The talent pool of this year's crop of 3-year-olds runs deep, as witnessed over the last few weeks in major Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prep races. An armada of lesser crafts set out April 21 at Keeneland for the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) to test the waters one final time before the main event takes place at Churchill Downs in two weeks. Instead of a boat race, the majority of them found choppy seas and roiling water that all but grounded their Derby dreams on the rocks. Just the opening of the starting gate alone had several starters bailing instead of sailing.
He's the last chance for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas to participate in the 2001 Kentucky Derby, but his trainer says Turnberry Isle will have to earn his way into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier's Irish-bred son of Deputy Minister is scheduled to run in Saturday's $325,000 Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) at Keeneland and Lukas said Monday that a good performance by the colt in that 1 1/16-mile race could put him in the Kentucky Derby. If so, that would keep Lukas' record streak of Derby participation alive. The four-time Kentucky Derby winner has started at least one horse in every Derby since 1981.
Steve Haskin, the award-winning turf writer and senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse, analyzes the top pedigrees for this year's Kentucky Derby candidates. During his 29 years with the Daily Racing Form, Haskin became known for his insightful coverage of the Triple Crown races. Haskin won the Red Smith Award for Kentucky Derby writing in 1997, 1999, and 2000 and received the David Woods Award for best Preakness story in 1997.
Now, we're not one to indulge in hyperbole, but the fact is, Monarchos was a million lengths the best in Saturday's Florida Derby. OK, so we will indulge once in a while. After all the waiting, listening to nothing but faint rumblings, the smoldering volcano finally has erupted. Although metaphoric cataclysms on the Derby trail normally signify uplifting events, such as Monarchos' explosive display, that is not true when mentioning Sunday's Louisiana Derby. This was more like an earthquake that nearly swallowed up favorites Dollar Bill and Hero's Tribute.
For a million-dollar purse, and with no clear-cut favorite, it's no surprise that 13 horses passed the entry box for Saturday's grade I Florida Derby. The likely choices will be Songandaprayer, Monarchos, and Outofthebox. The only real surprises in the field are California invader Trailthefox, last year's Arlington-Washington Futurity winner who was supposed to stay in sprint races, and the Nick Zito-trained It's So Simple, an impressive allowance winner at the meet whom Zito called "the best kept secret on the backstretch."
With the final major preview event in the books, the field for Gulfstream Park's $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 10 is starting to take shape. The top three finishers in last week's grade I Fountain of Youth Stakes – Songandaprayer, Outofthebox and City Zip – are expected to top a field of eight or nine in the 50th anniversary running of the Florida Derby, centerpiece of the winter meeting for 3-year-olds.
Turnberry Isle will be looking to recapture his European form when he faces off against Millennium Wind in the grade III, $100,000 Santa Catalina Stakes Sunday. The Santa Catalina is the first major prep race for aspiring 3-year-olds on the road leading into the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby. Turnberry Isle and Millennium Wind will break alongside each other as they have drawn post positions No. 5 and No. 6 respectively.
Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Red Bullet highlighted Wednesday's work tab. Also working were Chilukki, Turnberry Isle, and Gaviola.
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