With just over two months to go before the first Saturday of May, Saturday will be an important day for connections with a talented three-year-old, with four Kentucky Derby preps on tap.
The four Road to the Kentucky Derby points races are three races that offer 50-20-10-5 Derby points — the $300,000 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, the $400,000 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita.
The $125,000 John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park contested over the synthetic Tapeta surface will offer 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers.
Epicenter, the winner of the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19 is the leader in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings with 62. The top 18 in the point standings earn a spot in the Run for the Roses along with the winner of the Road to the Kentucky Derby in Europe and Japan which will each be represented by one runner.
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Here is a quick look at the Four Derby preps:
The Gotham will be contested at Aqueduct and serves as a prep for the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) on April 9 where 100-40-20-10 Derby points will be up for grabs.
A field of 10 will line up to go a one turn mile in the Gotham. The Steve Asmussen trained Morello is the 3-1 morning line favorite. The colt is perfect in two starts, winning the Jimmy Winkfield over the Big A surface on Feb. 6 in his last outing.
“Morello looks like he could potentially be something special,” Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds said. “I think it’s just a perfect race set up for a horse like him, where you’re going to take your time and see what he can do.”
Trainer Bob Baffert sends out Rockefeller (4-1), winner of the Nashua (G3) and runner up in the Sham (G3) in his last outing. Baffert’s runners are not eligible to earn Derby points due to his suspension handed down by Churchill Downs after the positive drug test and subsequent disqualification of Medina Spirit in last year’s Kentucky Derby.
Dean’s List (7-2) is undefeated in two starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Gotham twice, the most recent with Stay Thirsty in 2011.
Pletcher will also saddle recent maiden winner Golden Code (12-1), a 10 ¾ length winner in his most recent outing in the mud going six furlongs.
Fountain of Youth
The late scratch of Mo Donegal, who was the 3-1 morning line favorite makes this a wide open affair. A group of 11 will go 1 1/16 miles in the Fountain of Youth.
Inheriting the role of the morning line favorite will be Simplification who is now listed at 5-2. The Antonio Sano trainee ran second to White Abarrio in the Holy Bull (G3) over the Gulfstream Park main track on Feb. 5.
The Pletcher trained Emmanuel is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. The colt has won his two career starts by a combined 11 ¼ lengths.
The race is a prep for the marquee race of the Gulfstream Park meet, the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on April 2.
Seven go in the San Felipe at Santa Anita including a pair sent out by Baffert who are not eligible for Derby points.
The much maligned trainer sends out recent maiden winner Armagnac (5-1) and San Vicente (G2) fourth place finisher Doppelganger (9-5).
The 8-5 morning line favorite is San Vicente winner Forbidden Kingdom, a son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. The Richard Mandella trainee has won three of his four career starts.
“He’s as quick as they come,” said Mandella following his San Vicente victory. “We’ll have to try two turns down the road here. He’s gotten better about everything. He was so professional today, everything went well.”
The San Felipe is one of six graded stakes on the card at Santa Anita on Saturday. Among the races is the $650,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the $500,000 Beholder Mile (G1).
Not many Kentucky Derby winners prep at Turfway Park, but Animal Kingdom parlayed his win in the Spiral Stakes (G3) into roses in 2011.
A field of 14 was entered in the Battaglia with 12 to start. The Ken McPeek trained Tiz the Bomb is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The colt was the runner up in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) but failed to fire in his last outing, a well beaten seventh in the Holy Bull.
Brad Cox saddles Bloodline (7-2), the runner up in the Texas Turf Mile and Mike Maker will send out Stolen Base (7-2), his best effort a runner up finish in the Bourbon (G2) on turf last October at Keeneland.