The first big showdown of the Kentucky Derby prep season is in the books and wasn't the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner in the winner's circle.
Saturday's $150,000 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita basically was a two-horse race: Breeders' Cup winner Stevie Wonderboy against Hollywood Futurity winner Brother Derek, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup.
Jockey Alex Solis took Brother Derek out to the lead, settled him down through easy fractions and was never really challenged. When Stevie Wonderboy put in his move, he couldn't make up any ground on the leader and finished second, 1 1/2 lengths behind. Wanna Runner was third and Woody Be Quick was well up the track, fourth and last. The 1 mile took 1:36.11.
"He broke really sharp," said Solis, "and as soon as he took the lead, he sat, so I was happy with that." When Stevie Wonderboy put in his bid, Solis added, Brother Derek "was still going really strong. He was just waiting for competition."
Garrett Gomez, up on Stevie Wonderboy, said his mount "was getting a little bit tired. ... My horse is so big, I was really asking him going to the quarter pole. But Alex was just cruising and we just couldn't quite make up that much ground."
Doug O'Neill, who trains Stevie Wonderboy, said his colt "ran huge. Anytime you've got Brother Derek out there on the front end going 23 and change, you know you've got trouble." But, he added, "You don't want to peak too early in the year."
Brother Derek, a California-bred son of Benchmark, now has four wins from six lifetime starts. Stevie Wonderboy, a Kentucky-bred son of Stephen Got Even, has an identical record.
In other weekend action among the 3-year-olds:
-- Lawyer Ron, a relative late bloomer, took six tries to break his maiden last year. But after capturing Saturday's $250,000 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds meeting at Louisiana Downs, he suddenly has won three straight and become a "now" horse among Derby contenders. The Kentucky-bred son of Langfuhr wasted no time getting out front in the Risen Star and kicked clear to win by 8 1/4 lengths over Mark of Success. Hyte Regency was third and the lukewarm favorite, Saint Augustus, finished fifth. Lawyer Ron got the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:43.13 for jockey John McKee. He also won his last race - the Diamond Jo at Evangeline Downs -- by 8 1/4 lengths. "He just drew off again," said winning trainer Bob Holthus. "He's getting better. He always showed some talent. If anything, the way he finished was the most impressive." Holthus said the colt probably will move along to Hot Springs to contest the Arkansas Derby series at Oaklawn Park.
-- At Sunland Park in New Mexico, Da Candy Man stalked the early pace in Saturday's $125,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap for state-breds, went for the lead in the stretch run and was just up to win by a neck over Manolito. Matchstick Man finished third. Da Candy Man is a son of Chimes Band. With Casey Lambert up, he ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.09.
-- Night Doc upset Saturday's $75,000 A Toast To Junius Stakes for Louisiana-breds Saturday at Evangeline Downs. Racing from well back, the Man of the Night gelding rallied smartly four-wide into the stretch and won off by 1 3/4 lengths, finishing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.09.
-- On Board Again rallied from well back in a 7-furlong maiden event at Gulfstream Park, then exploded when he saw daylight in the stretch, winning by 4 3/4 lengths over favorite Trippi's Storm. On Board Again, a Florida-bred colt by Awesome Again, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.85 with Javier Castellano up for trainer Brian Lynch. The colt is owned by Stronach Stables.
-- And in a Saturday Gulfstream allowance for non-winners of two "other than," Rehoboth came from last of six to upset favorite Fabled, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over that rival. Rehoboth, a Florida-bred colt by Wagon Limit, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.09 for jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Frank Gomez.
In 3-year-old filly races:
-- Baghdaria came from a pace-stalking trip to win Saturday's $250,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at Louisiana Downs by a head over odds-on favorite and previously undefeated French Park. Capozzene was third. Baghdaria, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Royal Academy dueled gamely down the stretch to gain the win, finishing 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:46.07 in her stakes debut. "The instructions were to keep her up in there close and keep her relaxed," said winning jockey Cliff Berry. "I really thought we were beat at the furlong pole. But she didn't think so."
-- Dyna's Destiny lodged a late bid in deep stretch to win Sunday's $75,000 Bedanken Stakes on the turf at the Louisiana Downs Fair Grounds meet. The Dynaformer filly got to the leaders on the turn but fell back, then re-rallied and won by a nose over Best Mom. Christmas Stocking was third. Dyna's Destiny, with Carlos Marquez Jr. up, ran the 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.63.
-- Yachats took charge in the stretch run to win a hotly contested conditioned allowance event Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The Kentucky-bred Forest Camp filly, with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher, won by 2 3/4 lengths, covering 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.94.
In other weekend racing:
Snowdrops made her final start a winning one. Reserved early in Saturday's $250,000 Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap, the 6-year-old, British-bred daughter of Gulch made her move on the outside turning for home and won by 2 lengths over La Reason. Lenatareese was third. Snowdrops got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:43.23.
Rodeo's Castle won a stretch battle with Beau's Town in Saturday's $250,000 Duncan F. Kenner Breeders' Cup Handicap, scoring by a neck. Dreamsandvisions was 1/2 length farther back in third. Rodeo's Castle, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Rodeo, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.59 with John Jacinto up. "I thought he'd come from off of it because he's a very competitive horse," said winning trainer Beverly Fowler. "He knows how to play the game. John rode him perfectly." Beau's Town was returning from a 14-month layoff at age 8. "What a gutty effort," said his trainer, David Hulkewicz. "Eight years old. Fourteen months off. I'm happy.
Unbridled Energy took the outside path into the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes for 4-year-olds, got to the front at mid-stretch and eased clear to win by 3/4 length over Canteen. The favorite, underachieving Greeley's Galaxy, put in a bid in the stretch run but flattened out to finish third. Unbridled Energy, a Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled's Song, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:44.33 with Garrett Gomez in the irons.
Sunday, Proposed was impressive in winning the $150,000 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies. After stalking the pace, the California-bred daughter of Benchmark got to the fore as the field turned for home and won off by 2 1/2 lengths. Patrick Valenzuela guided the filly over 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.32. Proposed won four of her six starts as a 3-year-old. "She's a really nice filly," Valenzuela said. "I'm looking for bigger and better things with her."
Your Bluffing took his time getting going in Saturday's $85,000 Native Dancer Stakes. But when jockey Mario Pino asked him to run, the 6-year-old Pine Bluff gelding complied, getting to the front at mid-stretch and winning by 1 1/2 lengths over favorite Aggadan. Marina Minister finished third. Your Bluffing ran the 1 mile on a muddy, sealed track in 1:40.27. He is 12-for-17 at Laurel. "This horse is sharp and keeps showing up," said Pino. "I was just a passenger."
My Lordship disposed of pace-setting Malaysia turning for home in Saturday's $75,000 Marshua's River Stakes for fillies and mares, then held on beat On the Bus by 1 length at the wire. Natalie Beach was third. My Lordship, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Lord Avie, got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.48 with Cornelio Velasquez aboard. She is trained by Bill Mott for Live Oak Plantation.
Bohemian Lady was out to the lead quickly in Saturday's $65,000 Affectionately Handicap for fillies and mares and cruised home first, 7 lengths ahead of After the Tone. Strategy was third and the only other starter, Provincial, pulled up and was taken off in a van. Bohemian Lady, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Carson City, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the muddy, sealed inner track in 1:46.41 under Jose Santos.
Sunday's racing, including the Busanda Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, was canceled because of ice and snow at the Big A.
Tampa Bay Downs
Above the Wind ran beyond his years to win Saturday's $60,000 Pelican Stakes for the third consecutive year. The 9-year-old Island Whirl gelding bounced around at the start when jockey Federico Mata lost an iron. Once he gained control, Mata brought Above the Wind alongside Morine's Victory and the two battled head-and-head to the wire with the outcome decided by a head bob. Pirate King came from well off the pace to finish third. Above the Wind ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.83, paying $12.20. "Nobody seems to realize that he just owns this track," said winning trainer Ronald Allen.
Carthage laid waste to favorite Halo Cat in Saturday's $60,000 San Carlos Handicap. Getting quickly to the front, Carthage extended his advantage at each call, winning by 4 1/4 lengths over Halo Cat. Onebadshark swam home third over the sloppy track. Carthage, a 6-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:08.00 with Dennis Carr aboard.
Hot Storm moved three-wide on the turn for home in Saturday's $50,000 Wishing Well Stakes for fillies and mares, caught pace-setter Very Vegas and went on to win by 1 1/4 length. Very Vegas held second and Ella Belle was third. Hot Storm, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.78 under Jesus Castanon. "She likes it here," said Clay Brittle, assistant to winning trainer Dallas Stewart. "She likes it here a lot."
Kresgeville led from gate to wire in Saturday's $40,000 Kachina Handicap for fillies and mares, winning by 1/2 length over favorite Muir Beach. Robyn's Day was third. Kresgeville, a 4-year-old, Cal-bred filly by Bertrando, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.37 for Jocelyne Kenny-Martin.