There’s a lot to talk about after the 2014 Holy Bull. There’s always just one true winner but the other story lines behind entries that scored some points versus those that did not still remain. While I would love to dive into the respectable finish of Conquest Titan and Intense Holiday along with the questions surrounding Wicked Strong and Coup De Grace, I can’t resist the opportunity to talk more about Cairo Prince.
With a win today and 10 points added to the 4 that he earned when he finished a nose behind Honor Code in the G2 Remsen Stakes, Cairo Prince is now tied for the points lead with 14. So, going into February and final 3 months of the Derby Prep season this contender has earned the attention I’m about to give him.
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For the fifth consecutive Kentucky Derby prep, a horse with one or less qualifying points emerged the victor. The first Kentucky Derby contender to join the fifty point club this past weekend was Verrazano, who dominated the field en route to winning the G2 Tampa Bay Derby. Following that effort later in the afternoon, and in thrilling come from behind fashion, was Hear the Ghost in the G2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Let’s Go Stable, the son of More Than Ready has long since been an expected derby contender. But, because he waited until now to make his graded stakes and two turn race debut, his status was also met with some speculation.
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For the first time since before Shanghai Bobby even entered his first Kentucky Derby qualification race, he has now fallen from the ranking of overall point’s leader. Although it took our new leader an extra race to pull ahead by four points, the leader board has shifted and Goldencents is our new leader.
The Arkansas Derby Winner Was Just Too Good
Catch Me If You Can
All that a derby hopeful ever really needs is a spot in the starting gate along the trail. If so, the talent will take care of the rest. Attention ladies and gentlemen, Bodemeister has landed in Louisville, Kentucky. Catching a ride with the Arkansas Derby winner was stable mate and 2nd place finisher Secret Circle as well as Sabercat who finished 3rd. All three horses returned to their barns in good order and have completed the move from Oaklawn Park to Churchill Downs where they will now remain until they race again in the 138th Kentucky Derby.
Bodemeister showed up in Hot Springs ready to run. More importantly the Virginia Bred colt was ready to claim his spot in the Kentucky Derby. Entering with only $60,000 to his name it was all or nothing that would decide if he would qualify for the biggest race of his age group. Not only did we get it all, Bodemeister gave us even more. His dominance was by far the most impressive performance on the 2012 Kentucky Derby trail. There are a lot of factors that play into that statement so let’s begin with numbers behind it. – Replay
Front Running Hansen Caught From Behind
The major Kentucky Derby preps are in the books and so are the questions surrounding the next race. A main inquiry will be if anyone is willing to replace Hansen with Dullahan on their list of top contenders for the 138th Kentucky Derby. If you take Trainer Dale Romans comments into consideration after the score in the G1 $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes then Dullahan’s stock is most certainly rising. The Louisville native is confident as ever with what he has in his barn and he’s not shying away from the fact that he thinks this horse is better than any of his others. “This is the best chance by far that I’ve had,” he said, “and I think he’s the right horse.”
The key word in that comment by Dale Romans is “by far”. There’s something to be said about a trainer who is very blunt when commenting on how good he thinks his horse really is. To put him ahead of Shackleford, 2011 Preakness Stakes winner, by so much definitely gets my attention. I give Dale Romans a lot of credit for his confidence with Dullahan and I give him a lot more credit for a spectacular win in the Blue Grass Stakes, his first ever in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Prep. (Replay)
Time to Put Up or Shut Up, Illinois Derby Winner Did Both
The Illinois Derby was a G3 Derby Prep that included 14 horses all racing for the chance to qualify for the 138th Kentucky Derby. With a win being the only way to accomplish such a feat, it was time to put up a career performance or quietly walk away from the Kentucky Derby trail. But when you’re Done Talking and running the race of your life, you score the unique privilege of quietly making it to the next level.
So who is Done Talking? Let’s begin with the basics (more…)
1-2 Finishers Are Headed to Churchill Downs
After the major Kentucky Derby preps got off to a wild start last weekend with a pair of unexpected winners the trail did a 180 when this weekend’s top contenders came to do battle down the stretch. The Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby lived up to their expectations as the top two finishers in both G1 Preps solidified their Kentucky Derby Contender status. All four returned to their barns in good condition and will return for the 138th Running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5th.
We’ll begin with the Wood Memorial – Replay – where the headliners were undefeated Gemologist trained by Todd Pletcher and Alpha trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Both horses have been tracking very well along the trail in 2012 but were still in need of a solid performance in the Wood in order to secure the required graded stakes earnings needed for qualification into the Kentucky Derby. They were highly regarded compared to the rest of the field but were in a position not to let a surprise long shot steal the spotlight on Saturday. If either of them were to fall into 3rd place or worse, their expected derby entry would have been in jeopardy. (more…)
Take Charge Indy Wires Florida, Hero of Order Stuns Louisiana
We learned a lot on the first weekend of major Kentucky Derby preps. The highlights being that the trail is always ready for a shocker and a horse’s last win only goes so far. More importantly we were educated once again that veterans aren’t riding just for fun. No sir, these Louisiana boys’ are here to race and when given the chance you better bet that they are going to make you pay. When the purses are raised into the Millions is when an experienced hand is always a trustworthy source to guide the game plan home for the win no matter how improbable it may seem. There’s no joke, Cajun Countries Calvin Borel and Eddie Martin Jr are now your 2012 Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby champions. (more…)
Secret Circle Does it Again at Oaklawn
Secret Circle, Bob Baffert and Rafael Bejarano remained polished in their return to Oaklawn. This time the victory is beginning to give this colt a little more attention on the Kentucky Derby Trail because he keeps getting better and racing well as the distance continues to increase. As for Trainer Bob Baffert it’s three in a row times two. The win makes it his third consecutive Rebel Stakes win accompanied by his third consecutive win in as many Kentucky Derby Graded Stakes Preps at Oaklawn. (Southwest 1st and 2nd Division – Rebel). If he doesn’t return Secret Circle to Hot Springs for the Arkansas Derby then I will be very surprised and have to question that decision. Based on his experience with this identical situation though I think he’ll opt to be back in Arkansas.
In 2010 it was Lookin at Lucky, also owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, that scored Bob Baffert his very first Rebel Stakes victory. After the race the colt returned to California and the Santa Anita Derby where he ran a gamely race but didn’t have enough to win again and finished 3rd. From there he was off to the Kentucky Derby. It ended with a disappointing 6th but he bounced right back and spoiled a Triple Crown bid by Super Saver with a convincing Preakness Stakes victory. (more…)
Gemologist Stays Perfect in his 3-yr-old Debut
An undefeated Kentucky Derby contender has returned to the scene. There’s no better way to shine than to reappear by scoring with relative ease and superior form and that’s what Gemologist displayed when he drew away from the field to win by 7 lengths at Gulfstream Park. The 1 Mile Allowance valued at $69,500 officially kicks off his road to the Kentucky Derby in 2012 and will lead him to a Kentucky Derby Graded Stakes Prep in April. Although he has still only raced in a single graded stakes so far in his career, trainer Todd Pletcher and WinStar Farms have this colt on a fascinating trail to the Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by Todd Pletcher’s number 1 jockey in South Florida, Javier Castellano, Gemologist broke soundly from the gate and took control of the lead at the opening quarter pole. Remaining in control of the race, he wasted little time putting this field to bed when he rounded the final turn and hit the stretch. By then his lead had gone to 3 lengths and by the time he crossed the wire he stretched it out an additional 4. His winning time was 1:35.95 over a track listed as: Good. (more…)