Those who thought Balto Star's romping win in the March 24 Spiral Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park was a fluke better think again. It appears Balto Star is indeed a star. Under Mark Guidry, Balto Star danced away from what was thought to be a competitive field of 11 3-year-olds April 14 in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (gr. II). Finely tuned by trainer Todd Pletcher, Balto Star went fast early and late and drew off to a 4 1/2-length win in the slop. He covered the nine furlongs in a solid 1:49.04.
Seven 3-year-olds, including three horses that ran in Oaklawn Park's Rebel Stakes (gr. III), were nominated to the Visa Triple Crown and $5-million Visa Triple Crown Challenge before the March 31 late deadline. As a result of the new nominees, the total nominated to this year's series was 447, just short of the record 452 nominees to the three-race series in 1986.
Crafty Shaw charged along the rail in deep stretch Saturday at Oaklawn Park to win the $100,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. III) by three-quarter lengths. Arctic Boy finished second, a half-length in front of Strike It Smart. It was a neck farther back to 3-2 favorite Son of Rocket.
The $75,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday should identify which of this winter's Arkansas-based horses are emerging as major contenders for the $500,000 Arkansas Derby. At Northern Kentucky's Turfway Park, the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial has attracted a field of eight
How about a little diversionary game on the way to next Saturday's Fountain of Youth and Risen Star stakes? Picture the Derby trail as a maze. The object is to find your way through the maze and reach Churchill Downs without running into D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert or Nick Zito. Well, we didn't say it would easy. But with racing's three-headed monster concentrating on blocking all the major roads, this past weekend's smattering of minor stakes was an excellent chance for trainers to take another step in achieving their goal. Not to mention taking home some decent cash as well.
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