Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes proved very little, as longshot Radical Riley
just got up to win a three-horse blanket finish over Buckle Down Ben
and Cee Dee
over a track labeled good. The son of Wheaton's best races had been on wet tracks.
Payson Park in Florida is the home to several top Derby hopefuls. Among the classy colts currently working there are Iroquois winner Meetyouathebrig
for Elliott Walden and Cradle winner Mongoose
for Bill Mott. Mott, who also is high on This Fleet is Due,
is looking for a late February start for the grand-looking Mongoose. A recent arrival at Payson Park is the Shug McGaughey-trained Pure Prize,
a green colt with a tremendous amount of ability. If he continues to mature over the winter, he's definitely one to watch. Look for him at the end of the Gulfstream meet. McGaughey also has the highly promising Saint Verre
at Palm Beach Downs. The son of Saint Ballado has the potential to be something special. He had two ankle chips removed and has been working at Palm Beach Downs. Bred to run all day, he should be ready to return in about a month. Another of McGaughey's top 2-year-olds of last year, Easing Along,
suffered a fractured cannon bone recently and is out of the Derby picture.
In an unusual move, the powerful stretch runner Burning Roma,
winner of the Belmont Futurity, has been sent to Tampa Bay Downs with an assistant trainer to point for the Tampa Bay Derby. The colt's owner is from Tampa and has also been watching the colt for trainer Tony Dutrow, who is stabled in Maryland.
In California, the first big two-turn stakes was run Sunday, and while the exciting Millennium Wind
won the Santa Catalina as expected, he had to battle hard to get the job done. Runner-up Palmeiro,
coming off a maiden score at Hollywood Park, gave the 3-5 favorite all he could handle, falling a half-length short. But Millennium Wind, who ran such a huge race against Point Given in the Hollywood Futurity, was only making his third career start, and a tough race like this will help him down the road. Plus, Palmeiro, by Pleasant Tap, could be a good one in his own right. Proud Tower,
a super-fast 3-year-old, coming off three straight stakes scores, fractured a sesamoid while galloping Friday and will be out indefinitely. One colt who looks like he'll relish a distance of ground is Learing at Kathy.
The son of Lear Fan, from a powerful female family, recently won a 7-furlong allowance race impressively for Vladimir Cerin. Trailthefox,
winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity, is recovering from sore shins, and will not attempt to make the Santa Anita Derby.
At Fair Grounds, the big horse is Dollar Bill,
a son of Peaks and Valleys who defeated Holiday Thunder in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He previously turned in a huge effort off a maiden score to finish a fast-closing second in the Breeders' Futurity. Trainer Dallas Stewart said he will skip the Jan. 27 Lecomte Stakes and point for the Risen Star, then the Louisiana Derby. One colt to watch is Fifty Stars,
trained by Steve Asmussen. The son of Quiet American, who is coming off a stakes score at Sam Houston, has won at Churchill Downs and has a big closing kick. There has been little action at Fair Grounds, especially in two-turn races. Going short, there is Wild Hits,
winner of the 6-furlong Sugar Bowl Handicap who has won all four of his career starts wire-to-wire. Sugar Bowl runner-up Sam Lord's Castle
is held in high regard by trainer Josie Carroll.
Looking abroad, Eoin Harty is in Dubai, helping to prepare the hard-knocking Street Cry
for a run at the Derby. Aidan O'Brien, who came so close to winning the Breeders' Cup Classic with Giant's Causeway, has nominated 21 horses for the Triple Crown, including Ballydoyle's top classic hopefuls Minardi, Hemingway,
Galileo currently is listed as the 12-1 second choice for the English Derby.