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Apr 15, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            The major Kentucky Derby preps were run on Saturday April 9th,  the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita, and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

            In the Illinois Derby there was a field of 12 horses that went postward with WATCH ME GO, the Tampa Bay Derby winner going off as the 2-1 favorite. SOUR, was the 7-2 second choice with JOE VANN, THE FED EASED and EL GRAYLING going off as the co third choices at 5-1. As the race unfolded, longshot LAGOON OF DIAMONDS set the moderate pace while under pressure from JOE VANN who sat second with THE FED EASED stalking the leaders from third. As they moved past the ¾ mark in 1:13:3, JOE VANN and jockey Florent Geroux took over the lead with THE FED EASED moving right with him. As they entered the stretch JOE VANN dug in and began to draw away late putting away THE FED EASED scoring by a bit more than four lengths. ZOEBEAR, who is still a maiden closed from well back to get up for second by a half length over THE FED EASED who finished third, seven lengths clear of the fourth horse. The final time of the race was not very impressive in 1:51:4, just 9/100ths of a second from 1:52. This was JOE VANN’s third win in a row after two wins at Laurel prior to this. This Todd Pletcher trainee would be up against it in the Derby considering his running style and who he beat in his final prep.

            Moving onto the Santa Anita Derby, the final prep in Southern California, run over a distance of 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $1 million dollars, nine horses went postward after two defections leading into the race. The two favorites, PREMIER PEGASUS and JAYCITO both had to be withdrawn leading into the race, PREMIER PEGASUS was found to have an injury two days prior to the race. He underwent surgery to have a stabilizing screw placed in the injured leg on April 8. "In two months, we'll see the X-ray and if everything is good, we can take out the screw," Ayala said, assistant trainer to Myung Kwon Cho. Ayala said Premier Pegasus will remain at the stable to be monitored during that time. He could go to a local farm to continue his recuperation this summer. "I think three months will be enough time" at the track she said. "Then, I think two more months. The doctor said it's not too bad and it looks good." She said that Premier Pegasus could resume training in September "if everything is okay.” JAYCITO, who had some foot issues had to also be scratched prior to the race but it seems like he might be able to make the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23rd as his final prep.

            Now let’s take a look at the race itself. As the gates opened COMMA TO THE TOP was sent right to the lead setting fractions of 22:4, 47:1, 1:11:2, with the lukewarm favorite SILVER MEDALLION tracking just off the leaders while longshot OFFLEE WILD BOYS just inside of those two. As they entered the stretch, COMMA TO THE TOP still held that advantage with MR. COMMONS trying to gain inside and MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE, a Bob Baffert trainee closing well on the outside. As they hit the wire, MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE, facing winners for the first time got up to score by a head over COMMA TO THE TOP with MR. COMMONS finishing third and SILVER MEDALLION fading to fourth in his first try over conventional dirt. The final time of the race wasn’t bad in 1:48:3 but other than MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE, the others might be up against it in the Derby just based on their running style.

            Finally moving to the Wood Memorial, which featured the two year old champion, previously undefeated UNCLE MO, the race would be run over 1 and 1/8th miles distance and carried a purse of $1 million dollars, with added money coming from The Resorts World New York Casino. A field of nine went postward with UNCLE MO going off as the 1-9 favorite. The rest of the field didn’t have many credentials heading into the race. The other stakes winners were TOBY’S CORNER who won the ungraded Whirlaway and PREACHINTOTHEDEVIL who won a New York bred stakes on New Year’s Day. As the gates opened, UNCLE MO found himself on the lead through moderate fractions with longshots, DUCA and STARSHIP CAESAR stalking him. As they got to the ¾ mark in 1:12:1 it looked like UNCLE MO would have plenty left over this field. However, as they turned into the lane UNCLE MO couldn’t get away from the field despite being asked to run and ARTHUR’S TALE took over the lead in the center of the track before TOBY’S CORNER flew down the stretch between horses to get up by a neck over ARTHUR’S TALE with UNCLE MO a length back in third. This was a huge upset considering the field quality and the ease of the trip. After the race, it was found that he grabbed a quarter at the start and then was given a blood test to find out if anything else was wrong. After undergoing a battery of tests, veterinarians concluded that Uncle Mo had a gastrointestinal tract infection, according to a press release issued Thursday morning by owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher. He is still on track for the Derby, he will be treated for this infection and will look to bounce back in the Derby come May 7th.



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