Derby Preps

Mar 30, 2010 7:03 AM

Santa Anita, Wood are latest tests

This past weekend featured the greatest number of Derby prep races so far on the road to the Kentucky Derby, with several contenders punching their ticket to the May 1 event.

In the Louisiana Derby, the lightly-raced Mission Impazible wore down pacesetter A Little Warm in the long Fair Grounds stretch to win the $750,000 Grade II event by three-quarters of a length.

The victory probably earned a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby for the son of Unbridled’s Song, and gave the loaded stable of trainer Todd Pletcher another contender for the "Run for the Roses."

Jockey Rajiv Maragh was in the saddle as Mission Impazible survived a four-horse battle in the final yards to edge A Little Warm for the victory. The Bill Mott-trained Drosselmeyer encountered major traffic problems on his way to a third-place finish, while Pletcher’s favored Discreetly Mine, the winner of Fair Grounds’ Risen Star, finished fourth.

"I thought it was a big, big effort," Pletcher told the Courier-Journal. "He showed some real guts from the eighth pole to the wire. If he can do what he did from the Southwest to the Louisiana Derby in the next five weeks, if he can repeat that kind of improvement, it puts him in the mix."

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten most likely earned a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate when he rallied for a 2½-length victory in the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park.

Owner and breeder Ken Ramsey has long dreamed of winning a Kentucky Derby and, if all goes well, could have two horses in the starting gate with the homebred Dean’s Kitten and Pleasant Prince, the runner-up in the Florida Derby.

Dean’s Kitten, a son of Ramsey’s turf champion Kitten’s Joy, rallied to the lead under Cornelio Velasquez approaching the top of the stretch and easily held the late-running Northern Giant safe by 2½-lengths. Favored Connemara finished third as the winner completed 11/8 miles over the synthetic Polytrack surface in 1:50.59.

Earlier on Saturday, the Todd-Pletcher-trained Exhi won the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park. The son of Maria’s Mon covered 11/16 miles on Polytrack in 1:44.47.

The participation of Dubai-based racing powerhouse Godolphin in the Kentucky Derby is in question after a setback for its primary Derby hopeful in Saturday’s $2 million UAE Derby at the new Meydan Race Course.

Mendip finished a solid third behind the Mike de Kock-trained duo of the victorious Musir and runner-up Raihana, a filly. Both are 4-year-olds bred in the Southern Hemisphere.

Musir, who won by 11/4 lengths, is expected to continue racing this year in Australia.

Out in the Southwest USA, WinStar Farm’s Endorsement challenged heavily-favored and previously unbeaten Conveyance on the far turn and put that rival away in the stretch on his way to a surprising victory in his stakes debut in the $800,000 Sunland Derby at New Mexico’s Sunland Park.

The son of Distorted Humor came into the race off of a maiden win at Oaklawn Park.