While the Kentucky Derby contenders were getting in their final workouts before the Run for the Roses or preparing to ship to Churchill Downs, others were getting in their final licks for the later jewels of the Triple Crown.
Under the twin spires of Churchill Downs itself, Flying First Class was an easy winner of the $100,000 Derby Trial and trainer D. Wayne Lukas said while he doesn't care any more about the Derby, he is interested in the Preakness Stakes.
Flying First Class stayed near the front of the pack throughout the Derby Trial through impressive fractions, then had enough fuel left in the tank to jet off in the stretch and win by 3 3/4 lengths. U D Ghetto, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile last fall, came from last to take second while the favorite, Bold Start, could do no better than third.
"I looked at the splits and didn't think he was going as fast as he did," said winning jockey Mark Guidry. "He's so big, so deceptive. Down the lane, I didn't give him an opportunity to pull up on me."
Lukas said he has no thought about going on to next weekend's Kentucky Derby but might eye the Preakness at Pimlico two weeks later.
"I've sung "My Old Kentucky Home' and cried in the post parade," Lukas said. "I don't need that anymore. I've done that ... . We'll watch these guys maybe beat each other up Saturday and then take a look."
The victory was the 4,999th in Guidry's career.
In other potential Triple Crown preps:
-- At Aqueduct in New York, Divine Park, breaking from the rail, went right out to take the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Withers for 3-year-olds, maintained a brisk pace while under pressure from both sides, then went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over C P West.
"He broke so good, I didn't think he was going that fast," Garcia said. "Before the quarter pole, I was thinking, 'Who is coming?' But it was nobody. He was green a little bit, but he is very nice.
Divine Park could be a Preakness Stakes candidate or could stay in New York to contest the Peter Pan on May 20.
-- Hal's My Hope broke a step behind the field in Saturday's $100,000 Unbridled Stakes at Calder Race Course in Florida, then shot right to the lead and led throughout, winning by 12 lengths over Rogers. Green Vegas was third.
Hal's Hope, picking up his third career win, covered the 1 1/16 mile in 1:47.31 under Jeffrey Sanchez.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get to go where we wanted to with him," said trainer Barry Rose, referring to the Kentucky Derby. "So now his next two races will probably be the Ohio Derby and the West Virginia Derby."
In other weekend racing:
Viva Pataca, with Mick Kinane up, came past Vengeance of Rain with about 200 meters to run and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths in Sunday's Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong.
Kinane allowed the 5-year-old Marju gelding to settle well behind the pace in the 2,000-meter event. After moving up on the inside, Viva Pataca came back out, took dead aim on Vengeance of Rain and went by with some 200 meters to run. He finished in 2:01.90 on "good" turf. Admire Moon finished third.
Emphasizing the international stature of Hong Kong racing, Vengeance of Rain came into the race off a victory in the Dubai Sheema Classic. Admire Moon was the winner of the Dubai Duty Free.
"We came here a fresher horse than Vengeance of Rain," said winning trainer John Moore, "but the way we've sprinted home here to beat two Group I horses makes him something pretty special." He said the Cox Plate in Australia in October will be the next long-range objective for Viva Pataca.
Moore and Kinane also conspired to win the day's second feature, the Champions Mile, with Able One leading throughout. The 5-year-old Cape Cross gelding went unchallenged, winning by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:34.50.
"I couldn't believe how the other jocks let him dictate so easily from the front," Moore said. "Mick said he had plenty of horse under him once he asked him to kick and he got to the line strongly."
Under a new Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" format for selected international races, Able One automatically earned a spot in the starting gate for the $2 million NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park
Lone Star Park
Silent Pleasure went out to challenge for the lead early on in Saturday's $300,000 Texas Mile, worked clear turning for home and held on at the end to beat the late rush of odds-on favorite Bob and John, winning by a neck. "I watched Pat Day and Jerry Bailey for years," said winning rider Tracy Hebert. "They always waited until the last possible moment to go to the left-handed whip. I did that in the last 50 yards and he gave me something more. I knew they'd have to fight to get by me, he was doing it so easy." Silent Pleasure finished in 1:35.39. Victor Espinoza, who rode Bob and John, said his mount "tried to make a race of it with a strong move on the turn. But the winner wouldn't let us by." Both the top two are likely to return for the Lone Star Handicap on Memorial Day.
Chinese Dragon came from last of five to win Saturday's $300,000 San Francisco Mile by a nose over Vega's Lord. Vega's Lord took the lead turning for home and Chinese's Dragon's stretch charge just got the job done in time. Charmo finished third and the favorite, Becrux, was last, stopping badly. Chinese Dragon, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Stravinsky finished in 1:35.81 under Mike Smith.
Calder Race Course
La Dolce Vita came from off the pace to win Saturday's $150,000 Hollywood Wildcat Hadicap for fillies and mares by 1 length over Potra Classica. Silversider was just a nose farther back in third. La Dolce Vita, a 5-year-old mare trained by Mark Hennig, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the turf in 1:40.76 under Javier Castellano, just .03 seconds off the stakes record. "We'll get her up north now, where there are plenty of opportunities all over," said Hennig. "She can go any distance."
Weigelia stalked the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 Ponche Handicap, went to the lead after a quarter mile and drew off to win 3 1/2 lengths over Gower. Finallymadeit finished third, another nose back. With Eddie Castro in the irons, Weigelia finished the 6 furlongs on 1:11.09.
Jet Propulsion was allowed to set a moderate pace in Saturday's $150,000 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap, then had plenty left at the end to hold on and win by 1 1/2 lengths over Giant Wrecker. Paradise Dancer finished third. Jet Propulsion, a 4-year-old gelding, was sent off at odds of nearly 25-1 and finished in 1:34.11 over firm turf. "It's great to have him back home at Calder," said Donna Green, assistant to trainer Dan Hurtak. "He's not a very good shipper."
Just Rushing won his seasonal debut in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Virgil Stakes, beating some past divisional champions, including Judiths Wild Rush and Shillelagh Slew. With Emma-Jayne Wilson up, Just Rushing went to the early lead, was headed in the stretch run but fought back to win by a neck over Are You Serious. Judiths Wild Rush finished third, another 1 1/4 lengths in arrears. Just Rushing finished in 1:23.87. Shillelagh Slew finished fourth as the favorite.
Tap Dancing Mauk rallied from mid-pack to win Saturday's $100,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes by 1 length over Motion Approved. Yourmoneysnogood finished third as the favorite after showing the way into the stretch run. Tap Dancing Mauk, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Louis Quatorze, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:47 3/5 under Robert Williams.
That's Our Fred set a pressured pace in Saturday's $200,000 Coppertop Futurity for New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, then drew clear in the late going to win by 1 length over Brax. Danseur First finished third. That's Our Fred, a gray son of Thatsusintheolbean, ran the 4 furlongs in 51.80 for jockey Ken Tohill.
Travel Plans upset Saturday's $75,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes, the opening day feature. With Kendrick Carmouche up, the 4-year-old Notebook filly got home a neck in front of Amandatude, with Summer Cruise third. Travel Plans, once claimed for $45,000, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10 on a wet-fast track.
Stay Close, appropriately, tracked the early pace in Saturday's $95,000 Henry S. Clark Stakes, then collared the pace-setter in the final sixteenth and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Midwatch. Broadway Producer, in from New York, finished third with a late rally. Stay Close, with Oliver Castillo up, ran the 1 mile on the grass in 1:37.36. "He was sharp and he was ready," Castillo allowed.
In Saturday's $80,000 Xtra Heat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Your Flame In Me flamed out of the gate and then hit the afterburners, running away from three rivals to win by 9 lengths. With Jose Caraballo up, Your Flame In Me ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.75, remaining undefeated in three lifetime starts. The Boundary filly now may point to the Miss Peakness Stakes. "She came back ready and she did it," Caraballo said."
Masseuse fought down the stretch with Stormy Kiss in Saturday's $100,000 Beaugay Handicap for fillies and mares before winning by neck. Masseuse, a 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, sat off the pace as Samsincharge went out to a quick lead. Stormy Kiss took the first run at the leader, with Masseuse right behind. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:47.43 over a yielding turf course.
After Market rallied from a ground-saving trip with three furlongs left in Saturday's $100,000 Inglewood Handicap, caught pace-setting Willow O Wisp nearing the stretch and drove clear, winning by 2 lengths. Red Fort was up for second and Willow O Wisp, the defending champion, held on for third. Winning jockey Alex Solis said he kept After Market to the outside to avoid the kind of traffic problems that may have cost him the victory in a March allowance race at Santa Anita. "It was very impressive," Solis said. "In the last sixteenth, he changed leads and I hit him a couple of times and he really leveled off and took off running."