It's pretty much pick 'em in Saturday's $500,000 Arkansas Derby, with five of the 11 horses entered ranging in odds from 7-2 to 6-1 on the morning line.
Bits and pieces from around the industry...
As the road to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) gets shorter, the telecasts of premier 3-year-old Thoroughbred racing heats up in prep races televised on "Citgo Racing to the Kentucky Derby," the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA)-produced series on the ESPN networks.
On the eve of his Toyota Blue Grass Stakes date, Harlan's Holiday remains at the top of the leading contenders' list.
Gary Stevens discusses his nightmare trip aboard Easy Grades in the Santa Anita Derby, in which a faulty bridle caused him to have little control of the horse.
The horse is named for a brand of espresso coffee, and in his last
start, he woke up as if he had swallowed a double shot of the stuff.
Saturday afternoon, Medaglia d'Oro will try to keep his Triple Crown
hopes brewing when he steps onto Aqueduct's main track for the 78th running of the grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial.
The Kentucky Derby picture may not be getting any clearer, but at least all the combatants are lined up for their final engagement to determine who goes on to the big battle.
Starlight Stable's Harlan's Holiday, winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I), breezed four furlongs in :47.60 over a "sloppy" track in his final major training move before a scheduled run in Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Sunday Break, winner of his last three starts, worked a sharp six furlongs in 1:15 3/5 at Aqueduct Monday, in preparation for Saturday's $750,000 Wood Memorial, while Saarland breezed a half in :48 at Belmont.
Louisiana Derby winner Repent came out of his second-place finish in the Illinois Derby with a chip in his left front ankle, and has been taken off the Derby trail.
Time is running out for this year's Derby picture to come into focus. Heavy hitters Came Home, Repent, and Johannesburg are in the books, but the questions continue.
Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner War Emblem was shipped to Kentucky by van Sunday, but the son of Our Emblem is still not considered a likely Kentucky Derby (gr. I) starter.
Harlan's Holiday closed as the 7-1 favorite in pool three of the Kentucky Derby future wager which closed at 5:30 (EDT) Sunday. Johannesburg, who suffered his first career defeat in Ireland Sunday, was next at 8-1, just ahead of Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Came Home.
John C. Oxley's Booklet drilled five furlongs in :59 3/5 at Keeneland Sunday morning under Allen Rennie.
A day after Marasca upset Equality in the inaugural running of the $250,000 Aventura Stakes the connections of those horses said the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is not on their respective agendas.
Edmund Gann's Medaglia d'Oro and Gary West's Buddha were on track for exercise Sunday morning ahead of Saturday's Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct.
Champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg suffered a shock defeat on his seasonal debut at The Curragh on Sunday, which must throw a serious doubt over his participation in the Kentucky Derby.
As pool three of the Kentucky Derby future wager offered by Churchill Downs enters its stretch run, a pair of contenders have crept closer to early leader Johannesburg. After day three of the four-day event, Johannesburg remains favored, but his odds have drifted up to 6-1, with Came Home (7-1) and Harlan's Holiday (8-1) next in line.
The bird has flown, leaving us instead with the Aventura Stakes, Gulfstream Park's $250,000 replacement for Hialeah's signature Flamingo Stakes that served as a springboard to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) for the likes of Citation and Seattle Slew. Based upon the returns of the inaugural Aventura, run on April 6, none of the nine 3-year-olds are likely to follow that path.
Her voice was starting to break. Her eyes were beginning to well up. And the admiration was undeniable. Trudy McCaffery, suffused with the glow of Came Home's brave victory in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), stood in the track's posh Director's Room on April 6, extolling the countless virtues of the man who made it all happen.
California trainer David La Croix verbalized what most of the entrants were thinking in the days leading up to the April 6 Illinois Derby (gr. II) when he said he was looking for a "back door" to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) for Fonz's.
Trainer Steve Asmussen said Easyfromthegitgo will have his final Kentucky Derby prep in the April 20 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland. Meanwhile, 11 3-year-olds entered Wednesday's Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and the ever-changing list of horses probable for the April 13 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) is currently down to 10.
Mrs. John Magnier's Castle Gandolfo raced four-wide while in fifth-place heading into the stretch before rallying under Michael Kinane to win the Fosters-International Trial Stakes on the all-weather course at Lingfield Saturday.
Despite losing Rebel Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Ocean Sound to the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), 12 runners are still expected for the April 13 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park with the addition of Gold Dollar to the likely field of runners.
Johannesburg remains favored in pool three of the Kentucky Derby future wager despite drifting up to 5-1 at the close of Friday's wagering after beginning the day at 4-1.
German-bred Flying Dash balked entering the gate in the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland Friday, but was full steam ahead at the wire. Attendance of 14,879 at the Lexington, Ky. track was the largest for a spring opening day since 1985. Attendance last year on opening day was 11,646.
Racing's Holy Grail - The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby--Chapter 5
Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift, winner of the grade II Lane's End Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, took a step toward an expected start in Kentucky Derby 128 with a solid breeze on Friday over the seven-furlong track at Churchill Downs' Trackside training center.
Johannesburg is the early favorite in pool three of the Kentucky Derby future wager offered by Churchill Downs, taking in $6,549 of $40,282 wagered on Thursday. After beginning the day the 6-1 co-second choice, the undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner is currently available at 4-1.
A contentious field of eight sophomores will line up and face the starter in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), for which Came Home was installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite.
We are well aware that the term 3-year-old analysis this year is an oxymoron. Maybe 3-year-old guesses would be more suitable a title. But the trouper that we are, we will attempt to link the word analysis with 3-year-old and try to make some kind of sense of this weekend's stakes, which actually look crystal clear compared to what is in store for us the following weekend.
Take Charge Lady, who is undefeated in two races this year, drew the No. 5 post position for the $500,000 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) on Saturday at Keeneland.
With the ground at the Curragh drying up after a several days of beautiful weather, plans for Johannesburg are now to run in the seven-furlong Gladness Stakes on Sunday, as originally planned.
Racing and breeding news from the industry
Trainer James Cassidy reported late Wednesday that Ford, Pearson and K M Stable's Rebel Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Ocean Sound will not start next in the April 13 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and will run instead in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland on the same day.
The number of horses expected for the April 13 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) expanded to 12 Wednesday with the addition of Dial A Hero, It'sallinthechase, Like A Hero, and Guppie's Secret. But Oaklawn Park officials are beginning to fear the connections of Rebel Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Ocean Sound may opt for the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) instead.
The trainers of Azillion and Bunk N Ted have decided on jockeys Corey Nakatani and Angela Owens, respectively, to guide the colts when they go postward in the April 13 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Harlan's Holiday, winner of the Florida Derby, and Sunday Break, winner of his last three starts, worked Wednesday for their respective engagements in the April 13 Blue Grass Stakes and Wood Memorial.
The much-improved Mountain Forum will be seeking his third straight victory when he starts in Saturday's $250,000 Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 3-year-old event will be run at 1 1/16 miles.
Harlan's Holiday remained on top as there were little changes this week in the rankings of leading Kentucky Derby contenders compiled by senior correspondent Steve Haskin.
Michael Tabor's Gotham Stakes (gr. III) winner Mayakovsky, set to start in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), worked a half-mile in :48 1/5, breezing, over a fast Santa Anita main track Tuesday morning immediately after the renovation break.
A field of 10 headed by Select Stable's Repent has been entered for the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park April 6. The grade II event offers a $1-million bonus to the connections of the winner if that horse goes on to capture any Triple Crown race.
Twenty-five 3-year-olds have been nominated to the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes, a grade I event at Aqueduct April 13.
There remains a chance Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier's Johannesburg could make his 2002 debut on the grass at The Curragh in Ireland April 7 rather than at Lingfield the previous day, trainer Aidan O'Brien said April 2. A decision must be made by the evening of April 4, he said.
Add two more names to the list of Triple Crown nominees. The connections of recent winners Puzzlement and One Tuff Box both paid the necessary $6,000 to make their horses eligible to the May 4 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), May 18 Preakness (gr. I), and June 8 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
San Rafael Stakes winner Came Home, scheduled to compete April 6 in the grade I Santa Anita Derby, worked a half-mile in :48.20 the morning of April 2 in preparation for the race, co-owner John Toffan said. Meanwhile, Louisiana Derby winner Repent is galloping up to the grade II Illinois Derby to be held the same afternoon.
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