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Mar 09, 2012

Injuries becoming a factor on Derby Trail

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


(Sports Network) - First, Algorithms was injured and lost for the Triple Crown prior to his expected start in last month's Fountain of Youth Stakes. Then, Out of Bounds injured himself in a workout this past Monday and he, too, will miss the classics.

Now, Fed Biz will be staying in the barn instead of making his stakes debut in Saturday's San Felipe at Santa Anita because of stomach cramps.

A winner of his last two starts, Fed Biz is in minor danger of not being able to compete in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. He has zero graded earnings to his credit, and time is running out to earn enough money to qualify for the first Triple Crown race.

In a perfect world, the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 17 would be the ideal substitute for the San Felipe. That race would give Fed Biz enough time for a second start before the Derby. However, it's doubtful Fed Biz will rebound in time from his current ailment to get at least one workout under his belt to be fit to run in less than two weeks.

The more practical spot is the $800,000 Grade III Sunland Derby on March 25. This race has been used by Baffert each of the last three years with modest success. Sinai wound up last in 2011, but Conveyance and Mythical Power both finished second in 2010 and 2009, respectively.

The $800,000 purse would be just what the doctor ordered since even a second- place finish would give Fed Biz $180,000 in graded earnings. The problem with this option is that the Sunland Derby is six weeks before the Run for the Roses.

Would Baffert bring Fed Biz back in three weeks for the Arkansas Derby and then race him another three weeks later in the Kentucky Derby? Even though the horse is lightly raced, three races in a span of 41 days would be asking a lot of the young horse.

Or would he send Fed Biz straight to Churchill Downs off a six-week layoff and only four career starts? That does not sound like a wise plan but a horse has won the Kentucky Derby once before off a 42-day break with just four lifetime appearances. Anyone remember Animal Kingdom from last year?

Whichever direction Fed Biz goes, one can probably expect a victory in his next start. However, duplicating the same result in the Kentucky Derby might prove to be a difficult task, particularly after having missed valuable training time just two months prior to the first Saturday in May.

BODEMEISTER GOES INSTEAD

Speaking of lightly raced horses, Bodemeister, named for Bob Baffert's son Bode, replaces Fed Biz in the San Felipe. The Empire Maker colt, who closed at 29-1 in Pool 2, will be making just his third career start, and first since his spectacular maiden victory at Santa Anita on Feb. 11.

Bodemeister was not only clocked in an eye-catching 1:34 2/5 seconds for the mile event, he also ran his final quarter mile in a brisk 23 4/5. It's a huge jump from a maiden special weight race to mixing it up with graded stakes winners, but Baffert has been high on this horse for a long time.

Look for Bodemeister to try and sit behind the likes of American Act and Midnight Transfer, while Creative Cause and Liaison are primed to grab the lead as the field hits the final turn. Others, such as Rousing Sermon, Empire Way, and Blingo, will be closing from the back of the pack in what should be a highly contentious race.

The choice here is a one-two finish for trainer Mike Harrington with stable mates Creative Cause and Empire Way finishing first and second, respectively.

Earlier on the card, Bob Baffert sends out a 3-year-old filly named My Selection in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race. The first-time starter is a half-sister to last year?s Fountain of Youth winner, Soldat. She may not win on Saturday, but keep her in mind when she hits the turf, especially since she was sired by Badge of Silver.

TWO PREPS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

Todd Pletcher has not won the Tampa Bay Derby since Limehouse prevailed in 2004. Can he pick up another victory with the undefeated Spring Hill Farm?

The son of Smart Strike ran his record to two-for-two with a win over Unbridled Minister in the third race - an allowance event - on Feb. 11. The final time of 1:39 2/5 for the one mile looks extremely slow at first glance, but the track was a quagmire, especially early in the day.

His toughest competitor will be Take Charge Indy, who comes into the Tampa Bay Derby off a second-place finish to El Padrino back in an allowance event on Jan. 29. It was the colt's first start since a fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and it came over a track rated good but one that held a lot of moisture.

Battle Hardened, the Sam F. Davis winner, will take some money as well after winning the Tampa Bay Derby prep as a maiden. Prospective, the third-place finisher in that race, gets a much improved post position on the rail compared to the 11-post he had in the Sam. F. Davis. Ravelo's Boy, who closed for fourth that day, also returns for this 1 1/16-mile race.

The pick is Spring Hill Farm on top and underneath of Take Charge Indy.

The other Kentucky Derby prep race comes on Sunday at Gulfstream Park. The Grade III Palm Beach Stakes, run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, features the return of Dullahan. Mine That Bird's younger brother has not raced since finishing fourth, just ahead of Take Charge Indy, in last year's BC Juvenile.



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