By Ray Paulick
Last Saturday's Florida Derby, won by 20-1 longshot Ice Box, was the first Grade 1 stakes of 2010 for 3-year-olds. It was far from being the strongest American Graded Stakes of the year, based on the strength of the horses in the field as measured by previous races they'd won. Of the 11 starters, only two had won a stakes of any kind (Grade 3 winner Rule and European Group 2 winner Radiohead), in contrast to the previous week's Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which attracted three Grade 1 winners.
There have been 20 American Graded Stakes races won by 3-year-old colts or geldings so far this year: the Grade 1 Florida, eight Grade 2 events and 11 Grade 3. Geographically, there has been a decided tilt toward Florida, which has offered nine AGS races for 3-year-old males (one at Calder, two at Tampa Bay Downs and six at Gulfstream Park). California tracks have had only five AGS races scheduled so far, one at Golden Gate Fields and the remaining four at Santa Anita Park. Oaklawn Park in Arkansas has run three AGS races, Fair Grounds in Louisiana two, and Aqueduct in New York just one. Other major circuits including Kentucky, Chicago, and Maryland, have yet to run an AGS race for horses on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
It's clear that Florida offers an easier route than California to the Kentucky Derby, which relies on money won in AGS races to determine the starting field in the event more than 20 horses are entered. Some horses secured their starting berths by winning enough money in AGS races as 2-year-olds.
Of the 20 AGS races for 3-year-old males, 13 have been run on dirt, five on synthetic tracks in California, and one one turf. The most popular distance of those 20 races is 1 1/16 miles, which is interesting since that is a distance Gulfstream Park has not been able to offer after reconfiguring its main track five years ago. Seven of the 20 AGS races are at 1 1/16 miles, with six at 1 1/8 miles four at one mile and three at seven furlongs.
Two trainers have dominated the 20 races, Todd Pletcher winning four of them (and he's had some losing favorites as well) and Bob Baffert taking three. No one jockey has won more than two so far.
A trio of 3-year-old males has won two AGS races each (Conveyance, D'Funnybone, Sidney's Candy), so there has been a total of 17 individual horses to win a 2010 AGS race for 3-year-olds. Two were bred in California (Caracortado and Alphie's Bet), three in Florida (Ron the Greek, Fly by Phil, and D'Funnybone), and the remaining 12 in Kentucky. Eight of the 17 sold at public auction, six at Keeneland's September yearling sale, one at Keeneland's April sale of 2-year-olds in training, and one at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds (sales statistics do not include horses offered but not sold).
Copyright © 2010, The Paulick Report
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