Awesome Act

March 09, 2010 7:12 AM
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British import impressive in 2010 debut

The Kentucky Derby is now just seven weeks away and contenders are beginning to emerge from prep races at racetracks across the country and beyond.

Last weekend featured a series of key races, including the Sham at Santa Anita and Gotham at Aqueduct.

There was a surprise winner in the Sham Stakes as Alphie’s Bet came from off the pace to notch a win over the highly-regarded Setsuko and The Program.

Nonetheless, finishing second and third must be considered a step forward for the latter two 3-year-olds, trained by Richard Mandella and Bob Baffert, respectively.

Perhaps one disappointment was Mike Machowsky-trained Nextdoorneighbor, who ran a lackluster seventh after setting the early pace.

There was no disappointment in New York as the highly-acclaimed Awesome Act lived up to his moniker and won the Gotham Stakes in impressive fashion.

Based in England and making his first start since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Awesome Act made a huge move in the stretch to gain the victory. The son of Awesome Again, the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, was bet down as the mild 5-2 favorite.

Following Awesome Act through the stretch drive was second-place finisher Yawanna Twist, a New York-bred colt who entered the race unbeaten. But he can’t be faulted for his performance, as he was closing on the winner at the end.

In other action last week, the promising Vale of York, who beat early Derby favorite Lookin At Lucky in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, traveled to Dubai for the Al Bastikiya Stakes and faded in the stretch for his 2010 debut.

His stablemate, the unbeaten Mendip, however, was impressive as he drew away to win by 6 lengths.

Mendip is nominated to the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown and both colts are scheduled to run next in the $2 million UAE Derby on March 27.

A couple of high-profile Derby prospects, Lentenor and Interactif, passed on last weekend’s Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park, and will most likely be entered on a dirt or synthetic course in the next couple of weeks.

Lentenor, a full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro has raced only on grass. But trainer Michael Matz has talked of his colt’s Kentucky Derby potential and told Daily Racing Form that he would "probably look for something on the dirt."

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Interactif, winner of Keeneland’s Bourbon Stakes last fall, would make his next start on "dirt or synthetics."

It appears likely that the 2010 debut of Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky will come in the Rebel Stakes this Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The race would be the first on dirt for the son of Smart Strike.

"The Rebel would be a good spot," Baffert said. "It’s dirt and I could see how he handles it."

Baffert had also been looking at the San Felipe at Santa Anita on the same day, but said Tiz Chrome, a disappointing fourth in the Robert B. Lewis, could run in that race.

Eskendereya tops in future pool

Zayat Racing Stable’s Eskendereya emerged as the solid individual choice to win $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby, but the "All Others" betting interest remained the overall fans’ choice as Pool 2 of Churchill Downs’ Derby Future Wager ended its three-run early Sunday evening.

Eskendererya, the dominant winner of the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, one of trainer Todd Pletcher’s record six Derby pool betting interests, was a strong 5-1 choice among Pool 2’s 23 individual horses. But the field bet – that included all 3-year-olds other than the pool’s 23 individual horses – was the 3-1 overall choice when the pool closed Sunday.

Other horses that received strong backing in the second of the year’s three future pools included the Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-old champion Lookin at Lucky, who closed at odds of 9-1, and Dublin, trained by four-time Derby-winner D. Wayne Lukas, who was a 10-1 risk. Remsen winner Buddy’s Saint was next at 16-1.

Should he win the Derby on May 1, Eskenderaya will return $13.80 for a $2 "win" wager in Pool 2. The colt closed at 22-1 in February’s Pool 1. Pletcher’s six-pack of Pool 2 horses was completed by Rule (20-1), Conveyance (28-1), Discreetly Mine (37-1), Connemara (46-1) and Aikenite (57-1).