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Mar 15, 2013



On March 9th there were two important prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and the San Felipe at Santa Anita.  Both of these races carried 50, 20, 10, and 5 points to the top four finishers in each race. Both of these races all included undefeated, highly regarded three year olds from top barns.

               The Tampa Bay Derby, run at 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $350,000 and it carried Grade II status. This race featured the ultra- talented and undefeated VERRAZANO, who hails from the Todd Pletcher barn. This three year old by More Than Ready from the Todd Pletcher barn was two for two coming into this race with a maiden win and an allowance win by a combined 24 lengths. This would be his first try around two turns and his first try against graded stakes company. Breaking from post 6 and going off as the 2-5 favorite, VERRAZANO took a small stumble at the start of the race but was keen early on while forwardly placed. He was quickly challenged by FALLING SKY, who was coming off a win in the Sam F. Davis a month earlier over the track, and he let that rival go. As they moved into the backstretch through fractions of 23:2, 47:3, VERRAZANO was right up on the lead with FALLING SKY with second choice DYNAMIC SKY tracking those horses from third. Moving into the far turn, VERRAZANO took over the lead from FALLING SKY while not really being asked and started to draw away into the lane. In the mean time, 32-1 longshot, JAVA’S WAR who was very far back early on was coming with a big run on the turn to get into contention, moved into second and was trying to chase down the leader. However, VERRAZANO was too strong he continued on to the wire for a very easy three length win in a pretty good time of 1:43:4. JAVA’S WAR put in a big effort to run second and FALLING SKY hung in pretty well for third. DYNAMIC SKY, a horse many thought could have a big impact on the Kentucky Derby came home a disappointing fourth. VERRAZANO still has to prove that he can handle the longer distances and ultimately the 1 and ¼ miles of the Kentucky Derby but he continued his brilliance running his record to 3 for 3. JAVA’S WAR is one to look at going forward off that solid second place finish. FALLING SKY, who did well to hold for third might be better suited to a mile and under but he is definitely another talented runner. A few disappointments in the race were PURPLE EGG and HONORABLE DILLON, the former was trying to stretchout but he checked in ninth and last, his first career loss, and the latter was another who was trying to stretchout but he could only muster a seventh place finish. The top two runners out of this race look like they could have an impact going forward.

               The San Felipe was next. Run at Santa Anita, over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $300,000, this race was also a Grade II. There were eight horses that went postward with the formally undefeated FLASHBACK going off as the even money favorite. GOLDENCENTS, another high on many Derby lists with a 3 for 4 record was sent off as the second choice at 2-1 and HEAR THE GHOST, a three year old gelding with just two prior starts was the third choice at 5-1. As the gates opened, 22-1 SALUTOS AMIGOS was sent to the lead with GOLDENCENTS in close pursuit. FLASHBACK he was ridden a bit to try and keep up was on the inside in third, however, as they moved into the clubhouse turn as GOLDENCENTS was trying to take back, FLASHBACK and Julien Leparoux moved outside and at the same time Kevin Krigger moved GOLDENCENTS and they both went by to challenge for the lead. The early fractions were fast but as the race went on the fractions were just too quick, 22:4, 45:4, 1:09:4. As they moved into the lane FLASHBACK and GOLDENCENTS were still together with FLASHBACK getting a slight advantage. As they came down to the wire, FLASHBACK held the lead but HEAR THE GHOST and 12-1 longshot TIZ A MINISTER were flying. HEAR THE GHOST got up for the half length win with FLASHBACK holding on for second over TIZ A MINISTER, GOLDENCENTS was another 1 ¼ lengths back in fourth. The final time of the race was 1:42:1, not a bad time overall. FLASHBACK suffered his first loss but probably gained a lot in doing so and will be one to watch going forward. It was announced that his trainer Bob Baffert would be making a jockey change to Garret Gomez. HEAR THE GHOST was making just his first start around two turns and can improve for Jerry Hollendorfer. GOLDENCENTS, another who was caught up in that early duel still ran well but some might question if he wants the Derby Distance. All in all, this three year old crop looks like a good one and can’t wait to see how it plays out leading up to the Derby.

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