Gotham draws 13, Hansen gets bad post// Consortium, Junebugred latest off Trail// Future Wager Pool #2 odds released

The Gotham Stakes (G3) drew a big field of 13, highlighted by the entry of 2-year-old Champion Hansen.  He was assignd the unfortunate post #12, which is not optimal on the Aqueduct inner track.  Nonetheless, Hansen is the overwhelming favorite at 6-5.  Second choice is My Adonis at 5-1, who trailed Hansen by just a half-length at the wire in the Holy Bull (G3).  There are several other contenders who could be maturing at the right time and on the verge of a breakout performance.  Raconteur, Side Road, and Stealcase are ones we’ll keep an eye on. Entries and preview articles for the Gotham below// More defections from the Trail Wednesday.  Consortium was withheld from the Gotham due to an ankle chip and will not point for the Derby.  That same injury was attributed to Junebugred, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes and a disappointing 6th in the Southwest (G3).  Also, catching up to a bit of old news, Bob Baffert’s Sky Kingdom will be out 60 days which knocks him off the Trail as well// The morning line odds for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #2 were released.  Once again ‘All Others’ are favored at 3-1, however Union Rags is close behind at 4-1. A little surprised to see allowance winner Fed Biz is the third choice at 12-1.  It will be interesting to see if the public keeps him that low.  Six new individual horses were added: Bodemeister, Castaway, Mark Valeski, News Pending, Scatman, and Secret Circle// Speaking of Scatman, trainer Michael Lauer says his phone has been ringing steadily with calls from reporters ever since Scatman challenged Secret Circle all the way to the wire in the Southwest.  The colt will try the Rebel (G2) next, which could setup a rematch if Secret Circle ships back// Bob Baffert’s Fed Biz and Liaison had extended 6-furlongs works and are still on track for the San Felipe// Currency Swap, winner of the Hopeful (G1) last year, is training slowly for a return to racing.  Trainer Teresa Pompay says the colt will ideally race in an allowance at Gulfstream followed by a Derby prep// more…

Gotham Stakes (G3)
Preview articles: NYRA / Bloodhorse / Brisnet / DRF

On the farm: the weaning of Hansen (Hansen Blog via Courier Journal)
Currency Swap getting late start (The Downey Profile)
3-year-olds to watch 2/28 (In The Money Blog)

Super Six Derby Pix (They Are Off Blog)

Motor City- PMM- 4F- 52:22- B- 20/20
Animal Spirits- FG- 3F- 37:80- B- 11/14
Night Tide- SA- 7F- 1.25:60- H- 1/2
Liaison- SA- 6F- 1.13:80- H- 4/12
Fed Biz- SA- 6F- 1.13:40- H- 3/12
Brother Francis- SA- 6F- 1.12:00- H- 1/12

Algorithms off Trail// Florida Derby possible for Alpha, El Padrino// Creative Cause works// Ever So Lucky injured

As is often the case, the rigors of the Kentucky Derby Trail rear their ugly head early and often. Algorithms is officially off the Trail and will have surgery to remove a fractured splint.  A heartbreaking loss for all connections considering he was a serious contender for the Derby// Ever So Lucky has a bruised foot, however the plan is to still make the Swale Stakes (G2) March 10th// Looks like Southwest (G3) winner Secret Circle will return to Oaklawn to try the Rebel (G2).  Even more revealing was owner Mike Pegram stating he’s not giving up Derby hopes for Drill, winner of the 7-furlong San Vicente but dissapointing in recent two-turn attempts.  Derby Fever already creeping up in February?// Interesting article from DRF on Mark Valeski.  Trainer Larry Jones thought the colt looked “fat” before the Risen Star and hopes the tough stretch duel will help tighten him up.  He also said he won’t train the colt too hard leading into the Louisiana Derby (G2) based on his history of sore shins// Creative Cause had a perfect 6-furlong work at Hollywood Park in preparation for the San Felipe (G2) according to trainer Mike Harrington.  He could face his stablemate Empire Way, but the latter may ship to Oaklawn for the Rebel (G2) instead// Theoretically the Florida Derby (G1) could offer an enticing Derby preview featuring not only Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags, but possibly other top contenders Alpha and El Padrino.  Alpha’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin likes the idea of a small field and ensuring Ramon Dominguez rides the colt, while Dominguez could have a conflict in the Wood Memorial in New York where he would probably opt to ride Hansen instead.  As for El Padrino, it still doesn’t seem the Florida Derby is first choice for his owners or Todd Pletcher, but they’re keeping the option open// A good article on all of Dale Romans’s Derby prospects. Romans doesn’t seem too confident in Finnegan’s Wake switching to dirt in Saturday’s Gotham (G3), but he’ll try nonetheless.  

Gotham Probables: Chief Energy, Consortium, Cop A Tude, Dan and Sheila, Done Talking, Hansen, King and Crusader, Maan, My Adonis, Pretension, Raconteur, Tiger Walk (Source: The Downey Profile)

Secret Circle still in running for Derby (Princeton Daily Clarion)
Don’t sleep on Romans (Bloodhorse Blog)
On the move: Rafael Bejarano (Bloodhorse Blog)

AP Top 10 (Associated Press)

Coalition- BEL- 5F- 1.02:88- B- 11/20
Creative Cause- HOL- 6F- 1.11:80- H-1/1
Longview Drive- HOL- 4F- 48:20- H- 4/24
Hierro- SA- 6F- 1.13:20- H- 1/2
Speightscity- BEL- 5F- 1.02:55- B- 6/15

Speed Figures*
Top 3yo winning BRIS figs last week: Secret Circle & The Lumber Guy-103 Union Rags-102; El Padrino-101; Castaway & Politicallycorrect-97

3yo winning Beyers last week: Secret Circle-102; The Lumber Guy-86 Union Rags-95; El Padrino-98; Castaway-92; Politicallycorrect-83.

*Source: DerbyContenders via Twitter

Notes and bits from web and Twitter:
Baffert says his two San Felipe runners 3-10 at SA will be Fed Biz and Liaison. Bejarano will ride one, other rider TBD- Jay Privman via Twitter

Sabercat could go to 3-17 Rebel for 2012 debut, rather than 3-10 San Felipe, Asmussen says. Nakatani will have mount - Jay Privman via Twitter

Union Rags in good order, News Pending may get rematch// Updated Kentucky Derby future odds, rankings

Union Rags photo by Julien Leparoux

Michael Matz reported Union Rags was none the worse for wear the day after his Fountain of Youth (G2) score.  The Florida Derby (G1) still remains the next target and will be the only race for Union Rags between now and the Kentucky Derby.  Dale Romans was praising the effort by second place finisher News Pending and said the Florida Derby is a strong consideration as well. A decision on what to do with Algorithms, who scratched from the race with a splint injury, will not be made until later in the week// More news for Saturday’s Gotham Stakes (G3). DRF features Mark Casse’s Stealcase, who has already raced against several stakes winners in his maiden tries, including Hutcheson victor Thunder Moccasin.  Check out the Todd Simmons piece from the Staten Island Advance about a morning stroll at Belmont that offers a different flavor and beat to your normal thoroughbred reporting// Updated future odds were released by Wynn Las Vegas.  Not surprisingly, Union Rags plummeted to 4-1 as the favorite.  Can’t see why anyone would take those odds in February, but many do// Out of Bounds had an extended workout at Hollywood Park Monday.  He’s still on track for the San Felipe (G2)// Updated rankings from Steve Haskin as well as myself// I’ve also updated the CTD Contender page here.  If you like updates to the site on Twitter you can follow CTD here or on Facebook here.

Kentucky Derby Futures

How high should we be on Union Rags? (Zipse at the Track Blog)
Spiral nominations spike up (The Downey Profile)
Weekend review (And Down The Stretch They Come)
The Roses Challenge (Thorough-Graphics)


Rousing Sermon- HOL- 6F- 1.13:20- H- 1/2
Out of Bounds- HOL- 7F- 1.25:60- H- 1/2
Ender Knievel- PMM- 5F- 1.02:90- B- 9/13
Swag Daddy- AQU- 4F- 48:55- B- 2/8

Notes and bits from web and Twitter:
“Fractions for Out of Bounds. 48.80 to top. 112.80 at wire. Out to the bottom in 125.60. Best part move was absence of real pressure”- Donald Harris via Twitter

Union Rags returns with a vengeance in Fountain of Youth// Algorithms out for how long?// Thoughts on Risen Star, El Padrino


I had to double-check the Equibase chart to make sure: Union Rags won his return race in the Fountain of Youth (G2) Sunday by four lengths.  Surely the winning margin was wider than that.  The post-race reaction from trainer Michael Matz, jockey Julien Leparoux, TV analyst and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, and scores of fans and handicappers indicated Union Rags had defeated his overmatched rivals by at least 10 lengths.  Even watching the race in real-time it seemed to be at least a half dozen, but the replay reveals the chart to be true.  This is what happens when the early Kentucky Derby favorite makes a flawless debut as a 3-year-old.

Leparoux claims he was essentially along for the ride, never in doubt of the end result.  “Push button” is a term we’ve somewhat recently used for Kentucky Derby winners Big Brown and Smarty Jones, and Union Rags truly seems to be in control of himself and ready to roll when it’s time.  Sitting off pacesetter and surprising post-time favorite Discreet Dancer and two others, Union Rags simply waited for the far turn to make his sweeping move on the outside.  Although Matz claimed he was never in full stride, the stride we saw down the stretch was jaw-dropping.  Discreet Dancer was clearly no match and gave more fodder to the naysayers who questioned his distance capability.  News Pending, a 27-1 longshot, was able to pass him for second place and will face the winner again in the Florida Derby (G1).

Some will say aside from Union Rags, the Fountain of Youth field was weak.  It’s hard to argue seeing as in their previous races, only one rival finished in the money of a non-restricted stakes.  However, the fact Union Rags was coming in off a layoff, not 100% primed, and toyed with the field, all give reason enough to get excited of what could be. 

The biggest disappointment of the day no doubt came from the announcement of the scratch of Algorithms.  It seems impossible to have a Kentucky Derby Trail without a questionable health situation for one of the favorites.  Algorithms “popped a splint” and Pletcher has no timetable for his return to the track, although he hopes to have him back out soon. 

Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes (G2) featured a thrilling stretch duel between Mark Valeski and eventual winner El Padrino.  The final time for the 1 1/16 mile contest was 1:42.96, less than a second off track record time.  El Padrino was the short-priced favorite, and some think he should have won with more authority given the suspect field.  However, I now consider Mark Valeski a serious contender based on the fact it was his stakes debut and he finished well clear of the rest of field by a 5 ½ length margin.  Stablemate Mr. Bowling, winner of the Lecomte Stakes (G3), was a major disappointment on the other hand in the Risen Star.  Trainer Larry Jones said there was no excuse for his last place finish.  Back to the winner, you have to like El Padrino’s running style, willingness to battle, and versatility on different tracks and conditions. Trainer Todd Pletcher indicated the Louisiana Derby (G2) would be the next logical spot.

Other notable wins over the weekend: Isn’t He Clever returned to the comforts of Sunland Park for a victory in the Borderland Derby; and The Lumber Guy easily won the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park in just his second race. 

Before El Padrino and Union Rags even crossed the wire over the weekend, news was already ramping up for next Saturday’s Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.  Apparently race entries could overflow causing several hopefuls to look elsewhere in their quest to pick up graded earnings for the Derby.  Some of the top contenders put in their final official workouts before the race, including 2-year-old Champion Hansen. Full reports below…

Fountain of Youth S. (G2)
Winner: Union Rags
Trainer: Michael Matz
Jockey: Julien Leaparoux
Replay: YouTube
Beyer Speed Figure: 95 (Preliminary)

Risen Star S. (G2)
Winner: El Padrino
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Replay: YouTube
Wrap-up articles: Bloodhorse / DRF / Brisnet
Beyer Speed Figure: 98

Jones horses well today (The Downey Profile)


How Do I Win- BEL- 5F- 1.02:76- B- 11/25
Hardened Wildcat- BEL- 5F- 1.02:13 B- 5/25
Consortium- BEL- 4F- 49:76- B- 30/98
Raconteur- BEL- 4F- 48:89- B- 7/98
My Adonis- AQU- 5F- 1.01:32- B- 2/10
Bodemeister- SA- 6F- 1.14:00- H- 6/12
Groovin’ Solo- SA- 5F- 58:80- H- 1/80
Hogy- HAW- 4F- 50:00- B- 25/52
Midnight Transfer- SA- 7F- 1.24:80- H- 1/2
Sir Bond- FG- 4F- 48:80- B- 9/78
Hansen- GP- 5F- 1.00:95- H- 5/22
Sabercat- SA- 5F- 1.00:40- H- 10/31
Midnight Serenade- CRC- 4F- 49:40- B- 4/18
Take Charge Indy- PMM- 5F- 1.01:29- B- 3/12
Gemologist- PMM- 5F- 1.00:92- B- 1/12
Stat- PMM- 4F- 49:44- B- 11/19
Dan and Sheila- PMM- 5F- 1.00:92- B- 1/12
Spring Hill Farm- PMM- 4F- 48:40- B- 10/39
Power World- PAY- 3F- 37:10- B- 1/5

Empire Way- HOL- 6F- 1.14:00- H- 11/19
Consulado- HOL- 4F- 46:80- 1/53
Alpha- PMM- 4F- 49:71- B- 27/43
Ancient Rome- AQU- 4F- 51:56- B- 1/1 (Good)
Pretension- BOW- 5F- 1.02:20- B- 2/11
Hakama- FH- 4F- 49:40- B- 3/9
Hammers Terror- FG- 5F- 59:80- B- 1/44
Atigun- OP- 4F- 48:40- B- 7/66
Mr. Prankster- TP- 5F- 1.01:20- B- 1/7
Dullahan- GP- 5F- 59:25- H- 1/22
Currency Swap- GP- 5F- 1.01:80- B- 14/22
State of Play- TP- 5F- 1.01:00- B- 4/15

Notes and bits from web and Twitter:
Trakus sectionals from Union Rags in Fountain of Youth: 24.53, 23.46, 24.15, 23.81, 6.44- Trakus via Twitter

Buzz builds for big weekend of Kentucky Derby preps// Gotham looks crowded// more…


A can’t miss weekend (Bloodhorse Blog)
El Padrino stakes debut in Risen Star (Iron Maiden Thoroughbreds)
The Track to the Kentucky Derby [Video] (The Wall Street Journal Online)

Risen Star: DRF Preview video (DRF) / Looking for a Risen Star (Thorofan Blog) / El Padrino stakes debut in Risen Star (Iron Maiden Thoroughbreds)

Battle Hardened- PMM- 4F- 50:22- B- 20/29
Howe Great- PMM- 5F- 1.07:08- B- 9/13 (Turf)

Fountain of Youth draws 8, will Algorithms stay the favorite?// El Padrino moves well 1st time at FG// Motor City works// more..

It’s a bit surprising to see eight horses entered in Sunday’s Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream.  Given the fact the top three choices are considered by most to be among the upper echelon of Kentucky Derby prospects, you would think the connections of the others would look elsewhere. However, we’ve seen our fair share of overrated 3-year-olds meet their match against supposed inferior competition seemingly every year.  Algorithms was installed as the favorite at 8-5, but it will be interesting to see if that holds.  Union Rags is the Las Vegas favorite to win the Kentucky Derby and while he’s coming off a layoff, his experience and credentials trump the Fountain of Youth favorite.  Discreet Dancer will also get some action at the betting windows, but there should be long prices on the rest// El Padrino, favored in the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds stepped on that track for the first time Thursday. Todd Pletcher assistant Whit Beckman said he moved well.  Another Risen Star entry, Afford, appeared washy during training Thursday, but trainer Greg Geier said that’s normal.  D. Wayne Lukas thinks Optimizer is in a good spot given he’s a closer and there should be an honest pace to run off of Saturday.  For full stories, handicapper picks, links to free PPs and race videos for the Risen Star and Fountain of Youth go here.

Motor City, winner of the Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs in October, continues to train for his comeback race.  The son of Derby winner Street Sense worked a quick 5 furlongs at Palm Meadows in 1:01 and 4// Another blog post by Dr. Hansen Thursday.  He seems fed up with hearing the excuse of Union Rags having to run wide in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. A valid point, but if he wanted to really end the conversation he could have left his horse in Florida to face Union Rags again on Sunday// more…


Fountain of Youth Preview articles: Gulfstream Park / TTimes / Bloodhorse / DRF / Brisnet
78 Feet!...ESPN and Trackus, give me a break (Hansen Blog via Courier Journal)
Hansen’s mom: No one’s Mother of the Year (Hansen Blog via Courier Journal)

Derby Dozen Volume 2 (Wireplayers Blog)

Risen Star: Commish’s Picks (Downey Profile)
Fountain of Youth: That Handicapping Show [Video] (Bloodhorse)

Motor City PMM- 5F- 1.01:88- B- 4/13
Right to Vote PMM- 5F- 1.01:10- B- 2/13
I'll Have Another HOL- 4F- 48:60- H- 5/20

Notes and bits from web and Twitter:
“Have to consider Creative Cause on the right path after watching his authoritative gallop just now. Can't fake that kind of body language”- ClockerDH via Twitter

Fed Biz gets a race date, works slow// No blinkers for El Padrino// More press for Starlight// New rankings

Although a mere allowance winner as of now, Fed Biz has received Kentucky Derby buzz befitting a February 3-year-old stakes winner.  Bob Baffert announced Fed Biz will get his first graded stakes attempt in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita.  The colt worked a rather pedestrian 6 furlongs Wednesday. Stablemate Liaison also got an extended one mile work at Santa Anita and his move was slow as well, just as Baffert intended// Nice feature story on former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones and trainer Larry Jones who have two colts- Mr. Bowling and Mark Valeski- in Saturday’s Risen Star (G2).  The trainer admits he hasn’t figured out how good either colt is, which is a major reason for running them against each other at the Fair Grounds.  They’ll have to face the favorite El Padrino who Todd Pletcher considered adding blinkers to for the race.  He decided against it based on the colt’s progression and laid-back attitude// More feature articles on Starlight Stable and Jack Wolf// Entries were drawn for the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel.  The 7 furlong contest appears to not have any serious Kentucky Derby contenders, but graded stakes placed Friscan could advance himself along the trail with a win//Another 3-year-old stakes race this coming weekend that will not get the attention of the Fountain of Youth or Risen Star is the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park.  Isn’t He Clever is favored and he’ll try to get back to winning ways off his 4th place finish in the Robert Lewis (G2) at Santa Anita// For Facebook users, be sure to “like” the relatively new CTD Facebook page here to receive update notices on the site// more…

3-year-olds to watch 2/22 (In The Money Blog)
Bloodlines of KY Derby runners 2007-2011 (And Down The Stretch They Come)


Liaison SA- 1M- 1.43:00- H- 1/2
Fed Biz SA- 6F- 1.16:00 H- 7/9
Brother Francis SA- 5F- 1.00:60- H- 3/10
Twelve Hundred HAW- 5F- 49:00- B- 1/23
Night Tide SA- 4F- 48:40- B- 11/18
Animal Spirits FG- 3F- 38:00- B- 10/13