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Apr 21, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


The two final major preps for the Kentucky Derby were run on April 15th at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland Racecourse. The Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes were run and didn’t clear up any Derby picture but may have made it a bit more cloudy.

In the Arkansas Derby the big favorite was LAWYER RON who was heading into the race with a five race win streak with two wins in the prior Arkansas Derby preps in the Southwest Stakes and the Rebel Stakes both at Oaklawn Park. With a full field of 13 horses, LAWYER RON broke in fifth early on past the quarter mile and with a rush up the inside, all on his own, dragging jockey John Mckee to the lead down the backside and never looking back to score by almost three lengths. The fractions were reasonable 23, 46:2, 1:10:4, 1:37:3 with a final time of 1:51:1. The last 1/8th of a mile wasn’t great coming home in almost 14 seconds which is not a great last 1/8th of a mile although he did do it easily. The second place finisher in the race was STEPPENWOLFER, who had finished second to LAWYER RON in the Southwest Stakes and third to LAWYER RON in the Rebel Stakes made a solid move up the inside, got through traffic, came outside and closed well for second. If he gets a contested pace in the Derby he will be one of the horses to come running late to maybe get a piece of the race at a price. BROKEN VOW who finished third, chased LAWYER RON into the lane but could not make an impact and finished a tired third. He is probably not a 1 and 1/8th miles horse and wouldn’t expect to see him on the Triple Crown trail and further. The rest of the field in the Arkansas Derby was well beaten and will be taken off the Derby trail most likely.

In the Blue Grass Stakes there were a few horses that needed a big race to back up their hype. BLUEGRASS CAT, FIRST SAMURAI and the undefeated STRONG CONTENDER were all in here to make their mark but none of that materialized as those three horses didn’t even run first or second between them. The winner of the race in very impressive fashion was a Bob Baffert trainee in SINISTER MINISTER who was coming off a second place finish in the CalDerby to CAUSE TO BELIEVE at Golden Gate Fields. His only win in his career came in a maiden claming event back in January at Santa Anita for $62,500 at 5 and ½ furlongs. So his win in the Blue Grass Stakes was a little surprising considering he won by more than 12 lengths. The fractions of the race were solid, 22:4, 45:4, 1:09:4, 1:35:2 with a solid final time of 1:48:4 as he widened in the final 1/8th of a mile. The second place finisher was STORM TREASURE who was sent off at 65-1 with STRONG CONTENDER third and BLUEGRASS CAT fourth. There was another nine lengths back to the fifth place finisher FIRST SAMURAI who never made any impact. His jockey Rafael Bejarano said after the race that he doesn’t think this horse wants to go a 1 and 1/8th miles and by the way he ran it doesn’t look that is his best distance. Off that huge effort SINISTER MINISTER will take some money come Derby time but he will face a lot more pressure and he was obviously helped by the speed/rail bias at Keeneland, a situation that he won’t see at Churchill Downs.

There are more than 20 horses right now on the road to the Derby and of course only the top 20 horses with graded earnings get into the race so there will be some horses that want to run that will be left out. With the addition of SINISTER MINISTER in the race there should be plenty of pace signed on which will make for another exciting renewal of the Kentucky Derby.



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