Trainer Bob Baffert firmly believes that Fog City Stable's Roman Ruler is one of the most gifted horses in the country. On Sunday, the colt will try to prove him right when he takes on seven opponents in Saturday's $1-million Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I).
As expected, the $1-million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) picture changed dramatically with the announcement Thursday that Afleet Alex would not run due to a condylar fracture. Within 24 hours, horses began coming out of the woodwork, all but assuring a large, competitive field.
Cash Is King's Afleet Alex, winner of two jewels of the Triple Crown this year, has been assigned highweight of 123 pounds for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. 1) Aug. 7.
Tracy Farmer's Sun King, fitted with blinkers by trainer Nick Zito, went gate to wire to win the $300,000 Leonard Richards (gr. III) for 3-year-olds by 5 3/4 lengths Sunday at Delaware Park.
Graded stakes winners Sun King and High Limit highlight a tough, compact field of seven in Saturday's $300,000 Leonard Richards Stakes (gr. III) at Delaware Park. The 1 1/16-mile contest marks the first start for the duo since finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Trainer Tim Ritchey reported Sunday morning that Afleet Alex appeared to have emerged from his eventful 4 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in fine physical condition.
If logic and the science of handicapping confuse you, if you're more comfortable guessing than analyzing, then Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) is right up your alley. Regardless of what the experts say, there are no experts when it comes to this race. It's a pure guess, period.
Nick Zito ran five horses in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) -- including the favorite -- and no one has to remind him they finished seventh, eighth, 10th, 14th, and 15th. But the Preakness (gr. I) is a new day, Zito said Friday morning at Pimlico.
When the field crossed the finish line in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), it already was clear who my Preakness (gr. I) selection would be. In fact, it was at the quarter pole, as Greeley's Galaxy closed to within four lengths of the leaders, that I started thinking, 'There's the Preakness winner.'
Although High Fly will have to wait until Tuesday morning to earn his way into the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) field during a scheduled half-mile workout at Churchill Downs, stablemates Noble Causeway and Sun King punched their tickets to Pimlico Race Course after pleasing trainer Nick Zito with their respective five-furlong workouts Monday morning
Afleet Alex, the only contender for the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) currently at Pimlico, went out onto the main track twice Saturday morning.
"Come on six! Stay up three! Get out of there 12! Where's the four? Who's that?" These may sound like the common shouts of an overzealous, exotics-playing railbird, but on Saturday, it just might be something you hear from as esteemed a place as the Churchill Downs box of New York-born trainer Nick Zito.
Most Kentucky Derby (gr. I) works are pretty uneventful, but that certainly wasn't the case Thursday morning. You had Bobby Frankel calling a last-minute audible and working High Limit in company with Ghostzapper, and you had Greater Good and Greeley's Galaxy turn in two of the strangest Derby works in memory.
Two of the five horses trainer Nick Zito is pointing toward the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) worked Thursday morning and the conditioner was pleased with how both 3-year-olds did.
Taking advantage of the sunny, dry conditions at Churchill Downs, Thursday's work tab was busy, with five contenders for the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) breezing over the fast track.
It's that time of the week when things briefly quiet down before the second wave of workouts. With only Consolidator working under the cover of darkness, this is a good time to reflect on how the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is shaping up so far.
The Nick Zito-trained pair of High Fly and Noble Causeway, the one-two finishers in the Florida Derby (gr. I), breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs Friday, although Zito said both colts actually worked six furlongs after breaking off between poles. Also on the work tab Friday was Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Greeley's Galaxy.
Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito now has jockeys set for all five of his contenders for the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) on Saturday, May 7.
Boy, has this Kentucky Derby (gr. I) picture changed. Suddenly, it's the year of the routs. So, what do you do when you have final Derby preps won by 17 1/2, 9 1/2, 8, and 6 lengths?
Trainer Nick Zito said Robert V. LaPenta's Andromeda's Hero, third in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), will stay away from the Kentucky Derby excitement (gr. I) at Churchill Downs until just before the race.
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.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Bandini stepped into the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) spotlight with a brilliant performance in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland Saturday.
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.
Mr Sword tuned up for Saturday's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland with a five-furlong breeze Tuesday morning over the Central Kentucky oval. The Jennifer Pedersen-trainee got the distance in :57 4/5.
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.
With less than four weeks until the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Godolphin Racing's Blues and Royals, winner of the UAE Derby (UAE-II) on the Dubai World Cup card, is still on top of the list of Derby contenders by graded stakes earnings.
On the strength of his 17 1/2-length victory in Saturday's Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct, Kinsman Stable's Bellamy Road emerged from a record-smashing third and final pool of Churchill Downs' 2005 Kentucky Derby Future Wager as a strong 3-1 favorite to win the famed "Run for the Roses" on May 7.
Live Oak Plantation's High Fly, whose recent victory in the Florida Derby (gr. I) was his fifth in six career races, emerged as the betting favorite on Friday as Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager ("KDFW") reached the midpoint.
High Fly and Sun King, trained by two-time Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winning trainer Nick Zito, and juvenile filly champion Sweet Catomine are listed among the favorites in a wide open third and final pool of Churchill Downs' 2005 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opens its April 7-10 run Thursday.
Nick Zito's Run For the Roses Regiment continued its assault on Churchill Downs this past weekend, as High Fly and Noble Causeway finished one-two in the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I) on April 2, giving Zito five top Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contenders for five different owners.
Tracy Farmer's Sun King, winner of both his starts this year including the Tampa Bay Derby, breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 at Churchill Downs Monday in preparation for the April 16 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
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.
With the next Kentucky Derby Trail column not until Wednesday, March 30, when the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) and UAE Derby (UAE-I) will be discussed belatedly, this seems like a good time to offer some lingering thoughts, facts, and observations left over from last weekend.
So, where are the best 3-year-olds based? Florida, Arkansas, California, and New York can all make a case for being the hot spot right now following Saturday's stirring and strange turn of events. With Declan's Moon and now Roman Ruler out of the picture, and Afleet Alex and Wilko facing uphill battles, last year's top 2-year-olds are fading fast.
Tracy Farmer's Sun King, sent off as the 1-20 wagering favorite in the $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) Saturday, showed some true grit while fending off a couple of challenges from the quarter pole to mid-stretch before pulling away to a 3 1/4-length victory.
The March 19 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) drew a field of eight, but the race for all intents and purposes comes down to Sun King vs. Sun King. The Nick Zito-trained colt is the class of the field, and the race his to lose. Only two others in the field have even been nominated to the Triple Crown.
Bettors across North America settled on "all others" as the lukewarm favorite when Pool 2 of Churchill Downs' 2005 Kentucky Derby Future Wager ended its four-day run on Sunday evening.
Tracy Farmer's Sun King, impressive winner of his 3-year-old debut, worked five furlongs in :59 2/5 at Palm Meadows training center Saturday in preparation for the March 19 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III).
Declan's Moon, champion 2-year-old colt last year, and Wilko, winner of the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), are among the 126 nominations for Keeneland's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
Thanks to High Fly's victory in the $300,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Noble Causeway's stylish win in a $33,000 allowance, trainer Nick Zito is building a stockpile of Kentucky Derby contenders and crystallized his hold on favorite status for the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) April 2.
Nick Zito is licking his chops after last weekend's impressive victories by Sun King and Andromeda's Hero. Now, he tries to put the finishing touches on his four-horse feast when he saddles High Fly in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and Noble Causeway in an allowance race. All indications are that Zito will be flying high once again.
Trainer Nick Zito, always a threat along the Triple Crown trail, was sitting comfortably Sunday after two of his 3-year-olds posted wins Saturday and a third, High Fly, cruised through his workout and into the picture for the $300,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) on March 5.
Tracy Farmer's Sun King, third in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and Champagne Stakes (gr. I), will make his 3-year-old debut in a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park Feb. 26.
Wilko, who had won just two of 10 starts in Europe, beat the best 2-year-old colts at Lone Star Park Saturday at odds of 28-1, winning the $1.5 million Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
Marylou Whitney's Birdstone had his first gallop over the Lone Star Park track Sunday after arriving Saturday afternoon on a private charter from Albany, N.Y. that also brought three other Nick Zito-trained horses.
Marylou Whitney's Birdstone, winner of the Belmont (gr. I) and Travers (gr. I), breezed six furlongs in 1:16 4/5 over a muddy training track at Saratoga Oct. 22 in preparation for the $4-million Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Lone Star Park Oct. 30.
Unbeaten Proud Accolade, ridden confidently in his stakes debut by John Velazquez, dealt heavy favorite Afleet Alex his first loss with a half-length victory in the $500,000 Champagne (gr. I) for 2-year-olds at Belmont Park Saturday.
Hopeful (gr. I) and Sanford Stakes (gr. II) winner Afleet Alex hopes to keep his record unblemished Saturday as he takes on seven of his fellow 2-year-old brethren in the 133rd running of the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
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