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Mar 01, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               There were three prep races over the last 10 days that could have a big impact on the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. The first race we will look at came over Oaklawn Park on February 18th in the form of the Southwest Stakes.

               The Southwest stakes is a Grade III run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $300,000. The Southwest Stakes offered points of 10,4,2,1 for the 1st through fourth place finishers. When the gates opened the even money favorite, SUPER NINETY NINE came out of the gate running and went right to the lead. This Bob Baffert trainee set fractions of 23:1, 47:2, while holding 1 ½ length lead. The second choice in the race, ALWAYS IN A TIZ made a move down the backside to get into contention racing in third while BIG LUTE, the third choice in the race tracked from second. Moving around the final turn, SUPER NINETY NINE started to open up his lead under jockey Rafael Bejarano while the two stalkers started to tire. In the lane SUPER NINETY NINE continued to be distance between him and the field scoring by a geared down 11 ¼ lengths, FEAR THE KITTEN closed well for second and HEAVEN’S RUNWAY checked in third. This was SUPER NINETY NINE’S first stakes win and is very interesting going forward to Kentucky.

               The Risen Star at the Fair Grounds offered 50, 20, 10, and 5 points for the first four finishers. It was a Grade II, run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $400,000. There was a field of 12 that went postward with NORMANDY INVASION going off as the 3-2 favorite. After the gates opened, NORMANDY INVASION was off a beat slow and then had to steady and check trailing the field early on. PROUD STRIKE was sent to the lead from the inside with CODE WEST right on his heels through fractions of 23:4, 48:1, 1:12:3. Passing the 3/4 ‘s CODE WEST took over the lead with OXBOW moving to challenge. Into the lane, OXBOW took a slight lead, with CODE WEST battling back, PALACE MALICE was bearing down on those two and longshot IVE STRUCK A NERVE closing on the far outside. As they approached the wire, IVE STRUCK A NERVE got up by a nose over a game CODE WEST at odds of 135-1, another half-length back was PALACE MALICE while OXBOW another nose back in fourth. NORMANDY INVASION with his early trouble and wide trip did very well to finish a close-up fifth about two lengths off the winner. He galloped out well and should be a force going forward for trainer Chad Brown. The top four finishers all ran good races as well and it should be interesting to see how they respond in their next prep.

               The Fountain Of Youth was the final prep race, it also carried points of 50,20,10 and 5 for the first four finishers. It was a Grade II event run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $400,000. A field of 9 went postward and saw the three year old debut of VIOLENCE who was three for three heading into the race. As the gates opened MAJESTIC HUSSAR came out running and went right to the lead setting some very fast fractions of 23, 45:2, 1:08:4, he was being chased by CERRO and SR. QUISQUEYANO. VIOLENCE who was down inside early and not that far off the early pace moved up on the backstretch heading into the far turn to move into second, he took over the lead into the lane but couldn’t hold off the late charge of ORB who was the second choice and ran his winning streak to three. The final time of the race was a solid 1:42:1. VIOLENCE was very game in defeat fighting hard to the wire to just miss by a half-length. Unfortunately VIOLENCE came out of the race with an injury. He fractured a sesamoid bone in his right front ankle, and his racing career is in jeopardy according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Other than ORB I don’t see any one coming out of the Fountain of Youth and making an impact on the Derby picture going forward.



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