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Apr 09, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            On Saturday April 3rd, three more major prep races were run with one that would not be considered as a “major” prep. We will start at Aqueduct where they held the Bay Shore and the highlight of their meeting the Wood Memorial.

            The Bay Shore Stakes a Grade III with a purse of $200,000 was run at seven furlongs and six horses went postward with EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY going off as the 3-5 favorite. EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY was coming off a race in the Whirlaway where his rein broke into the first turn and bolted into the fence. He raced in the Bay Shore with blinkers on, he broke from the rail setting a solid pace getting to the half mile in 45 flat despite racing with his head cocked down the backstretch. As they entered the far turn he began to get away leading by two lengths with second choice HURRICANE IKE chasing him the whole way. Into the lane Ramon Dominguez got after EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY a bit and he responded holding the clear advantage by two lengths despite still running with his head cocked but he did win by 2 and ½ lengths in a very solid 1:21:4. They are planning to move on to the Derby Trial a week before the Derby at Churchill Downs and then possibly to the Preakness. They also said that they have not ruled out a start in the Kentucky Derby but that seems very far fetched.

            In the Wood Memorial two races later there was another six horse field. The Wood carries Grade I status, with a purse of $750,000 and is run at 1 and 1/8th miles. The heavy favorite in the race was ESKENDEREYA who was sent off at 1-2 after a dominating win in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park back in February. The Gotham winner AWESOME ACT was the second choice with JACKSON BEND going off as the third choice in the race. As the gates opened 69-1 longshot, MOST HAPPY FELLA went to the lead from the inside and set a moderate pace at best with JACKSON BEND sitting second while ESKENDEREYA stalked the leaders from third. As they moved into the far turn JACKSON BEND challenged the leader with ESKENDEREYA moving three wide to engage those leaders, which he did and he was clear as they entered the stretch and drew away under no encouragement to score in a solid time considering the slow half almost 10 lengths in front of JACKSON BEND who outgamed AWESOME ACT for second. Off his last two performances ESKENDEREYA should be a heavy favorite heading into the Kentucky Derby. JACKSON BEND who has been second to ESKENDEREYA twice in a row will probably be moving to the Derby but would have to show a much improved effort to get anywhere near ESKENDEREYA. However, with the large fields in the Derby anything can happen.

            Moving to Illinois and Hawthorne Park for the Illinois Derby, a Grade III run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $500,000. There were eight horses that went postward with YAWANNA TWIST, a New York bred who was second in the Gotham going off as the 6-5 favorite. AMERICAN LION, who was trying the conventional dirt for the first time went off as the slight second choice. As the gates opened AMERICAN LION held his rail position and made the lead with YAWANNA TWIST not that far behind racing in second. After getting away to slow fractions of 24:4, 49:1, 1:13:1 AMERICAN LION had enough left to battle back on the inside of YAWANNA TWIST and he edged away late for a 2 and ¾ length score. YAWANNA TWIST was second by more than 11 lengths with BACKTALK the third choice checking in third. It looks like AMERICAN LION will move on to the Derby but I doubt YAWANNA TWIST will be or anyone else in this field for that matter.  

            Finally the last prep of the day at Santa Anita Park which hosted the Santa Anita Derby, a Grade I run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $750,000. The odds-on favorite in the race was LOOKIN AT LUCKY with SIDNEY’S CANDY going off as the second choice at 7-2. SIDNEY’S CANDY made the lead and set a moderate clip for a half mile, he began to get away on the turn as the pace was picking up while at the same time longshot WHO’S UP was tiring and dropped in on LOOKIN AT LUCKY who was forced to check and then in turn forcing CARACORTADO to check. This gave SIDNEY’S CANDY a clear advantage into the lane and he never looked back in a solid performance scoring by 4 and ½ lengths with SETSUKO closing from last to finish second while LOOKIN AT LUCKY recovered to nail down third and CARACORTADO came wide for fourth. The way SIDNEY’S CANDY won he was still probably going to win but LOOKIN AT LUCKY would have been second and the race would have been a lot closer. You will probably see the top three at least returning for the Kentucky Derby at May 1st.

            Next week we will take a look at the Blues Grass at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

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