The two Kentucky Derby prep races sure didn’t disappoint us this weekend and offered up two of the best finishes of the weekend. But before we get to three year olds trying to get to Churchill let’s take a quick look around the rest of the races this weekend.
Normandy Invasion returns – The last time we saw Normandy Invasions run in competition he was finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby. On Saturday he made his return in a one mile allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Granted he was running against a field far from stakes company, he routed the competition by almost eight lengths recording a new track record. The long layoff paid off as he looked better than ever and showed no sign of the abcess that kept him sidelined for almost 9 months. Connections are pointing toward a 2-turn handicap somewhere in the future. But this is a horse to keep your eye on as we turn into the meat of the season.
Untapable heads up the Fillies – The Rachel Alexandra stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday proved to be the comeback party for Untapable who won the race by nearly 10 lengths. Amazingly after two tough starts her last time two times out, Untapable went off at a staggering 4-1 and was clearly the best horse in the field. Connections have her pointed toward the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 29th which has historically been a key race in looking forward at the Kentucky Oaks.
Javier Castellano orders a six pack – The most impressive performance on Saturday’s Gulf Stream card might have come from one of the human participants throughout the day. Jockey Javier Castellano rode six winners during the 12 race card on Saturday including four winning trips on Todd Pletcher trained winners. Castellano topped off the day with back to back wins in the G2 – Davona Dale Stakes and the G3 – Canadian Turf Stakes.
WildCat Red wins the Fountain of Youth Stakes – In what turned out to be an amazing match race, WildCat Red held on by a nose to win over a strong showing from General A Rod. The two led the entire way with a final bob of the head to determine the winner after a grueling 1 1/16-mile race. The two had nearly an identical finish on the first of the year in the mile long Gulfstream Park Derby with General A Rod winning the head bob on that day. WildCat Red was HBD’s blog pick the night before and went off at a superb 9-2 paying $11.00 for the win. Third place finisher Top Billing who went off as the post time favorite came from way behind to finish another 4 1/2 lengths from the rest of the pack. Many will point toward the fast track at Gulfstream on Saturday and those concerns are valid. A number of the races showed strong early splits that were able to hold on easier than most would have believed. In fact the two, WildCat Red and General A Rod ran a quick 23.03 quarter and a 46.25 half and were still able to hold on from a field that with the exception of Top Billing didn’t seem to be able to make up much ground coming down the stretch. The 50 points awarded to WildCat Red will be enough to get him into the Derby, but the same kind of race will not be enough to be a strong contender at Churchill.
Intense Holiday noses Albano in the Risen Star – HBD’s top tier pick Intense Holiday came from off the pace to score a late win by a nose at Fair Grounds Race Course in the Risen Stakes. After being a little jumpy in the paddock, the 5-1 shot rated well off the pace near the rear of the field the majority of the race and making his final move 5 wide around the turn and rallied late to catch the second place finisher Albano who almost managed to wire the strong field. Vicar’s Trouble who HBD picked in the blog finished another 5 1/2 lengths back and Hoppertunity snuck up by a neck to grab the last 10 points in the road to the Kentucky Derby.