Weekend Lineup Presented By Sky Racing World: Four Derby Preps Lead Busy Saturday - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Weekend Lineup Presented By Sky Racing World: Four Derby Preps Lead Busy Saturday

Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrates Forte’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory

A quartet of key races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby will be on tap Saturday where several top contenders will take the stage, including 2-year-old Champion Forte who will make his first start of the year. Saturday's four stops on the Road to the Kentucky Derby feature three Championship Series events – the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2), the $400,000 San Felipe (G2), and the $300,000 Gotham (G3) – that award top five points on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale. Saturday also will close the 21-race Prep Season with the $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial (20-8-6-4-2).

The stakes-laden card from Gulfstream Park on Saturday features nine stakes races worth $1.85 million in purses, culminating in the Fountain of Youth. The Derby prep has a field of 10 headlined by Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse champion Forte. The dark bay son of Violence is a four-time winner and will have Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. His rivals include Grade 1-winning juvenile Blazing Sevens, who will also be making his first start of the year for trainer Chad Brown.

Saturday's card at Santa Anita Park also includes the $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1). The former has attracted a field of 11 older horses including Proxy, a Grade 1 winner for trainer Michael Stidham. The Kilroe Mile is led by a quartet from the barn of Phil D'Amato. Meanwhile, the San Felipe has drawn a field of 11 Triple Crown hopefuls. Tim Yakteen will saddle five contenders, including Practical Move, the winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), and four formerly trained by Bob Baffert, including National Treasure, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

Jerome Stakes winner Lugan Knight will make his journey back to Aqueduct for trainer Michael McCarthy and headline the Gotham, facing an over-subscribed field of 14 plus one also-eligible. Scoobie Quando, a debut winner in the $125,000 Turfway Prevue Stakes, will headline an over-subscribed field of 14 3-year-olds that entered the $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial (Listed) at Turfway Park.

Other significant stakes action around the country on Saturday includes three Kentucky Oaks prep races, with the Busher at Aqueduct, the G2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream, and the Cincinnati Trophy at Turfway; a trio of $75,000 turf stakes at Fair Grounds, and two $150,000 Arkansas-bred stakes at Oaklawn.

Sunday's action includes the G3 San Simeon down the hill and the G3 Santa Ysabel, a 50-point Oaks prep, both at Santa Anita.


4:56 p.m. – Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct

Lugan Knight will make his graded stakes debut for trainer Michael McCarthy in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham, a one-turn mile for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack. The bay son of Goldencents enters from a triumphant stakes debut in the $150,000 Jerome on Jan. 7 at the Big A where he bested dual graded stakes-placed Arctic Arrogance going the Gotham distance over a good main track.

West Coast shipper Carmel Road will make his first outing for trainer Tim Yakteen on the heels of a pacesetting second-place finish in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 17 for Bob Baffert. Carmel Road is in search of his first stakes victory in his first try at a one-turn mile. Carmel Road's lone victory came in a dominant second-out graduation, setting the pace in a two-turn mile maiden in August at Del Mar and bounding away to an 8 3/4-length victory.

Two undefeated contenders with 4-for-4 records will make their graded stakes debuts by way of Parx Racing. Recruiter [post 14, Angel Cruz] will make the second outing of his sophomore campaign for trainer Cathal Lynch while Howgreatisnate [post 2, J.D. Acosta] makes his seasonal debut for conditioner Andrew Simoff.

Debut maiden winner Uncorrelated [post 4, Manny Franco] makes his first stakes appearance for four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Chad Brown on the heels of a professional 2 1/2-length victory on Jan. 6 over a sloppy and sealed Big A main track. The son of Arrogate tracked in fourth one length off the pace under Manny Franco and pounced to the lead at the half-mile call, maintaining his advantage at each point of call and completing the six furlongs in a final time of 1:12.35. The effort garnered a 69 Beyer.

Gotham Entries

5:30 p.m. – Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita

One of four former Bob Baffert trainees that will be saddled for the first time by Tim Yakteen, Hejazi heads an outstanding field of 11 sophomores going 1 1/16 miles in Saturday's $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Although as yet unproven going a route of ground, New York-bred Hejazi has been near brilliant on two occasions and with a $3.5-million price tag as a 2-year-old in training this past May, will hope to be a show-stopper in the San Felipe with Mike Smith back aboard.

Yakteen will also saddle National Treasure, who was an impressive first-out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs at Del Mar Sept. 3, then second in the American Pharoah and third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 4 at Keeneland/ The colt was most recently third, beaten one length as the 3-5 favorite by stablemate Reincarnate, going one mile in the Sham Stakes (G3) on Jan. 8 at Santa Anita.

The other two former Baffert trainees are Fort Bragg, third in the Los Al Futurity (G2), and last-out maiden winner Mr Fisk. Although Yakteen will be busy pinch hitting for Baffert four starters, he'll also be saddling Practical Move, who he sent out to a handy 3¼-length victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) on Dec. 17.

A well-beaten third as a maiden three starts back in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G1) Sept. 11, Skinner was then distanced in the American Pharoah, but was an ultra-impressive 3 ¼ length one mile maiden winner off the bench here on Feb. 12 and thus looms a major contender in Saturday's San Felipe. Trained by John Shirreffs and ridden by Victor Espinoza, Skinner was next to last early in his maiden win and rallied like an A-List Derby hopeful in his maiden score while earning a 95 Beyer Speed Figure.

With Flavien Prat back in the saddle, Richard Mandella's speedy Geaux Rocket Ride, a brilliant 5¾-length first-out maiden winner going six panels on Jan. 29 at Santa Anita, takes a giant leap on Saturday in what will be only his second start.

5:43 p.m. – Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park

Forte is slated to make his 3-year-old debut in Saturday's $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, seeking to build on his championship juvenile season. The son of Violence is scheduled to meet nine rivals in the 76th running of the Fountain of Youth while making his first start since clinching the 2-year-old title with a 1 ½-length victory over heavily favorite Cave Rock in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland.

Rocket Can (Post No. 8; 8-1) enters the Fountain of Youth off a gutsy half-length victory in the Feb. 4 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the son of Into Mischief raced considerably wide thorough the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull but kicked in through the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length under Junior Alvarado in his 2023 debut.

Shadow Dragon is also scheduled to represent the Mott stable in the Fountain of Youth after closing fast to finish second in the Holy Bull, just a half-length behind Rocket Can. The New York-bred son of Army Mule had previously won his debut and finished off-the-board against state-breds at Aqueduct last fall.

Blazing Sevens, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after encountering trouble at the start, is scheduled to take on Forte again while making his 2023 debut in the Fountain of Youth. The Chad Brown-trained son of Good Magic captured the mile Champagne (G1) at Aqueduct prior to the Juvenile. Blazing Sevens won impressively at first asking at Saratoga before finishing 12 lengths behind Forte while finishing third in the Hopeful (G1).

General Jim, who recovered from early bumping to capture the seven-furlong Swale (G3) on the Holy Bull undercard, is scheduled to stretch out around two turns in the Fountain of Youth, for which he drew the No. 1 post position. The son of Into Mischief won twice and finished third in a stakes around two turns on turf in New York last year. General Jim, who lacked room while finishing fourth in his 3-year-old debut in the Jan. 1 Mucho Macho Man, raced with blinkers for the first time in the Swale.

Fountain of Youth Entries

8:00 p.m. – Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita

Led by a four-horse contingent for trainer Phil D'Amato, every entrant in the nine-horse Kilroe Mile is a stakes winner with eight of those scoring at the graded level. D'Amato's quartet is comprised of Irish-bred Hong Kong Harry and Irish-bred Gold Phoenix, both of whom return from layoffs for their seasonal bows; Irish-bred Balnikhov, who most recently was second by a nose as the favorite in the G2 Mathis Mile on Dec. 26; and Masteroffoxhounds, who was second by a neck most recently in the G3 San Marcos going 1 ¼ miles on Feb. 5.

Multiple horses in the Kilroe are exiting a thrilling edition of the G3 Thunder Road on Feb. 4, including runner-up Du Jour and third-place finisher Air Force Red.

Du Jour returned from more than 14 months on the sidelines in the one-mile Thunder Road and was beaten just a nose when uncorking a furious rally under Umberto Rispoli. Trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Natalie Baffert and Debbie Lanni, Du Jour in 2021 was a graded stakes winner and also Grade 1-placed. Jockey Frankie Dettori will ride Du Jour for the first time on Saturday.

Air Force Red was up near the pace in the Thunder Road before getting edged by a neck for the top prize. Prior to that effort the 5-year-old Air Force Blue ridgling won the G2 Joe Hernandez on the downhill turf course Dec. 31. Air Force Red is trained by Leonard Powell; Santa Anita leading rider Juan Hernandez, who was aboard in both the Joe Hernandez and Thunder Road, again has the mount on Saturday.

Kilroe Entries

8:30 p.m. – Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita

Defunded and Newgrange head a field of 11 older horses going a mile and one quarter in the 86th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap.

Defunded was second last out, beaten 4 ½ lengths at 5-2 going a mile and one eighth in the G1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park. The Bob Baffert trainee, who in his only career try at a mile and one quarter, finished second six starts back in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup on May 30 of last year, looms the likely favorite with leading man Juan Hernandez, who takes off of Newgrange to ride Defunded for the first time.

Phil D'Amato, a San Pedro native who was Santa Anita's leading Winter/Spring Meet trainer a year ago, will be seeking his first Big Cap win as will European legend Frankie Dettori, who climbs aboard Newgrange for the first time. Newgrange, fresh off an authoritative one-length tally over Baffert's Hopper in the mile and one eighth San Pasqual when ridden for the first time by Hernandez, was a two-time graded stakes winner last year at age three when conditioned by Baffert. Transferred to D'Amato prior to running third in the ungraded Shared Belief Stakes going a flat mile at Del Mar four starts back on Sept. 3, Newgrange put it all together in a 5 ½-length one mile allowance score here on Nov. 6, earning a career-top 97 Beyer Speed Figure. He tries a mile and a quarter for the first time in the Big 'Cap.

Although second beaten a length by Newgrange as the 7-5 favorite on Jan. 28, Baffert's Hopper had been idle since running away with the G3 Affirmed Stakes by 5 ¼ lengths on June 11 and should no doubt benefit from a recent race. A 4-year-old colt by Declaration of War out of the Caesour mare Irridescence, Hopper earned a 95 Beyer off the bench in the San Pasqual and with an abundance of natural speed, looms dangerous with Mike Smith taking over for the first time.

A winner of the G1 Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs going a mile and one eighth two starts back, trainer Michael Stidham's Proxy was most recently fifth, beaten 7 ½ lengths in the G1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28 and ships west for the first time from Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Ridden by eastern-based Joel Rosario in his last three starts, Proxy will get the services of John Velazquez in the Big 'Cap.

A winner of last year's G1 Hollywood Gold Cup three starts back here on May 30, trainer Michael McCarthy's There Goes Harvard rates a big chance at a price and will be ridden for the first time by Japanese sensation Kazushi Kimura.

After finishing second by a head in last year's Big 'Cap, eastern invader Warrant will try and do one better on Saturday. Warrant prepped for his second Big Cap with an allowance win at Fair Grounds on Jan. 26. That effort followed almost seven months on the sidelines, which trainer Brad Cox said was the result of him “just being a little tired” the second half of the season. Prior to last year's Big Cap, Warrant was third in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 22.

Big 'Cap Entries

Paulick Report Icon

Receive daily headlines, breaking news alerts, promotions, and much more!

Become An Insider

Support our journalism and access bonus content on our Patreon stream

Learn More