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Apr 16, 2004

ATC Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Saturday April 10th marked the final major preps for the Kentucky Derby. There are a

 few smaller preps still to be run but their impact will be minimal. The Wood Memorial, the Blue

Grass, and the Arkansas Derby were all run on Saturday April 10th and all of these races should

 impact the Derby in a big way.

            In the Wood Memorial, which is run at Aqueduct, the Derby picture was still not clear but

 we have seen one of the best performances of this prep season. The winner of the race was

 TAPIT, who trailed the field early on before coming with a strong wide run to get up for the win.

 After a poor performance in the Florida Derby where he finished a bad sixth he got back to his

winning ways in the Wood. It was found that he had some mucous in his lungs and that he would

need a top effort to make it to the Derby. His trainer Michael Dickinson said he would have been

 happy with a third place finish, it looks like he is ahead of schedule.     

            Second place finisher MASTER DAVID had not run since February 8th so his effort was

 solid and puts him in the mix as they head to Kentucky. The favorite VALUE PLUS contested the

pace but had no horse when it counted, tiring to sixth. SINISTER G coming off the Lane’s End win

 also came up empty after contesting the early pace. Other than the third place finisher EDDINGTON

 no one else has the look of a Derby horse coming out of the Wood.

            In the Blue Grass the heavy favorite was LION HEART who was coming off his first defeat,

was sent off at 4-5. After leading early on he spurted away on the turn to lead by almost three lengths

heading into the stretch but was still caught at the wire by THE CLIFF’S EDGE. LION HEART

was six lengths clear of the third place finisher LIMEHOUSE who had also contested the early pace

 but could not go on with it. Looks like the top two finishers will go on to the Derby with

LION HEART questionable at the 1 and ¼ mile distance. The rest of the field which included

 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero ACTION THIS DAY and San Felipe victor PREACHINATTHEBAR

 would have to improve leaps and bounds to even be considered a contender. Both horses however

are being pointed to the Derby.

            In the Arkansas Derby, the final leg of the Big Three Pick Three featured undefeated

SMARTY JONES who was five for five coming into the race and had already won the two


Oaklawn had to offer, the Southwest and the Rebel Stakes. Despite breaking from post 11, jockey

Stewart Elliot was able to have him well placed right behind the leader PURGE and took over when

 ready scoring by a driving 1 and ½ lengths. He is now six for six and is eligible for the $5 million bonus

 that Oaklawn offered to any horse that could win the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby and then the

 Kentucky Derby. At this point it looks like he will be the favorite heading into the Derby, albeit a slight

 favorite at that. The fact still remains that his breeding is not that of a 1 and ¼ miles horse, being by

ELUSIVE QUALITY out of a SMILE mare he has definitely outran his pedigree and all he does is

 win. His stalking style should suit him well in the Derby and the added excitement of the bonus will make

 him the talk of the town during Derby week.




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