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Apr 01, 2011

New Kentucky Derby shooters make their mark

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The winners of the $1 million Louisiana Derby, the $500,000 Spiral Stakes and the $800,000 Sunland Derby will all make their next start in the Kentucky Derby, but don't expect any of them to be a factor in the Run for the Roses.

Pants On Fire, the other half of the Kelly Breen-trained entry with Nacho Business, surprised a field of 12 to win the Louisiana Derby by a neck over 36-1 long shot Nehro, with the 3-2 favorite, Mucho Macho Man, a half length farther back in third. Nacho Business, the supposed stronger half of the entry, finished a dismal eighth.

The winner paid $14.60 to win, while the $2 exacta came back a generous $459. The final time of 1:49 4/5, almost two seconds off the track record, was on the slow side considering how fast the track was playing.

Earlier on the card, Prime Cut ran 1 mile and 70 yards in a blistering 1:41 1/5 (just one tick off the track record) in his thrilling three-quarter-length upset of 1-10 Bind.

Pants On Fire, who will train up to the Kentucky Derby, raced his final three furlongs in 37 3/5 seconds and still held off Mucho Macho Man. The latter looked as if he would easily run down the eventual winner at the eighth-pole, but failed to keep his momentum due to losing a shoe at the start of the race. Despite the win, Pants On Fire repeatedly bore in and out through the stretch, so don't look for him to be anything more than an early pace factor on the first Saturday in May.

Nehro, coming off an impressive maiden victory in his third career start, ran well to finish second. The son of Mineshaft could be sent next to the Arkansas Derby, although the $200,000 he picked up on Saturday has him sitting 20th on the graded earnings list.

Elite Alex had zero chance breaking from post 12 as the son of Afleet Alex trailed by over a dozen lengths down the backstretch. He made a nice move heading into the stretch while running his fourth-quarter in a swift 23 3/5 seconds, but that quick burst took its toll as he flattened out through the stretch and finished fourth. Elite Alex is far down on the earnings list, so unless trainer Tim Ritchey takes him off the Derby trail, look for him to make one more start before the Run for the Roses.


Trainer Graham Motion was not as high on Animal Kingdom as he was on Crimson China, but due to lack of earnings, the latter was forced out of the Spiral Stakes and into the Rushaway Stakes earlier on the card.

Although Crimson China failed to win his ungraded stakes event, Motion still had an entry in the Spiral and a pretty good one at that as Animal Kingdom was the second choice in the wagering behind favored Positive Response.

The pace was a quick one as Positive Response threw down a brisk 23 2/5 first quarter, followed by a 46 2/5 half (for comparison purposes, the early fractions in the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway were 24 2/5 and 48 4/5). Animal Kingdom then made a huge move up the rail from seventh to fourth, but he did so as Positive Response, Decisive Moment and Son of Posse put up an unbelievably slow 26-second third quarter. It made the move more visually impressive than it actually was.

Animal Kingdom powered his way to the front at the top of the stretch, taking the lead away from a very game Decisive Moment, and then drew clear from that colt down the lane to win by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:52 1/5 for the nine furlongs. It was the slowest Spiral Stakes since Lil E. Tee ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:53 2/5 back in 1992 (don't forget, Lil E. Tee went on to win the Kentucky Derby after finishing second in the Arkansas Derby). In addition, Animal Kingdom's final three furlongs were timed in 39 1/5 seconds, well off the 37 3/5 run by Pants On Fire in the Louisiana Derby

Both Animal Kingdom and Decisive Moment will train up to the Kentucky Derby, but don't look for either one of them to hit the board. As for Crimson China, he will most likely be wheeled back in three weeks for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland as will the Rushaway winner, Swift Warrior.


Twice the Appeal, sent off at odds of 25-1, punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby with a 1 1/2-length win over Astrology in the Sunland Derby. The Jeff Bonde-trained 3-year-old sat the perfect trip, close to five lengths off the early pacesetter through blazing fractions of 22 3/5 and 45 seconds.

The eventual winner got past a tiring Astrology through the stretch to win going away, while Ruler On Ice closed well for third. The $2 trifecta returned $2,548.60 and the $2 superfecta, with 41-1 shot It's My Party in fourth, came back a whopping $48,391.60.

Despite the victory, Twice the Appeal "walked" home with an atrocious 39 4/5 final three furlongs, proving he has little chance of duplicating this victory over at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May. On the bright side, Bonde will now make it to Kentucky regardless of how well his top 3-year-old Sway Away performs in his next start.

As for Astrology, the son of A.P. Indy obviously needed the race because this was his first appearance since last November. The bay colt has enough graded earnings to qualify for the Derby, but it will be next to impossible for him to win if he doesn't race one more time before May 7.

The star of the show on Sunday was Bob Baffert's 3-year-old Plum Pretty, who demolished four other fillies in the Sunland Park Oaks. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro cruised to a 25-length score while racing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 seconds.


1) Uncle Mo; 2) Dialed In; 3) Soldat; 4) The Factor; 5) To Honor and Serve; 6) Premier Pegasus; 7) Stay Thirsty; 8) Jaycito; 9) Santiva; 10) Mucho Macho Man; 11) Flashpoint; 12) Sway Away

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