Empire Maker's smashing victory in the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) Saturday has earned him solid favoritism among the 23 individual horses listed in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.
Royal Gem, who captured the Bay Meadows Derby in November, will make his 4-year-old debut Sunday on the grass at Golden Gate Fields in the $150,000 Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Amber Hills was headed at the eighth pole but battled back to win the $82,650 California Oaks by a neck over Mavoreen at Golden Gate Fields Saturday.
Proving she can handle the dirt as well as the turf, Kristine and John Richter's homebred Bien Nicole won Saturday's $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) Saturday for fillies and mares in a surprise.
Irish-bred Champion Lodge took advantage of Santa Anita's yielding turf course Saturday, coming from off the pace to deliver a sharp six-length upset in the $250,000 San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT).
A change in shoes helped Billie Courtney's Distinctive Code turn the tables on her distaff sprint rivals, cruising to victory in the $100,000 Victoria Lass Handicap on Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Jockey Jerry Bailey showed his golden touch with Midas Eyes, runaway winner of Saturday's $150,000 Swale Stakes (gr. III), giving he and trainer Bobby Frankel a sweep of Saturday's rich 3-year-old stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Flatbird Stable's Shawklit Mint found herself with the right pace scenario on her favorite track and managed to score her first stakes victory in the Broadway Handicap Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct.
Juddmonte Farms' Empire Maker expanded trainer Bobby Frankel's realm over the 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) preps. A week after conquering Louisiana with Peace Rules in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II), Empire Maker gave the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) to Frankel with a spectacular performance, trouncing the seven-horse field with an eye-catching stretch run.
Even though the world is full of uncertainty, Ocala Breeders' Sales Company executive Tom Ventura is hoping for another steady performance from the March select auction of 2-year-olds in training, which begins Tuesday in Florida.
A Roar filly named Reverberation zipped an eighth of a mile in :10 1/5, posting the fastest time for the distance Saturday during the first session of the final under tack show for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
- By Tom LaMarra
The pari-mutuel industry is wrestling with another situation that has already seriously impacted business in some jurisdictions: Restrictions or bans on smoking in public places.
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