American Turf Magazine
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Mar 02, 2012



               There were two Kentucky Derby Prep races run over the February 25-26th weekend, with the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds and the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

               The Grade II Risen Star Stakes was run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $300,000. There was a field of 11 horses that went in the gate with 9 betting entrants as there were two entries. As the gates opened longshot, HERO OF ORDER was sent to the lead and set moderate fractions of 24:2, 48:3 with MARK VALESKI stalked that runner from second with the odds-on favorite EL PADRINO racing in third. As they moved down the backstretch and into the far turn those positions remaind unchanged. MARK VALESKI took over that lead in the middle of the turn with EL PADRINO starting to track that runner into the lane. MARK VALESKI, under jockey Rosie Napravnik dug down deep to hold that slight advantage over EL PADRINO and jockey Javier Castellano, as they approached the wire EL PADRINO was able to get his nose in front to score at 4-5. MARK VALESKI just missed as the second choice at 3-1 as part of the coupled entry with MR. BOWLING. He was more than five lengths clear of Z DAGER who finished third just ahead of the early leader HERO OF ORDER who was sent off at 79-1. The final time of the race was 1:42:4 which was not bad considering the moderate half mile time, from the ¾ mark to the mile they went a quarter in 23:4 and another 6 seconds for the last 1/16th, not bad for improving three year olds. EL PADRINO ran his record to three wins from five starts with one second and one third. This was just his second start of the year and he can only get better for the Todd Pletcher barn. MARK VALESKI on the other hand was making just his fourth start, with two wins and a second. He hails from the powerful Larry Jones barn and stamped himself as a contender with that result. MR. BOWLING, the other part of the entry of MARK VALESKI who won the LeComte stakes at the Fair Grounds back in January finished last of the 11.

               Moving on to the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 26th at Gulfstream Park, a Grade II run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $400,000. This was supposed to be a race of the Todd Pletcher unbeatens and UNION RAGS, who had just one loss in his career, a head defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs to HANSEN as the even money favorite. ALGORITHMS, who was undefeated in three career starts and was probably going to go off as the favorite in the race was scratched the morning of the race because of a problem with the splint. After further evaluation ALGORITHMS will have surgery for a fractured splint bone in his right front leg and will miss the Triple Crown, trainer and Todd Pletcher and co-owner Jack Wolf said in a statement according to the Daily Racing Form. He was to ship from Palm Meadows to Ocala, Fla, where the surgery was going to be performed by Dr. John Madison of the Ocala Equine Hospital . The hope is to have him back for late summer early fall but he would definitely miss the Triple Crown. Javier Castellano, who had to make a choice of riding UNION RAGS or ALGORITHMS chose ALGORITHIMS, so despite everything else going right for him this winter this choice has backfired a bit right now. As the race unfolded, DISCREET DANCER, the other previously unbeaten Todd Pletcher trainee and slight favorite at 4-5 was sent to the lead getting fractions of 24:2, 48 flat while being track by NEWS PENDING. As they entered the top of the lane, UNION RAGS moved three wide with a powerful run and took over the lead, he edged away in the lane to score by a geared down four lengths over NEWS PENDING who beat a tired DISCREET DANCER who just held on for third. The final time of the race was 1:42:3 a solid time off that half mile and it couldn’t have been faster if UNION RAGS jockey Julien Leparoux would have let him run. Obviously with more important races to come he didn’t and it made the racing world pick their heads up and UNION RAGS showed he is back. NEWS PENDING is an improving three year old and should be looked at in the coming weeks, DISCREET DANCER, although talented is probably at his best going one turn.

               There is only on Kentucky Derby prep to be run this weekend, on March 3rd at Aqueduct when they host the Gotham Stakes and two year old champion, HANSEN makes his second start of the year after finishing second to ALGORITHMS in the Holy Bull, should be a good race and the Kentucky Derby picture tries to become just a little bit clearer.



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