This past weekend, there was little, if any, change in the East Coast road to the Kentucky Derby. There were four prep races run on Saturday, which brought little surprise. Point Given was dazzling Saturday in winning the Santa Anita Derby. The colt set a quick pace and looked vulnerable as challengers closed in at the top of the lane. It turned out Point Given was just loafing as he sprinted clear at that first sign of danger. Derby prospect OUTOFTHEBOX has been sidelined for 6-8 weeks after being injured during Saturday’s Flamingo. The other Derby preps from last week:
FLAMINGO STAKES - In November, it looked as if trainer Joe Orseno had one of, if not the, Derby favorites in Frank Stronach’s Macho Uno - the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ. With less than a month to go until Churchill, Macho Uno is in rehab with an ankle injury. Before you start feeling sorry for the Santa Anita/Gulfstream capo, take note that another Stronach-owned three-year-old, THUNDER BLITZ, captured his first stakes race by 6Â½ lengths in front of TOUR OF THE CAT. Tour Of The Cat was nearly four lengths in front of TALK IS MONEY.
LONE STAR DERBY - PERCY HOPE held off Louisiana Derby winner FIFTY STARS by two lengths in the $500,000 Lone Star Derby. Percy Hope, ridden by Jon Court, ran 11/8 miles in 1:50.270 and paid $12 for the win. The victory was Percy Hope’s second in a row, following his March 24 win in the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park, and fourth of his 12-race career. The $292,500 winner’s share of the largest purse ever for a thoroughbred race in Texas boosted his lifetime earnings to $428,397.
With the win, the Kentucky-bred Percy Hope, owned by Pete and Tom Willmott and trained by Tony Reinstedler, qualified for a $1 million bonus offered to a horse who wins the Lone Star Derby and any of the three Triple Crown races. However, the mile and Â¼ distance in the May 5 Run For the Roses may be beyond the range of the chestnut son of Ide, out of the Red Ransom mare Ridinghood.
ILLINOIS DERBY - DISTILLED beat SAINT DAMIEN by 1Â¾ lengths Saturday in the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Sportsman’s Park. With Mike Smith aboard, the son of Hennessy quickly recovered from a poor start and sped to the front. DREAM RUN ran third in the field of eight, some with Kentucky Derby aspirations. The winner ran 11/8 miles in windy conditions in 1:51.37, and paid $3.80. The win, which carried a $300,000 prize, was Distilled’s third in 10 starts this season and boosted his earnings to $373,470. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Dogwood Stables.
WOOD MEMORIAL (Aqueduct) - This year, the Wood Memorial favorite will likely be John C. Oxley’s MONARCHOS, whose authoritative victory in last month’s Florida Derby ranks as the most impressive race of the season for 3-year-olds. The son of a popular Belmont Park resident who became a champion, Maria’s Mon, Monarchos is trained by John Ward and ridden by Jorge Chavez. The likely Wood Memorial favorite has been galloping at Churchill Downs and was scheduled to be shipped to Aqueduct Tuesday, when he will be in the care of assistant Yvonne Azeff. Monarchos has won three in a row, but as a two-year-old, he was 0-for-2. He was purchased for $170,000 from the Fasig-Tipton Florida February 2000 two-year-old in training sale.
One of the biggest challenges facing Monarchos is Stonerside Stable’s CONGAREE who’s also expected to arrive today (Tuesday) in New York from California. The Arazi colt, a winner of two of three starts for trainer Bob Baffert, will be stabled at Belmont with trainer John Terranova.
Also likely for the Wood Memorial are John H. Manganaro Jr.’s IT’S SO SIMPLE, Sorin Stable’s OMMADON; and Raymond Dweck’s RICHLY BLENDED. Questionable are MONGOOSE, TURNBERRY ISLE and VOODOO.
BLUE GRASS STAKES - The $750,000 Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday, April 14, is shaping up as a seven- to eight-horse race. Expected starters include Grade I winner A P Valentine, multiple stakes winner Bonnie Scot, Grade II winner Dollar Bill, Grade II-placed speedster Hero’s Tribute, Florida Derby third-place finisher Invisible Ink, Grade II winner Millennium Wind, and Grade I winner Songandaprayer.
ARKANSAS DERBY - The projected field for the Arkansas Derby includes Crafty Shaw, Arctic Boy, Strike It Smart and Son Of Rocket, the top four finishers from the $100,000 Grade III Rebel Stakes on March 24, and Balto Star. Balto Star, who won the $600,000 Grade II Turfway Spiral Stakes on March 24, was expected to arrive yesterday (Monday) in Hot Springs. Trainer Todd Pletcher won last year’s Arkansas Derby with Graeme Hall. Also expected are American Prince, Faiths Wish, Jamaican Rum, Mongoose, Royal Spy and True Concern. Jamaican Rum ran third behind early Kentucky Derby favorite Point Given in his last start, the $250,000 Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 17. Camden Park is an Arkansas Derby possibility.