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Led by a pair of million-dollar Kentucky Derby preps, the action heats up this weekend with a pair of excellent cards at Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park.
In the $1 million Florida Derby, Simplification, Classic Causeway, and White Abarrio will lead the way in a big field of eleven sophomore males.
The favored trio has accounted for all four Kentucky Derby points races in Florida so far this year. Classic Causeway won both the Sam F. Davis and the Tampa Bay Derby cross-state, while at Gulfstream Park, White Abarrio won the Holy Bull, and Simplification scored in the Fountain of Youth.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the filly at Oaklawn Park as the streaking Secret Oath meets the boys for the first time in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby.
The daughter of Arrogate was a smashing winner of both the Martha Washington and the Honeybee Stakes over the track and is likely to be favored over her male opposition for trainer D Wayne Lukas.
Not to be forgotten, the 3-year-old fillies will also be on display at both Gulfstream and Oaklawn on Saturday, as the Gulfstream Park Oaks in Florida and the Fantasy Stakes in Arkansas are sure to produce fillies worthy of a shot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on the first Friday in May.
This week we will focus on three graded stakes races at both tracks, which also include the Pan American for older turf males at Gulfstream and the Oaklawn Mile for older dirt males at Oaklawn.
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White Abarrio got the best of Simplification earlier this year, but while the winner was away, the unlucky runner-up of the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes came back to score in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes decisively. The pair will now renew acquaintances in the $1 million Florida Derby.
Standing in the way of the rivals will be the multiple-stakes winner Classic Causeway. Second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club to close out his juvenile season, the Brian Lynch-trained speedster has been perfect this year in a pair of graded stakes races at Tampa Bay Downs.
If it is not one of the three graded stakes winners this year, Charge It could be the one in the 11-horse Florida Derby field. A well bred son of Tapit, he has only run twice for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, but has impressed onlookers with two sharp performances.
No prep for the Kentucky Derby has produced more winners than the Florida Derby, and this year’s edition looks to be another solid one.
White Abarrio (4/1) – Given a bit of a rest after his impressive Holy Bull victory, this tactical and talented colt has been perfect so far at Gulfstream Park.
Already a top contender for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Secret Oath will be out to prove that she can be a top Kentucky Derby candidate as well, when she faces eight males in the 9 furlong Arkansas Derby.
A winner of three straight impressive races at Oaklawn Park this winter, the daughter of Arrogate should be favored in her first attempt against males.
Perhaps the most intriguing of her opposition will be the undefeated We The People. The Rudolphe Brisset-trained-son of Constitution has won both of his career starts in convincing fashion over the Oaklawn racing strip.
Another serious contender for the $1.25 million race is Un Ojo. The one-eyed New York-bred pulled off a big upset last time in his Oaklawn Park debut when he earned a tough victory in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.
Secret Oath (5/2) – The only female in the field, she looks good and ready to prove that she is the best 3-year-old of either gender in Arkansas on Saturday.
Kathleen O. will look to keep her perfect record intact when she tops a field of seven sophomore fillies entered for the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks on Saturday. Bred to handle the distance, this test will be the first around two-turns for the daughter of Upstart.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, she won her debut over a sloppy track at Aqueduct last November, before venturing to South Florida where she has impressed in rallying to win both the Cash Run Stakes and the Grade 2 Davona Dale last time.
Chief among her rivals on Saturday will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Goddess of Fire. The Mineshaft filly has only won once so far in five starts, but has been knocking on the door in 2022.
She closed well from off the pace to get second in the seven furlong Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs to start her season, before a near miss second last time in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds.
Kathleen O. (4/5) – She looks primed to make it three straight stakes wins at Gulfstream Park for her Hall of Fame trainer.
After splitting decisions in their first two meetings this winter at Gulfstream Park, Abaan and Temple will meet again on Saturday when they clash in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes.
Despite losing the last one, Abaan could be favored again in the 1 1/2 mile turf test. A progressive son of Will Take Charge, he saw a three-race winning streak come to a close in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida after a troubled trip. Before that he was a decisive winner of the Grade 3 W L McKnight Stakes.
Temple, meanwhile, has never been better for trainer Mike Maker, and after a good rally to be second in the McKnight, the 6-year-old gelding was a clear winner of the Mac Diarmida last time.
The $250,000 Pan American also includes the return to the races of the five-time stakes winner Gufo. Trained by Hall of Fame nominee Christophe Clement, the chestnut son of Declaration of War was a Grade 1 winner in each of the last two seasons, but has not raced since his first poor performance when 10th in last fall’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Gufo (2/1) – Class should tell, as this late running turf star finds a good spot for his 5-year-old debut.
A major prep for next month’s Kentucky Oaks, Saturday’s $600,000 Fantasy Stakes has drawn a competitive field of eight, after the scratch of the likely favorite Eda.
Most likely to move into the role of favorite is the Brad Cox-trained Bubble Rock. A stakes winner on both turf at Belmont Park and the synthetic surface at Turfway Park, the daughter of More Than Ready comes in off a sharp score in the Cincinnati Trophy in Northern Kentucky.
The Rudolphe-Brisset-trained Yuugiri could also vie for favoritism. Runner-up in a pair of stakes races last fall at Churchill Downs, the Shackleford filly was third to Secret Oath in her seasonal debut last time in the Honeybee Stakes.
Magic Circle, who has hit the board in five consecutive stakes starts in New York, is another who should get plenty of betting support on Saturday. The daughter of Kantharos will be making her first start for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Dream Lith (8/1) – In a race filled with speed, this daughter of Medaglia d’Oro should come running late to pick up the pieces at attractive odds.
Still lightly raced at the age of 5, the Bob Baffert-trained Cezanne is the one they will all have to beat in Saturday’s $400,000 Oaklawn Mile. Twice a stakes winner while sprinting, the son of Curlin will need to prove he can be as effective around two-turns when he tops a competitive field of ten set for the Grade 3 affair.
This will be his first try away from Southern California, as he tries to build upon an impressive win last time in the Grade 2 San Carlos going seven furlongs at Santa Anita.
Chief among his competition will be the Brad Cox-trained Fulsome. Not quite ready for the rigors of the Triple Crown last spring, the son of Into Mischief earned his first stakes win at Oaklawn Park on Kentucky Derby day. He will be making his first start since a fourth-place finish in last fall’s Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby.
Another to consider on Saturday is Law Professor, who has proven himself a nice horse on both turf and dirt. He earned his first graded stakes victory on December 26, when he scored in the off-the-turf Mathis Mile at Santa Anita.
Fulsome (4/1) – A three-time stakes winner last year, this talented colt should get a nice pace set-up in his seasonal debut.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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