Some bright new Kentucky Derby prospects popped up and a few favorites disappointed in weekend races with less than three months to go until the Run for the Roses.
Brethren, a half-brother to 2010 Derby winner Super Saver, remained undefeated by winning the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Anthony's Cross won a desperate stretch duel to upset the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. And Silver Medallion also posted an upset in winning the Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.
Brethren, trained by Todd Pletcher for WinStar Farm, picked up his third win without a loss in the $225,000 Sam Davis. The Distorted Humor colt, out of the A.P. Indy mare Supercharger, stalked the pace, took over easily in the stretch and won by 4 lengths. Too Experience ran well from far back to finish second, a length ahead of Watch Me Go. Brethren, with Ramon Dominguez handling the reins, got the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:45.07.
"We'll just see how he goes and how he comes out of this," Elliott Walden of WinStar said of plans for Brethren. "This is the race that we targeted after he broke his maiden … . We wanted to get some graded stakes earnings and we felt like this was the place to do it. We've had good luck here in the past, and hopefully it'll work for us this year."
Anthony's Cross stalked the pace set by odds-on favorite Tapizar in the $250,000 Robert Lewis, inherited the lead when Tapizar stopped and held off Riveting Reason in a tight stretch battle, scoring by a nose. Quail Hill was third at a huge price and Tapizar got home fifth of seven, burning some bridge-jumper money in the process. Anthony's Cross is a Pennsylvania-bred Indian Charlie colt but winning trainer Eoin Harty said he gets his stamina from his damsire, Unbridled. The bay colt got the 9 furlongs in 1:48.63 with Joel Rosario in the irons. Tapizar had been considered among the top Kentucky Derby contenders and, in fact, had finished 9 1/4 lengths ahead of Anthony's Cross in winning the Sham Stakes earlier. Jockey Garrett Gomez said he couldn't get Tapizar to relax Saturday. "I thought when he cleared and made the lead, he would come back to me, but he never really would. He just kept pulling," Gomez said. Anthony's Cross, meanwhile, had only a maiden win to show for five previous starts but benefitted from the addition of blinkers. "We've toyed with the idea off and on since his first start," Harty said. "I just thought he'd come around and mature mentally on his own. He didn't, so I felt it was time to give him a little help." Harty said he would keep Anthony's Cross at Santa Anita while targeting the Santa Anita Derby.
A similar scenario played out in northern California as heavy favorite Comma to the Top contested the early lead in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby, seemed to be trying to get out the first time past the stands, then came out badly again early in the stretch run and faded to finish fourth. Silver Medallion, with Russell Baze up, sat back of the pace, survived some brushing with Comma to the Top early in the stretch run and got past pacesetting Jakesam late to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Positive Response finished third. Silver Medallion, a Kentucky-bred Badge of Silver colt, got the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.54. "He's a nice little horse to ride," said Baze of Silver Medallion. "He's real manageable. This horse made a nice, long, sustained move … . I got up to Comma to the Top and he didn't really answer the challenge," Baze said. "He let us go right by. I was surprised." Jockey Corey Nakatani, noting Comma to the Top hadn't raced since winning the Cash Call Futurity Dec. 18, said at the top of the lane he let the favorite "drift out to where I thought the best part of the track was. He just didn't finish. I think the layoff might have had something to do with it. Hopefully this race will help him move forward.
In other Kentucky Derby-related news:
-- Way down yonder, trainer Juan Arias says he plans to bring Jean Lafitte Stakes winner Decisive Moment to Fair Grounds in New Orleans for Saturday's Grade II Risen Star Stakes, the final local prep for the $1 million, Grade II Louisiana Derby March 26. Decisive Moment, based at Calder, captured the $250,000 Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs Jan. 14. "He has grown up a lot mentally in these recent weeks," Arias said. "The thing we want to do now is make sure he keeps maturing the way he has been." Some graded stakes earnings wouldn't hurt, either.
-- Meanwhile, Boys At Tosconova, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Uncle Mo, reportedly is out of training and off the Derby trail. Daily Racing Form quoted trainer Rick Dutrow as saying the colt, who was withdrawn from the Holy Bull at Gulfstream earlier in the winter, "just wasn't right … I'm not sure what's bothering him but he just wasn't himself." As a 2-year-old, Boys At Tosconova had two wins and a second.
-- J P's Gusto galloped at Oaklawn Park for the first time Saturday morning since arriving from California earlier in the week. Now with trainer Joe Petalino, the son of Successful Appeal is being pointed for the $250,000, Grade III Southwest Stakes Feb. 21 as a first step to the $1 million, Grade I Arkansas Derby April 16. J P's Gusto has four wins from eight starts, including a victory in the Del Mar Futurity last summer for and a second behind Comma to the Top in the Cash Call Futurity.
-- Churchill Downs announced Sunday that 364 horses have been nominated to this year's Triple Crown. The nominees are headed by unbeaten Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award champion Uncle Mo. That's two horses fewer than were nominated in last year's early nomination period. Early nominations, for $600 each, closed Jan. 22. A late nomination period, for $6,000 per horse, will close March 26. This year's Triple Crown is comprised of the May 7 Kentucky Derby, the May 21 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and the June 11 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Dynamic Holiday tracked a slow pace in Saturday's $125,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, split rivals turning for home and quickly shook loose down the stretch, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Holidaysatthefarm also ran well late but settled for second, a length better than the favorite, Niji's Grand Girl. Dynamic Holiday, a Pennsylvania-bred Harlan's Holiday filly out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamic Cat, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:45.56 with Ramon Dominguez in the irons. Winning trainer Graham Motion, asked about plans for the filly, said, "I haven't really thought about it, to be honest. Don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but I think she's going to be a pretty good filly."
Holy Heavens sat off the early pace in Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park, moved up through traffic around the turn and got past Scarlet Mist late to win by a length. Jazzin' Okie finished third and the favorite, Grandacious, struggled home sixth. Holy Heavens, a Florida-bred filly by Holy Bull out of the Awesome Again mare Heavens Passport, ran the mile on a good track in 1:42.96. "It set up perfectly for us," winning jockey Israel Ocampo said. "I knew there was plenty of early speed, so I just played it by ear down the backside while trying to save ground." Holy Heavens now has won two of seven starts.
Coax Liberty sailed by pacesetting favorite Breathoffreshheir in the stretch run of Saturday's $65,000 Dearly Precious Stakes at Aqueduct and went on to win by 2 lengths. Breathoffreshheir held second with Full Moon Blues just a head behind at the wire. Coax Liberty, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Successful Appeal out of the Housebuster mare Chelsie's House, got the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.24 for jockey David Cohen.
In other weekend racing:
(By Richard Gross)
It was one-for-you, one-for-me as Splash Point, a 3-year-old son of Street Cry, avenged a 1-length loss to Zanzamar in the 2000 Guineas Trial three weeks ago to win the 1-mile $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (UAE-III) on the all-weather Tapeta by the same margin at Meydan Thursday.
Splash Point tracked the field most of the race from a tough post 11 draw, but found a clear run and the lead outside deep in the homestretch while heavy favorite Zanzamar got caught in the middle of the 12-horse pack along the rail. Zanzamar found an opening and made up several lengths but ran out of room.
A Kentucky-bred Winstar Farm colt out of Dianehill, Godolphin's Splash Point collected his second win in five starts and pushed lifetime earnings above $168,000.
Godolphin's Skysurfers looked like sky's the limit in the Firebreak Stakes (UAE-II) as the Frankie Dettori-piloted son of E Dubai matched strides with favorite Musir in the stretch and pulled away to win by a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths in an all-weather course record time of 1:35.77 for the 1-mile trip. Winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor said the Godolphin Mile on March 26 World Cup day is the goal for the English-bred, 5-year-old winner of three of his nine starts.
The seven-race card saw U.K. trainers split a pair of wins. Ireland's Rakaan took the 7-furlong Imiaz Trophy on the all-weather and Robert Cowell-trained Prohibit held off Invincible Ash by a short head in a 5-furlong turf dash to claim the Dubal Trophy. Mike de Kock continued his Carnival run with three winners. Hunting Tower bagged the 11-furlong Casthouse Trophy by 1 1/4 lengths over Sabotage and Golden Sword followed with an easy 2 1/4-lengths all-weather win over Sweet Lightning to take the Potlines Trophy. Australia's Raihana finished off the evening in excellent fashion to capture the 9-furlong turf Dubai Excellence Trophy with a 3/4-length win over Fanunalter.
The International Racing Carnival gives way to the Meydan Masters competition this Thursday and Friday, featuring 12 grade I-winning jockeys worldwide including U.S. representative Calvin "Bo-Rail" Borel, winner of the Kentucky Derby in 2007 aboard Street Sense, 2009 on Mine that Bird and 2010 piloting Super Saver.
Tackleberry, rebounding from victory two weeks ago in the Sunshine Millions Classic, tracked the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, moved quickly to the lead turning into the stretch and held on to win by 2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Soaring Empire. Caixa Eletronica was third under the wire. Tackleberry, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Montbrook gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.84. "The one thing that had me scared," said winning rider Javier Santiago, "was the big cutback in distance. At 7 furlongs, you have to put a little more speed into the race. This is his moment. He's just winning at every distance. A mile and an eighth, 7 furlongs, 6 furlongs, it doesn't matter." Owner/trainer Luis Olivares said he will split the distance difference in Tackleberry's next start -- the 1-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap March 12.
Hilda's Passion led the field all the way around in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Hurricane Bertie Stakes for fillies and mares, holding well at the end to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Ms Vanenzza. North Rodeo finished third. Hilda's Passion, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Canadian Frontier, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.79 under Javier Castellano.
Tampa Bay Downs
Silver Reunion set a comfortable pace under Ramon Dominguez in Saturday's $125,000, Grade III Endeavour Stakes, then lasted at the end to win by a half length over C.S. Silk. Denomination finished third. Silver Reunion, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Harlan's Holiday mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:43.98. Winning owner Brereton Jones, noting Silver Reunion had not run for six months, said, "It's difficult to bring a horse back in that kind of a race against that kind of competition when she hasn't run in quite a while. So obviously she's a quality horse with a quality trainer, and we're just along for the ride. It's a lot of fun." He said he hopes Silver Reunion can advance through the summer and be ready for the Breeders' Cup.
Sam Houston Race Park
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge, the heavy, odds-on favorite, stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Rail Splitter Stakes, powered to the fore in the stretch run and sailed home first by a length over Goldzar. Future Covenant finished third. Chamberlain Bridge, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred War Chant gelding, finished the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.63 seconds -- just missing he course record by 0.02 second -- with Jamie Theriot riding. Trainer Bret Calhoun said Chamberlain Bridge is headed for the $1 million, Group II Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse on Dubai World Cup Day March 26. "That's the plan. We hope he comes out of the race in good condition. But we think we got the right race in him tonight and hopefully head to Dubai to try and get that million dollars," Calhoun said.
Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Santa Maria Stakes featured two of last year's "supporting actresses" -- Zardana, who defeated Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies Handicap early in the 2010 season, and St Trinians, who gave Zenyatta all she could handle before capitulating by a half length in the Vanity. But it was Vision in Gold who got the jump on the field under jockey Joel Rosario and held on gamely through the lane to win by a neck over Zardana. St Trinians, the favorite despite making her first start since the June 10 Vanity, was just a half length farther back in third. Vision in Gold, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Medaglia d'Oro filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.55. "We didn't think we'd be on the lead," Rosario said. "But she was comfortable there, so why change it? When we passed the three-quarter pole and started down the backside, she had her ears up and she was very relaxed. At the top of the stretch, when (Zardana) came up outside of us, my filly was just waiting for competition and she finished really strong." Winning trainer Ron Ellis added: "I hate to throw the name around, but she's 'Zenyatta-esque.' I pointed her out to John Shirreffs before this filly ever raced, and I said that's what Zenyatta must have looked like when she was that age. He just kind of laughed, but she is that tall. I'm just hoping she at least will physically fill out like Zenyatta did later in life." Shirreffs trained Zenyatta.
In Sunday's $150,000, Grade II La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies, for the second straight race, Always a Princess got the better of 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck. Always a Princess, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Leroidesanimaux, went straight to the lead, cleared the field entering the stretch and won by 3 1/4 lengths over Blind Luck, who closed from the back of the four-filly field. Harmonious and Life Well Lived completed the order of finish. Fashion Trend was scratched. Always a Princess, with Martin Garcia in the irons for trainer Bob Baffert, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.36. On Jan. 16, Always a Princess won the El Encino by 3 1/2 lengths over Blind Luck. "I just let her break by herself and tried to get along with her," Garcia said. "When I asked her, she really took off." Baffert added: "This filly is quicker than all these horses, and if she gets the right pace, she'll just keep going. Now that Zenyatta's gone, everybody can stay home." Baffert said he would consider the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles March 12 as the next start for Always a Princess.
Kate's Main Man made all the going in Sunday's $100,000 Essex Handicap, then held off the favorite, Win Willy, by 3/4 length at the end. Stachys finished third. The race was rescheduled from last week as a result of bad weather. With Calvin Borel up, Kate's Main Man, a 6-year-old, Iowa-bred Bernstein gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.12. "I knew if I could slow things down, I'd have a good chance today," Borel said. "The track wasn't as deep today as it was last time (in the Jan. 15 Fifth Season, where Kate's Main Man finished second to Win Willy) and he got a lot out of that race. He's also had a good work since then. He just ran his race today and things worked out. We were lucky."
Deputy Daney opened a huge lead in Sunday's $60,000 Always Run Lucky Stakes and had enough left in the tank to hold off odds-on favorite Temecula Creek by 1 1/4 lengths at the end. Independence War was just a neck farther back in third. Deputy Daney, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Officer gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:09.84 with Sheldon Russell up.
Ravi's Song found room between horses on the turn for home in Saturday's $60,000 Pelleteri Stakes for fillies and mares, shot through and went on to win 1 1/2 lengths over the early leader, Fighter Wing. Age of Humor was third with an even effort. Ravi's Song, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Unbridled's Song mare, finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.72 with Corey Lanerie up. "When I called on her at the three-eighths pole, it was like driving a car," Lanerie said. "I was driving in and out of traffic and she was going pretty fast."
La Gran Balladora closed smartly from well back to win Saturday's $50,000 Likely Exchange Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 3/4 lengths over Hungry Tigress. Jonmil's Edge finished third. La Gran Balladora, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Afleet Alex filly, got the mile on the all-weather track in 1:41.57. "She was taking a little time to catch up on the bridle, so I just let her be for the first part," said winning rider Jozbin Santana. "I started getting after her at the five-eighths pole, and when we were coming to the quarter-pole, that's when she started picking it up. Around the three-sixteenths, she just exploded there and went on. Then she was waiting on the other horses." She now has won three straight for trainer Mike Maker, all at Turfway.
Potosina battled for the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Maryland Racing Media for fillies and mares, survived that duel and went on to win by 3/4 length over the late-running Blessed Soul. Princess Nyla finished third. Potosina, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Cactus Ridge filly, finished 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.85 with Sheldon Russell in the irons. "Going into the first turn, no one had really cleared me," Russell said. "So I just went on and slowed it down as much as I could and just kicked away."
Hayley's Halo led all the way to a 2-lengths victory in Saturday's $50,000 El Diario Handicap. Tornado Betty was second and She'smylittleman finished third. Hayley's Halo, a 5-year-old, California-bred Sea of Secrets filly, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.61 with Alejandro Medellin up.
Quiet Again led all the way to a 1-length victory over Red Lead in Sunday's $50,000 Curribot Handicap. With Ken Tohill in the irons, Quiet Again, a 6-year-old, Texas-bred Real Quiet gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.42. Imco Spirit finished third.