So likely is Daddy Nose Best, who was equally impressive Sunday in the weekend's other graded Derby prep.
Like Animal Kingdom, with whom he shares an owner and trainer, Went the Day Well jumped right in to Derby contention with an impressive victory in the $500,000, Grade III Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
After tracking a fast early pace from a perfect stalking position, Went the Day Well moved up around the stretch turn, got to the lead and, despite running a little greenly at mid-stretch, drew clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths, galloping out like he was looking for more distance.
Holiday Promise finished well to get home a long shot second. Heavy Breathing blazed the early trail and held on for third. California invader Handsome Mike, after a bad start from the outside post, made up ground in the stretch to finish fourth and would be one to watch next time out.
Went the Day Well finished the 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:51.33 under John Velazquez.
The Proud Citizen colt, out of the Tizway mare Tiz Maie's Day, was second in two starts in England last year, then fourth at Gulfstream Park in a race that came off the turf in his American debut. However, he did well enough in that effort to convince trainer Graham Motion to run him back in a 1 1/8-mile event at Gulfstream, which he won by 1 1/4 lengths.
"I was very impressed with him," Motion said after the Spiral. "Apart from a little greenness, he couldn't have been better. When Animal Kingdom won this race last year, he was very explosive, but this horse was a little explosive, too. I hate to compare the two because they are such different horses."
Velazquez said he had to work on Went the Day Well to keep him moving forward down the stretch. "He got it done," the jockey said. "He's learning. He's a big boy … . If he relaxes in the early part of the race and speeds up gradually, he will run all day."
Motion said his colt might get another learning chance before the Kentucky Derby.
"The beauty of this race is you have the option to run him one more time or not run one more time," he said. "Probably the only option is the Lexington Stakes" April 21 at Keeneland, he added.
The $282,000 winner's share from the Spiral should be enough to ensure a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate. "I feel confident telling you this horse will run in the Kentucky Derby," Motion said.
On Sunday at Sunland Park in New Mexico, Daddy Nose Best made it two straight graded stakes wins in two tries this year, accounting for the $800,000, Grade III Sunland Derby. After tracking the pace, the Scat Daddy colt got to contention entering the stretch and responded to urging from jockey Julien Leparoux in the final sixteenth to win by 3/4 of a length over Isn't He Clever. Stirred Up was third while the favorite, Castaway, faded from the lead to beat only one eased rival.
Daddy Nose Best ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.59, less than a half second off the 51-year-old track record. In his only previous start this year, Daddy Nose Best won the Grade III El Camino Real Derby over the Golden Gate Fields all-weather surface. He also has won on turf and finished sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
"We came here trying to earn our way into the Kentucky Derby," winning trainer Steve Asmussen said. Mission accomplished.
Elsewhere among Kentucky Derby hopefuls:
-- In the 11/16-mile, $100,000 Rushaway Stakes, Turfway Park's offering for late-blooming 3-year-olds, Flashy Dresser put on a flashy performance, rallying from a pace-stalking trip to win by a half length. Gung Ho ran second all the way but couldn't close the deal. Gold Megillah finished third. Flashy Dresser, a Flashy Bull colt, finished in 1:45.48 with Luis Contreras up. The performance was even flashier in light of the fact the Rushaway was only Flashy Dresser's second career start and a stretch out from his 6-furlong debut, a 6 3/4-length win at Gulfstream Park. "I got a lot of calls after that race at Gulfstream," winning owner and trainer Fred Seitz said. "I listened to offers for about two days. I had to search my soul and decided not to do it. I have been waiting a long time for something like this. I don't know where I'll go next. The Blue Grass is three weeks away, and the 2-year old champ [Hansen] is going to be there. The most important thing is to wait and see how he comes out of this race and see how he's doing."
-- One to watch: Holy Candy. The Candy Ride colt copped a 1-mile maiden special weight at Santa Anita Friday and trainer John Sadler is eyeing the April 7 Santa Anita Derby. Holy Candy got some bad breaks in his first three trips to the track, finishing second each time, Sadler said after Friday's race, and needs longer distances. "We're definitely thinking about the earnings he would need to run in the Kentucky Derby," Sadler said about Holy Candy's next start.
In Lingerie has visions of being draped in lilies after her easy victory in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park. With John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher, the Empire Maker filly went right to the lead and never looked back. In the stretch run, she drew clear to win by 6 lengths over stablemate Dancing Solo. Toxis finished third. In Lingerie ran the mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.28. She broke her maiden at first asking at Turfway Park, then finished second in a Gulfstream Park allowance. "We were very pleased with the way she ran," Pletcher by phone from Florida. "It looked like she broke alertly and set some comfortable fractions, and she handled the track … . She will come back to Palm Meadows on Tuesday and we'll see how she comes back, and then I'll talk to [the owners] and we'll come up with a plan for her." Pletcher also added he is "very pleased" with Dancing Solo, too.
Princess Arabella journeyed from California to win Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks by 8 lengths over Glinda the Good. Ize In Trouble was a head farther behind in third. Princess Arabella, the prohibitive favorite, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.52 with Martin Garcia up for trainer Bob Baffert. The daughter of Any Given Saturday remains undefeated in three starts after two easy wins at Santa Anita. Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said Princess Arabella likely will go directly to the Kentucky Oaks.
Going long on the turf:
A pair of 1 1/2-mile graded turf stakes -- one on each coast -- pointed the way toward the seemingly distant goal of the Breeders' Cup Turf.
In Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Newsdad rallied around the early leaders and drew clear in the stretch run to win by 2 lengths over Hailstone. Simmard and Harrod's Creek completed the order of finish. Newsdad, a 4-year-old Arch colt, completed the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in a very respectable 2:24.93 with Julien Leparoux at the controls. He now has two wins and a second from three starts this year for trainer Bill Mott. "It's definitely tougher to ride in these types of races with short fields -- especially from the rail with the 3-5 favorite," Leparoux said. "You pretty much have two options. You can either go and try to clear on the lead or take back … . I just took back and tried to get in the clear."
Bourbon Bay trailed the field most of the way in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita, came out from behind horses in the stretch and uncorked a winning bid, getting by to score by a head over Slim Shadey. The early leader, Hog's Hollow, held on for third with Utopian and Porfido completing the order of finish. Bourbon Bay, a 6-year-old Sligo Bay gelding, negotiated the 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:25.78 under Joel Rosario. The race was postponed from last weekend because of rain. "He's a very good campaigner, but he doesn't like deep turf," winning trainer Neil Drysdale said. "That's one of the drawbacks. So I was concerned about the course, because he doesn't like it soft." Drysdale also said he was concerned about the ride. Asked if he gave Rosario instructions, he said, "Yeah. I said I think you should be sitting second or third." Bourbon Bay now has eight wins from 25 career starts. He also won the San Luis Rey two years ago but last year contested the Dubai Sheema Classic, where he finished 11th. Drysdale said he will come back in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano on closing day.
Curren Chan, winner of last year's Sprinters' Stakes and champion Japanese sprinter, rebounded from a few down efforts to win Sunday's Takamatsunomiya Kinen over the newly renovated Chukyo Racecourse. The race, second leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, attracted no foreign entrants to the 18-horse field. Curren Chan, a 5-year-old Kurofune mare, broke sharply, raced second in the early going and made her move as the field entered the uphill stretch run. After defending the lead against several rivals, she was barely able to hold off San Carlo, who fell just a neck short under the wire. Lord Kanaloa finished third. The final time was 1:10.3 over going rated firm. Black Caviar won the first leg of the Global Sprint Challenge in Australia. The series now moves to Dubai for next Saturday's Sheema Classic, which will produce a third winner.
Dynamic Host broke last of eight in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Tokyo City Cup, moved up around the turn to contend for the lead at midstretch and held on by a neck over Dhaamer. Skipshot finished third and the favorite, Twice the Appeal, was an unappealing sixth under the wire. Dyamic Host, a 6-year-old Dynaformer gelding out of the French Deputy mare Hosta, ran the 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:30.22 with David Flores aboard. "He was hanging in there tough through the stretch," said winning trainer Art Sherman. "He impressed me with his gameness, but sometimes he likes to hang. I was getting a little nervous. It was an absolutely wonderful ride by David." Asked about Dynamic Host's next race, Sherman said, "He could go either way [grass or dirt]. You've got your options." One of those, he said, could be the San Juan Capistrano at 1 3/4 miles on the grass on closing day for Santa Anita, April 22.
Vamo a Galupiar led a trio of long shots under the wire in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Santa Ana Stakes for fillies and mares. Rallying five-wide down the lane, the 5-year-old, Chilean-bred Proud Citizen mare got home first by a half length over Wild Mia. Hard Seven was a nose farther back in third and just a nose in front of City to City. The favorite, Camelia Rose, finished fifth. Vamo a Galupiar, with Mike Smith up, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.89. She won the Megahertz Stakes in January but then finished sixth in the Grade II Buena Vista in her last previous start. The Santa Ana was her first graded stakes win. "At one stage in the stretch I wasn't sure she was going to get there but she dug in and proved her worth," winning trainer Neil Drysdale said. He said owner Robert Evans "has been very patient. When they come from South America you have to give them lots of time and he was willing to do that. This is the reward."
Twelve Twenty Two lived up to her name in Sunday's $100,000 Harry Henson Stakes, drawing off easily down the lane to win by 12 1/4 lengths. Kayce Ace was second, 9 3/4 lengths better than Remit. Twelve Twenty Two, a 7-year-old Kafwain mare, got the mile on a fast track in 1:35.72 with Luis Contreras riding. She now has won seven straight races at Sunland Park -- a string interrupted only by a seventh-place finish in last year's Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs. She prepped for that with a win in last year's Harry Henson.
Imco Spirit rallied wide around the leaders heading for home in Sunday's $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Ribald. Quiet Again finished third. Imco Spirit, a 6-year-old, Irish-bred Invincible Spirit gelding, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.12 with Contreras again in the irons.
That's Who stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby for state-breds, took the lead when asked by jockey Ry Eikleberry and went on to win by 2 lengths over I Do My Own Tricks. May Weather rolled in third. That's Who, a Quinton's Gold gelding, finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.60.
Dashkova dashed to the lead four-wide down the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Oaks for state-bred fillies and drew clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Dawn Is Affirmed. Capote's Charm was third. Dashkova, a daughter of Attila's Storm, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.51 for jockey Jose Rivera Jr.
Rose's Desert saved ground early in Sunday's $100,000 La Coneja Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, came out for running room in the stretch and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Shemoves. Cali Baby finished third. Rose's Desert, a 4-year-old Desert God filly, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.71 under Casey Lambert.
Speedacious caught pacesetting Inspired right on the wire in Saturday's $75,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for fillies and mares and the camera couldn't separate them -- a dead heat. Smartys Emperoress finished well back in third. Speedacious is a 5-year-old Yankee Gentleman mare out of the Rahy mare Blushing Trish. Inspired is a 5-year-old Unbridled's Song mare. The duo completed the off-the-turf 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.78.
Ricky Rachel kicked into high gear in the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Broadway Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares and won off by 6 1/2 lengths over Big Brownie. Nicole's Miss El finished third. Risky Rachel, a 5-year-old Limehouse mare, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.55. The Big A now is off the inner track. Juan "Manny" Coronel, a former assistant to H. James Bond, picked up his first win with his first starter on his own." I'm very happy for the trainer that he got his first win," said victorious rider Cornelio Velasquez. "He's a good friend of mine." Added Coronel, "It's like a dream come true."
Hogy kicked clear in the stretch run to win Saturday's $50,000 Hansel Stakes for 3-year-olds by 6 3/4 lengths over Magical Season. Thomas Jefferson was third and the favorite, Lockout, settled for fourth. Hogy, an Offlee Wild gelding, finished the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.33 with Tanner Riggs in the irons. "I trained him for the Arlington-Washington Futurity and he still ran fifth of 13," said winning trainer Joel Berndt. "But I think the [1-mile] distance got to him. We'll keep him on Polytrack in the future, next time either something at Keeneland or Woodbine." Hogy's fifth-place finish in Chicago is his only route race in five starts and his only loss.
Eighttofasttocatch did battle with Cherokee Artist through most of Saturday's $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes before finally prevailing by a length. Indian Jones finished well back in third. Eighttofasttocatch, a 6-year-old Not For Love gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.43 with Sheldon Russell riding. Eighttofasttocatch now has five stakes wins at Laurel in the past 12 months. In his previous start he finished fourth in the Grade II General George Handicap (G2) after a troubled trip. "I was glad he bounced back," trainer Tim Russell said. "This is a bit of justice because I think with a good trip we win the General George." He said to look for Eighttofasttocatch in the Grade III Pimlico Special the day before the Preakness Stakes.
City Stage dueled to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Hot Spring Stakes then had to fend off the late run of Our Dark Knight at the end to win by a neck. Chief of Affairs finished third and the favorite, Riley Tucker, got home fourth. City Stage, a 4-year-old City Place gelding out of the French Deputy mare Mystical Susan, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.36. "He didn't break as sharp as I wanted and I think that maybe cost him a little," winning rider Calving Borel said. "I kept him on his feet. They called me this morning and told me I had to ride and we got a win out of it. He's a good horse, a fast horse."
Derive drew off in the stretch to win Saturday's $35,000 Coyote Handicap by 4 lengths over Danzip. Absolutely Cool finished another a half length back in third. Derive, a 6-year-old Cozzene gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.54 under Jorge Carreno.