American Turf Magazine
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Mar 28, 2014



               There was two Derby prep races over the weekend of March 22nd and 23rd. The Sprial run over the synthetic track at Turfway Park and the Sunland Derby run at Sunland Park on Sunday the 23rd.

               A field of 12 horses went postward at Turfway Park in the Spiral Stakes with the 2-1 favoritism going to Tamarando who was shipping in off a win in the Grade III El Camino Real Derby. The Spiral is a race run over 1 and 1/8th miles for three year olds with a purse of $550,000. When the gates opened there were three horses that were sent to the lead, Solitary Ranger, an easy winner over this track on March 1st, Almost Famous, coming off a poor effort in the Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and Harry’s Holiday who was a well beaten third in the race where Solitary Ranger scored wire to wire. As they moved around the turn those three battled for the lead through fractions of 22:3, 47:1, 1:12:2. As they moved around the turn, Solitary Ranger and Almost Famous couldn’t go with the leaders and began to back up, at the same time, Coastline and second choice We Miss Artie began to gain some ground as they moved into the lane. Harry’s Holiday was still there in midstretch with Coastline right alongside and We Miss Artie was another length and a half back in third. As they came to the wire, Coastline couldn’t get by Harry’s Holiday but We Miss Artie surged late and got up to score by a desperate nose over an unlucky Harry’s Holiday with Coastline another head back in third. The final time of the race was 1:52:1 with the last 1/8th of a mile coming in almost 14 seconds, not an encouraging sign but the track wasn’t playing very fast all day. We Miss Artie, who is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by John Velazquez hasn’t shown much on conventional dirt so far. However, he did show that he can get a distance of ground and he has a pretty solid kick but there would still have to be some improvement heading into the Derby to be considered a top contender. The Spiral offered 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the top four finishers in this race as they try to gain entry into the Derby.

               In the Sunland Derby there was a field of nine that went postward with the Bob Baffert pair going off as the first and second choice. Chitu was sent off as the 9-5 favorite and Midnight Hawk was sent off at 2-1 as the second choice. When the gates opened, Garen another southern California shipper was sent right to the lead and set fractions of 23:1, 46:2, 1:09:3 before beginning to tire past the ¾ mark. Chitu with jockey Martin Garcia took over the lead with Midnight Hawk going right with him around the far turn. Those two horses moved as a team into the lane but Midnight Hawk just couldn’t go with Chitu late as Chitu edged away to score by more than two lengths. Midnight Hawk was almost five lengths clear of the show finisher, Commissioner who checked in third another 1 and ½ lengths ahead of Rebranded. The final time of the race was a solid 1:47:4, just two fifths off the track record over a track that wasn’t playing overly fast all day. As far as these horses heading into the Derby that is another situation. In the Sunland Derby no one really did much running except the top two horses and Commissioner, who closed for third was really the only one to make up significant ground. Chitu, who ran his record to three wins from four starts is by Henny Hughes which certainly doesn’t scream 1 and ¼ miles. However, he does have A. P. Indy on the bottom side which should help from a distance standpoint but he just doesn’t look like a horse that will excel at the Derby Distance. Midnight Hawk who ran second, has lost now three straight races and has seemed to regress after posting two impressive wins to start his career. Being by Midnight Lute out of a Wolf Power mare he is another that might not excel going the Kentucky Derby distance. The third place finisher, Commissioner, who was beaten seven lengths in this race ran a lot better than it looked. This three year old colt, from the Todd Pletcher barn is bred ideally for the Kentucky Derby distance. His sire is A. P. Indy out of a Touch Gold mare, which screams Kentucky Derby, he didn’t seem to handle the racetrack at Sunland early on and did close some ground late in a better than looked effort. It would be interesting to see where his next race is and if they try to make it to the Derby but he has the best shot out of those top three come Derby time. The Sunland Derby also offered 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the top four finishers.



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