Derby preps reveal winners and losers

Feb 23, 2010 5:04 PM
by GT Staff |

Todd Pletcher does hat trick with 3 winners

This past weekend featured an important series of prep races for the Kentucky Derby, with an intriguing variety of winners and losers.

One of the bigger disappointments occurred in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, where last year’s Remsen winner, Buddy’s Saint, was making his 2010 debut.

Heavily backed as the 9-5 favorite, Buddy’s Saint ran a lackluster ninth in the field of 10 3-year-olds. Last year he had three wins in three outings, including a 12-length romp in the Nashua Stakes.

Nonetheless, the Fountain of Youth was a great stepping stone for Todd Pletcher-trained horses, who finished first and third in the mile and an eighth event. Pletcher’s Eskendereya won impressively (8½ lengths) while his Aikenite took third.

Finishing second was the Nick Zito-trained Jackson Bend, winner of five-of-seven races, including finishing second in the Holy Bull last out at Gulfstream.

Also on Saturday’s Gulfstream Park card was the $150,000 Hutcheson at seven furlongs. The race featured brother-against-brother as trainer Rick Dutrow, who saddled Big Brown to win the 2008 Kentucky Derby, took first place with D’Funnybone, who previously won the Saratoga Special and Belmont Futurity, while his younger brother Tony Dutrow took second with A Little Warm, winner of the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Todd Pletcher again found the winner’s circle with Connemara, who won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in impressive fashion. Connemara was an upset victim when he suffered his first career loss as the odds-on favorite in the California Derby last month.

In the Risen Star Stakes at New Orleans’ Fairgrounds, stakes veteran Discreetly Mine outlasted Tempted to Tapit to win the mile and a sixteenth race, and give Todd Pletcher his third big win of the weekend. Keep in mind that Pletcher has never won the Kentucky Derby, though it looks like this season he won’t be lacking in contenders.

Finishing sixth in the Risen Star was the highly-regarded Ron the Greek, who went from last to first in last month’s Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

One of the most exciting match-ups of the weekend took place in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, where four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas saddled Dublin, who was returning from throat surgery to correct a breathing problem after suffering back-to-back losses to end his 2-year-old season. And, while Dublin ran an impressive second, he couldn’t catch Bob Baffert’s Conveyance, who was shipped in from California, where he was perfect in three starts.

The Southwest was Conveyance’s first start on dirt, dispelling the notion that synthetic track horses can’t run well on real dirt.

Finally, there was also an important race last Wednesday, when Lentenor – a full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro – finished second to the rail-skimming Doubles Partner in a 11/8-mile allowance race on the grass at Gulfstream Park.

"I thought he performed well," said Lentenor’s trainer Michael Matz, who also trained Barbaro. "He was a little immature and green down the stretch. He just needs experience."

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