American Turf Magazine
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Feb 20, 2015



               On February 7th there were two prep races for the Kentucky Derby, the Withers at Aqueduct and the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita. Both of these races will offer 10, 4, 2 and 1 point for the top four finishers as these horse try to gain points to get into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.         

               The Withers is a Grade III race for three year olds run over the inner track at 1 and 1/16th miles and it carried a purse of $250,000. In the Withers there was a field of six that went postward with El Kabeir going off as the 1-2 favorite on the basis of his huge win in the Jerome over the inner track back on January 3rd. When the gates opened, everyone broke cleanly except for Far From Over, who took a bobble and then a stumble and was away about five lengths behind the field. Classy Class, the 7-2 second choice came out running from the inside and was pressed by March and El Kabeir through fractions of 24:2, 47:4. As they moved down the backside, Classy Class and El Kabeir continued to battle as March took back off the pace to lay in third. As they moved around the turn, the ¾ mark was 1:12, March moved up outside to challenge the two leaders into the lane as Far From Over moved up the inside to get into fourth. Into the lane March began to tire as El Kabeir and Classy Class continued to battle into deep stretch only to get picked off by a flying Far From Over who got to the outside and rolled on by for the win by almost two lengths. The final time of the race was a decent 1:43:4 despite the relatively moderate half mile. Far From Over now is undefeated from two starts, a nose score in his debut and then followed that up with a big effort to win the Withers despite taking that stumble at the start. He is by Blame out of an A. P. Indy mare so the distance of the Derby shouldn’t be a problem. El Kabeir held on for second by a length over Classy Class. Those two runners didn’t run badly but they may be better going one turn as the year goes on.

               Moving onto Santa Anita for the Robert B. Lewis, a Grade III race for three year olds run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $150,000. There was a field of five that went postward with Dortmund going off as the 3-5 favorite and Firing Line going off as the close second choice at 8-5. When the gates opened 29-1 longshot Tizcano came out of the gate running and set the pace for a half mile while under pressure from Dortmund through fractions of 23, 46:4. As they moved into the far turn, Dortmund had dispatched of Tizcano but Firing Line was right on his flank. As they moved around the turn, Firing Line had taken a slight advantage and into the lane got away from Dortmund by about a length from Dortmund. As they continued through the stretch Dortmund and Martin Garcia dug in and battled back to come back and win the race by a head over Firing Line the same margin he defeated him by in the Los Alamitos Futurity. There was over a 21 length gap to the third horse Rock Shandy who was another 7 and ¾ lengths ahead of the fourth place finisher. The final time of the race was a solid 1:42:1 and these two horses look like the top two contenders on the west coast. Dortmund who is now 4 for 4 but has been tested hard in his last two while Firing Line, who only has one win has lost his last two races by a head. Both of these horses are exciting prospects going forward.

               The horse of the year and the “People’s Horse” California Chrome returned to the races in the San Antonio Invitational, a Grade II for four year olds and upward with a purse of $500,000. A field of nine horses went postward with Shared Belief going off as the even money favorite and California Chrome going off as the close second choice at 7-5. When the gates opened, Alfa Bird came out running and set the pace through fractions of 23:3, 47:4, 1:12:2 while being tracked by California Chrome and Shared Belief. As they moved around the turn, California Chrome took over the lead with Shared Belief right up on his flank. Into the lane, California Chrome held the lead but Shared Belief under Mike Smith dug in and rolled on by the champion and went on to score by a length and a half. California Chrome was more than six lengths clear of the show horse Hoppertunity as both of those horses ran very well in their four year old debuts. It would be great to see both of these horses hook up again because it would be great for the sport.



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