Kentucky Derby 2022: Through a glass darkly ... Saturday Race Reviews

With less than 2 months until the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby ... Saturday's weekend preps at 4 racetracks led to some interesting results. See what they were in this round-up, below ...
With less than 2 months until the running of the 148th Kentucky Derby ... Saturday's weekend preps at 4 racetracks led to some interesting results. See what they were in this round-up, below ...
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T-minus 60 days till launch ... The Kentucky Derby Trail reached a mile-marker this past Saturday, as we watched 4 "Preps" logged into the books. Racetracks that hosted these "eye-catching" fields included ... Gulfstream Park with the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth (Points: 50-20-10-5) ... Aqueduct with their Grade 2 Gotham Stakes (Points: 50-20-10-5) ... Santa Anita Park with the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes (Points: 50-20-10-5) ... and finally not to be outdone, Turfway Park with the $125k John Battaglia Memorial Stakes (Points: 10-4-2-1). Each race offered the betting public a strong field of options, and the results were certainly not without a measure of drama. As these 3-yr-old colts took center stage, we were reminded once again, why the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" is full of twists and turns ... through a glass darkly, we see ...

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Gulfstream Park: 1 1/16th (Dirt), Fountain of Youth Stakes, Purse $400k, 3

The FOY was probably the most challenging race of the 4 ... With the scratch of Todd Pletcher's Mo Donegal, favoritism was passed to his stablemate, Emmanuel #8, and also Antonio Sano's Simplification #2. With 11 entered in the gate, either of these "early-types" could seize the lead, and be gone ... With Luiz Saez at the controls, Emmanuel #8 was jostled around enough, and quickly was shuffled back towards the rear of the pack. Sano's well-thought-of entry was also 6-th and then 7th from the front. Super long shot, Markhamian #1 took command, and his backers probably looked at his odds of 45/1 with giant saucers. As the race began to unfold around the final turn, there were a bevy of runners forming up in the 4 and 5-path. Both of Bill Mott's colts were involved in what looked like upon first glance as a terrible spill when High Oak #9 clipped heels with another entry. Junior Alvarado was ejected from his mount, and Joel Rosario, steering Galt #13, could not dodge the fray. Both horses were up, almost immediately, and were thankfully unhurt. As for Alvarado and Rosario, they received medical attention, and were helped to the ambulance. As for the result of this Grade 2, it was Sano's Simplification #2 that rallied home for the "win," and the 50 Derby "Points." Jose Ortiz had enough gas left in the tank, and the son of Not This Time responded with a "signature" score for owner Tami Bobo. As for those in-the-money, it was Kelly Breen's In Due Time #4 (2nd, 20 "Points"), long priced O Captain #11 (3rd, 10 "Points"), and finally, the belated Emmanuel #8 (4th, 5 "Points"). It should be noted, that jockey Paco Lopez, riding Breen's #4, was the culprit in the accident. He might be facing the Stewards before long. As for Sano, and his wonderful winner, he has options moving forward, probably with the intent to target next month's Florida Derby (G1).  

One to Watch, Next Out: O Captain #11, (Castellano/Delgado) ... major potential moving forward, out of a sire Carpe Diem (A.P. Indy), outran his box car odds of 88/1!

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Aqueduct: 1 Mile (Dirt), Gotham Stakes, Purse $300k, 3

With a field of 10, the 1-mile Gotham S. was going to be a no-holds-barred "street fight" at "The Big A." Based on the tote board, it was a forgone conclusion that North America's All-Time Leading Trainer, Steve Asmussen, would have the race time favorite. Morello #9, arriving with an unblemished record (last out win in the Jimmy Winkfield S @AQU), this son of Classic Empire was going to be tough to tackle. Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert would try to best this even-monied "chalk" with their entry ... for Pletcher, Dean's List #5 ... for Baffert, Rockefeller #10. Right from the word "go," it was Pletcher's Dean's List #5, ridden by Manny Franco, that set the pace. The 3-yr-old broke well, and won the 1st half of the Gotham. However, that isn't the part that necessarily counts. The able-bodied Jose Lezcano, with orders from Asmussen to lay close, but not too close, ranged up on his rival around the bend ... before any "racetracker" could blink, it was all over. Morello #9, owned by Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Craig Taylor, and Diamond Racing had the winner. With a set of impressive gears at his disposal, the colt galloped home in fine fashion to a 4+ length victory, and netted $165k for his effort. If he remains in New York (and I think he will), Asmussen already has a prime candidate to be the favorite in next month's Wood Memorial (G2), and he sure is loaded for a run to Churchill under the Twin Spires. Just in case you were curious ... rounding out the top 4 were Pletcher's Dean's List #5 (2nd, 20 "Points"), his stablemate, Golden Code #3 (3rd, 10 "Points"), and finally from the Klesaris Barn, Life Is Great #6 (4th, 5 "Points"). As for the Baffert entry ... he ended up at the back of the field, 10th of 10 ...

One to Watch, Next Out: Dean's List #5 (Franco/Pletcher) ... with that 2nd Place finish, the colt acquitted himself well moving forward, despite losing the lead, look for him to stretch out nicely in the Wood Memorial (G2) next month.

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Santa Anita: 1 1/16th (Dirt), San Felipe Stakes (G2), Purse $400k, 3

In Southern California on Saturday afternoon, the clouds parted for a loaded card at Santa Anita that featured 6 stakes. Out of these half dozen, every race fan watching was keenly interested in seeing how Richard Mandella's young chestnut colt, Forbidden Kingdom #6, would handle 2 turns. Let's just say this ... the son of American Pharoah honored his sire, and made his investors (MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm) very pleased. Going off at even money, his only true rival was Bob Baffert's Doppleganger #5, who ended up being the second-choice on the tote. If anyone was going to catch Juan Hernandez aboard Mandella's speedster, it was going to be Flavien Prat, who teamed with the beleaguered HOF conditioner once again. At the break, it was apparent that Hernandez and his colt knew what they needed to do. And just like that, the race was over. By the half mile marker it was a 3-length lead ... then by the three-quarter pole it was a 7-length margin ... and finally, at the wire, just striding with confidence, the team brought home an impressive score ... by nearly 6-lengths. Mandella clearly has a Derby contender, and after his smart win in the San Vicente (G2), this was an impressive follow-up. Will the Santa Anita Derby (G1) be next ... we certainly expect that to be the case. Oh, as for the remaining "Points" to be distributed (for reasons readily apparent), of course, Bob Baffert's Doppleganger #5 did not receive any of the 20 that he would have ... reason, ban and all. While Doug O'Neill's Happy Jack #1 was up for the "Show" (3rd, 10 "Points") and Simon Callaghan's 38/1 long shot, Beautiful Art #4 rounded out the minors (4th, 5 "Points").

One to Watch, Next Out: Happy Jack #1 (Cedillo/O'Neill) ... experienced runner that could be a player along the Triple Crown Trail, if he can do well enough in next month's Santa Anita Derby (G1).

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Turfway: 1 1/16th (AW), John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, Purse $125k, 3

After a trio of celebrated Grade 2s ... it was time for less of a classy race in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes from Turfway Park. Despite the form, it was going to be a barnburner of an event, and one to watch, for sure. With a field of 12 runners, the options were great in number. Looking at the odds before it went off Saturday evening, you would have seen Kenny McPeek's Tiz the Bomb #10 vying for favoritism. Based on his form, the colt by Hit It a Bomb, served as "deserving," especially considering his Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) "win" back in November, and the fact that he competed in the running of the Holy Bull S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park last month. Alex Achard would handle the riding duties this time, and most bettors believed that the late-running Magdalena Racing Stable former turfer would handle the surface switch just fine. At the outset, as the bell went off, it was presumed that Brad Cox's Erase #8 would do everything in his power to take the lead. After all, he had a win over the track using this very tactic. That is precisely what jockey Ry Eikleberry did, and he tried to hold that lead throughout the contest. By the top of the lane though, it was readily apparent that was not going to be a reality. With a gang of pursuers in-tow, the mad dash to the wire ensued. In the end, it was Achard and his mount, that wrestled the lead away from the others ... winning by only a neck. Mike Maker's good-looking grass specialist Stolen Base #4 with leading TP rider, Gerardo Corrales in the irons, tried to make a game of it late, but his slide into home came up short. McPeek recorded the victory for his stable (he and his wife own Magdalena), and now moving forward, they have options for this "stayer." I would imagine that "everything," as McPeek is fond of saying, "is on the table." Maybe with particular interest in his home state ... The Blue Grass S. and the Lexington S. @Keeneland in April, could be prime targets. Not to leave out the rest of the results ... in the end, it was Maker's Stolen Base #4 that "Placed" (2nd, 4 "Points"), Brendan Walsh's Grael #12 that "Showed" (3rd, 2 "Points"), and finally, Eric Reed's Rich Strike #2 that was 4th (1 "Point"). As for the track that is situated in Northern Kentucky and owned by Churchill Downs Inc., they will play host to one more "Prep" race in early April ... the Jeff Ruby Stakes. Stay tuned ...

One to Watch, Next Out: Erase #8 (Eikleberry/Cox) ... with a front-running style, this colt might like dirt; Cox might be planning a Blue Grass Stakes run, as this one makes the switch from the AW; well-bred for owner Lapenta ...

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And here is what is left on the schedule ... Next up is the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby! Our resident turfwriter, J.N. Campbell will be out with his preview of the big race by Wednesday, so stay tuned for all of our coverage of the Kentucky Derby Trail! Be sure to follow us on Twitter ... Horseracing_USA !!!

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THE DRIVE TO 148 ... REMAINING DERBY PREP RACES IN 2022: 

Tampa Bay Derby / Tampa Bay Downs / Mar 12, 2022 / 50-20-10-5

UAE Derby / Meydan Racecourse / Mar 26, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Louisiana Derby / Fair Grounds / Mar 26, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Fukuryu / Nakayama / Mar 26, 2022 / 40-16-8-4

Sunland Derby / Sunland Park / Mar 27, 2022 / 50-20-10-5

Cardinal Cnd Stk / Chelmsford City / Mar 31, 2022 / 30-12-6-3

Florida Derby / Gulfstream Park / Apr 2, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Arkansas Derby / Oaklawn Park / Apr 2, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Jeff Ruby Steaks / Turfway Park / Apr 2, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Wood Memorial / Aqueduct / Apr 9, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Blue Grass / Keeneland / Apr 9, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Santa Anita Derby / Santa Anita Park / Apr 9, 2022 / 100-40-20-10

Lexington / Keeneland / Apr 16, 2022 / 20-8-4-2

Kentucky Derby 2022

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