WEEKEND STAKES: WHERE TO WATCH brought to you by KBC Horse Supplies
Kentucky Derby preps are well underway now as tracks across the country begin to winnow out the best 3-year-olds whose paths will converge on May 1 in Louisville. Last week we saw Conveyance win at Santa Anita; this week, the Fair Grounds in Louisiana and Gulfstream Park will host their first major preps of the season.
On Saturday, Fair Grounds is offering six stakes races, including two graded affairs, the G3 LeComte, for Derby hopefuls going a mile and 40 yards, and the G3 Colonel E.R. Bradley, for older horses on the turf. The LeComte, scheduled as the 10th race on the card, has drawn 11 starters. Cool Bullet has a win over the track in the Sugar Bowl Stakes, while two other entrants, Turf Melody and Citrus Kid have minor stakes wins at other tracks. Maximus Ruler is another to consider; the Roman Ruler colt comes off a winning effort in an allowance race at Churchill Downs.
The Col. Bradley, carded as the sixth race, has attracted Princeville Condo, an Illinois-bred who has hit the board in all10 of his career starts, including a stakes win over this course in his last start. The puzzler here is Tybalt–he raced only once last year, but his steady pattern of respectable workouts are promising.
A contentious field of nine will go postward in the G3 Holy Bull, a mile on Gulfstream’s main track. If Homeboykris can run back to his performance in the G1 Champagne, he should win this race; however, his poor fifth-place showing in the G2 Remsen was a head-scratcher. Piscitelli, Aikenite and William’s Kitten all ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, finishing fourth, fifth, and eighth, respectively.
The last graded stakes to take place on Saturday is the Palos Verdes Handicap (G2), though racing at Santa Anita at this time is up in the air, depending on the track condition. The heavy rains in Southern California have caused drainage problems on the Pro-Ride surface. Carla Gaines put Dancing in Silks in the entry box but is hesitant to race the Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner for a couple reasons: he drew the inside post, must spot his rivals three to 10 lbs., and though no rain is expected on Saturday, she is still concerned about the condition of the track. Other entrants in the six-furlong Palos Verdes are M One Rifle, winner of G1 Malibu, and Kinsale King, who won his last two starts, including the G3 Vernon O. Underwood at Hollywood Park.
Martin Luther King holiday racing was a casualty of last week’s inclement weather and track condition, thus the G2 San Marcos Handicap, at 1 ¼ miles on turf, was rescheduled for Sunday. Heading the field is Loup Breton, coming off a second-place finish in the G2 San Gabriel Handicap. Among nine other challengers is Muhannak, a 6-year-old gelding by Chester House. The Irish-bred, in the care of Ben Cecil, most recently ran fifth in 2009 Breeders’ Cup Marathon; he won the 2008 edition of that race.