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Feb 18, 2011

California - Keep Dreaming

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's been six years since Giacomo stormed down the stretch to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby. The 50-1 longshot was the last California-based three-year-old to win the Run for the Roses and the first since Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. If this past Saturday's results have any say in the matter, don't expect the 2011 Derby winner to come from "The Golden State."

The favorite Tapizar, who I had rated ninth in my last top 12 list, ran a dismal fifth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. Sent off at 3-10 odds, the Sham Stakes winner fought jockey Garrett Gomez right from the start when he flew to the front in a quick 22 2/5 seconds. The timer at the track inadvertently posted a 19 second first quarter, and by the way Tapizar bounded out to a 2 1/2-length lead, it seemed as if he was really going that fast.

When three-quarters came up in 1:09 4/5, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt's lead on Anthony's Cross was merely a head, with Riveting Reason close up in third. The fast pace took its toll on Tapizar as he struggled to keep up with the other two through the stretch.

In the end, Anthony's Cross, who Tapizar had beaten by 9 1/4-lengths in the Sham, held off Riveting Reason for a nose victory. He paid $18.60 for the win and $15.60 to show as Tapizar finished off the board.

To pinpoint just how weak this field was, Riveting Reason, who just missed winning the race, was beaten over 15 lengths by Uncle Mo in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Saturday's other California three-year-old stakes race - the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields - was another example of how bad this region's crop is. Three time stakes winner, Comma to the Top sat a perfect trip behind Jakesam, and looked as if he would blow by the tiring pacesetter as the field approached the top of the stretch. However, the gelding drifted out badly and failed to fire when the real running began finishing fourth at 1-2 odds.

Silver Medallion won the race by 1 1/4-lengths over Jakesam, who battled back through the stretch after blowing a two-length lead after six furlongs. The winner paid $15.00 to win and $12.00 to show as another heavy favorite finished out of the money. Silver Medallion is eligible to improve off the victory but keep in mind the son of Badge of Silver has yet to race on dirt.

There is one Kentucky Derby prospect in California that raced last week. Bench Points, a son of Benchmark, who sired 2006 Santa Anita Derby winner Brother Derek, is undefeated in four starts - all sprints - after knocking off Da Ruler in last Friday's seventh race at Santa Anita. He crossed the wire 1 1/4- lengths in front while running six furlongs in 1:08 1/5 seconds. The California-bred gelding, who comes from off the pace, should improve the farther he goes, and with a lack of quality three-year-olds out west, he could wind up winning both the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby.

One final California note, Albergatti, who ran second to Da Ruler in his debut on Jan. 16, defeated first timer Chico d'Oro by a length and a half to break his maiden on Saturday. It was a huge gap of 8 1/2-lengths to third-place finisher Purely Awesome. The gray colt ran his seven furlongs in 1:20 3/5 seconds and could be headed to the San Felipe.


The most impressive performance of the weekend came from Super Saver's kid brother, Brethren, in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Todd Pletcher-trained colt dominated a weak field of 10 to win by four lengths as the 9-10 favorite. Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Brethren took a while to load into the gate and then broke a bit slowly, but rushed up from post 10 to sit a couple of lengths behind 53-1 shot Ribo Bobo. He then took command at the three-quarter mark and never looked back.

The homebred looked extremely professional after the troubled start even though he bore in a bit through the stretch. The win gave WinStar Farm and Todd Pletcher their fourth Sam F. Davis triumph in the last six years. Unfortunately, the first three failed to pull off a victory in the Kentucky Derby, although Bluegrass Cat ran second to Barbaro in 2006.

With stablemate Uncle Mo scheduled to race in the Tampa Bay Derby and then the Wood Memorial, look for Brethren to return to the races in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Apr. 3. If all goes well there, the sky is the limit for Super Saver's undefeated half-brother.


Kiaran McLaughlin unleashed a first-time starter at Gulfstream Park on Saturday named Rattlesnake Bridge. Sent off as the 9-5 favorite, the gray son of Tapit closed like gangbusters to win going away. His time was not that impressive - six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 seconds. However, despite racing greenly through the stretch, he was still able to clip his final quarter-mile in a quick 24 seconds.

In other McLaughlin news, the trainer is getting his top three-year-old from last season geared up as Trappe Shot worked out for the first time in 2011 with a 49 2/5, four-furlong work at Vinery Stable on Saturday.

Also getting ready for a return to the races is four-year-old filly, Medaglia d'Amour. The Wilshire Stakes winner, who hasn't raced since last May, has now put out a pair of three-furlong works at Santa Anita. If she stays healthy, the turf specialist should be among the top fillies in the country.


The first Derby Future Wager of the year begins this Friday and ends on Sunday, with the list of the 23 entrants coming out on Wednesday. Four horses will get the bulk of the action as Uncle Mo, Dialed In, To Honor and Serve, and Brethren have proven themselves to be at the head of the class. I'll give out my top plays this Friday, along with analysis of Saturday's Risen Star, Sunday's San Vicente, and Monday's Southwest Stakes.

1) Uncle Mo; 2) Dialed In; 3) To Honor and Serve; 4) Brethren; 5) Soldat; 6) Cal Nation; 7) Travelin Man; 8) Elite Alex; 9) Bench Points; 10) Machen; 11) Tiz Blessed; 12) Nacho Business.

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