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Three more contenders arise for Kentucky Derby

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Forbidden Kingdom wins the San Felipe Stakes and jumps into Kentucky Derby picture. Benoit photo, courtesy of Santa Anita
Forbidden Kingdom wins the San Felipe Stakes and jumps into Kentucky Derby picture. Benoit photo, courtesy of Santa Anita

March 7 (UPI) -- Forbidden Kingdom, Simplification and Morello jumped into the Kentucky Derby picture with big weekend wins, and the Dubai World Cup Carnival closed with a bang that could reverberate all the way to World Cup Night on March 26.

In a very busy week of top-shelf racing, Express Train won the Santa Anita Handicap. As Time Goes By won the Grade I Beholder Mile and Count Again accounted for the Grade I Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.

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We've got it all and it's a lot so let's get started.

The Road to the Roses

Three big races in California, Florida and New York shook up the Kentucky Derby standings, and a fourth weekend race at Turfway Park in Kentucky also can't be dismissed out of hand.

California

Forbidden Kingdom dominated six rivals in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, leading all the way and winning by 5 3/4 lengths in a hand ride.

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Doppelganger was second with Happy Jack third, but none of them was in the winner's league.

Forbidden Kingdom, an American Pharoah colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.98 with Juan Hernandez riding for trainer Richard Mandella. He now has three wins, a second and a third from five trips to the track.

"He's really fast," Hernandez said. "A couple of jumps after we broke, he was in front already. I let him run because if you fight with him he tries to go faster."

RELATED Classic Causeway, Blackadder jump into Derby picture

Mandella added: "I was anxious to see this race and see if he would get two turns. He looked even better. He just did what he likes to do. The next step is the Santa Anita Derby next month."

Florida

Simplification reached contention late in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park but had plenty of time to circle the speedsters, seize the lead exiting the stretch turn and win by 3 1/2 lengths.

In Due Time and extreme long shot O Captain finished second and third. Simplification, a Not This Time colt, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.04 under Jose Ortiz.

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High Oak clipped heels and fell near the quarter pole in the Fountain and Galt dislodged jockey Joel Rosario while jumping that rival. None of those involved, human or equine, appeared to have suffered serious injury.

"For me, I liked the trip," trainer Antonio Sano said of Simplification's run. "I talked to Jose this morning and said you don't need to be in the front. The start was very important. If the horse has a good start and a safe trip, you won't have a problem."

Simplification was coming off a second-place finish behind Florida Derby candidate White Abarrio in the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 5 and, before that, won the Mucho Macho Man.

The Gulfstream Park publicity wizards point out 14 winners of the Fountain of Youth have gone on to victory in the Florida Derby -- Simplification's next goal -- and 14 have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.

New York

Morello raced alongside pacesetting Dean's List through the first 6 furlongs of Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, took the lead when given the cue by jockey Jose Lezcano and drew off easily to win by 4 1/2 lengths as the even-money favorite.

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Dean's List got the "B" grade with Golden Code third. Morello, a Classic Empire colt trained by Steve Asmussen, got the one-turn mile in 1:39.28 over a fast track. He remains undefeated after three starts, all at the Big A.

"He got banged around coming out of there and the 10 [Rockefeller] came over on top of him, but he just overcomes it like always," said Asmussen assistant Toby Sheets. "He just gets out and runs easy. He hasn't been hit by the stick yet."

Sheets said the $750,000 Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9, could be the next stop for Morello and sounded no alarms about increasing his distance ask.

"I don't see why not. He definitely acts like it," Sheets said of more distance.

Kentucky

Tiz the Bomb chased down pacesetting Erase in the stretch run of Saturday's $125,000 John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park, took a narrow lead and held on to win by a neck over the onrushing Stolen Base. Grael was third.

Tiz the Bomb, a Hit It a Bomb colt out of the Tiznow mare Tiz the Key, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.12 with Alex Achard up for trainer Kenny McPeek.

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The race was not a points event for the Kentucky Derby and Tiz the Bomb has won a couple big races on grass so his future might lie in that direction.

When the dust had cleared from the weekend's races, Risen Star winner Epicenter still had the lead on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard with Rebel Stakes winner Un Ojo second.

Simplification moved into the No. 3 spot with Forbidden Kingdom and Morello in a tie for fourth and fifth.

Next weekend brings the Tampa Bay Derby with 50 points to the winner.

There also were two "European Road to the Kentucky Derby" races during the past week in England. But Charlie Appleby, who trained one of the winners, said he's not under consideration for a trip to the United States.

The other is a Juddmonte homebred Dark Angel colt out of a Frankel mare. So we're not going to bother with them in this context although look out for the Juddmonte winner, Juncture, in the months leading up to the Guineas.

The Path to the Oaks

Eda led all the way in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Santa Ysabela Stakes at Santa Anita and scooted under the wire 1/2 length ahead of the favorite, Under the Stars -- both trained by Bob Baffert. Ain't Easy proved it by finishing third.

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Eda, a Munnings filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.31 with Juan Hernandez in the irons. Eda now has four straight wins, also including the Grade I Starlet at Los Alamitos Dec. 4. The loss ended a two-race win streak for Under the Stars.

Venti Valentine got to the lead three-wide turning for home in Saturday's $250,000 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct and ran on boldly to win by 7 lengths. Shotgun Hottie was second, 3/4 length better than Magic Circle, while the odds-on favorite, Radio Days, weakened late to finish fourth.

Venti Valentine, a daughter of Firing Line, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.65 under Manny Franco. She now has three wins from four starts to go with a second in the Grade II Demoiselle for trainer Jorge Abreu.

Kathleen O., a lukewarm favorite in a well-balanced field, rallied from last of seven to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 2 lengths over Classy Edition. Cocktail Moments was third.

Kathleen O., an Upstart filly out of the Blame mare Quaver, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.23 and remains undefeated after three starts. Javier Castellano rode for trainer Shug McGaughey.

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Saturday at Turfway Park, Bubble Rock stalked pacesetting favorite Marissa's Lady through the early furlongs of the $125,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes, worked by that rival and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

Marissa's Lady held second, 4 1/2 lengths better than Tap Dancing Lady. Bubble Rock, a More Than Ready filly trained by Brad Cox, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.19 with Marcelino Pedroza Jr. up.

There were so many great races we're going to fall back to our late-season practice of gathering the most important by division. Thus:

Classic

Express Train and Warrant hooked up in an old-fashioned stretch battle in Saturday's $650,000 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap with Express Train and Victor Espinoza prevailing by a head over Warrant and Flavien Prat.

It was another 9 lengths to Stilleto Boy in third. Express Train, a 5-year-old son of Union Rags, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:03.22.

"As soon as he's in front, he knows he's got it," Espinoza said of Express Train. "He just gave me a little bit of a hard time at the end to get me excited and pump up my muscles."

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Express Train now owns three straight wins and was second in the 2021 Big Cap, but Saturday's was his first Grade I win.

Distaff

As Time Goes By romped in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Beholder Mile at Santa Anita, quickly recovering from a rough start to take the lead, then running on to win by 2 1/4 lengths for jockey Flavien Prat. Miss Bigly was second, Varda third and Envoutante completed the order of finish.

As Time Goes By, a 5-year-old American Pharoah mare, finished in 1:37.55 with Flavien Prat getting the leg up from trainer Bob Baffert.

"We got the Grade I!" Baffert exulted. "I talked [the owners, Coolmore partners] into another year with her. She gets better with age. She is such an exciting and classy mare. She never breaks a sweat. Flavien was aggressive with her early and put her into the race. I think the longer the better with her."

Turf

Count Again saved ground at the back of a big field into the turn in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, came out for room and hit the gas. Passing most of 10 rivals, he hit the front just in time to win by a pair of heads over Space Traveler and Subconscious.

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Count Again, a 7-year-old Awesome Again gelding, was clocked in 1:33.24 with Flavien Prat up for trainer Philip D'Amato.

Count Again "is just one of those dream kind of horses," D'Amato said. "You know if you have dead aim at the top of the lane with him, he's going to give you his late kick pretty much every time. He's just a fresh happy horse now and Flavien fits him well."

Temple stalked the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park, surged to a clear lead rounding the turn and held on to win by 1 length over Shamrocket. Media Blitz was third.

Temple, a 6-year-old Temple City gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm going in 2:14.07 with Jose Ortiz at the controls.

Mira Mission came from next-last of seven to land Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 3/4 length over Mouillage. It was another 3 1/4 lengths to English Bee in third with the odds-on favorite, Never Surprised, fading to finish fifth.

Mira Mission, a 4-year-old Noble Mission gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Kazamira, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.43 for jockey Julien Leparoux.

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Coinage raced closely behind the leading pack in Saturday's $100,000 Palm Beach Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Gulfstream Park turf, angled out for room at the three-sixteenths pole and outfinished main Event to win by a neck.

Bueno Bueno was third as Coinage finished 1 mile on firm going in 1:36.73 with Luis Saez in the irons. Mark Casse trains the Tapit colt.

Filly & Mare Turf

Virginia Joy had to swing five-wide around rivals to challenge for the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream Park, got by and went on to win by 1 length. Family Way was second, 1/2 length better than Harajuku.

Virginia Joy, a 5-year-old Soldier Hollow mare, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm going in 2:15.93 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.

In Italian was good in any language in Saturday's $100,000 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The British-bed Dubawi filly was sent right to the lead by Irad Ortiz Jr., maintained the edge and finished first by 1 1/4 lengths over Wakanata. Navratilova was third.

In Italian, trained by Chad Brown, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.49.

Spendarella worked quickly to the front in Saturday's $125,000 Grade III Herecomesthebride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park, opened a comfortable lead and rolled home first by 1 1/2 lengths over Opalina. Mischievous Kiss was third.

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Spendarella, a Karakontie filly trained by Graham Motion, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.19. Jose Ortiz rode.

Leggs Galore showed speed galore in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Buena Vista at Santa Anita, piling up an 8-lengths lead, then holding on to win by 1/2 length over the favorite, Going to Vegas. Closing Remarks finished well to take third.

Leggs Galore, a Bayern mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.29 under Ricardo Gonzalez.

Out west, Lucky Girl made a big move around the turn in Saturday's $100,000 China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, had the lead by the eighth pole and won by 3/4 length from An Agent Mistake. Sterling Crest was third.

Lucky Girl, an Irish-bred daughter of the Australian-bred stallion Exceed and Excel, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.02 with Joe Bravo aboard.

Sprint / Dirt mile

Cezanne pressed the early pace in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita, challenged exiting the turn and was best in the stretch run, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Principe Carlo was second, 6 lengths in front of the early leader, Canadian Pride.

Cezanne, a 5-year-old son of Curlin, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.45 with Flavien Prat up for trainer Bob Baffert.

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Officiating blew right by pacesetting favorite Chateau in the stretch run in Saturday's $$200,000 Grade III Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct and drew off to a 5 1/2-length victory over that rival. Repo Rocks was third.

Officiating, a 4-year-old Blame colt, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.22 with Manny Franco in the irons. Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., he notched his first graded stakes win.

Speaker's Corner was on the lead early in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile and just kept opening more and more daylight.

At the finish, the 4-year-old Street Sense colt was 5 1/2 lengths to the good of his closest competitor, Fearless, with Endorsed another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. The Godolphin homebred finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:33.84. Junior Alvarado rode for trainer Bill Mott.

Around the world, around the clock:

The final night of the 2022 Dubai World Cup Carnival, a.k.a. Super Saturday, provided a look at some of the best horses in the local talent pool, many awaiting the international competition set to swoop into the massive facility in three weeks' time. A brief look:

Hypothetical, a 5-year-old son of Lope de Vega racing for Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed

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Al Maktoum, made his case for the $12 million World Cup with a front-running, 1-length victory in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at the World Cup conditions. Remorse was second and Everfast third.

Appreciated, the better-fancied of two starters for American trainer Doug O'Neill, broke poorly for Frankie Dettori and could only recover to finish an honest eighth.

Alfareeq posted a minor upset win in the Group 1 Jebbel Hatta, a 1,900-meters turf race that previews the $5 million Group 1 Dubai Turf on March 26.

Alfareeq, a Dark Angel gelding, found his best foot turning for home and accelerated to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Popular veteran Lord Glitters was victimized by a slow early pace and could only land sixth with his trademark late run and still could reappear on the big night.

Hukum opened the Thoroughbred portion of the evening with a popular win in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

The 5-year-old son of Sea the Stars, who had a successful summer of '21 in England, became the local favorite for the $1 million Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup at 2 miles on World Cup night although some tough international visitors are expected for that.

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Two turf sprints opened up some possibilities. Godolphin's progressive 4-year-old Storm Damage won the Ras Al Khor at 1,400 grassy meters, leading home a Godolphin 1-2-3-4 finish, and trainer Saeed bin Suroor said he will consider a switch to grass for the $1 million Group 1 Godolphin Mile on World Cup night before a potential Royal Ascot engagement.

Man of Promise, a Godolphin runner trained by Charlie Appleby, won the Nad al Sheba Turf sprint at the same 1,200 meters as the $1.5 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in three weeks.

The Al Bastakiya at 1,900 meters on the dirt is a traditional prep for the $1 million Group 2 UAE Derby. Saturday's winner, Argentine-bred Quality Boone, will get a test as several American 3-yaer-olds, including Saudi Derby winner Pinehurst, are expected for World Cup night.

Nonetheless, a confident trainer Antonio Cintra Periera said a victory in the Dubai race would be enough to send his colt to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.

Saturday's Group 3 Burj Nahar is a traditional prep for the Godolphin Mile but when Desert Wisdom jumped up at long odds to upset the race, confidence in the form took a dip.

The Group 3 Mahab al Shimal at 6 furlongs on the dirt finished the night's festivities with Eastern World striding out to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

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Japan

Weekend racing at Nakayama featured Grade 2 trials for both the 2000 and 1000 Guineas.

In Sunday's Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho Deep Impact Kinen, Ask Victor More got to the lead in the final 100 meters and held off previously undefeated Grade 1 Asai Hai Futurity winner Do Deuce by a neck under the wire. Born this Way was another 1/2 length in arrears in third.

Ask Victory More, appropriately a Deep Impact colt, got his third win to go with two thirds. Do Deuce, a son of Heart's Cry, was making his first start of the year after going 3-for-3 as a juvenile.

On Saturday, Namur won her first start of the year in the Tulip Sho. The Harbinger filly was badly boxed in at the top of the lane but when jockey Takeshi Yokoyama found her a seam, she quickly picked up steam.

In the final 100 meters, she shot by the leading pack to win by 1 1/2 lengths, going clear. After winning her first two stars last year, she finished fourth in the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies.

In other action:

Oaklawn Park

Connie K battled for the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares, got it and then had to battle again to hold it again at the end, winning by a neck over Unbridled Twister. Too Pretty was third.

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Connie K, a 4-year-old Street Strategy fill, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.97 with Jon Court in the irons.

Gar Hole ran like an odds-on favorite should in Saturday's $150,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes for state-breds, drawing off through the stretch to finish first by 5 lengths. Souixper Charger was best of the rest.

Gar Hole, a 4-year-old Tekton gelding, reported in 1:09.06 with Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard.

Aqueduct

Bank Sting pressed the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational for fillies and mares, then won a stretch contest with Battle Bling before scoring by a neck. Maiden Beauty was third.

Bank Sting, a 5-year-old Central Banker mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.51 for jockey Dylan Davis.

Fair Grounds

Dowagiac Chief had 'em all the way in Saturday's $75,000 Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds, advancing from the lead to win by 5 lengths, well in hand. Tommy Bee and Iberville filled out the trifecta.

Dowagiac Chief, a Cairo Prince colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:46.65. James Graham rode for trainer Tom Amoss.

Mangelsen spurted out to a big lead in Saturday's $60,000 Edward J. Johnston Stakes for Louisiana-breds and just lasted, winning by 1/2 length over Treys Midnite Moon.

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Mangelsen, a 6-year-old gelding by Big Band Sound, is out of Teerific Tee, a daughter of 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee -- a name you don't see often in these pages. He finished the 1 mile on firm going in 1:40.61 with Jareth Loveberry up.

Net a Bear rallied from last of just four starters to take Saturday's $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares by 3/4 length over Fort Polk. Net a Bear, a 6-year-old Awesome Bet mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:40.65 with Colby Hernandez riding.

Sunland Park

Mine That Star stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Curribot Handicap, took over at the quarter pole and held off Convention to win by 3/4 length while finishing 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.62. Francisco Amparan rode the 5-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile.

Flaxy Lady seized the lead in the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Peppers Pride Handicap for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares and went on to win by 2 lengths over Our Time to Shine. Shugs Charlie was third.

Flaxy Lady, a 7-year-old Firejack mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.20 with Miguel Perez in the irons.

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Delta Downs

Frosted Grace overcame a bad start to post a rallying win in Saturday's $75,000 Owner Appreciation Cup by 2 1/2 lengths over Langs Day. Spa City was third.

Frosted Grace, a 6-year-old son of Mark Valeski, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:33.89 with Joel Dominguez riding. The race was restricted to horses which started at Delta Downs since Oct. 12.

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