By Ray Paulick - The road to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) changes from time to time, and so do the roadmaps printed by the racetracks and used by owners and trainers to get their horses to Churchill Downs in optimum condition on the first Saturday in May.
As many as five colts who raced in Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) may return in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), to be run May 7 at Churchill Downs.
Gary and Mary West's High Limit, winner of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), was installed the 9-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Tracy Farmer's Sun King and Mary and Gary West's High Limit turned in strong works Monday at Churchill Downs in preparation for Saturday's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Bandini, preparing for his engagement in Saturday's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), worked five furlongs at Keeneland Monday morning, in the company of stablemate Confederate.
Robert and Beverly Lewis' Consolidator sparkled in a swift five furlong breeze Sunday at Churchill Downs that marked his final major prep for Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Fox Hill Farm's Rockport Harbor, who is still on target for the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), worked seven furlongs in 1:25 3/5 at Oaklawn Park Sunday, after which, trainer John Servis said the colt would pass the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and point instead to the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) a week later.
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel said that Mary and Gary West's High Limit, winner of the Louisiana Derby (grade II), was doing well on the day after his first work at Churchill Downs and would make his next start in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland on April 16.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas says he'd prefer that San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) winner Consolidator run next in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland April 16.
Fountain of Youth (gr. I) winner and Florida's leading first crop yearling sales sire of 2004, Songandaprayer, has relocated to Hartley/De Renzo, Walmac South from Marablue Farm for the 2005 season.
You can go over Value Plus, Eddington, Master David, Tapit, Lion Heart, Preachinatthebar, The Cliff's Edge, Action This Day, Smarty Jones, Borrego, and Purge all you want and you'll still likely come away confused. So, why not follow the trend this year and start looking at some bombs this weekend.
Juvenile champion Action This Day will make his longest excursion when he ships April 5 to Keeneland for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on April 10, but Richard Mandella does not anticipate any problems with his 3-year-old.
William Farish's Gradepoint, winner of the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II), suffered a slab fracture of the right knee after a workout at Churchill Downs Monday in preparation for the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and will not race again this year, trainer Neil Howard said.
Trainer Bob Baffert's gray Triple Crown duo of Preachinatthebar and Wimbledon were both out for workouts over Santa Anita's fast main track on Monday morning.
Marylou Whitney's Birdstone tuned up for the April 10 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) Monday morning, breezing an easy six furlongs in 1:15 2/5 at Keeneland, his first work since his fifth-place finish in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) March 20.
Trainer Patrick Biancone revealed late Friday that he's considering skipping the April 3 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) with grade I winner Lion Heart in favor of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland a week later.
For the first time ever, Keeneland is moving its post position draw for the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) to the paddock and making it open to the public.
Trainer Nick Zito said Buckram Oak Farm's Eurosilver, one of the leading candidates for the Triple Crown events, is being treated for an infection and will miss the April 10 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
On Thursday Midway Road is scheduled to make his first start since June. His trainer Neil Howard is also looking ahead to the next starts for Breakaway, Gradepoint, and Shadow Cast.
Bob Baffert said Tuesday he has decided to keep Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Wimbledon home and point for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), while San Felipe (gr. II) winner Preachinatthebar will head to Keeneland for the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
Almost all of the leading contenders for the Visa Triple Crown Challenge, including trainer Nick Zito's highly regarded twosome of Birdstone and Eurosilver, are among 157 nominees to Keeneland's $750,000, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds will be run on Saturday, April 10, three weeks before the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). It will be televised live on NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET).
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Joy, who is undefeated in four starts on grass, has been nominated to the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) and Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
When Harlan's Holiday won last year's Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) in a time of 1:51.51, it was the slowest winning time in the 1 1/8-mile race since Granacus (1:52) beat Intensive Command by three lengths in 1988. On Saturday, Peace Rules creeped home slower than Harlan's Holiday, finishing the key Kentucky Derby prep race in 1:51.73 on the fast track.
The Kentucky Derby lost another of its major stars Friday when Badge of Silver suffered a fractured cannon bone in his right front leg. The son of Silver Deputy, who had romped in his first three career starts before tasting defeat in the Louisiana Derby, would have been one of the favorites in Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes.
This weekend's big Derby prep extravaganza looks pretty clear cut on paper, with Empire Maker, Peace Rules, Badge of Silver, Eugene's Third Son, Region of Merit, Man Among Men, and Aristocat expected to dominate the three races. But don't ignore several others, including one D. Wayne Lukas.
It looks a like a big weekend coming up for Todd Pletcher, who will have starters in all three Kentucky Derby preps. Indy Dancer runs in the Wood Memorial, Aristocat goes in the Arkansas Derby, and Lion Tamer is a likely starter in the Blue Grass Stakes.
D. Wayne Lukas has decided Ten Cents A Shine will race in Kentucky this weekend instead of his original plan of running the colt in Arkansas. Crowned Dancer is also slated to run at Keeneland Saturday.
Offlee Wild and Lots of Sizzle, both pointed toward Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, made their final moves over the Central Kentucky oval Tuesday morning.
On Friday Keeneland's 15-day spring meet opens in Lexington. The track has some new and improved ways to watch its races, whether you're on the grounds or at home.
Michael Tabor's Blue Grass Stakes bound Brancusi, a strong third in the March 16 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), had his first work since then on Wednesday morning. He went six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 handily over Santa Anita's fast main track.
Edmund Gann's Peace Rules, winner of the Louisiana Derby in his first start of the year, showed he's lost none of his sharpness by working a half-mile in :46 4/5 at Hollywood Park Saturday.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Badge of Silver, who displaced his soft palate when finishing sixth in the Louisiana Derby, returned to the work tab Friday, breezing 5 furlongs in 1:02 at Fair Grounds with jockey Robby Albarado aboard.
The 79th running of Aqueduct's grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on Saturday, April 12, 2003 will once again be the first leg of the Big 3 Pick 3. The Big 3 Pick 3 is a $1 national wager in which fans try to pick the winner of three important prep races for 3-year-olds planning on running in the upcoming Visa Triple Crown races.
Calumet Farm's favored Region Of Merit wore down front-running Hear No Evil in deep stretch and held off a determined late run from Aristocat to take Sunday's $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III).
Peace Rules and Ocean Terrace are among the 141 horses nominated to the April 15 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
NBC will air the Bluegrass Stakes, Arkansas Derby, and Wood Memorial on April 12 as part of its 2003 horse racing coverage.
Keeneland achieved several wagering records during its 16-day spring meet that ended April 26.
As difficult to believe as this may seem, we're actually going to keep it relatively short this week, as everyone saw what transpired on Saturday and has formed their own opinions. We are starting from scratch and tossing the past performances. We've looked at them so many times over the past four months, they no longer register in our brain.
Aqueduct registered its largest attendance figure since 1993 for Saturday's card and attendance at Keeneland for the Blue Grass Stakes was the fifth highest total in the Lexington track's history.
Harlan's Holiday stalked the early pace then pounced in the stretch to pull clear to a 4 1/2-length win in Saturday's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
This weekend in New York, Kentucky, and Arkansas, everyone will be picking up rocks, hoping to find the one that reveals the winner of the Kentucky Derby, or at least the winners of a couple of Saturday's big stakes.
The rivalry between Booklet and Harlan's Holiday will be renewed for the fourth time Saturday when the two 3-year-olds hook up again in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
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.
John C. Oxley's Booklet drilled five furlongs in :59 3/5 at Keeneland Sunday morning under Allen Rennie.
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.
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.
Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner Equality and Fountain of Youth (gr. I) winner Booklet put in morning works at Gulfstream Park Saturday.
ESPN's coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), and the Wood Memorial (gr. II) attracted slightly more than 435,000 viewers April 14.
The Big Three Pick Three wager, which linked Saturday's three major Kentucky Derby prep races, returned $121 for every $2 wagered on the correct combination.