A favorite in Florida and a longshot in California highlighted weekend preps for the Kentucky Derby.
In Saturday's $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Rule battled hard for the lead, got a daylight advantage at the top of the stretch and opened up to win by 3 lengths over Schoolyard Dreams. Uptowncharlybrown rallied from last to finish third. Rule, a Kentucky-bred Roman Ruler colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.15 with John Velazquez in the irons.
"It was just what we were hoping for," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "He finished up very gamely with his ears pricked at the wire. He's probably not going to come back for the Tampa Bay Derby. We're probably going to make his next start in a Grade I. But I will bring something here" for the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby. WinStar President Doug Cauthen said the Florida Derby "obviously" would be an option for Rule.
In Saturday's $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, Caracortado sat patiently behind embattled leaders Tiz Chrome and American Lion, came around those two entering the stretch when asked by jockey Paul Atkinson and drew off rather easily to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Dave in Dixie came from last of five to take second and was gaining at the end. American Lion held third, followed across the line by Tiz Chrome and Tango Tango.
Caracortado, who broke his maiden in a $40,000 claimer on the fair circuit, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.75. The Cat Dreams gelding was bred by his owner-trainer, Mike Machowsky. Caracortado -- the name means "Scarface" in Spanish -- now has five wins from as many starts.
"I read what everybody writes about him," Machowsky said, "that he's kind of off-bred, not a blueblood. But he's honest. You can't knock that. I think using a low-profile rider probably has kept him flying under the radar. But if he's under the radar now, he shouldn't be. We'll look at the San Felipe next and see if Lookin At Lucky comes at us."
Lookin At Lucky, trained by Bob Baffert, is among the top-rated Derby Contenders. Baffert also handles Tiz Chrome, who was coming off a two-month layoff into the Lewis.
-- Lukas saddled Whitney Stable's Wow Wow Wow, a Triple Crown nominee, to victory in a Saturday Oaklawn Park allowance. The Broken Vow colt, led through a whole 1 1/16 miles, finishing in 1:44.55 and earning consideration for the $300,000 Rebel Stakes March 13 -- the final prep for the Arkansas Derby.
-- Barbaro's full brother, Lentenor, is entered in a Wednesday allowance race at Gulfstream Park. The colt is coming off a victory in his last start Jan. 20 -- like Wednesday's event, on the turf. But has a long way to go in a short time to earn Derby consideration from trainer Michael Matz. Also entered Wednesday is Becky's Kitten, fifth in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
-- Monday's $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn features a trio of West Coast invaders trying real dirt. The race is a prep for the Arkansas Derby, which has been a major factor along the Road to the Roses in recent years. Monday's Santa Anita card features the 7-furlong San Vicente, a final chance for some late-blooming West Coast horses to work their way into the mix.
Kentucky Oaks preps
-- Blind Luck continued her run toward the Kentucky Oaks with a last-to-first, just-barely victory in Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita. With Rafael Bejarano up, the Kentucky-bred Pollard's Vision filly put her nose in front of Evening Jewel at the wire. Switch was third. Blind Luck ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:35.98. The winner of the Oak Leaf Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths and the Hollywood Starlet by 7, Blind Luck broke sharply but Bejarano allowed her to settle into last, 5 lengths behind the leaders. "There wasn't much speed, so it was hard to come from off the pace," said Bejarano. "She's got a big turn of foot though, and as soon as we crossed the wire, I knew we had won it." Blind Luck now has five wins from seven starts and Hollendorfer said she probably will start next in the Santa Anita Oaks March 6 and then possibly the Kentucky Oaks April 30.
-- In the Rough fought through some traffic at the head of the lane in Sunday's $125,000 Coconut Grove Stakes at Gulfstream Park and went on to win by 3/4 length over the favorite, Check the Label. Dattt Echo was third after leading early in the stretch run. In the Rough, with Joe Bravo up, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:42.65. Trainer Kelly Breen said In the Rough likely will stay on the grass, with the $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes March 6. But, Breen added, "She broke her maiden on a muddy track, so we've got that going for us and probably wouldn't have to scratch if a race comes off the grass."
-- Decelerator got through to the lead on the turn for home in Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park and went on to win by 1 length over Eve Giselle. Bell's Shoes was a longshot third. Decelerator, a Kentucky-bred Dehere filly, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.69 under Terry Thompson. D. Wayne Lukas trains. The win was the first for Decelerator since capturing the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs in June.
-- Diva Delite sat well behind the early pace in Saturday's $75,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, came wide around the leaders into the stretch and drew off nicely to win by 1 3/4 lengths as the favorite. Miss Aristocrat was second and Imaginary Saint finished third. Diva Delite, a Florida-bred daughter of Repent, ran 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:41.58 under Rosemary Homeister Jr.
-- Roman Chestnut rallied from off the pace to win Saturday's $65,000 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct by 1 length at odds of 45-1. Anchorage led the way and held second, 5 1/2 lengths better than favorite Speightful Affair. Roman Chestnut, a Maryland-bred Roman Ruler filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:45.93 under Angel Serpa. Trainer Lea Gyarmati said, "I always knew she was a talented filly -- I didn't know she was a stakes filly. I have no idea what's next."
-- Fuzzy Britches put in her run in the stretch in Sunday's $65,000 Dearly Precious Stakes at Aqueduct and got by the leaders to win by 1/2 length. Judge Sonya also ran well in the final furlong to finish second, a head better than pace-setting Wild News. Fuzzy Britches, a Kentucky-bred Pollard's Vision filly, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.88 and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said she may be best as a sprinter.
In other weekend racing:
Meydan is heating up in Dubai's winter chill as race cards expand, favorites fall and trainers begin to point their horses to Dubai World Cup race day March 27.
Aussie War Artist prevailed by nearly three lengths off favored Gayego Thursday in the featured 3/4-mile Al Shindagha all-weather surface sprint. "He is a very talented and versatile sprinter," said Trainer James Eustace. "He needed the run, but we will probably revert to turf with him now."
Godolphin mounts won three of the first four races on the card, including a stirring victory by Siyaadh in the $250,000 UAE 1000 Guineas. Rising star Ahmad Ajtebi was in the irons guiding the filly's last-to-first stretch run in the mile-long classic with the first five finishers within a length of each other. "She really picked up when I asked her," Ajtebi said.
Frankie Dettori started off the triple for Godolphin with a 1/2-length win on Mendip in the night's opening 7-furlong conditions race. Escape Route battled to win the 7-furlong Aquarius handicap to the delight of jockey Richard Mullen. "He is a tough performer and never runs a bad race," said Mullen.
Dettori followed with an easy win aboard Highland Glen over a mile and three eights in the InsideOut handicap. "He was always going nicely and really picked up well in the straight," said Dettori.
Mike de Kock-trained Lizard's Desire, with Christophe Soumillon aboard, padded his World Cup credentials with a second win in as many Carnival starts, besting Soy Libriano on the Tapeta surface at 1 1/8 miles. "We hoped he would be competitive at the Carnival," de Kock said, "and he is proving himself to be the ideal type."
Ireland's Halicarnassus, a previous Carnival victor at Nad al-Sheeba, won his first on the Meydan turf at 1 1/2-miles-plus. And Turkey's Pan River closed out the evening's card with a strong finish in the Gulf News handicap, besting favored Golden Sword.
Jeranimo got through between horses at the sixteenth pole in Saturday's $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds and got clear to post the upset, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over odds-on favorite Misremembered. Acclamation finished third. Jeranimo, a Florida-bred Congaree colt, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:47.83 for jockey Martin Garcia.
St Trinians rolled from off the pace to win Saturday's $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap for fillies and mares by 1 3/4 lengths over last fall's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner, Life Is Sweet. My Baby Baby finished third. St Trinians, a 5-year-old, British-bred Piccolo mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:41.73. Joel Rosario rode for trainer Mike Mitchell. The winner now is a perfect 4-for-4 since coming to the United States. "I wanted to keep her outside because when those other horses stopped, I didn't want to have to slow her down," Rosario said. "Once she gets rolling, I didn't want to get her stopped. She's a real nice little filly, and she always tries hard. She ran huge last time, and she did again today."
Macias drew clear in the stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Baffle Stakes for 3-year-olds down the hillside turf courts. The Kentucky-bred Purge colt, under Victor Espinoza, stalked the pace along the outside, came four-wide into the stretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths as the prohibitive favorite. Ace of Aces set the pace and held second and Marcello was up for show. Macias finished in 1:12.58.
Striking Dancer rallied around the traffic into the stretch in Sunday's $150,000 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies and overhauled Gripsholm Castle late to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The latter, making her first U.S. start after shipping from England, got to the front at mid-stretch but could not hold the lead. Floating Heart, the Valentine's Day hunch bet, paid $5.40 to show. The favorite, Stardom Bound, was never involved, finishing seventh. Striking Dancer, a Kentucky-bred Smart Strike filly, got the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.48 with Alex Solis up for trainer Kenny McPeek. Assistant trainer Jordan Blair said, "She's had a lot of bad, troubled trips through nobody's fault. But every time she gets clear, she wins, and she wins impressively every time she wins. We knew she had it in her, and she showed it today."
Munnings got the fast track he wanted in Saturday's $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and got the job done. After stalking the pace under jockey Javier Castellano, the 4-year-old Speightstown colt surged to the lead a furlong out and held on to win by 1 length over Congressional Page. Motovato was third. Munnings got the 7 furlongs in 1:22.49. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was concerned about Munnings' stamina because he missed a prep, being scratched from the Mr. Prospector because of an off track. "But he was good enough and classy enough to overcome it and win," Pletcher added. He said he will consider the Gulfstream Park Handicap at 1 mile March 13, then head back to New York with the Grade I Carter Handicap in mind.
Kays and Jays pressed the pace in Saturday's $125,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes for fillies and mares, took over at the quarter pole and prevailed by 1/2 length over the onrushing Tar Heel Mom. Warbling was third. Kays and Jays, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Macho Uno filly, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.3 for jockey Jose Lezcano. "I waited as long as I could before asking my filly for one run," Lezcano said, "and when I did, she went right by. She ran the race she had to run in order to win."
Tampa Bay Downs
Lomaki came around the leaders in the stretch run of Saturday's $125,000 Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares and went on to win by 2 lengths. Cure for Sale was second and Coulee third. Lomaki, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Debit Account mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:46.39. Chris DeCarlo had the mount. "I'm not sure after this race what will happen," said winning trainer Eric Coatrieux. "We thought about retiring her. She's older now. I think it may be over after this -- unless we come back for the next one." That would be the Hillsborough Stakes March 13. "I was really pleased with the race," he added.
Clear Sailing had to swing to the far outside to find clear sailing in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Pelleteri Stakes and then was just up in time to win by a neck over pace-setting Fighter Wing. The odds-on favorite, War Echo, completed a bellicose trifecta. Clear Sailing, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Empire Maker filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.06 with Shane Sellers up for trainer Glenn Delahoussaye. Sellers said of his decision to take back, "I decided I was going to be a hero or a zero. I had complete confidence in her." Delahoussaye said he won't duck the New Orleans Ladies March 13, even if Rachel Alexandra is making her 4-year-old debut in that race. "If the timing is right and my horse is healthy and we can add to our horse's resume, we won't hesitate," he said. "I can't worry about who else will be in there."
Forest Attack saved ground right behind the leaders in Saturday's $50,000 Dust Commander Stakes, split rivals to reach the lead with a quarter mile to run and drew off to win by 4 lengths. Golden Country was up for second, a head better than Tend. Forest Attack, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Forestry, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.91 with Thomas Pompell up.
Lady's Laughter trailed early, had a hard time keeping a straight line in the stretch but ultimately had the last laugh in Saturday's $50,000 Likely Exchange Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 1/2 length over Rinterval. Danzon finished third. Lady's Laughter, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor filly, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.39 under John McKee. She is owned by the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust.
Ez Dreamer worked quickly to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup, opened a clear margin and got home first, 1 1/4 lengths better than Goin' Dancin. Highland Games was third and the favorite, Twin Sparks, faded to finish last. Ez Dreamer, a 5-year-old, Arizona-bred son of In Excess, got the 6 furlongs in 1:08.67 under Glenn Corbett.
Stormy Express pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 El Diario Stakes for fillies and mares, battled down the stretch with two rivals and got home first, a neck in front of Came West. The early leader, Miss Dolce, held third, just another head back. Stormy Express, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred In Excess filly, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.02 with Anthony Cruz in the irons.
In Sunday's $50,000 Curribot Stakes, Red Lead raced off the pace early, came three-wide to the leaders on the turn and drew away, winning by 2 lengths. Quiet Again was second and the favorite, Song of Navarone, finished third. Red Lead, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Red Bullet gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44 with Ken Tohill up.