There were three important prep races on Saturday 3/20, the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, the
Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway and the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
In the Gotham Stakes the favorite was EDDINGTON, who was coming off two impressive two
turn wins at Gulfstream. He was turning back to a one turn mile as a tune-up for the Wood Memorial. He was
off to an awkward start and still raced greenly in the drive but did get up for the show spot behind
SARATOGA COUNTY and POMEROY. The time of the race was solid 1:35:2, even thought the early fractions
were much faster, 21:4, 43:3, , but they were aided by the wind down the backside. POMEROY, who was
coming off a long layoff, not having run since September, ran very game to finish second. He battled the whole
way with the leaders and was still there at the end while not having raced in over 6 months. The winner
SARATOGA COUNTY had the benefit of a perfect trip behind the leaders. The next race on his agenda looks to
be the Lexington at Keeneland on April 17th, however, his pedigree does not lend itself to a mile and a quarter
so he doesn’t seem to be a top contender. EDDINGTON looks to be the main contender that will exit the race.
In the Lane’s End at Turfway Park the heavy favorite in the race was BIRDSTONE. He was near the top
of many experts Derby lists but he came up empty when it counted to finish fifth. The may have been an excuse
according to his trainer Nick Zito who felt that the horse ran badly because the track was sealed. The winner
of the race was SINISTER G, who was coming off a solid second by a nose in an allowance race. This horse
who is trained by John Toscano Jr., is owned by his two sons John Toscano III and Robert Toscano, and ridden
by his other son Paul Toscano. The son of MATTY G took the lead from the start, took on a challenger on the
turn, and then drew off in the lane to score going away. The time of the race was 1:50:3 but that was run over
a sealed track which may have caused the slower time. They are looking at the Wood Memorial for his next start
and this improving three year old may just be up to the task. BIRDSTONE will obviously have to improve off
that race but should be given another shot; his next start should be in the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 10th.
The Rebel Stakes was run at Oaklawn Park. This race was the second to final prep at Oaklawn Park for
the Kentucky Derby. Many will use this race as a stepping stone to the April 10th Arkansas Derby, which this
year will have a $1 million purse. This race was also the start of the $5 million bonus. If a horse could sweep
the Rebel, the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby they would get a $5 million bonus from Oaklawn Park.
The winner of the race was SMARTY JONES, who has now run his record to 5 for 5. After stalking the early
leader and slight favorite PURGE, he took over and kicked strongly clear to record the win. He will make his
final prep in the Arkansas Derby but many still question with his pedigree if he can get that far. He is by
ELUSIVE QUALITY out of a SMILE mare, so if he does get the Derby distance he will have to outrun his
pedigree. So far he has done that so don’t count him out yet. Second place finisher PURGE was making his
first start around two turns and can only improve for the Todd Pletcher barn.
This weekend there are a few smaller preps before we get into the Big preps the next two weeks.