Manoel Cruz has never won a grade I race, and his most significant career victory came in a grade II event with a purse of $200,000. On May 3, he'll tackle the $2-million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) aboard Smooth Air.
The first morning at Churchill Downs brought sunny skies and warm temperatures, as the Kentucky Derby horses began their final stretch to racing's biggest day. From here on, there is no room for error. We'll give a brief rundown of the day's activities and continue with the plusses and minuses of each contender.
Mount Joy Stables' hombred Smooth Air turned in a strong seven furlong work at Calder Race Course April 19 in preparation for a start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Mt. Joy Stables' Smooth Air, runner-up in the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I), continued his preparation for the 134th "Run for the Roses" April 13 with a sharp mile workout at Calder timed in 1:41, an impressive move over that surface.
By now, just about every superlative has been used to describe Big Brown's performance in the Florida Derby (gr. I). How many times do you think the word "freak" has been uttered since Saturday? Well, there is no doubt that the colt has accomplished freakish things in his brief career, but so did Curlin, and he couldn't win the Derby off three career starts.
Despite suffering from a case of laryngitis and unable to speak much, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said that Florida Derby (gr. I) runaway winner Big Brown came out of the March 29 event in good shape.
IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr.'s highly-touted Big Brown proved that all the hype was justified, as he led from start to finish in the $1-million Florida Derby, crushing 11 rivals to win by five lengths March 29 at Gulfstream Park while making just his third career start.
A full field of 12 was drawn for the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I), which on paper has turned out to be the most intriguing prep race for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) this year.
Jose Lezcano took a test drive on Bea Oxenberg's 3-year-old Hey Byrn, expected to be one of the favorites in the Florida Derby (gr. I), during a five-furlong work at Calder Race Course the morning of March 22.
Mount Joy Stables' Smooth Air became a prime contender for the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I) March 29 at Gulfstream Park after working a mile March 9.
Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) winner Pyro and Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Cool Coal Man headline a talented roster of 167 3-year-olds nominated to Keeneland's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), to be held Saturday, April 12.
The Nick Zito trainee won his stakes debut Feb. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Z Humor and Smooth Air look to take another step toward the Kentucky Derby Feb. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs.
The Smooth Jazz colt defeated seven rivals to earn his first stakes score Jan. 5 at Gulfstream Park.
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