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Mar 18, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            On March 12th there were three prep races for the Kentucky Derby at three different racetracks. Last year’s two year old champion returned to the races and another Pletcher trainee may have dropped off some of the top ten lists.

            We will start at Gulfstream with the Timely Writer Stakes and the return of UNCLE MO. With the scratch of the 3 horse there was only a field of five lined up for this one mile event with UNCLE MO the overwhelming 1-20 favorite. After breaking well from the rail post he was bumped off stride by the #2 GALLANT DREAMS but he quickly recovered and moved up to make the lead. Setting the pace through slow early fractions of 25:2, 49:2, he was a half length in front as they hit the ¾ mark in 1:13:3 with second choice RATTLESNAKE BRIDGE putting the pressure on. As they turned for home, John Velazquez asked UNCLE MO to run just a bit and he did drawing away in the lane to score by almost four lengths coming home in just under 23 seconds for the final quarter mile, a very impressive run through the lane. Now he wasn’t in against much and the time wasn’t overly impressive but he did what he had to do and should be all set now for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9th if all goes to plan.

            In the Tampa Bay Derby Todd Pletcher had another highly ranked three year old in BRETHREN, a half brother to last year’s Kentucky Derby winner SUPER SAVER. Going into the race with a record of three for three and a win over the Tampa Bay surface in the Sam F. Davis he was sent off as the 1-2 favorite. Breaking from post 10 he positioned himself right behind the longshot leader through moderate fractions, took over that lead past the ¾ mark but couldn’t go with the top two when challenged and tired to finish third. The winner of the race was WATCH ME GO, who had closed to finish third in the Sam F. Davis, he won by a neck over 86-1 CRIMSON KNIGHT who believe it or not was coming off a win against $16k claimers over the turf and making the first start off the claim. Obviously this race will not be looked at as one of the better preps and it would be surprising to see one of the top two move on and do much damage this year but I guess you never know when it comes to improving three year olds. BRETHREN would need a big bounce back effort if he was to take a run for the roses.

            The final prep was the Grade II San Felipe run over 1 and 1/16th miles at Santa Anita. The field of 10 went postward with JAYCITO, who was moving into the Bob Baffert barn for the first time and returning from a November layoff going off as the 2-1 favorite. The early pace of the race was insane with three horses across the track through splits of 21:3, 44:2, 1:08:4. Two of those three horses tired to finish last and next to last with COMMA TO THE TOP running on well despite the duel to check in a well beaten fourth. PREMIER PEGASUS, who was exiting the first loss of his career and taking the blinkers off for the first time got the great trip behind the speeds, made a wide move on the turn after stalking from sixth early on, swept to the lead and never looked back scoring by almost eight lengths. Always one to show speed he showed a new dimension with the blinkers off and he definitely has the breeding to go the Derby distance. His next prep will probably come in the Santa Anita Derby and it will go a long way to show if he belongs but he definitely showed that he is one to watch.

            Some good news to report out of South Florida, injured jockey Eibar Coa, who was injured in a spill on February 18th at Gulfstream Park, has reportedly regained significant movement in both his upper and lower body according to his agent, Tito Fuentes based on an article in the DRF. Fuentes also said that Coa is moving his arms and legs and is sitting up in bed and speaking clearly. Coa continues to progress nicely and hopefully this story will end well.


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