Hustle Up held off Louisiana invader Wicked Indeed to win Sunday's Mine That Bird Derby in New Mexico, the weekend's only potential stepping stone to this year's Kentucky Derby, with the Fountain of Youth next up on the Road to the Roses.
Hustle Up was hustled to the lead in the Sunland Park event for 3-year-olds and held off Louisiana visitor Wicked Indeed by 1 length at the wire. Walker Stalker was third. Hustle Up, a New Mexico-bred gelding by Abstraction, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.31 for jockey Shane Laviolette.
Wicked Indeed was making up significant ground in the stretch but ran out of real estate before he could get to Hustle Up, who was left alone on the lead through most of the race. None of the participants, however, looked likely to spark enthusiasm for the first Saturday in May.
With 10 weeks to go until the Kentucky Derby, War of Will tops the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings with 60 points, thanks to 50 gathered by winning the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds Feb. 16. Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and 2-year-old champion, Game Winner, retains the No. 2 ranking while still awaiting his first start as a 3-year-old.
The coming weekend's events include the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, which awards points to the top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 basis. In England, Saturday's Patton Stakes on the Dundalk all-weather course is the third-last event in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby -- a separate competition from the main American series.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Victim of Love took the lead in the stretch in Sunday's $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes at Sunland Park in New Mexico and drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths over the Steve Asmussen-trained shipper and favorite, Backflash. K P Slickem was third. Victim of Love, a Kentucky-bred Speightstown filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.07 with Ry Eikleberry aboard. She was fresh off a maiden win Jan. 22.
In other U.S. weekend racing action:
Reigning U.S. turf sprint champion Stormy Liberal was relegated to a second straight runner-up finish Friday at Santa Anita. The 7-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding appeared headed for a comfortable victory en route to another try at the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30. But he appeared to stumble turning for home, losing position, and eventually lost a head bob to Eddie Haskell. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke told TVG Stormy Liberal "hit a bad spot ... It definitely cost me the race. But he came back all right, so that's the main thing." Stormy Liberal was second in last year's Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night.
Vasilika came from far back to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Buena Vista Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita by 1 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Streak of Luck rallied from even farther behind to finish second while Ms Bad Behavior stalked the pace and held on for third. Vasilika, a 5-year-old Skipshot mare, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.35 with Flavien Prat up.
Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Vasilika "is certainly one of the barn favorites and really seems to come through for us every time. Even the couple of times she hasn't won, she's still tried so hard. We're blessed to have her. If I could answer why she is so consistent and so special I wouldn't have to work."
Prince Lucky shot by pacesetting Copper Town a furlong from home in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Hal's Hope and won off by 6 lengths over that rival. Quip was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and the favorite, Breaking Lucky, tired to finish last of eight. Prince Lucky, a 4-year-old Corinthian gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.84 with John Velazquez riding. Prince Lucky dropped off the 2018 Triple Crown trail after finishing ninth in the Grade III Sunland Derby. He had not raced since winning the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park June 9. Quip's last start was in the 2018 Preakness Stakes.
"We just felt like the distance suited him well, he was doing well, and then he drew a really favorable post position for him," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Prince Lucky. "I was happy to see him come back strong off the layoff and hopefully bigger and better things to come."
In other action:
Usual Suspect opened a big lead in Saturday's $100,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares, then prevailed by a neck over Fastanista in a battle of long shots. The favorite, Georgia's Reward, settled for third. Usual Suspect, a 4-year-old Primary Suspect filly, toured 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:12.28 with Richard Eramia riding.
Show It N Moe It let S Y Sky show the way through much of Sunday's $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, gained a narrow advantage in deep stretch and prevailed by 3/4 length. S Y Sky held second, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Coco Kisses. Show It N Moe It, a 4-year-old Grace Upon Grace filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.18 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons.
Stonesintheroad went quickly to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Franklin Square Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies and easily shook clear of five rivals, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. Wadadli Princess was second, a nose in front of Flush. Stonesintheroad, a daughter of Bustin Stones, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.66 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons.
Saturday's card featured a pair of $75,000 turf sprints for 3-year-olds. Yes I Am Free was up late to win the Texas Glitter by 1/2 length with Jackson right at his heels in the final yards. Yes I Am Free, an Uncaptured colt, finished in 56.21 seconds under Irad Ortiz Jr. In the Melody of Colors Stakes for fillies, Play On held a comfortable lead most of the way to a 2 1/2-lengths victory over Catch a Thrill. With Shaun Bridgmohan up, Play On rolled home in 55.85 seconds.
Runaway Ghost ran by the early leader, American Dubai, in the stretch in Sunday's $75,000 Curribot Handicap and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Raagheb was third. Runaway Ghost, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.44 with Santiago Gonzalez up.
Sam Houston Race Park
Eligible Texas-bred 3-year-olds duked it out in a pair of 6-furlong events on the main track on Saturday. Mr. Money Bags didn't exactly fill the coffers of his backers, returning $2.80 for a $2 win ticket on the $65,000 Jim's Orbit Stakes for colts and geldings. But the Silver City gelding didn't cause much worry either, leading early and winning by 11 1/2 lengths with Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez in the irons. He reported in 1:10.86. In the companion Two Altazano Stakes for fillies, Cowgirls Like Us was an even stronger favorite and prevailed after a stiffer test by 2 3/4 lengths. The My Golden Song filly finished in 1:12.40 with Deshawn Parker riding and paid $2.10 across the board.