American Turf Magazine
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Mar 20, 2009

American turf club lead

By: Joe Girardi

            On March 14th there were four prep races for the Kentucky Derby at four different racetracks as the Road to the Derby heats up.

            The Grade II Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds came first, run at 1 and 1/16th with a purse of $600,000 and had a field of nine horses going postward to be run over a sloppy (sealed) surface. The favorite in the race was FRIESAN FIRE who was sent off at 2-1 while coming off two wins in the previous preps at the Fair Grounds. He stalked the pace of the California shipper PAPA CLEM, took over into the lane and dominated the action thereafter scoring by more than seven lengths on the wire. PAPA CLEM, the pacesetter held on for second by a head with TERRAIN closing well for third. The second choice in the race was PATENA, who was making his first start for Richard Dutrow Jr. didn’t do any running and finished next to last. The sloppy track could be an excuse for some of these but FRIESAN FIRE certainly looks like the real deal for trainer Larry Jones.

            The Tampa Bay Derby was next with a field of 10 going postward for a purse of $300,000 and run over a distance of 1 and 1/16th miles. The 2-1 favorite in the race was HELLO BROADWAY who was coming off a second place finish in the Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park but he didn’t show up here running a sluggish seventh. The second choice in the race was GENERAL QUARTERS who was coming off an upset victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes a few weeks earlier over this track. MUSKET MAN who had his unbeaten streak broken in the Sam F. Davis when he finished third rebounded with a sharp victory despite traffic trouble on the backstretch. Trained by Derek Ryan and owned in part by Eric Fein, the owner of last year’s Tampa Bay Derby winner BIG TRUCK this three year old by YONAGUSKA is now four wins from five starts and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the next big test. JOIN IN THE DANCE a 35-1 longshot from the Todd Pletcher ran very well in his first start at two turns after leading most of the way.

            The Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita was next with a purse of $200,000 and run at a distance of 1 and 1/16th miles drew a field of six with PIONEEROF THE NILE going off as a heavy favorite. After stalking the early leader NEW BAY who was sent off as the second choice, PIONEEROF THE NILE took over into the lane and then had to work hard to score by a little more than a length. This was only his second start of the year and obviously he was not fully cranked for this race. He did what he had to do and the Santa Anita Derby will be next on his agenda. He will probably be favored in that one also but when it comes to the Kentucky Derby he will have to prove that he can handle the conventional dirt course at Churchill Downs.

            The final of the four preps was at Oaklawn Park. The Grade II Rebel Stakes had a purse of $300,000 and was also run at the 1 and 1/16th miles distance. This race drew a field of nine and was probably the most anticipated as the undefeated and heavily favored OLD FASHIONED tried to run his record to five for five. Sent off at 2-5 he stalked the sharp early pace of SILVER CITY who went to the half in 46 flat. OLD FASHIONED took over past the ¾ mark and held a clear lead into the lane but his jockey Ramon Dominguez was really working on him and he eventually gave it up late to 56-1 longshot WIN WILLY who scored going away by more than two lengths. OLD FASHIONED was eight lengths clear of the show horse; the final time of the race wasn’t quick but the track was a little slow on that day. It was only his second start of the year and he may have been used up chasing that sharp early pace but he still should have finished it off. He will be making his next start in the Arkansas Derby and he should have gotten a lot out of that effort. Look for him to bounce back for the Larry Jones barn. WIN WILLY on the other hand ran his record to three wins from four starts, he is undefeated in all three starts on the main track. He is by Derby winner MONARCHOS and may be getting good at the right time.

            Next week we will take a look at the two prep races from Turfway Park.

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