As college basketball’s “March Madness” winds down its Final Four, to the final championship game, Thoroughbred racing’s best 3 year olds are getting their last workouts in for the final four weeks of racing leading up to this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
This year marks the 136th running of the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and is scheduled for Saturday May 1.
The Derby, affectionately referred to as, “The Run for the Roses”, is contested annually on the first Saturday of May and offers a purse of $2,000,000 guaranteed. The field is limited to 20 horses in the starting gate, with eligibility for one of those coveted post positions being determined by lifetime earnings in graded stakes races.
From the beginning of the year, each weekend select races across America separate the country’s best three year olds from the rest of their generation. With the Kentucky Derby a little more than a month off, the list of hopefuls for this year’s field is now taking shape.
For over a century, the arrival of Spring ignites “Derby Fever”, and the connections of the best three year olds dream of Louisville, Kentucky, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.
Here’s a review of several prospects which have emerged in the 2010 Kentucky Derby quest.
Trained by Jeremy Noseda at Newmarket Racecourse in England, this horse made his debut on dirt March 6th by winning the (Grade III) $250,000 Gotham Stakes by an impressive 1 1/4 lengths. This was his first race as a three year old as he has not run since finishing fourth in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf back in early November. His next race will most likely be in the (Grade I) Wood Memorial on April 3rd as a final Derby prep race.
Lookin at Lucky
The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn was run Saturday, March 13th. It is a (Grade II) 1 1/16 mile stakes race for three year olds with a total prize purse of $300,000. The odds-on-favorite and a potential early Kentucky Derby favorite, Lookin at Lucky certainly lived up to his billing by winning this race by a neck over Noble’s Promise with Dublin finishing third. In a very tight race that started with some bumping and heel brushing, he maintained his position in the pack and was able to gain the lead in the final few strides. Trained by Bob Baffert, this was his sixth win in seven starts. Lookin at Lucky’s next outing will be either in the Wood Memorial or the Arkansas Derby.
The Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs was run Saturday, March 13th. It is a (Grade III) 1 1/16 mile stakes race for three year olds with a total prize purse of $300,000. In another extremely tight race, Odysseus relied on a late push to with this race by a nose over Schoolyard Dreams with the favorite, Super Saver finishing a length back in third position. Running in second place for most of the race, he suddenly found himself falling back to fourth heading into the final turn. With a burst of speed down the stretch he was able to regain his position and stick his nose in for the win. This was Odysseus’s third win of the season. Trained by Tom Albertrani, his next race will most likely be the Wood Memorial.
The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita was run Saturday, March 13th. It is a (Grade II) 1 1/16 mile stakes race for three year olds with a total prize purse of $150,000. In his first start around two turns, Sidney’s Candy took the lead out of the gate and led all the way to win this race by a 1/2 length over Interactif. 7-5 favorite Caracortado did not have the closing speed needed to catch the front runners and finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind. Though he never relinquished the lead, it was a tight race all the way. The chestnut colt was able to break free down the stretch and hold on for the win. Sidney’s Candy is trained by John Sadler and now has three wins in five starts. His next race will most likely be the Santa Anita Derby.
Two weeks ago week Ice Box was nothing more than an afterthought with Derby contenders such as Rule and Radio Head going off at 9-5 and 5-2 respectfully in the (Grade I) $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. After a slow start out of the gate, this three year old chestnut colt was able to close a two length gap down the stretch to win this race by a nose over another long shot; Pleasant Prince. Rule finished third after leading for most of the way and Radio Head finished a disappointing ninth. Trained by Nick Zito, this was his first stakes race victory which now places him squarely in the mix as a potential favorite in Kentucky.
On Saturday, March 13th in the (Grade III) $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, Schoolyard Dreams ran the race of his life as he was beaten by a nose by Odysseus to finish second. The real star of this race was supposed to be Derby contender Super Saver, who went off as a 5-2 favorite, but these two horses stole the show with such a dramatic finish. In his last race, Schoolyard Dreams finished second to Rule in the (Grade III) Sam F. Davis Stakes back on February 13th. Trained by Derek Ryan, it remains to be seen is he will run again before the Derby or just go into training.
By virtue of his second place finish in the Florida Derby, Pleasant Prince finds himself on the Derby Trail. Trained by Wesley Ward, he will most likely go directly into training for the Derby as opposed to running in any more prep races before the May 1st “Run for the Roses”. This has really been an incredible turn of events for this horse considering he went off as a 29-1 long shot in this race. This was not the first time these two horses tangled as Pleasant Prince finished second to Ice Box earlier in the year in a nine Furlong first-level allowance race at Gulfstream back on January 18th.
In last Saturday’s (Grade II) $750,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race & Slots yet another Todd Pletcher trained horse put himself right in the thick of it as a legitimate contender to win the Kentucky Derby. Mission Impazible was able to overtake both A Little Warm and favorite Discreetly Mine deep into the stretch to capture the win by 3/4’s of a length. A Little Warm ended up finishing second and Drosselmeyer rallied past Discreetly Mine by a neck to take third. Mission Impazible, bred out of Summer Wind Farm in Kentucky was making his fifth career start. As a two year old his best effort was a third place finish in the (Grade III) Kentucky Juvenile Stakes.
All eyes were on Connemara, a 17-10 choice in last Saturday’s (Grade II) $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway Park, but an up and coming horse named Dean’s Kitten stole the show. Running in fourth place for most of the race behind Ranger Heartley, Northern Giant, and Connemara he was able to break free down the stretch and open up a 2 1/2 length lead to secure the win. The $291,000 winning prize purse places Dean’s Kitten into the top 10 of graded stakes earnings for three year olds, which is used to determine the field of 20 qualifiers for the Derby.
On Sunday, in the (Grade III) $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park & Casino, Endorsement came out of nowhere to hand 3-5 favorite Conveyance his first loss of this career. Going off at 11-1, he was able to keep pace with Conveyance all the way through the eighth pole before pulling away to win by an impressive three lengths. Six lengths back, Tempted to Tapit finished third and Fog Alert ended up fourth. With his $400,000 winning prize purse, Endorsement, who is trained by Shannon Ritter would qualify for the Derby, but there is no word as of yet on whether they will actually enter the field.
The current odds on favorite for the Derby and leader on the graded earnings list are the 3 yr old colt, Lookin At Lucky. Lookin At Lucky, trained by Bob Baffert (left) and owned by Watson, Pegram & Weitman, has six wins from seven starts and earnings of $1,390,000. Lucky’s only defeat came at the hooves of Valeofyork in the November 1st running of The Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, beaten only a head, coming from nearly 10 lengths off the pace following a troubled trip.
In a world that continues to recognize the female horse and its ability to compete with and defeat males, guess who’s second on the earnings list? That’s right, 3 year old filly Blind Luck. She currently has earnings of $861,150.
Not to worry though, Blind Luck’s trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and co-owners, DeDemnica & Carver, have opted to follow the path of last years “Horse of the Year”, Rachel Alexandra and prep in the (Grade II) $300,000 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park, for a possible run in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is regarded as the filly version of the Kentucky Derby conducted the day before the Kentucky Derby Sponsored by Yum! Brand, at 1 1/8 mile on the dirt for a purse of $500,000. Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks by an astonishing 20 1/4 lengths.
A trio of prep races kick off the month of April in what promises to be a great month of competition. This Saturday’s line up features two of the most respected Derby contenders in what will be their final preps for the May 1st Derby.
The highly respected Eskendereya (right), trained by Todd Pletcher, headlines a filed of 6 in the 86th running of the Grade I $ 750,000 Wood Memorial, held at New York’s Aqueduct Racecourse. The Wood Memorial is the largest and final major prep for the Kentucky Derby conducted in New York.
Lookin At Lucky, trainer Bob Baffert’s near-perfect Kentucky Derby prospect, is the 4-5 morning line choice among 10 entrants to race in the 73rd running of the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the West’s premier steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby.
The Eion Harty trained; American Lion is the 7/2 favorite to win Saturday’s Grade III $500,000 Illinois Derby held at Hawthorne Race Course. In 2002 Illinois Derby winner, War Emblem, went on to win the Kentucky Derby.
The weekend of April 10 will wrap up the final two Grade I Kentucky Derby preps with the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course, located in Lexington, Kentucky, and the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby held at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Stick around for more updates as we inch closer to “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”.
For tickets to this years Kentucky Derby please click the following link http://tickets.churchilldowns.com/kentuckyoaksderby/2010/GA or call 1.800.28.DERBY
For more information regarding this years Kentucky Derby please click the following link http://www.kentuckyderby.com/