The Mine That Bird Derby in New Mexico is the only weekend race with potential impact on the Kentucky Derby picture while relative calm reigns across much of the racing landscape.
Two of last year's promising 3-year-olds return from long layoffs to run at Gulfstream Park and turf-running fillies and mares slug it out at Santa Anita.
Let's get right to it.
The Road to the Roses
Wicked Indeed ships in from New Orleans to take the favorite's role in Sunday's $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico. The Tapit colt, out of the Harlan's Holiday mare Wicked Deed, won at first asking at Fair Grounds in November, finished third in an allowance event there Dec. 22 and returned to finish fourth in the Grade III Lecomte on Jan. 19, a race won by current Kentucky Derby points leader War of Will.
Steve Asmussen trains Wicked Indeed for Winchell Thoroughbreds, also the breeder of the gray colt.
Among the others, One Flew South won his only previous start at Turfway Park in November, trained at Fair Grounds and then at Santa Anita for Doug O'Neill. Hustle Up, an Abstraction gelding, is the highest rated of the locals with consecutive wins at Zia Park and Sunland.
The Mine That Bird Derby is named for the upset winner of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, who prepped for the Run for the Roses with a second-place finish in this race, then called the Borderland Derby, and a fourth in the Sunland Derby. With Calvin Borel riding, Mine That Bird rallied along the rail through the Churchill Downs slop from last of 19 to win by 6 3/4 lengths over Pioneerof the Nile at odds of 50-1. He went on to finish second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont but never won another race.
Ten fillies and mares are entered for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Buena Vista at Santa Anita with Vasilika coming back from a victory Jan. 21 in the Grade I Megahertz. The 5-year-old Skipshot mare would have a 10-race winning streak going but for a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar Dec. 2.
Ms Bad Behavior enters the Buena Vista after four straight runner-up finishes. Fahan Mura won the Grade III Bobby Frankel at Santa Anita before finishing up the track in the soggy Pegasus World Cup Turf in January. Elysea's World won a pair of graded stakes at Monmouth Park last summer and finished second in the 2017 Frankel in her only previous visit to California.
Sir Anthony, an Illinois-bred Mineshaft ridgling, brings a four-race winning streak into Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park. The most recent was the Grade III Harlan's Holiday in December. The race also is noteworthy as the return of Quip for the first time since eighth-place finish in the 2018 Preakness. Ere that, the Distorted Humor colt was second in the Arkansas Derby winner of the Tampa Bay Derby. Todd Pletcher saddles Copper Town and Prince Lucky, the latter last seen winning the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park last June.