Looking for favorites for the Kentucky Derby? Don't look to the winners of Kentucky's top prep races.
After last weekend's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes turned up a pace-aided, mid-priced winner in Dominican, this weekend's Coolmore Lexington Stakes saw two extreme long shots parade across the wire 1-2, adding no clarity at all to the picture for the May 5 Run for the Roses.
Slew's Tizzy, with Robby Albarado up, got quickly to the lead in the Lexington and, despite drifting out in the stretch run, drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Starbase. Slew's Tizzy went off at odds of 40-1. Starbase was 36-1 and the $2 excata paid $1,002.20. Forty Grams ran better than his last race in New Mexico to finish third, completing a $14,726.20 trifecta.
The two horses expected to use the Lexington as a "back door" into the Derby, Soaring By and Belgravia, finished seventh and last in the nine-horse field, respectively. Belgravia reportedly bled.
Slew's Tizzy, a son of Tiznow from the Slewpy mare Hepatica, won't confuse your Derby handicapping, either. "Our philosophy is that we don't run horses back in two weeks," said winning trainer Greg Fox.
The colt lost his rider when clipping heels in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds two races back, then finished a dismal seventh in the Louisiana Derby in his last start. Fox took blinkers off for Saturday's race. His only previous win also was over an artificial surface at Turfway Park on Jan. 13.
In the only other weekend race with potential Triple Crown implications, Xchanger scored a minor upset in Saturday's $100,000 Federico Tessio Stakes at Pimlico. After dueling for the lead with Pink Viper, Xchanger moved out to a huge lead with a furlong to run and romped home first by 4 3/4 lengths.
Pink Viper held second, Zaphyr Cat was third and the odds-on favorite, Etude, beat only one horse, finishing fifth in a fade job.
Xchanger, a Florida-bred son of Excahnge Rate, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.98 under Ramon Dominguez.
Xchangeer has won three of eight starts but had been running against some of the top Derby contenders. "In my mind, we are still a notch below those horses," said winning trainer Mark Shuman.
Although the colt has enough earnings to get into the Derby, Shuman said he wants to "do what's best for the horse. If, for some reason, we skip the Derby and (Arkansas Derby) winner Curlin or someone wins like a freak, I don't know if I'd run against him in the Preakness."
In other weekend racing:
Hawthorne Race Course
Saturday's $250,000 National Jockey Club Handicap basically came down to a match race between Master Command and Sweetnorthernsaint. While Sweetnorthernsaint set a brisk pace after a stumbling start, Master Command waited right behind, then surged to the front at the top of the stretch and drew off, winning by3 3/4 lengths. After Sweetnorthernsaint, it was 37 1/4 lengths back to the show horse, Le Jester, who beat the only other starter, Courthouse, by 3 3/4 lengths. Master Command, a 5-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred son of A.P. Indy, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track on a beautiful day in 1:49.47.
Winning jockey John Velazquez said he planned to stick close to his only real rival. "I wanted to stay right next to him and not give him too much of a breather," Velazquez said. "He was doing it pretty comfortably. I didn't have to help him."
Master Command has won three straight races in graded stakes company for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Also Saturday, Kettleoneup stayed behind all four of her rivals through the first half mile of the $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap for fillies and mares, then took control in the stretch drive and won off by 3 3/4 lengths. My Chickadee was second and Rolling Sea completed the trifecta. Kettleoneup, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Victory Gallop, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:50.89 under Calvin Borel. Michael Tomlinson is the trainer. "We always knew she was a nice filly and she really loves the route of ground," said Tomlinson. "The farther she goes, the better she gets."
Bonfante came to challenge pace-setting Battle Won in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 San Simeon Handicap and put his nose down on the wire just in front to win the photo. Diren Lure finished third and Turnbolt completed the order of finish. Five prospective starters scratched out of the race when it was moved off the turf to the fast main track. Bonfante, a 6-year-old, California-bred gelding by Fruition, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.59 for jockey Aaron Gryder. "I thought my best shot was to catch Battle Won by surprise and get the jump on him at the quarter pole," Gryder said. "We had all the momentum at that point and he was really game all the way to the wire." Ron McAnally trains the winner.
Naughty Rafaela stalked the pace in Saturday's co-featured $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap, came through along the rail on the turn and then went on to win by 1 length over Mabadi. Sweet Belle finished third. Naughty Rafaela, a Brazilian-bred mare by Royal Academy, ran the 1 1/8 mile on a "good" track in 1:48.12 with David Flores up for trainer Bobby Frankel.
"I was able to lay close enough that I was able to put pressure on them at the right time," said Flores. "She has a good kick and she's really game."
The victory was Naughty Rafaela's second straight, following an allowance win earlier in the meet.
On the Acorn saved ground around and around in Sunday's $250,000 San Juan Capistrano marathon, bid for the lead turning for home and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Sweet Return. Fitz Flag was third. On the Acorn, a 6-year-old, British-bred gelding, ran the 1 3/4 mile on firm turf in 2:48.02 with Victor Espinoza in the irons. "I knew my horse would get the distance," Espinoza said. "I wasn't worried about the pace, I just wanted to make sure my horse was comfortable and he was. At the half-mile pole, I started asking him a little. At the three-eighths pole, I could see the favorite (Sweet Return) was struggling a little bit and I had a ton of horse under me. At the quarter-pole he was really rolling and I knew he was going to be very tough to be. This horse can really finish."
Audacious Chloe, backed by the red-hot duo of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, led from gate to wire in Sunday's $100,000 Appalachian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf. The More Than Ready filly had been expected to take back but was having none of it. "We were hoping there was someone to follow today," said Pletcher. "But there really wasn't much speed in the race. So it kind of left it up to Johnny. He obviously did the right thing." Classic Neel rallied down the inside late but missed by a neck, with Red Birkin another neck back in third. The time was 1:36.39. Audacious Chloe now has four wins from seven starts.
Forest Code eagerly contested the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares, then drew off late to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Haddie Be Good. South Necking was third. Forest Code, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Forestry, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a firm turf course in 1:02.73 under Garrett Gomez.
Wednesday, Asi Siempre sat behind all five rivals early in the $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes for fillies and mares, the circled them all on the turn and drew clear to win by 1 length. Pyramid Love, the early leader, held on for second and Warrior Girl, the longest shot in the field, finished third. Asi Siempre, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by El Prado, got the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:46.40 with Garrett Gomez up for trainer Patrick Biancone.
Moudez came from just behind the pace to win Thursday's $100,000 Forerunner Stakes for 3-year-olds at 9 furlongs on the turf. The Irish-bred son of Xaar got past pace-setting Bullara nearing the stretch and held well to win by 3/4 length. Trimaran finished third. Moudez, with Cornelio Velazquez up for trainer Bill Mott, finished in 1:50.16 on firm going.
Also Thursday, Lil Red ran a credible seasonal debut in the day's final race, advancing nicely from near the back of the field to finish fifth, earning a check for Gamer Racing Stable.
Carmandia rallied along the rail from last of six to win Saturday's $150,000 Bed o' Roses Handicap for fillies and mares by 2 lengths over Magnolia Jackson. Swap Fliperoo finished third. Carmandia is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Wild Rush, who dead-heated with Silver Charrm years ago in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. She ran Saturday's 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.98 with Mike Luzzi in the irons.
"I think the key was that she was fresh, she likes the track and she likes seven-eighths," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. "Those three things make her tough."
Sunday, Bustin Stones dueled for the lead in the $100,000 Times Square Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings, then drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Bustin Stones, with Ramon Dominguez up, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.33.
"This is a nice horse," said winning trainer Bruce Levine. "He's quick, but I don't know how far he'll go."
In the $100,000 Park Avenue Division for 3-year-old fillies, Mighty Eros went quickly to the lead and romped home first, under a tight hold by jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. "We probably could have settled a little bit," said winning trainer Tom Bush. "But she broke on her toes. You know the filly has a lot of talent, so you don't want to fight her." He said he hasn't planned Mighty Eros's next start.
Talent Search had far and away the most talent in Saturday's $95,000 Jim McKay Stakes, dueling for the lead and then easily running off to win by 6 lengths over Euro Code. Celtic Innis finished third and the favorite, Wild Jam, rallied from last to be fourth at the end. Talent Search, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Catienus, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.43 under Ryan Fogelsonger. Mark Shuman trains Talent Search.
Stylish Wildcat got the lead right out of the gate in Saturday's $65,000 Monterey Handicap for fillies and mares and extended the advantage to win by 4 lengths. The favorite, Vaca City Flyer, finished second with a late run and Calamity Girl was home third. Stylish Wildcat is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Forest Wildcat. She got the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.72 seconds with Russell Baze riding.
Biglie Smallworld battled for the lead all the way in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds, then edged clear in the lane to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Crimson King Cat. The even-money favorite, Sir Five Star, generally finished third. Biglie Smallworld, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Meadowlake, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.41 on a fast track. Glenn Corbett rode for trainer Dick Clark.
Don't Strike Out circled most of the field turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap, fought for the lead down the stretch and then held sway in the final 16th, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Keep On Punching. Rollicking Caller finished third. Don't Strike Out, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Smart Strike, completed the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.50 with Mark Villa aboard.
Native Legend remained undefeated by winning her third consecutive race in Sunday's $125,000 Star Shoot Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Tale of the Cat, making her first stakes start, went after the leaders with about a furlong to run and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Silky Smooth was second and Bear Now third. The 6 furlongs went in 1:10.97.
"She settled in behind horses nicely," said winning jockey Richard Dos Ramos. When he moved Native Legend to the outside to run at the leaders, he said, "she came out further than I wanted. I lost a couple of lengths there. From the head of the lane, she had clear sailing."