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Apr 19, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-BLUE GRASS AND ARKANSAS DERBY

By: JOE GIRARDI


               The final of the “Major Derby Preps” were run on 4/13/13, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn. Both of these races were run over 1 and 1/8th miles and carried a points distribution of 100, 40, 20 and 10 to the top four finishers. There are actually two more prep races that carry points heading to the Derby and they are the Lexington at Keeneland on 4/20/13 and the Derby Trail at Churchill Downs, both of these races have a 20, 8, 4 and 2 points to the top four finishers.

               In the Blue Grass at Keeneland there was a full field of 14 that went postward for a purse of $750,000, run over the Polytrack. The favorite in the race was RYDILLUC, who was 3 for 4 coming into the race, all three wins coming over the turf and one race over a conventional dirt track at Belmont where he finished well up the track. The co-second choices in the race were JAVA’S WAR, second to VERRAZANO in the Tampa Bay Derby and PALACE MALICE, who was coming off a troubled seventh in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds, both of them going off at 9-2. When the gates opened, RYDILLUC came out running for the lead from post 13 and got a good spot in second into the clubhouse turn behind UNDRAFTED who set the early pace. JAVA’S WAR was left at the start and trailed the field of 14 early on behind fractions of 23:4, 48, 1:12:3. As they moved down the backstretch, RYDILLUC took over the lead as UNDRAFTED dropped back, PALACE MALICE was tucked in right behind in third. As they moved into the lane, RYDILLUC still held the lead but PALACE MALICE was closing in. JAVA’S WAR in the meantime was making a wide move to get into contention as well as CHARMING KITTEN. As they continued into deep stretch, JAVA’S WAR was able to get up late over a still green PALACE MALICE who only switch back to his right lead late. Another neck behind was CHARMING KITTEN AT 22-1 while RYDILLUC tired to finish fourth. JAVA’S WAR put in a big effort to score coming from well back despite the slow start and does have a good kick which can come in handy in the Derby especially with a pace up front. PALACE MALICE ran well to finish second while CHARMING KITTEN closed well for third, all three of those horses are expected to go on to the Derby. RYDILLUC, who was previously undefeated over the turf will probably find his way back to the lawn for trainer Gary Contessa.

               A field of 10 went postward with the Bob Baffert trainee, WAR ACADEMY going off as the 9-5 favorite off an easy win in an allowance race at Santa Anita. The second choice in the race was OXBOW who was an easy winner in the LeComte in mid-January at Fair Grounds and just missing by a head in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park a month earlier. When the gates opened longshot DIVINE AMBITION was sent to the lead from the inside with FALLING SKY in close pursuit while another longshot, HEAVEN’S RUNWAY not that far off in third. As they moved down the backside through fractions of 23:1, 47:3, 1:12:2, FALLING SKY had taken over the lead, while the favorite, WAR ACADEMY had pulled up under Mike Smith. Moving into the turn, FALLING SKY still had the lead, DEN’S LEGACY moved up the inside to challenge while FRAC DADDY was in contention on the outside third. Into the lane FALLING SKY was still there, DEN’S LEGACY couldn’t go on, but OVERANALYZE was really moving down the center of the track under jockey Rafael Bejarano. OVERANALYZE, took over the lead and drew away nicely at the end to score by more than four lengths. 23-1 longshot FRAC DADDY got up for second late over 22-1 longshot, CARVE who closed for third. FALLING SKY checked in fourth while OXBOW checked in a non-threatening fifth. OVERANALYZE, really improved off his three year old debut in the Gotham when he checked in fifth and reverted back to his solid two year old form. He is another from trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn who is going to have multiple horses in the starting gate for both the Derby and the Oaks. OXBOW who was a disappointing fifth for D. Wayne Lukas has enough points to qualify and would need an improved effort to have a shot on the first Saturday in May. FALLING SKY is another who has enough points but not sure he will move on to the Derby after tiring in the lane again and may be better at shorter distances.

               We don’t expect to see any one moving on and having an impact from the last two Derby preps as the Kentucky Derby field starts to take shape just two weeks away .

              



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