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Mar 12, 2004

ATC Lead

By: Joe Girardi

The Florida Derby will be run on March 13th along with the Swale Stakes, both races will

be held at Gulfstream Park. These races will have a major impact on the Triple Crown and can

help start to clear the picture. READ THE FOOTNOTES, TAPIT, and VALUE PLUS are just three

of the top contenders that are expected to race in the Florida Derby.

In the Swale Stakes we expect to see EUROSILVER (#1 on the DRF’s top 10 for the Derby)

and CHAPEL ROYAL returning for the Todd Pletcher barn. The quality is there in both races which should

make for a solid weekend.

This past weekend, March 6-7th there were two preps for the Triple Crown. The San Rafael at

Santa Anita on Saturday March 6th and the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on Sunday March 7th. The

winners of both of these races were impressive and will be ones to follow down the line as the Derby gets


In the San Rafael the heavy favorite was the undefeated LION HEART who was sent off at even

money in this mile event of three year olds. After dominating his first three starts LION HEART would now

be tested for a little more class. After prompting the pace early on while racing three wide, he took over to

open up a length and a half lead but got real tired late as he had to settle for the place spot. The last 1/8 of a

mile went a little over 13 seconds and he seemed to struggle in the late stages. The winner on the other hand

was IMPERIALISM who was coming off an impressive win in the San Vicente a month earlier. This horse

was privately purchased from his connections at Calder and at one time in his career had race for a claiming

tag as low as $25k. He is now being pointed to the Santa Anita Derby along with LION HEART and can

continue his way to the Kentucky Derby. IMPERIALISM, with his late running style is one to watch as the

races get longer.

In the Louisiana Derby there was a large field of 11 horses with the favored entry being sent off

at 2-1. The entry consisted of GRADEPOINT and BREAKAWAY both owned by Will Farish and both

trained by Neil Howard. The former was coming off a win in the Grade III Risen Star and the latter was coming

off a huge allowance win. Both, however, would be tested for class today. Others of interest in the race

were BORREGO who had finished a solid second behind MASTER DAVID in the Sham Stakes. SHANIKO

and POLLARD’S VISION from the Pletcher barn. FIRE SLAM coming off a win in the Lecomte stakes

and WIMBLEDON hailing from the once very potent Bob Baffert barn. WIMBLEDON was coming off a

huge maiden win in his fifth career start after failing as the heavy favorite in four starts prior. He has finally

come into his own and proved that with a win on Sunday. He was sitting seventh while racing inside early behind

the sharp pace before angling out four wide to come with his late run to get up for the score. BORREGO ran

a solid second closing from tenth early on. POLLARD’S VISION ran a good third after making the lead at

the top of the stretch despite racing up close to some swift fractions. BREAKAWAY was fourth after trailing

the field early and the other part of the entry, arguably the stronger half finished a non-threatening 8th.

The plan for WIMBLEDON is to run next in either the Santa Anita Derby on April 3rd or the

Wood Memorial on April 10th. If this big gray colt continues to improve he will be one to watch on Derby

Day, May 1st.

Next week we should be able to start to clear up the Derby picture a little further as more prep

races are run.

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