After Saturday's seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes, just one more stakes preview will remain on the Gulfstream Park schedule for the March 10 Florida Derby. Likely to await the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) are the major 3-year-olds in Florida – Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Macho Uno, and Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner A P Valentine. Another pointing directly to the mile and an eighth Florida Derby is Buckle Down Ben, winner of the Laurel Futurity (gr. III) last season and second in the Holy Bull.
Champagne Stakes winner A P Valentine, trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Nick Zito, tops Steve Haskin's first list of top 20 contenders for this year's Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown racxes. Haskin, The Blood-Horse magazine's senior correspondent and Triple Crown authority, will be updating the contenders list weekly between now and the Kentucky Derby.
Has Derby fever begun its annual rose-colored rise up the old thermometer, or do you still have samurais and geisha girls on the brain? It seems like only yesterday that dusk was settling on Churchill Downs and we were all rejoicing over racing's newest hero. We all felt as if the messiah had finally been delivered in the form of an Adonis-like creature named Fusaichi Pegasus. Then it all disappeared into the murk of a misty Maryland afternoon, leaving us to start our search all over again.
Officials at Ashford Stud haven't made it easier for breeders hoping to get to farm stallion Thunder Gulch. Ashford initially announced a fee of $25,000 for the dual classic-winning grandson of Mr. Prospector, then later upped it to $30,000, then to $40,000. Now it's $50,000.
"Certain horses send chills down the back of your neck when you feel certain things that they are capable of doing," jockey Gary Stevens said. "It takes really something special to give me that feeling." And it was exactly what he felt the moment he ascended the stately Point Given for the very first time. Stevens instantly admired the colt's competitive nature. Point Given, a troubled second last month in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, stamped himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender with an impressive one-length victory over Millennium Wind in the Dec. 16 $345,690 Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park.
Millennium Wind, a half-brother of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic, will likely face Breeders Cup Juvenile (gr. I) runner-up Point Given in the $200,000 Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Flame Thrower, who remained unbeaten in four starts with a victory in the Norfolk Stakes Oct. 7, worked a half mile in :46 1/5 breezing Wednesday morning at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Also working were Arabian Light, Notable Career, Point Given, and Street Cry. Caffe Latte worked Tuesday.
Jorge (Chop Chop) Chavez moved Celtic Pride Stable's A P Valentine through on the rail and gamely outdueled Point Given for a 1 3/4-length triumph in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I).
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