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Apr 24, 2009

American turf club lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Don’t forget that American Turf will be covering the Kentucky Derby the day before the race. Call us at 1-800-645-2240 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday May 1st, the day before the Derby. You can also access the Kentucky Derby selections by visiting our website at starting on Friday at 3 p.m. up until post of the race on Saturday. We are offering our selections at $25 for the Derby or $50 for all three races in the Triple Crown.

Well it’s finally here, the Kentucky Derby is upon us, the cold weather, the snow, the ice, it’s all gone now. This is the best time of the year to be a horse racing fan. The big races are starting, the hope for next year is upon us as the two year old races have started, the warm weather is right around the corner, and for me personally, Saratoga is less than three months away.

            Before we move into the Derby itself we had one more prep race left. The Lexington Stakes from Keeneland would be the last real chance for some of these horses to get into the Derby and it may have just played out that way. The was a large field of 11 horses that entered the gate for the Lexington Stakes with SQUARE EDDIE going off as the 7-5 favorite. He easily had plenty of graded earnings but his connections felt they needed to give him a race since he hadn’t run since mid-January and if he was to run in the Derby a race would do him well. Well he didn’t win but the fact that did get a race into him would help him on the first Saturday in May. He didn’t get the best of trips, he broke slow and raced near the back of the pack, he made a big move from next to last to make the lead at the top of the stretch all while racing five wide. When he did get to the lead in the lane he drifted in and seemed to get a bit tired late. That was understandable considering the layoff and he should move forward off that effort, if he can do that in just two weeks in between that race and the Derby will remain to be seen but he did show that he has a ton of ability and may be one to watch on Derby day. The winner of the race came from even further back racing in 11th early on for trainer Todd Pletcher. ADVICE, who had shown some promise early on in his career and was always thought of highly by his connections unleashed a huge rally through the lane to score going away by a length. His win gave him $186,000 more in graded earnings and puts him in the Derby if connections see fit. If he does run that would give Todd Pletcher three runners for the Kentucky Derby, DUNKIRK, TAKE THE POINTS and ADVICE. The second place finisher in the race was CONSERVATIVE who hails from the once powerful Phipps barn but he doesn’t have enough earnings and would look for some three year old races as the year goes on.

            Some more Derby news this past week was the choice of jockey Garret Gomez. He was on two top Derby prospects in PIONEEROF THE NILE and DUNKIRK. He made his choice over the weekend and went with Bob Baffert’s PIONEEROF THE NILE over DUNKIRK. His reasons according to his agent in an article in the Daily Racing Form was "If I had won four stakes, two Grade 1's on the other horse I would have been on that one". Gomez also gave his reasons in an interview with TVG stating in the same article, "There is more there; I found that [out] a couple of races back and that’s one of the things that really impressed me about him," Gomez said. "Hopefully, in the Derby, we’ll be able to have some kind of nice trip where he's able to have some kind of target out there, and I'm sure we will."

            This was easily one of the toughest choices for a jockey in terms of selecting a Derby horse because DUNKIRK, who is royally bred could be any kind and has shown that he can handle conventional dirt. Edgar Prado, a wily veteran has picked up the mount and Prado has also ridden DUNKIRK before in his maiden score at Gulfstream Park.

            Although some of these horses heading into the Derby will have to prove a lot, especially being able to handle the conventional dirt track you can get a gauge on this by tracking the works over the Churchill Downs racetrack. The daily racing form website has a lot of info on the Derby and you can read articles concerning the works leading up to the first Saturday in May.


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