"Citgo Racing to the Kentucky Derby," an eight-show series on ABC and ESPN providing comprehensive coverage of key Triple Crown prep races, kicks off Saturday on ESPN with coverage of four races coast-to-coast. The broadcast will air from 6:00-7:30 p.m. EDT.Included is live coverage of the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) from Santa Anita, and the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. III) from Oaklawn Park. Same-day coverage of the $200,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) from Aqueduct, and $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) from Tampa Bay Downs will also be offered.
The show will be hosted from Santa Anita by ESPN's Kenny Mayne, who will join analysts Jerry Bailey, Randy Moss, and Jeannine Edwards. Bailey, a Hall of Fame jockey who retired from riding in January, makes his debut as a TV racing analyst.
The Bob Baffert-trained Bob and John enters the 1 1/16-mile race off a win in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 4, while A. P. Warrior, fourth in the Jan. 29 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III), makes his first start for John Shirreffs, trainer of last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner, Giacomo. Richard Mandella will saddle Refinery, an allowance winner last time out.
Lawyer Ron is the hot horse in Hot Springs, Ark., seeking to follow up a win in the Southwest Stakes with a triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel. Lawyer Ron, trained by Bob Holthus, is being pointed to the April 15 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) for his final Derby Prep. The Arkansas Derby was won by Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex the last two years. Expected to challenge Lawyer Ron is the Steve Asmussen-trained Private Vow, unraced since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in November, and Steppenwolfer, who ran a solid second in the Southwest.
A stepping stone to next month's Wood Memorial, the 1 1/16-mile Gotham Stakes will feature the Todd Pletcher-trained Keyed Entry, unbeaten in three starts, including last month's Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. The hometown favorite in the race will be Achilles of Troy, winner of the Whirlaway Stakes and Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct. Achilles of Troy will be under the direction of new trainer Frank Amonte, Jr. Also slated to contest the Gotham is Sweetnorthernsaint, an easy winner of last month's Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park.Rounding out the field are Greeley's Legacy, Hesanoldsalt, Like Now, One Way Flight, Putonyerdancinshuz, and Sunshine Alpine.
Pletcher's leading Derby contender, Bluegrass Cat, returns to Tampa Bay Downs where he won the Sam F. Davis Stakes last month. A win in the Tampa Bay Derby could stamp Bluegrass Cat as the East Coast's top Derby horse.
An interesting field awaits Bluegrass Cat in the 1 1/16-mile race, including the Nick Zito-trained Little Cliff, who was fourth in the Sam Davis; Deputy Glitters, the Davis runner-up; Storm Treasure, Harborage, Reaffirmed, Unbridled's Behavior, Welfare Cadillac, and Winnies Tigger Too.