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Apr 22, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            For the most part the major prep races are over, the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday April 23rd is the last chance for most of these three year olds to earn their way into the Derby based on graded earnings. The Jerome Handicap on the same day at Aqueduct is also listed on the website as a Derby prep but don’t expect any horses from that race to move on to the Derby. The following week, April 30th at Churchill Downs they will run the Derby Trial, a race that in the past would be sometimes used as a prep but that was long before horses had only two Derby preps instead of four or five. The last two major preps came at Keeneland in the Bluegrass Stakes, run over Polytrack at 1 and 1/8th miles and the Arkansas Derby run over the same distance at Oaklawn Park.

            In the Bluegrass at Keeneland there was a field of 12 that went postward with SANTIVA going off as the 2-1 favorite. He was coming off a good second in the Risen Star stakes at the Fair Grounds finishing just 1 and ½ lengths off MUCHO MACHO MAN. His other race here at Keeneland resulted in a second in the Breeders’ Futurity and was working well leading into this race. He got away in midpack early on, raced inside into the lane, has some trouble in the lane but never did much running checking in ninth. The winner of the race BRILLIANT SPEED who raced in 12th and last for most of the race, swung out into the lane while wide and came with a very strong run to get up and score by a nose over TWINSPIRED who was just a head in front of KING CONGIE. The time of the race wasn’t very flashy in 1:50:4 but the early fractions over the Polytrack were slow so a fast final time wasn’t expected. BRILLIANT SPEED was making his first try over a synthetic surface after running some very solid races over the turf. His main track races were both up the track finishes beaten by a total of 40 lengths. The second place finisher was another who excelled on synthetic tracks as well as the third place finisher KING CONGIE who also was up the track in two main track starts but ran well over the turf. I wouldn’t expect to see any of these runners to have much impact on the Triple Crown races this year.

            In the Arkansas Derby there was a field of 13 that went postward with THE FACTOR, a big winner of Rebel Stakes going off as the 4-5 choice. The second choice in the race was SWAY AWAY and ELITE ALEX who both went off at 6-1. As the gates opened and the race started to unfold, THE FACTOR who was expected to make the lead was forced to take back and race from third early on as J P’S GUSTO was sent hard from the outside post 11 with blinkers on and set the pace through fractions of 22:2, 46:2, 1:11:1. DANCE CITY, a 29-1 longshot from the Todd Pletcher barn was sitting second and THE FACTOR was stalking the leaders from the outside in third. As they moved for the turn J P’S GUSTO began to tire, DANCE CITY took over while under pressure from SWAY AWAY who made an early move to challenge the leaders and put a head in front at the top of the stretch. As they moved through the lane, DANCE CITY battled back on SWAY AWAY, ARCHARCHARCH, continued a sustained run to take over the lead and then there was a final rush from NEHRO who flew home just missing by a neck late. ARCHARCHARCH who also won the Southwest Stakes here at Oaklawn has a good running style for the Derby will be a longshot to watch as well as NEHRO who with only four starts heading into this race has shown much improvement over his last three efforts. A big maiden win, a second in the Louisiana Derby and then another fast closing second in the Arkansas Derby. He will definitely be one to watch come Derby for the Asmussen barn.

            Next week we will take a look at the Lexington and Jerome briefly as we get ready for the Kentucky Derby in two weeks.


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