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Apr 07, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


As we continue to draw ever closer to the Kentucky Derby the prep races are coming fast and furious. There are three big races on April 8th, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course and the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita. Those preps will be followed up the next week with the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. That will be the end of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby, with only the Lexington Stakes any race of impact left the following week on April 22nd. On April 1st there were two prep races for the Derby. The WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream.

In the WinStar Derby which offers a nice purse of $600,000 has trouble drawing the better three year olds because the race in not a Graded Stakes race. Because you need graded earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby if there are more than 20 entrants most trainers will look elsewhere when leading up to the Derby. This race however, offers a nice payday for a lesser three year old that may not be looking at the Derby instead some other three year old races later in the year. The odds-on favorite in the race was a Bob Baffert trainee WANNA RUNNER, who has faced the likes of BROTHER DEREK and STEVIEWONERBOY. This was obviously a big drop in class and he didn’t disappoint scoring by an easy four and three quarter lengths. Another Bob Baffert trainee, SKY DIVING finished second, well clear of the third place horse. Right now WANNA RUNNER is probably best suited to staying with these second flight three year olds and would be up against against the top three year olds in the Kentucky Derby.

In the Florida Derby a Grade II race at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $1 million dollars and saw the return of BARBARO who won the Holy Bull Stakes back in early February over a sloppy track and his first try on the dirt. There were many people out there who felt that BARBARO who is undefeated at 4 for 4 still had a lot to prove considering he had only run once on the dirt and that day the track was sloppy. After breaking from and outside post, BARBARO and jockey Edgar Prado laid close-up in second right off of the pacesetter, SHARP HUMOR, the winner of the Swale Stakes in early March. After reasonable fractions of 23:2, 47:1, 1:11:1, 1:36 and a final time of 1:49, BARBARO finally ground down the leader and edged away for a half length score. His record is now 5 for 5 and he will head to the Derby with an undefeated record and he will be one of the choices in the race. SHARP HUMOR, a New York bred with a similar make-up to FUNNY CIDE the Derby winner back in 2003, is also by DISTORTED HUMOR, like FUNNY CIDE and his tactical speed will put him in the race early. SUNRIVER, the half-sister to champion ASHADO finished an even third but did have an excuse as he raced wide throughout. His trainer Todd Pletcher said he was pleased with his race and this is a type of horse that is slowly getting better and can surprise on Derby Day. Although this race was a Grade II and had a big purse this wasn’t a very high quality Florida Derby. A big reason for this may be that the races leading up to the race like the Holy Bull now have to be run at 1 and 1/8th miles because of the configuration of the Gulfstream Park race track. Many trainers like to start horses at a lesser distance and then build up to the longer distances so this could be a reason for the lack of quality horses. No to take anything away from BARBARO but some of the upcoming preps seem to have more horses that will have a shot at the Derby. So far other than BROTHER DEREK this Derby picture is still very cloudy and could make for a very interesting Kentucky Derby. See you next week with analysis of prep races from April 8ht.



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