The Grade 1 action kicks off early this week with Friday racing, including the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn and the Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland. Untapable will look for back-to-back wins in the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom, but faces Call Pat, who bested her last out in the Azeri. Also shipping in to challenge are recent Gr. 1 winner Tara's Tango and Forever Unbridled, riding a two-race win streak.
The Maker's 46, held at one mile on Keeneland's turf course, features Heart to Heart, winner of his last three starts for trainer Bryan Lynch. His front-end speed will be challenged by the quick Shining Copper, which may well set the race up for late-running Tourist, trained by Bill Mott. Itsaknockout will also be making his turf debut for Todd Pletcher, and the Graham Motion-trained filly Miss Temple City will line up against the boys.
Saturday spotlights the final two prep races for the Kentucky Derby, led by the 100-point Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Bob Baffert's Cupid is the morning-line favorite for the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in a full 12-horse field, which includes the other top three finishers from the Rebel Stakes, Whitmore and Creator. Other local entries include Discreetness, winner of the Smarty Jones, Suddenbreakingnews, winner of the Southwest, and Dazzling Gem, most recently third in the Louisiana Derby. Shipping in is Todd Pletcher's Gettysburg, second in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes last month.
In the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland, 10 points are on offer toward the first Saturday in May. Keith Desormeaux's Swipe, who hasn't started since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, takes on Bob Baffert's Collected, winner of the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes. Also entered in the 10-horse field is Mark Casse's Riker, most recently a disappointing sixth in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Also at Keeneland on Saturday is the Grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley, featuring Breeders' Cup Mile winner Tepin in her third start of 2016, looking to extend her four-race win streak. The Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes kicks off the day's stakes action, with Eagle taking on Noble Bird, Neck 'n Neck and General A Rod in an exciting match up.
The Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap is another race featuring big-name contenders on Saturday, with Jimmy Jerkens' Effinex drawing morning-line favoritism despite his third-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap. He faces Melatonin, the winner of that race, as well as Gulfstream Park Handicap victor Blofeld. Rick Violette's Upstart will run off his win in the Razorback Handicap, and Carve makes his third start out of Steve Asmussen's barn. An interesting entry is Financial Modeling, impressive winner of a listed stakes at Aqueduct who was most recently a troubled fifth in the Donn Handicap, making his first start for trainer Brad Cox.
Los Alamitos kicks off its Thoroughbred meeting this Saturday with the Grade 3 Los Angeles Stakes, featuring Wild Dude and San Onofre in a 5 ½-furlong battle.
Sunday has two Grade 3 events on the docket. The Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct features Gr. 1 winner Cavorting, and the Adena Springs Beaumont at Keeneland features Nickname, most recently second in a Grade 3 at Oaklawn.
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