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Jan 25, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               As we move towards the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May let’s take a look at a few of the preps that were run this year. Remember Churchill Downs switched the system used to qualify horses for the Kentucky Derby from graded earnings to a point system. Points are earned by the top four finishers in designated Kentucky Derby Prep races. Earnings in non-restricted stakes races will serve as a tie-breaker.

               The Sham Stakes was the first prep race of 2013 and was run at Santa Anita on January 5th. There was a field of five that went postward with GOLDENCENTS heavy favorite coming off a win in the Delta Jackpot back in November at Delta Downs. As the gates broke, third choice, MANANDO, was gunned right to the lead with GOLDENCENTS rating just off that leader in second and second choice DEN’S LEGACY sitting back in third. Through honest fractions of 23, 46:1, 1:10 flat those positions remained unchanged. Into the lane GOLDENCENTS was asked for his best run by jockey Kevin Krigger and he eventually wore down the leaders, edging away to score by a comfortable 1 ½ with DEN’S LEGACY getting up for second late over MANANDO, it was very far back to the other two horses. The final time of the race was decent in 1:36:2. That ran GOLDENCENTS record to three wins and a second from four starts and puts him briefly on top of the points list with 24.

               On January 19th, the Fair Grounds hosted the Grade III Lecomte stakes, run over 1 mile and 70 yards with a purse of $200,000. Nine horses went postward with AVIE’S QUALITY going off as the favorite after winning two races from four tries at Woodbine, both of those wins coming over the synthetic surface. When the gates opened, the third choice, OXBOW was sent right to the lead, he set moderate splits of 24:2, 48:2, 1:13:1, he was challenged then by longshot HEITAI as they approached the top of the stretch. Into the lane jockey Jon Court asked his runner to go and he took off drawing away to score by over 11 lengths in a final time of 1:43:1, a solid time based on the early fractions. This three year old colt by Awesome Again now has two wins from six starts but has the look of an improving horse. He is trained by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas who knows how to win a Triple Crown race.

               On January 21st, Oaklawn Park hosted the Smarty Jones Stakes, race run over one mile with a purse of $150,000. Nine horses went postward with a New York shipper ALWAYS IN A TIZ going off as the 9-5 favorite. As the gates broke, the second choice and California shipper AVARE was sent right to the lead with TEXAS BLING in close pursuit laying in second. The early fractions of the race were solid in 23, 46:3, 1:11:4. As they moved down the backside, WILL TAKE CHARGE, a well bred colt by Unbridled’s Song out of the very good race mare Take Charge Indy, started a very wide move to get into contention. As they went around the final turn, TEXAS BLING took over the lead, with WILL TAKE CHARGE alongside, favorite ALWAYS IN A TIZ was being asked for run in behind horses and moved outside to race in third. As they continued through the stretch, TEXAS BLING and WILL TAKE CHARGE were in separable with WILL TAKE CHARGE finally getting the better of the running to get up by a neck late. ALWAYS IN A TIZ started to run on late to finish a fast closing third just a neck and a head off the top two but is one that may want more ground. ALWAYS IN A TIZ is by Tiznow and is probably looking for more ground. WILL TAKE CHARGE is another from the D. Wayne Lukas barn and he now has two wins from five tries and one second. He is another that has license to improve and he is bred to be a good one. The fact that he is in the Lukas barn will not hurt his cause either. Expect to see many of the top runners to return for the Southwest stakes on February 18th.

               The two year old champion, SHANGHAI BOBBY is returning for his three year old debut in the Holy Bull stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday January 26th. The prep races for the Derby will start coming fast and furious as we get closer to the first Saturday in May.



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