But the weekend's races also produced an intriguing new Derby prospect -- Tiago, a half-brother to the 50-1 upset winner of the 2005 Run for the Roses, Giacomo.
The weekend's results:
-- Tiago went to the post at odds of nearly 30-1 in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, despite being Giacomo's half-brother. Nine furlongs later, the Kentucky-bred colt had run himself into the picture for the May 5 Run for the Roses. Despite having to weave through traffic through the stretch drive, Tiago ran down tiring favorite King of the Roxy and won by 1/2 length. Sam P., the post-time favorite, faded to finish third. Tiago, with Mike Smith up for trainer John Shirreffs, ran 9 furlongs in 1:49.51. The colt's only previous victory came via a disqualification. "He ran a picture-perfect race," Smith said. "He finished today like Giacomo did in the Kentucky Derby. I thought there would be plenty of pace and that they'd come back to us and they did." Shirreffs said the colt ran his way into the Kentucky Derby. "We were just taking a shot, taking a chance, and hoping the horse would do something great," he said. Obviously, he did." Owner Jerry Moss, who co-founded A&M Records, named Giacomo after Sting's son. Tiago is named after Sergio Mendes' boy. King of the Roxy and Sam P. are both trained by Todd Pletcher and both remain in contention for the Run for the Roses.
-- Another of Pletcher's charges, Cowtown Cat, didn't exactly burn up the track on the lead in Saturday's $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course. But the Kentucky-bred son of Distorted Humor did what he had to do and had plenty left at the end, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over longshot Reporting for Duty. Bold Start was a good third and California shipper Cobalt Blue, the even-money favorite, disappeared in the stretch, fading to finish seventh of nine starters. Cowtown Cat won the Gotham at Aqueduct in his last start and was scratched out of Saturday's Wood Memorial to run instead at Hawthorne. He finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.21 under Fernando Jara, who won a week earlier in the Dubai World Cup on Invasor. "Each race, he's improved a little bit," Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel said. "And that's what you want from a 3-year-old at this time of the year." He said he assumes Pletcher will send the colt on to the Kentucky Derby.
In other Kentucky Derby preps:
-- When Pletcher scratched Cowtown Cat out of the $750,000 Wood Memorial, he left Any Given Saturday to carry his stable banner against Nobiz Like Shobiz, a solid favorite despite a disappointing third-place finish in his last start in the Fountain of Youth in Florida. The race unfolded just about as expected, with Nobiz Like Shobiz pressing the pace until near the stretch and Any Given Saturday a little farther back. But when jockey John Velazquez sent Any Given Saturday up to challenge, the colt wasn't up to the task. Nobiz Like Shobiz ran on and at the end, held off the longshot challenge of Sightseeing to win by 1/2 length while Any Given Saturday fell back to finish third, 3 1/4 lengths farther in arrears. Nobiz Like Shobiz, a Kentucky-bred son of Albert the Great, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.46 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons for trainer Barclay Tagg.
-- A couple of runners in Friday's $150,000 Central Bank Transylvania Stakes on the Keeneland grass were hoping to sneak in some graded stakes earnings on their way to the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Of that bunch, Cobrador finished third with a bad trip, Sedgefield, second in the Lane's End last time out, weakened after contesting the lead to get home fourth and Kentucky Cup Juvenile winner U D Ghetto showed little, finishing seventh. Instead, it was Marcavelly who rallied four-wide into the stretch and drew off to prevail rather easily by 3 1/2 lengths over In Jest. Marcavelly, a Kentucky-bred son of Johannesburg, ran the 1 mile on snow-dusted turf in 1:36.98 and trainer Bill Mott said he will find a spot on the lawn for the colt during Derby week. "He came out of the gate slow," said winning rider Edgar Prado, "but that may have been the best thing that could have happened to him. He rated very kindly. He has a great turn of foot and when I asked him, he took off."
-- Saturday at Keeneland, Carnacks Choice led a parade of upsetters in the $100,000, 7-furlong Lafayette Stakes. Turning for home six-wide, Carnacks Choice just got the best of Call Me Clash, with Ollie Jet finishing third. The trio of double-digit-odds victors produced a $2 trifecta payout of $10,613.80. Carnacks Choice, a Florida-bred colt by Carson City, finished in 1:21.05 under Julien Leparoux.
Kentucky Oaks preps
-- Christmas Kid jumped to the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $500,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, then had all she could do to hold off the late bid of the favorite, Octave, and win by a head. Dawn After Dawn made a late run to finish third, just 3/4 length farther back. Christmas Kid, on the day before Easter, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:42.90. Rene Douglas had the winning ride for trainer James Jerkens. Christmas Kid is a Virginia-bred filly by Lemon Drop Kid.
-- In Friday's $250,000 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, High Heels kicked up her heels as the field turned for home and ran off to a 6 3/4-length upset victory over the odds-on favorite, Cotton Blossom. Cash Included finished third. High Heels, a Kentucky-bred filly by E Dubai, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track with Joe Johnson up for trainer Gary Hartlage. It was only the third win in 10 tries for High Heels but she has only been off the board in two of those starts. Cotton Blossom, a top Kentucky Oaks hope from the Todd Pletcher barn, already had posted a pair of stakes wins and was a closing third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
In other weekend racing:
Lawyer Ron, who has never failed to win a verdict in Hot Springs, again showed his preference for the Arkansas oval in Saturday's $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. After rating kindly behind the early pace under jockey Edgar Prado, the 4-year-old son of Langfuhr surged to the front on the turn and easily drew clear, winning by 4 lengths over Brother Bobby. Boboman finished third. Lawyer Ron, another from the seemingly invincible stable of trainer Todd Pletcher, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.00.
Ermine posted a mild upset in Saturday's companion $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap for fillies and mares. After breaking in mid-pack and then waiting patiently, the 4-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Exchange Rate hit a different gear at the top of the stretch and took charge, winning by 1 1/4 length over Take D' Tour. The favorite, Round Pond, made a little late run to take third. Ermine, with Eddie Castro up for trainer Ronny Werner, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.02.
Silver Wagon rolled to a 1 1/4-length, off-the pace victory in Saturday's $300,000 Carter Handicap, coming around the speeding-but-tiring leaders three-wide to launch his winning bid. Diabolical was second and Ah Day third as the favorite, Keyed Entry, faded badly to finish fifth. Silver Wagon, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred son of Wagon Limit, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.46 with Javier Castellano up for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. Silver Wagon came into the race off a victory in the General George Breeders' Cup in February at Laurel Park. "Without a doubt, we're pointing to the Met Mile (Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, $600,000, Belmont Park, Memorial Day, Monday, May 28)," Dutrow said. "There's plenty of time. A mile around one turn he can get. It's all good."
Magna Graduate got the lead with a furlong to run in Saturday's $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap and ran on well to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Naughty New Yorker. Accountforthegold, the early leader, held on to take third. The odds-on favorite, Corinthian, broke in the air, losing all chance. Magna Graduate, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Honor Grades, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.10 with John Velazquez in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher. "We obviously caught a fortunate break with Corinthian getting left at the gate," said Pletcher. "To Magna Graduate's credit, he has really learned to relax with the blinkers. This was a big race for him. We'll see where he goes. We'll try to give him four or five weeks."
Bill Place rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $150,000 Bay Shore for 3-year-olds at 7 furlongs. Hobbitontherocks was a neck behind the winner in second and the favorite, previoiusly undefeated California shipper Les Grands Trois, finished third after a rough start. Bill Place, a Florida-bred gelding by Master Bill, finished in 1:22.99 under Cornelio Velazquez. He won for the fourth time in seven career starts. "He ran great," said winning trainer Anthony Dutow. "Things really didn't go his way, but he showed a lot of heart and courage. He finished up really well."
Icy Atlantic had to find away around a fallen horse at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Arcadia Handicap, got through between rivals and was just up to win by a head over El Roblar. Willow O Wisp finished third. Icy Atlantic, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred son of Stormy Atlantic, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.18. Ramon Dominguez rode for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Super Freaky upset Saturday's $100,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile on the grass, rallying three-wide into the lane and running on to beat Passified by 3/4 length. Gotta Have Her was third and the favorite, Valbenny, finished sixth. Super Freaky, a Florida-bred filly by Smart Strike, was clocked in 1:35.59 under Jon Court.
Smokey Stover took the lead as the field turned for home in Saturday's $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap and easily drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Greg's Gold was second, with Sailors Sunset third. Smokey Stover, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Put It Back, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.83. Aaron Gryder rode for trainer Greg Gilchrist.
Sunday, Try to Fly came flying from the back of the pack to win the San Pedro Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1/2 length over Principle Secret. Street Lights got home third. Try to Fly, a Florida-bred colt by Trippi, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.38 with Joe Talamo up.
Also Sunday in the $100,000 Pro Or Con Handicap for California-bred fillies and mares, Dancing General rallied from a pace-pressing spot to win by 1/2 length over Two Times Won, with Del Mar Ticket third. Dancing General, a 5-year-old daughter of General Meeting, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.16 under Garrett Gomez.
Sam Houston Race Park
Mending Fences went right to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 John B. Connally Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap, set a measured pace under Quincy Hamilton, then had enough left to win by 3/4 length over Embossed. General was third. Mending Fences, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Forestry, covered the 9 furlongs on a yielding course in 1:52.34. "He broke great and settled in perfectly and whenever I called on him, he was all there.," said Hamilton. "I saw the horse (Embossed) coming at the end, but my horse was very game and just a pleasure to ride." "My horse was coming on at the end, but (Mending Fences) just had too much left," said jockey Bobby Walker, Jr., who rode Embossed for trainer Niall O'Callaghan. "There just wasn't anyone in the race to soften him up on the lead."
Also Saturday, Cat Genius led virtually all the way to win the $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup by 1/2 length over Chief What Is It, finishing 5 furlongs in 58.17 seconds, and Fairwell Madrid came from off the pace to win the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length over La Raine of Terror.
Istan led from the early going to win Saturday's $100,000 Artax Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths over Paradise Dancer, with B.B. Best finishing third. The favorite, Bark Avenue Ball, struggled home a tired fourth. Istan, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Gone West, got the 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:28.08 with Manoel Cruz up for trainer Bill Mott.
Hecamefromaclaim set a pressured pace in Sunday's $100,000 Mt. Cristo Rey Handicap for New Mexico-breds, then gradually pulled away in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Gulchrunssweet. Values of the Hunt finished third. Hecamefromaclaim, a 6-year-old son of In Excessive Bull, ran the 4 1/2 furlongs in 50.44 seconds with Duane Sterling in the irons briefly.
Tampa Bay Downs
Whiskey Lit rallied from off the pace to win Saturday's $50,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Sophomore Stakes for 3-year-olds, beating Steelix by 2 1/2 lengths. Chief Thief was third. Whiskey Lit, a gelded son of Fortunate Prospect, got the 7 furlongs in 1:25.07 with Rajiv Maragh aboard.
Go Between instead went around to get room turning for home in Saturday's $85,000 Cherokee River Stables Turf Classic and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Therecomesatiger. Art of Diplomacy finished third. Go Between, a 4-year-old colt by Point Given, ran the "about" 9 furlongs in 1:48.06 under Carlos Montalvo.
Roman Candles rallied from a pace-stalking trip to win Saturday's $50,000 Hilton Garden Inn Sprint by 3/4 length over Lookingforthesecret. Weigelia finished third. Roman Candles, a 5-year-old son of Lite the Fuse, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:10.61 with Jose Martinez Jr. up.
Soldier's Dancer came from well back to win Saturday's $85,000 Dayton Andrews Dodge Sophomore Turf Stakes by 3/4 length over A Bite of Madness, with Fair Weather Stan finishing third. Soldier's Dancer, a son of Lost Soldier, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.71 with Sebastian Madrid in the irons.
Trainee stalked the pace and then went by to win Saturday's $85,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes by 1 length over Suaveness. Saint Barbara finished third. Trainee, a daughter of Silver Charm, ran 7 furlong in 1:25.71. Jose Lezcano rode for trainer Tom Proctor.
Quite a Bride came from just behind the leaders to challenge for the lead on the backstretch in Saturday's $85,000 L and D Farm Turf Distaff Stakes, drew clear and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Prop Me Up. A Different Turn finished third. Quite a Bride, a 4-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic, ran 1 1/16 mile on the turf in 1:42.30 with Carlos Montalvo up for trainer Bill Mott.
My Sister Sue drew off in the stretch to win Saturday's $60,000 Primonetta Stakes for fillies and mares by 4 1/4 lengths over Homesteader, with the favorite, Coli Bear, fading to finish third. My Sister Sue, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Broken Vow, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.71 under Katie Lee.
Hawthorne Race Course
Orange Crush squeezed through a tight hole on the rail in the final furlong and just got there in time to win the $45,000 Meafara Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1/2 length. Rich N Clever was second and Missing Treasure third. Orange Crush, a Kentucky-bred filly by Distorted Humor, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12.62 under Terry Thompson. Bernie Flint trains the filly.
Caruso sang the winning melody in Saturday's $45,000 Lost Code Stakes for 3-year-olds, jumping quickly to a pressured lead, surrendering the advantage briefly at the top of the lane, then rallying nicely to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Thatsalotofbull. Piratesonthelake finished third. Caruso, an Illinois-bred gelding by Cape Canaveral, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.98. Carlos Silva was up for trainer Richard Hazelton.
Probation Ready was winner's circle ready in Saturday's $50,000 Inaugural Stakes for 3-year-olds. After breaking last of six starters, the Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready came three-wide into the stretch to take the lead and edged clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Heelbolt. Trippi Toes finished third. Probation Ready, with Dominic Terry aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen, ran 6 furlongs on a fast but sealed track in 1:11.92.