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.
One of the most intriguing Fountain of Youth Stakes in memory is set for this Saturday, as 11 top-class horses from all over the country converge on Gulfstream Park for the first major 3-year-old prep of the season. Favoritism will be up for grabs in this competitive 1 1/16-mile event, as a case can be made for several of the participants.
Traffic will increase on the road to Gulfstream Park's $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) next week as a field of 10, including some West Coast invaders, assembles for the grade I Fountain of Youth Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile Fountain on Saturday, Feb. 17, serves as the final major prep for the 50th anniversary running of the Florida Derby and the 3-year-old classics beyond.
The cry of "Go, Big Blue" resounded throughout the New York area on Super Bowl Sunday. Although it was silenced following the New York Giants' defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, don't be surprised if it is resurrected by Gang Godolphin around the first Saturday in May. That's when Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum and his faithful followers will invade Churchill Downs bearing gifts and exuding confidence. Boxloads of Godolphin jackets, shirts, and caps will turn Churchill Downs into a sea of blue. Over the past two years, three members of Maktoum's Marauders made it to the starting gate on Derby Day, their coats shining like burnished copper. But there really wasn't a Derby horse beneath those glistening exteriors.
A field of 11, led by City Zip and Yonaguska, has been entered for Saturday's Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. The seven-furlong, $150,000 race is the third leg in the series of races leading up to the Florida Derby. City Zip, a multiple grade II winner, is the 122-pound topweight in the Hutcheson. Yonaguska, who finished in dead heat with City Zip for first in the Hopeful Stakes, will tote 119.
City Zip, the speedy Carson City colt who vaulted to national prominence last summer by becoming the first horse in 40 years to sweep Saratoga's major 2-year-old stakes, arrived in South Florida last Sunday to prepare for Saturday's grade II Hutcheson Stakes. Meanwhile, Daring Pegasus will be seeking his second straight stakes victory when he starts in the Hutcheson, his first start outside the state of Kentucky.
As a Kentucky-born lover of Thoroughbred racing, Beau Greely counts his Kentucky Derby Day victory by Manndar in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) as one of the special moments in his young career. But that victory could drop a notch on his personal highlight reel if he has the Breeders' Cup Day he is hoping for at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
A weekend full of top quality Breeders' Cup-prep racing left blemishes on several records. Gold Mover and Perfect Sting, both undefeated in 2000 prior to Oct. 14, each recorded a loss on the unofficial Breeders' Cup preview weekend. However, Raging Fever remained undefeated after Saturday's Frizette (gr. I) victory over Out of Sync. Raging Fever could take her five wins into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
Jorge (Chop Chop) Chavez moved Celtic Pride Stable's A P Valentine through on the rail and gamely outdueled Point Given for a 1 3/4-length triumph in the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I).
Notes from Belmont Park for Staurday's Breeders' Cup Preview card.
After drifting out in the stretch and bumping Burning Roma near the wire, City Zip finished the one-mile of the Futurity a nose ahead of Burning Roma but was disqualified and placed second by the stewards for causing the contact. Burning Roma was moved up to first, keeping the Anthony Dutrow trainee undefeated in three starts.
City Zip will attempt to win his fifth straight race when he faces eight rivals in Sunday's $200,000 Futurity Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. The 2-year-old finished in a dead heat for first with Yonaguska in the Hopeful in his most recent start to complete a sweep of the three major juvenile stakes at Saratoga.
Michael Tabor's Yonaguska earned his first graded stakes win and City Zip became the first horse since Dehere in 1993 to sweep Saratoga's three major juvenile stakes when the two finished on even terms in the $200,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) Saturday.
City Zip will attempt to become the first horse since Dehere in 1993 to sweep Saratoga's juvenile stakes when he faces 11 rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I). The Hopeful is also the first leg in a new bonus series offered by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
Should City Zip be entered into Saturday's $200,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) as expected, he will attempt to become the first horse since Dehere in 1993 to sweep Saratoga’s three major stakes races for juveniles.
Carl Bowling and Charles R. Thompson's City Zip pressed early leader Strait Cat through opening fractions of :22.17 and :45.27 before pulling away to a 2 1/4-length victory in the $150,000 Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II) Wednesday at Saratoga.
Peachtree Stable's American Century breezed five furlongs for trainer Todd Pletcher Sunday morning, completing the distance in 1:02 2/5 over a muddy track at Saratoga. The 2-year-old, who won a Sartoga maiden race by 7 1/4 lengths, will run next in the $150,000 Saratoga Special (gr. II) on Wednesday at Saratoga.
The 2-year-old Carson City colt City Zip led early, dropped back off the pace on the backstretch, saved ground on the turn, and came on again in the stretch outside of a tiring Yonaguska to win Thursday's $108,700 Sanford Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.
City Zip made amends for a disappointing performance in the $82,000 Flash Stakes in June, winning the $107,200 Tremont Stakes Monday at Belmont Park.
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