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Mar 26, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            As we move closer to the May 1st date of the 2010 Kentucky Derby the major prep races are moving fast and furious. However, on Saturday March 20th there were only two preps with only one that will really have an impact on the Derby but one that may impact the other Triple Crown races. Both of these preps came at Gulfstream Park in the Swale Stakes and the highlight of their meeting the Florida Derby.

            The Swale Stakes, a Grade II with a purse of $150,000 run at seven furlongs was virtually a two horse race according to the board as there were only two horses in single digit odds. Nine horses went into the gate with D’ FUNNYBONE going off as the 1-2 favorite. As the gate opened D’ FUNNYBONE was prominent early on pressing the longshot leader through some very quick fractions that saw the half go in 44:2. Taking over that lead into the lane through six furlongs of 1:08:4 D’ FUNNYBONE was over two lengths in front with second choice IBBOYEE making a wide move from last to get into second but had to settle for second to D’ FUNNYBONE in a very quick seven furlong time of 1:21:4. D’ FUNNYBONE now has four wins from five tries in the Richard Dutrow Jr. barn but they will probably not be moving on to the Derby and instead taking another route staying in one turn races with a possible start in the second leg of the Triple Crown the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

            The next race on the card was the Florida Derby, a Grade I with a purse of $750,000 that carries a purse of 1 and 1/8th miles. There were 11 horses that went postward with the Todd Pletcher trainee, RULE going off as the lukewarm favorite at 9-5 and the Richard Dutrow Jr. trainee, RADIOHEAD the second choice at 5-2. As the gates opened PULSION was the surprise leader and he was sent from the inside to hold his position forcing the favorite RULE to race just outside him with many other horses hung out wide, especially RADIOHEAD who was moved five wide into the first turn. As they continued down the backstretch RULE continued to race just outside of the leader through a solid half mile in 46:2. Moving into the far turn RULE took over from PULSION but RADIOHEAD began to fade tiring to eventually finish 9th, as RULE began to get away PLEASANT PRINCE was moving on the turn and ICE BOX who trailed the field early on was coming with a very wide move racing in third. RULE continued to battle through the lane as PLEASANT PRINCE drew alongside that rival with ICE BOX bearing down on both of them. ICE BOX got to the lead inside as they passed the 1/16th pole, he drifted out a touch and lost the lead but then gamed it out to the wire to score by a nose despite racing on his wrong lead throughout the stretch. Sent off at 20-1, ICE BOX got his third win in seven tries and was coming off a fifth place finish behind ESKENDEREYA in the Fountain of Youth before this huge run. PLEASANT PRINCE, who was sent off at 29-1 had finished just in front of ICE BOX in the Fountain of Youth but finished a half length behind that one in the allowance race back in mid January. Both of these horses and RULE who was battling the whole way put in very good efforts and the time of 1:49 flat was ok; look for these horses to have an impact on the Kentucky Derby on May 1st.

            LENTENOR, a full brother to BARBARO, the ill-fated winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby, was trying the conventional dirt surface for the first time in his career after three turf starts and one synthetic effort. Racing in 10th early on he moved up on the turn to get into contention but was green thereafter and moved down towards the inside part of the track and had a bit of traffic but still managed to finish fourth. His trainer Michael Matz said that he is off the Derby trail because he still has to learn and get over his greenness and will be pointed to the three year old races later this Summer.

            On Sunday March 21st the New York horseman held a rally at Belmont Park and boycotted the first race at Aqueduct that day as what was termed as “just the beginning” of what they will do to pressure government officials to make a decision regarding the stalled casino project at Aqueduct. In an article in the Daily Racing Form by David Grening, "There was undivided support for what we did yesterday, both [boycotting] the first race and the rally." Trainer Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "People are very interested in what happens next, if we've gotten anybody's attention. It's just a matter if the message gets to Albany and we somehow capitalize on the community interest and frustrations. It certainly was a start. We can't drop the ball now." The fact that it has come to this is sad, the once great New York Racing industry is in a tough spot, no slots; Monmouth will soon be running three days a week with $1 million a day in purses and all the other surrounding tracks running with big purses with the influx of slot money. It has only been nine years now you would hope that this can be figured out before racing as we now it is totally gone.


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