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Apr 02, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            There were many Kentucky Derby preps over the weekend of March 27th and 28th. There were four graded races and one race in a different country, over four different racetracks. It helps to clear up some of the Derby picture but with two more weeks of major preps left we are still up in the air.

            The UAE Derby ran at the new Meydan racetrack in Dubai on Saturday March 27th. It is a Group 2 race that is open to three year olds from the Northern Hemisphere and four year olds from the Southern Hemisphere. MENDIP who finished third in the race was a nominee for the American Triple Crown but couldn’t outrun the winner MUSIR who is an Australian bred four year old. You probably will not see any of these horses in the Triple Crown but they may show up at some point in North America.

            At Turfway Park they held two prep races, the Grade II Lane’s End at 1 and 1/8th miles and the other was the Rushaway, which was not graded and run at 1 and 1/16th miles. In the Rushaway, a race that features later developing three year olds that could improve after the Kentucky Derby the race went to a Todd Pletcher trainee EXHI. He was making his first start over a synthetic surface and was able to take it wire to wire despite setting a decent early pace under Russell Baze. This three year old colt by MARIA’S MON will not be pointed to the Derby but is an interesting sort for down the line and he also handles the turf. Moving on to the major prep at Turfway in the Grade II Lane’s End Stakes—nine horses went postward with the Todd Pletcher trainee, CONNEMARA going off as the favorite. With a couple of longshots leading the way early on through a moderate half mile in 48:2, DEAN’S KITTEN was getting a good trip sitting outside those runners while racing four wide, he moved up to challenge the leaders into the lane and drew away late to score by a comfortable two and a half lengths. NORTHERN GIANT closed to finish second for trainer D. Wayne Lukas with the favorite CONNEMARA checking in third. As far as DEAN’S KITTEN’s chances in the Derby his only start over the dirt came over a good track at Belmont but he never lifted a hoof finishing last, almost 34 lengths behind the winner. He does have some tactical speed and is bred to get the distance but he has to prove he can handle dirt and a better class of horses.   

            Moving to the Fair Grounds where they held two prep races but only one that was graded and would have any impact on the Derby. The highlight of their meeting which came to an end on March 28th, was the Louisiana Derby. A field of 13 horses went postward with DISCREETLY MINE going off as a slight favorite at 7-2. As the gates broke, LITTLE WARM who was stretching out in distance for the first time made the lead with DISCREETLY MINE sitting right off of him. As they headed down the backside they stayed in the same order with a few longshots making moves towards the  lead but the pace was still moderate through a half in 47:4. As they turned into the lane A LITTLE WARM tried to quicken away from DISCREETLY MINE and was holding the slight advantage to late in the drive when MISSION IMPAZIBLE swung out through the lane after saving ground most of the way and got up to score by ¾’s of a length over A LITTLE WARM. DROSSELMEYER who also got a good trip closed ground to finish third over DISCREETLY MINE who faded to fourth. MISSION IMPAZIBLE is trained by Todd Pletcher who added yet another contender to his arsenal and was ridden by Rajiv Maragh.

            The final prep of the weekend was the Grade III Sunland Derby at Sunland Park which was run at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $800,000. There was a field of nine that went into the gate with the odds-on favorite CONVEYANCE trying to stay undefeated. He came out of the gate running and set the early pace while getting down to the half in 48 flat with ENDORSEMENT not too far behind him. NACHO FRIEND the second choice and TEMPTED TO TAPIT the third choice were laying third and fourth. As they approached the top of the stretch they started to pick up the tempo and ENDORSEMENT who was coming off a maiden score at Oaklawn Park in his previous race took over the lead and began to draw away from CONVEYANCE who held clear for second while three lengths clear of TEMPTED TO TAPIT who checked in third. The final time of the race was solid in 1:48:2. ENDORSEMENT who is trained by Shannon Ritter and owned by Winstar farm was only making his fourth career start but he now has the earnings if they want to take a shot in the Derby. This gives Winstar a very strong hand headed into the first Saturday in May.

            Next week we will take a look at the Wood Memorial, Illinois Derby, and Santa Anita Derby and then only one more week of major preps on April 10th.

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