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Apr 22, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            With less than two weeks until the Kentucky Derby there is a

 buzz about this year’s Derby that we haven’t seen in a while. So many huge

Derby prep wins, the Wood Memorial, the Illinois Derby and now the

Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass can be added to the list.

            In the Arkansas Derby on April 16th at Oaklawn Park we had a field

 of 10, that lost some of its luster when ROCKPORT HARBOR had to skip

 the race because of a blood clot in his neck. The slight favorite in the race

 was AFLEET ALEX who was coming off a disappointing performance in

 the Rebel Stakes when he had a lung infection. He rebounded strongly from

 that effort scoring by eight lengths in a solid time of 1:48:4. FLOWER ALLEY

 was the second place finisher with ANDROMEDA’S HERO checking in third.

The second choice in the race was GREATER GOOD who showed that

the 1 and 1/8th miles is probably too far and his breeding bares that out.          

            After stalking the pace midpack jockey Jeremy Rose made his move

 on the turn and blew by the field drawing away for an easy score. The final

 time of 1:48:4 was solid but the final 1/8th of a mile went in 11:4 without

really being asked; this bodes well for the Derby distance of 1 and ¼ miles.

 His tactical speed and good turn of foot and his final 1/8th of a mile is going

 to make a AFLEET ALEX  tough customer come Derby Day.

            In the other major prep race, the Blue Grass at Keeneland, this race

 had four legitimate contenders, with the favorite, HIGH LIMIT, going off

at 5-2. The other three horses CONSOLIDATOR, SUN KING and BANDINI

were all sent off at 3-1. Longshot SPANISH CHESTNUT showed the way

 through honest fractions of 23:2, 46:3, 1:10:2, with HIGH LIMIT stalking

him the whole way. After the six furlong mark, HIGH LIMIT took over the

 lead with BANDINI breathing down his neck, as they entered the stretch

BANDINI continued his long run and took over the lead drawing away to

 score by six lengths. The time of the race was 1:50 flat over a fast track was

 not great but the track was not producing fast times. This three year old

 hails from the Todd Pletcher barn and still has a lot of room for improvement,

 as he showed his greenness in the Florida Derby back at Gulfstream in early

April. His sire FUSAICHI PEGASUS won the Kentucky Derby but was also

 a bit hard to handle at times.

            Over the last few weeks this makes four blowout wins in the preps

leading up to the Derby. BELLAMY ROAD will probably go off the favorite

 in the Kentucky Derby based on huge victory in the Wood Memorial.

However, GREELEY’S GALAXY, BANDINI, and AFLEET ALEX also blew

out their fields in their final preps. BELLAMY ROAD will probably hold down

 favoritism but BANDINI and AFLEET ALEX won’t be that far off on the

toteboard. ROCKPORT HARBOR, who would have been the favorite in

 the Arkansas Derby, still has his prep race left in the Lexington at Keeneland.

 His connections maintain that he would have to run a huge race to run in

the Kentucky Derby but the way these prep races have been going and the

fact that the Lexington will not have any world beaters look for

ROCKPORT HARBOR to earn his way to Churchill Downs on the

1st Saturday in May.

            On another note SWEET CATOMINE, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

fillies hero has been retired and she will be bred to A. P. INDY. She was sent

 off as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby against the males but she

disappointed finishing fifth. This didn’t come without controversy as she had

 some health issues leading up to the race which her connections failed to

 disclose. Her trainer and owner have been taking some heat ever since and

even one bettor has filed suit in this case because of the information that

was withheld and the fashion in which they withheld it. This filly had a ton

 of talent and should make for a very good broodmare but it would have

 been nice to keep her around for just a bit longer.

 



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