Cajun castle

The jury is still out on the Fair Grounds 3-year-old form after Sam Lord's Castle, a colt with a ton of speed throughout his pedigree, drew off to a 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday's one-mile Lecomte Stakes. Wild Hits, another speed-oriented horse, finished second, with the highly regarded 8-5 favorite Fifty Stars a closing fourth.

Sam Lord's Castle had won his first two starts at Woodbine last year, including an easy score in the 5-furlong Victoria Stakes. In his last start, the 6-furlong Sugar Bowl Handicap, he was second to Wild Hits in a head-and-head slugfest the whole way.

These horses will now have to step it up in the Risen Star Stakes, where they'll face the classy Dollar Bill, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last November, and possibly Point Given.

Two impressive winners over the weekend were Liberty Township, who won a 7-furlong allowance race wire-to-wire at Gulfstream Saturday, and Skip to the Stars, who broke his maiden by 5 lengths in a sharp 1:15 3/5 for 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita. Liberty Township, unbeaten in two starts, covered his 7 furlongs in 1:23 1/5, only three-fifths slower than the Hutcheson Stakes. Trained by Kathleen O'Connell, he is a son of Farma Way, out of a Lost Code mare. Skip to the Stars' victory was a huge improvement from his first two starts, both dismal efforts, in which the son of Skip Trial finished well up the track.

More Derby doings

Bob Baffert said his impressive maiden winner, Special Times, will not be nominated to the Triple Crown at the request of owner John Mabee. According to Baffert, Mabee doesn't think the colt, with only one start, is ready for the Triple Crown grind. Baffert said he has no place to run his 3-year-olds, and is contemplating skipping town. He'll either have to wait until the San Felipe in March for his big horse, Point Given, or ship the colt to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby. He also has nowhere to run his recent acquisition Global Gait, who worked a sharp 5 furlongs last week in 1:00 flat. Denied, third in the Santa Catalina Stakes, likely will run in the inaugural Sham Stakes, a condition race suited mainly for non-stakes winners. Recent maiden winner Silvertongue Fox came down with a fever, but is back in training.

Top grass colt Startac will try the dirt for the first time in Saturday's Turf Paradise Derby. Winner of the Generous Stakes and second in the Hill Rise, the son of Theatrical breezed a half in :47 2/5 on the dirt for trainer Simon Bray, who says he's encourage by the fact that jockey Alex Solis has asked to ride him. Startac previously had worked 5 furlongs in :59 3/5, and with no grass races at Santa Anita and nothing for him around two turns on any surface, Bray decided to ship to Turf Paradise. Startac's female family is filled with top-class dirt breeding, including Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew.

D. Wayne Lukas, who has a win in the Hutcheson and a second in the Golden Gate Derby this winter, still has high hopes for Gold Trader, despite the colt's fifth-place finish in a 6-furlong allowance at Santa Anita Sunday. After ducking in sharply at the start, Gold Trader dropped well out of it and was still 14 lengths back at the quarter pole. He closed ground in the stretch to be beaten 5 1/2 lengths. The winner, I Love Silver, actually was bothered by Gold Trader at the start, yet came from just as far back to win by a half-length.

Belmont Futurity winner Burning Roma had his first work at Tampa Bay Downs, breezing a half in :49. Another colt working for the first time this year was Nashua winner Ommadon, who blew out three-eighths in :36 2/5 on the Belmont training track. Nick Zito is taking his time with A P Valentine, who breezed an easy 5 furlongs in 1:03 at Hialeah. Iroquois winner Meetyouathebrig, continues to train well for Elliott Walden, breezing 5 furlongs in 1:02 4/5 at Payson Park.

Todd Pletcher-trained Airy Hill, out of the money in the Holy Bull, apparently had a reaction to Lasix, called "Thumps," an electrolyte imbalance that causes contractions in the area of the diaphragm. He'll run next in either the Fountain of Youth or Florida Derby.

Steve Haskin is an award-winning turf writer and senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse. During his 29 years with the Daily Racing Form, Haskin became known for his insightful coverage of the Triple Crown races. Haskin won the Red Smith Award for Kentucky Derby writing in 1997, 1999, and 2000.and received the David Woods Award for best Preakness story in 1997. In 1999, he co-authored "Baffert: Dirt Road to the Derby" with trainer Bob Baffert and wrote the book, "Dr. Fager" for The Blood-Horse Inc.' "Thoroughbred Legends" series in 2000.

Steve will answer questions about the Triple Crown at shaskin@bloodhorse.com.

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