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Mar 13, 2015

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-GOTHAM-TAMPA BAY DERBY-SAN FELIPE

By: JOE GIRARDI


               As we move closer to the Kentucky Derby which is now less than two months away there were three prep races on March 7th that we will take a look at.  The Gotham at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and the San Felipe at Santa Anita. All of these races offered 50, 20, 10 and 5 points to the top four finishes as they try to gain points to move into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

               The Gotham, a Grade III for three year olds run over 1 and 1/16th miles, carrying a purse of $400,000. There was a field of 10 that went postward with only eight betting entrants as there was a three horse Mike Repole entry. The favorite in the race was the 6-5 El Kabeir. El Kabeir had finished second in the Withers back on February 7th at 1-2 and prior to that was an easy winner in the Jerome. When the gates opened El Kabeir was taken off the early pace and then was shuffled back a bit racing in ninth early on as Toasting Master and Blame Jim set the pace. The fractions of the race were solid, 23 flat, 46:3, 1:12 flat. As they moved up the backstretch Toasting Master still held the lead as Blame Jim began to tire, meanwhile, Chuckie Lopez made a good move up the backstretch to get into contention, moved outside around the final turn and blew past the leaders to score going away by almost three lengths. The final time of the race was a slow 1:45:2 but the track was muddy and this race was faster than other races at the same distance earlier in the card. Tiz Shea D, who was making his first start off the private purchase after an easy win in his debut, sat in behind the leaders and finished well for second at 11-1, Classy Class checked in third. Not sure if El Kabeir wants to go further that the 1 and 1/16th miles and may be even better on the turf but he does deserve a shot in one of the final Derby preps next month.

               In Tampa Bay Derby, a Grade II for three year olds run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $350,000. There was a field of eight that went postward with Carpe Diem going off as the even money favorite despite not racing since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he checked in second as the favorite that day. Divining Rod came away running from the inside last out and battled for the lead with My Johnny Be Good through fractions of 23, 46:3, 1:11:1 while Carpe Diem found a good spot behind the leaders. As they moved into the far turn, Carpe Diem moved up to challenge Divining Rod as they moved into the stretch, under jockey John Velazquez he took over the lead and began to draw away late to score by almost five lengths in a solid final time of 1:43:3. Ami’s Flatter closed good ground to finish second while Divining Rod held on well for third. Previously undefeated and second choice Ocean Knight moved up some down the backstretch to get into fifth but he tired to finish seventh in a poor effort. Carpe Diem is now 3 for 4 and that win over a tricky Tampa Bay racetrack should have this one ready as he moves forward to the Derby on the first Saturday in May.

               In the San Felipe, a Grade II for three year olds run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $400,000. There was a field of 10 that went postward and the undefeated Dortmund was sent off as the 4-5 favorite. When the gates opened Dortmund was sent to the lead and set the pace of 23, 46:4, 1:11:1 while being tracked by Sir Samson and Bolo. As they moved around the final turn and into the lane Dortmund was challenged for the lead by Bolo who moved up alongside, jockey Martin Garcia went to work on Dortmund who responded and edged away despite lugging out just a bit. Prospect Park, the second choice in the race closed well to finish second and Bolo stayed on well for a good third. Ocho Ocho Ocho, who was also undefeated coming into the race at 3 for 3 tired in the lane and checked in 8th in his first start since November. Dortmund is a big horse that needs some time to get going and he has been challenged in his last three which should benefit him as he moves towards the Kentucky Derby.

               Carpe Diem and Dortmund are two horses that should have no problem handling the Derby distance, El Kabeir on the other hand still has to prove it to me before I say he is a true contender for that race, either way there are some very exciting prospects on the Road to the Derby.



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