, DED, Mcl 10000, 1-30, 5f, 1:01 2/5. B-Ironwater Farms Joint Venture (LA.).
    Into Mischief--Skipping Court by Doneraile Court; COURTING MISCHIEF, f, 3, GG, Mcl 12500, 1-31, 1m, 1:40 2/5. B-Meritage LLC (KY.). $62,000 '13 BESOCT; $12,000 '13 KEEJAN.
    Kafwain--Keystone Malibu by Malibu Moon; DR. SUER, g, 3, GG, Mcl 8000, 1-30, 5 1/2f, 1:05 . B-Nathaniel Friedman (CA.).
    Lion Tamer--Sentimental Gal by More Than Ready; CIGARZIN, c, 3, FG, Mcl 12500, 1-31, 6f, 1:12 4/5. B-Picard Thoroughbreds Racing Stable, LLC (LA.).
    Lookin At Lucky--One Hot Wish by Bring the Heat; ASIA, f, 3, GP, Msw, 1-31, 5fT, :56 3/5. B-Wesley A. Ward (FL.).
    Majesticperfection--Listen to Libby by Indian Charlie; CHANTELINE, f, 3, FG, Msw, 1-31, 6f, 1:11 2/5. B-Brereton C. Jones (KY.). $130,000 '12 KEENOV.
    Medaglia d'Oro--Lady Pegasus by Fusaichi Pegasus; ALABASTER, c, 3, TAM, Msw, 1-31, 1m 40y, 1:40 1/5. B-Darley (KY.).
    Midshipman--Eye'll Be Fine by Montbrook; YIANNIS, r, 3, SA, Msw, 1-31, 5 1/2f, 1:03 4/5. B-Thorobeam Farm (KY.). $65,000 '12 KEENOV; $120,000 '13 KEESEP; $560,000 2014 OBSMAR.
    Noonmark--Reddy for Rubys by Precise End; SOXY RUBY, f, 3, PEN, Msw, 1-30, 6f, 1:14 . B-Anthony Grey (NY.). $30,000 2014 OBSJUN.
    Parading--Fumble by Deputy Minister; TOP OF THE PAGE, c, 3, FG, Msw, 1-31, a1mT, 1:40 3/5. B-James Paliafito (KY.).
    Pollard's Vision--Guagamela by Schossberg; FRESHMAN PHENOM, g, 3, LRL, Mcl 12500, 1-31, 1m, 1:42 . B-Heron Court Farm, LLC (NY.).
    Quality Road--Allencat by Storm Cat; QUALITY INDEED, g, 3, FG, Mcl 30000, 1-31, a5 1/2fT, 1:05 4/5. B-Robert H. Lail (KY.).
    Speightstown--Mon Belle by Maria's Mon; SPARK, f, 3, GP, Msw, 1-31, 5 1/2f, 1:05 2/5. B-Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, LLC (KY.).
    Speightstown--Wawasee by Salt Lake; TOWNMINISTER, g, 3, SA, Mcl 30000, 1-31, 1m, 1:38 4/5. B-Clearsky Farms (KY.). $3,000 '13 KEEJAN.
    Temple City--Kissin Bobby Vicar by Vicar; SADIE'S TEMPLE, f, 3, TP, Mcl 7500, 1-30, 6f, 1:15 4/5. B-Howard Patrick King Jr. & Leslie R. (KY.). $3,500 '13 FTKOCT.
    Artie Schiller--Invitation by Vindication; ARTIE CRASHER, c, 4, GP, Msw, 1-31, 1 1/16mT, 1:41 . B-Fred W. Hertrich III (KY.). $100,000 '12 KEESEP.
    Giant's Causeway--Bachata by Kingmambo; CAUSEWORTHY, g, 4, LRL, Msw, 1-31, 1m, 1:38 1/5. B-Pin Oak Stud, LLC (KY.). $32,000 2014 FTKJU2. *1/2 to Gold Medal Dancer (MSW$339,269).
    Henrythenavigator--Quick Commander by Deputy Commander; QUICK NAVIGATOR, f, 4, SA, Mcl 20000, 1-30, 5 1/2f, 1:05 2/5. B-Joseph LaCombe Stables, Inc. (KY.).
    K One King--Gayle's Vow by Broken Vow; LIL POOKIE BEAR, f, 4, MVR, Mcl 7500, 1-31, 6f, 1:18 3/5. B-Charles Joseph Guilbeau & Kenneth Neil Broussard (LA.).
    Marino Marini--Meadow Sprite by Meadowlake; SHOP FOREVER, g, 4, LA, Mcl 3500, 1-30, 4 1/2f, :52 . B-Howard & Janet Siegel Racing LLC (CA.).
    Notional--Snow County Honey by Foolish Pleasure; MONGOLIAN HONEY, f, 4, GP, Mcl 12500, 1-31, 6f, 1:14 3/5. B-Matthew R. Herbener & James M. Herbener Jr. (KY.). $9,000 '12 FTKFEB.
    Sky Mesa--Minimalist by Dynaformer; MY SKY, f, 4, HOU, Msw, 1-30, 1 1/16mT, 1:47 1/5. B-R. S. Evans (KY.). $35,000 2013 KEEAPR. *1/2 to Unitarian (G2$351,580).
    Stauder--Oui Cazcinq by Hawkster; GAIRWOLFE, g, 4, HOU, Mcl 10000, 1-30, 1m 70y, 1:47 . B-Cecilia Wiley (OK.).
    Sun King--Nice 'n Groovy by Groovy; NICE'N SUNNY, g, 4, GG, Msw, 1-31, 1 1/16m, 1:44 4/5. B-Betty L. Moran (KY.). $30,000 '12 FTKOCT.
    Albert the Great--Dinner to Boot by Storm Boot; IRISH ROSE, m, 5, PRX, Mcl 15000, 1-31, 7f, 1:30 4/5. B-Irish-Three Racing (PA.).
    Bernstein--Chemise by Secret Hello; BATTLESHIP GRAY, g, 5, PEN, Mcl 16000, 1-31, 1m 70y, 1:47 3/5. B-Linda D. Newton (MD.). $33,000 '11 KEEJAN; $30,000 2012 FTMMAY; $30,000 2012 OBSMAR. *1/2 to Miss Lombardi (MSW$301,670) *1/2 to Hello Lover (MG1P$451,255).
    Bertrando--Mama Lula by Fit to Fight; LUANDO, m, 5, TP, Mcl 5000, 1-30, 5 1/2f, 1:08 4/5. B-David J. Payne (CA.).
    Shaniko--Almanac by Known Fact; BETTER BY FAR, m, 5, TP, Mcl 5000, 1-31, 1m, 1:43 4/5. B-Dana D. Holt (KY.).
    Supremo Secret--Octibbeha by Deputed Testamony; OCTIBBEHA WARRIOR, g, 5, MVR, Mcl 3500, 1-31, 5f, 1:03 3/5. B-Thad Hawkins (LA.).

    Racing Headlines

    In brief

    Unitarian floated over Gulfstream's grass in the inaugural H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

    Robert S. Evans' homebred Unitarian (Pulpit) lived up to his 8-5 favoritism with a 3 1/2-length victory in the inaugural $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens S. at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. The bay five-year-old hadn't visited the winner's circle since earning his first stakes score in the Elkhorn S. (G2) at Keeneland last April, but entered the Jerkens off a pair of nice fourth-place finishes in the Red Smith H. (G3) and W.L. McKnight H. (G3) in the fall. With Javier Castellano up on Saturday, the Todd Pletcher charge bided his time in midpack first time around before kicking into gear well wide while rounding the turn for the final time. He took after Artic North (North Light), who had just managed to wrest control away from longtime leader Reflecting (Elusive Quality), and easily passed both those rivals to finish two miles on the firm turf in 3:23 1/5. Unitarian is now 5-3-4 from 19 career starts and has banked $395,290 in lifetime earnings...


    Include Betty circled the entire Suncoast field to just get up for the victory (SV Photography)

    Brereton Jones and Tim Thornton's Include Betty (Include) utilized the same wide sweeping move from her maiden score to take Saturday's $50,000 Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs by a neck over a tenacious Huasca (Tiz Wonderful). With Rosemary Homeister Jr. in the irons, the chestnut miss settled in last as I Zoom (Burning Roma) set the opening half-mile in :23 and :46 4/5 before Huasca took command through six furlongs in 1:12 1/5. Include Betty began her move midway around the turn while widest of all and continued in that path to challenge Huasca, who fought back before finally yielding right before the wire. Trained by Tom Proctor, Include Betty paid $39.80 as the 18-1 second longest shot in the nine-filly field while stopping the clock in 1:41 2/5 on the fast dirt. She was second and third in her initial two races sprinting before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles and finishing fifth, all in Kentucky last fall. The Kentucky-bred miss returned at Tampa Bay Downs on January 3 and circled the entire field after being 10 lengths behind the leader on the backstretch to take a mile-and-40-yard maiden special weight by a length with Homeister aboard. "Wasn't she just wonderful?" Homeister enthused. "They had me over to work her the other morning, so I knew that she would be able to relax and then run when I asked. That work and what Mr. Proctor and his people told me about what she likes and doesn't like made all the difference. We were well back, but she really turned it on getting into the stretch and she just went after that other filly." Include Betty now boasts a 5-2-1-1, $58,530, career mark thanks to taking this stakes bow...

    Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) will meet just five rivals in Sunday's San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita, following the withdrawal of Punctuate (Distorted Humor) and Magic Taste (Taste of Paradise). Texas Red's trainer, Keith Desormeaux, reiterated that the seven-furlong San Vicente is just the starting point for the Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful. "We're ready to get the show on the road," said Keith, who will give his younger brother, Hall of Famer and three-time Derby winner Kent Desormeaux, a leg up. "I'm happy with where he is right now, no doubt. I've said before that this is a building process towards the first Saturday in May. We're prepared. I just think the sprint is the right thing for him. I'm sure that's up for discussion, but it seems like the right thing to do. This is a building process and this is the first step. I've been to the Kentucky Derby before, but have never run a horse in the race. We've come close to getting there, winning a couple of prep races, but never actually participated."...

    Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday) is scheduled to work at Santa Anita Sunday, after which Bob Baffert said he would have a better line on whether to run the Clark H. (G1) and San Pasqual (G2) winner in next Saturday's $500,000 San Antonio Invitational (G2) against California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) and Shared Belief (Candy Ride). Shared Belief, meanwhile, is slated to have his final major breeze for the race on Tuesday at Golden Gate, and will ship to Santa Anita Wednesday, according to Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. Trainer George Papaprodromou said that Charles Town Classic (G2) winner Imperative (Bernardini), who worked six furlongs Saturday in 1:13, is under consideration for the San Antonio. In other notable works at Santa Anita Saturday, Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) near-misser Firing Line (Line of David) covered five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 in preparation for the Robert B. Lewis (G2) next Saturday, while Zenyatta offspring Cozmic One (Bernardini) worked six furlongs with Victor Espinoza up in 1:14. The John Shirreffs pupil went in company with stablemate Captain Tim (Candy Ride), who clocked 1:13 4/5. Both nominated to the Triple Crown, the Jerry and Ann Moss homebreds are building toward a career debut.

    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.

    Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather

    SPOT PLAYS

    For Sunday

    TRACK   (RACE) HORSE, MORNING LINE
    Aqueduct   (6th) Mrs. Sunday, 5-1
        (8th) Sonora, 9-2
    Fair Grounds   (3rd) Easy From the Gate, 4-1
        (8th) La Luna Rouge, 3-1
    Golden Gate Fields   (2nd) Listo Warrior, 3-1
        (8th) Demon Dancer, 3-1
    Gulfstream Park   (6th) Sea Storm, 7-2
        (7th) Aly Cruise, 8-1
    Laurel Park   (4th) Dream of Pegasus, 3-1
        (5th) Rainbowappears, 7-2
    Oaklawn Park   (3rd) Spectacular Proof, 8-1
        (7th) Bon Heir, 5-1
    Parx Racing   (1st) Word of Honor, 5-1
        (2nd) Awesome Arceno, 7-2
    Santa Anita   (1st) Tama County, 4-1
        (2nd) Athens, 3-1
    Sunland Park   (8th) Better Than Love, 7-2
        (10th) Prince of the Roxy, 5-1
    Tampa Bay Downs   (6th) Ghost Hunter, 3-1
        (9th) Saint Finian, 7-2
    Turfway Park   (2nd) I'm So Vain, 3-1
        (7th) Petticoat Lane, 7-2

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

    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.