Kentucky Derby Countdown: 3-15-16

Kentucky Derby Countdown: 3-15-16

Jockey Mike Smith celebrates aboard Danzing Candy after their victory in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita – © Benoit Photo

With less than two months remaining, the action is starting to heat up on the road to the Kentucky Derby! The Turf Board’s new “Kentucky Derby Countdown” series of near-daily articles will keep you posted on all the latest developments on the Kentucky Derby trail. Enjoy!

Destin, Danzing Candy Impress in Derby Prep Races

Last Saturday featured two major Kentucky Derby prep races at Santa Anita and Tampa Bay Downs, those being the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II). Both yielded impressive but somewhat surprising winners as Danzing Candy won the San Felipe in gate-to-wire fashion over the graded stakes winners Mor Spirit and Exaggerator while Destin posted a mild upset in the Tampa Bay Derby, edging stablemate Outwork by a length while grade I winner and race favorite Brody’s Cause finished seventh in a disappointing 2016 debut.

For their victories, both colts earned Beyer speed figures of 100, which ties them with Nyquist for the highest Beyer earned so far by any member of the 2013 foal crop. Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit, and Exaggerator are expected to have a rematch in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 9th, while Destin’s options are open–the Wood Memorial (gr. I), Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), and Arkansas Derby (gr. I) are all possible targets.

Zulu Could Skip Florida Derby

The Daily Racing Form reported yesterday that Zulu–runner-up in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) last month–could skip the April 2nd Florida Derby (gr. I) to avoid facing the unbeaten duo of Derby favorite Mohaymen and the champion Nyquist, who are set for a showdown in the Florida Derby race. Zulu has been mentioned as a possible starter for the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, or Arkansas Derby, and presumably, he and stablemate Destin will choose different races.

Field Coming Together for the Rebel Stakes

According to Oaklawn Park, a full field of fourteen is expected for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) on March 19th, including Southwest Stakes (gr. III) winner Suddenbreakingnews. The current list of probable starters is as follows:

American Dubai, trained by Rodney Richards
Cherry Wine, trained by Dale Romans
Creator, trained by Steve Asmussen
Cupid, trained by Bob Baffert
Cutacorner, trained by Jack Van Berg
Discreetness, trained by William Fires
Gray Sky, trained by D. Wayne Lukas
Ralis, trained by Doug O’Neill
Siding Spring, trained by Mark Casse
Spikes Shirl, trained by Dallas Stewart
Suddenbreakingnews, trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel
Tisdale, trained by Ron Moquett
Whitmore, trained by Ron Moquett
Z Royal, trained by D. Wayne Lukas

According to Robert Yates (@RobertYates1982 on Twitter), the California shippers Cupid and Ralis arrived at Oaklawn by airplane this morning.

On the Work Tab

An impressive group Kentucky Derby contenders turned in timed workouts on March 14th, including several that are targeting the Rebel Stakes. Suddenbreakingnews worked five furlongs in 1:02.00 at Oaklawn while American Dubai–third in the Southwest–went the same distance in 1:02.60. Southwest also-rans Discreetness (seventh) and Z Royal (eighth) went four furlongs in :49.80 and :48.40, respectively, while Cutacorner (ninth) went five furlongs in a bullet 1:01 flat and the recent maiden winners Tisdale and Creator went four furlongs in :48.20 and :49.20.

At Fair Grounds, Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) winner Gun Runner blazed five furlongs in 1:00.60, the fast of 34 morning workouts at that distance. The son of Candy Ride worked in company with the three-year-old filly Adore, a talented allowance winner that looks bound for a Kentucky Oaks prep race in the near future. Zapperini, a maiden winner that finished fifth in the Risen Star and is currently under consideration for the April 2nd Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park, went five furlongs in 1:01.40. Bistraya, who tired to finish ninth in the Risen Star Stakes after being involved in the early pace, breezed six furlongs in 1:12 at Santa Anita.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board! Also, if you’re a fan of horse racing history, please check out my upcoming book Lost to the Ages: 10 Forgotten Champions of U.S. Horse Racingscheduled for release later this year!

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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