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Mar 25, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


On March 19th, 2005 there were four important Kentucky Derby

Prep races at four different racetracks. The Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay

 Downs, the San Felipe at Santa Anita, the Gotham at Aqueduct and the

 Rebel at Oaklawn Park.

            In the Tampa Bay Derby, the headliner was SUN KING who was

sent off at 1-20 and didn’t disappoint. In a race without much speed, SUN KING

found himself on the lead through very moderate fractions holding a slight

advantage until mid-stretch when Edgar Prado finally asked for some run and

 he drew away easily. He obviously didn’t beat anything of quality but he did

what he had to do and this has him on target for his next start in the Blue Grass

 at Keeneland on April 16th. A win in that race will put him among the

favorites heading into the Kentucky Derby.

            In the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita this race was wide open

with ROMAN RULER going off as the 3-1 lukewarm choice. The Baffert

trainee was coming off a long layoff and was battling some injuries so far

this winter. He never ran a step and finished last of eight, he will be taken

off the Kentucky Derby watch and given some time to heal up. The winner

of the race was CONSOLIDATOR, who stalked the pace and took over for an

 easy score going away by more than six lengths. This chestnut son of

STORM CAT is really coming into his own and his trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows

 how to win a Triple Crown race. His next race is also expected to come in the

 Blue Grass and a big effort there will point him out as a contender come the

 first Saturday in May. GIACOMO ran second and DON’T GET MAD was

third both well beaten by the winner. They will both have another race leading

 into the Derby but they would need a much improved effort to be given a

realistic shot come Derby Day.

            In the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct the 6-5 choice was

GALLOPING GROCER, a New York bred who had finished a good second last

year to ROCKPORT HARBOR. Many horses move forward from two to three

 but some regress and GALLOPING GROCER looks like he has taken a few

steps back. After a fourth place finish in the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct

against a weak field he finished third in the Gotham. He was later placed second

 by D’Q but the field in the Gotham was nothing to write home about either.

The winner SURVIVALIST had only a maiden win prior to this race and the

 horse that finished second, PAVO, raced for most of the race with the jockey

 out of the irons. It would be hard pressed for anyone to come out of this race

 and make an impact on Derby Day.

            The final Derby Prep on March 19th was the most interesting with

three top Derby prospects. The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn featured, AFLEET ALEX,

 ROCKPORT HARBOR and GREATER GOOD. AFLEET ALEX was coming

 off a win in a small stakes just two weeks prior and was sent off at 3-5 with

ROCKPORT HARBOR at 8-5 and GREATER GOOD at 9-2. Despite breaking

 awkwardly and getting bumped at the start, ROCKPORT HARBOR was

quickly clear to the lead, with AFLEET ALEX stalking in second and

GREATER GOOD not that far behind in third. The fractions were moderate and

ROCKPORT HARBOR had a clear lead as they headed into the stretch with

AFLEET ALEX chasing the pace. AFLEET ALEX stopped in upper stretch and

 finished last of six while GREATER GOOD closed with a rush to get up for the

 score by a half length over ROCKPORT HARBOR. Heading into the race,

 previously unbeaten ROCKPORT HARBOR had to deal with a bruised hoof

and then a cut that hadn’t completely healed which causing a problem. This was

 a big race from a horse that wasn’t at full strength, but he did get away with easy

 fractions and the fact that AFLEET ALEX stopped suddenly also helped. After

 the race it was found that AFLEET ALEX had a lung infection and is expected to

 race in the Arkansas Derby despite that fact. John Velazquez who replaced jockey

Jeremy Rose wants the mount back for that race. ROCKPORT HARBOR and

GREATER GOOD are also expected back for the Arkansas Derby and both of

them will be tough with the Rebel under their belts.

            The prep races on March 26th are at Turfway and Laurel, not the best

 races on the road to the Kentucky Derby but the Dubai World Cup is also on

the docket. See you next week.

 



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