Ready's Echo and Tale of Ekati are headed to the Belmont Stakes, while Tomcito and Spark Candle are out.
The jury is still out on Tomcito, but following throat surgery to correct a breathing problem, he might get another shot at stardom - and Big Brown - in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I)
For the second day in a row since being treated for a slight quarter crack, Belmont Stakes (gr. I) favorite Big Brown was out on the track, galloping 1 1/8 miles at Belmont Park on Wednesday, May 28. The colt just jogged on Tuesday.
On May 10 at Belmont Park, North America got its first look at the colt who could have the best chance at spoiling Big Brown's entry into racing immortality, as Japanese invader Casino Drive blew away eight challengers to win the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) in sensational fashion.
Jet Set Racing's Tomcito, one of four horses that did not make the cut in last week's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), will be looking to make a splash in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) instead. To do that, the son of Street Cry will take the traditional route, entering in the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) May 10, a 1 1/8-mile contest that serves as the local prep for third leg of the Triple Crown.
Two weeks ago, Todd Pletcher was sitting on the outside of the Derby picture looking in. But when Padua Stables and partners' Behindatthebar followed the hard-knocking efforts of Monba and Cowboy Cal in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with an impressive performance of his own in the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) April 19, the venerable trainer could count not one, but three potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
With the Derby getting closer, we're doubling up this week to take a look at the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) and mostly to discuss what may turn out to be one of the most important works on this year's Derby trail.
For several 3-year-olds pointing toward the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland, the April 19 event offers a final chance at graded earnings and entry into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But the horse whose form points to a likely win in the 1 1/16-mile event has no aspirations of making the Derby -- and he could spoil the plans of those who do when a field of 11 goes postward in the final Derby prep of the season.
Jet Set Racing Stable's Tomcito, preparing for Saturday's $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II), worked three furlongs out of the gate in :34.60 and galloped out a half-mile in :46.80 with Manfreddy Guzman up Tuesday morning at Keeneland.
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.
The April 19 Coolmore Lexington (gr. II), the final chance for Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopefuls to pick up graded stakes earnings, closed April 11 with 39 nominations.
Jet Set Racing Stable's Tomcito, third in the Florida Derby (gr. I) in his United States racing debut, traveled to Churchill Downs April 9 for a test run over the track which the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) will be run May 3.
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.
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.
Normally a grade I race like the Florida Derby would be pretty clear-cut, filled mostly with horses who have proven themselves. Not so this year; not with unknowns such as Big Brown and Tomcito, two of the most intriguing Triple Crown hopefuls seen in quite a while.
The mere mention of 1971 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes hero Canonero II to most horsemen from Latin America immediately invokes pride. Trainer Dante Zanelli Jr. is no different, and he has a healthy respect for the achievements of the Venezuelan star who swept the first two legs of the American Triple Crown. He's just not ready to compare his charge, Jetset Racing's Tomcito, to the legend.
Robert Evans' Elysium Fields, runner-up in last month's $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), worked March 12 at Gulfstream Park in preparation for the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) Mar. 29.
So, did Saturday's Sham Stakes (gr. III) showcase two exceptional 3-year-olds or was it simply about two top horses running agonizingly slow early and coming home fast late over a synthetic surface? We'll know the answer when they hit the quarter pole at Churchill Downs on May 3.
MAHUBAH'S CORNER By Avalyn Hunter To sire a national Derby winner in the first crop is always a notable feat for a young stallion. Getting a Derby winner in each of the first two crops is still more impressive, but getting that second Derby winner before the second crop has even turned 3? Tomcito, a 3-year-old on Southern Hemisphere time, accomplished this feat for his sire Street Cry by winning the Peruvian Derby (Per-I) on Nov. 17.
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