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Baffert closing in on fourth Kentucky Derby

Trainer Bob Baffert tightened his grip on the betting market for the Kentucky Derby with the impressive victory of Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes. Baffert has won the race three times and now has the first two in the betting for the 141st running on May 2nd.

American Pharoah set for Rebel Stakes

American Pharoah remains at the head of the Kentucky Derby betting, despite not having raced since winning the FrontRunner Stakes in September. Injury prevented him from running in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where his form was franked by the facile success of Texas Red, nearly five lengths behind him in the FrontRunner.

Baffert has been delighted by American Pharoah’s recent work with the $750,000 Rebel Stakes on March 14th pencilled in for his reappearance. Last week, he ran a bullet-seven-furlong work in an impressive 1:23 4/5.

Dortmund challenging for favouritism

American Pharoah’s stable companion Dortmund was cut to as short as 8-1 clear favourite after winning the Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. His comfortable victory was enough to guarantee a place in the Derby field and stretched his unbeaten run to five.

He made all the running to hold off Prospect Park by 1 1/4 lengths with Bolo a further half-length away in third. The runner-up delighted jockey Kent Desormeaux and is likely to renew rivalry with Dortmund in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby in four weeks’ time.

Dortmund had previously won the Robert B Lewis Stakes and had been impressive in his recent workouts at Santa Anita. At almost 17 hands, the imposing son of Big Brown had previously worn down his rivals in the home stretch but he settled nicely in front and is looking better with every race.

Carpe Diem and Al Kabeir impress

Carpe Diem earned a 16-1 quote for the Derby with a five-length victory in the Grade 2 $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. The chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway was always travelling best under John Velazquez and confirmed the promise of his second place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November.

The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is owned in partnership by Stonestreet Stables and WinStar Farm. Pletcher was winning the Tampa Bay Derby for the third time including in 2010 with Super Saver who went on to glory in the Kentucky Derby, his only success to date from forty runners.

Carpe Diem finished clear of 13-1 shot Ami’s Flatter with Ocean Knight proving the disappointment of the race in seventh place. The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4th is the next test for the colt.

El Kabeir ran out a comfortable 2 ¾ length winner of the Grade 3 $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. He had raced close to the pace in his previous starts but was restrained towards the back of the field by C.C. Lopez before unleashing a strong finish. He beat the supplemented Tiz Shea D with Classy Class a further head away in third place.

El Kabeir was disappointing when beaten in the Withers Stakes last time out by Far From Over but the new tactics appear to have brought about further improvement. He is still freely available at 33-1 for the Kentucky Derby. He may next run in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 4th where he could face a re-match with Tiz Shea D, a possible supplemental nomination to the Triple Crown.

Prep Season leaves bookmakers divided

The Prep Season has concluded and bookmakers are divided as to the merits of the early trials. International Star earned quotes between 20-1 and 33-1 after his victory in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. The Mike Maker-trained runner briefly touched to the top of the standings with a one-length victory over War Story.

Itsaknockout was quoted as short as 16-1 after being awarded the Fountain of Youth Stakes for Todd Pletcher, one of four horses that the trainer currently has in the top twenty. He passed the post in second place behind Upstart but the places were reversed by the stewards.

Upstart had been an impressive winner of the Holy Bull in January and was sent off the odds-on favourite to follow up. He took his time to overhaul Frosted who bumped Upstart and the knock-on effect hampered Itsaknockout.

Luis Saez had to take a pull and this cost Itsaknockout valuable momentum. With Upstart (generally 20-1 for the Derby) having two and three-quarter lengths to spare at the line, most observers take the view that he is the more realistic Derby challenger of the two.

Far Right rallied gamely to land the Southwest Stakes on a wet track at Oaklawn Park. Mike Smith drove him up to deny The Truth Or Else and Mr Z and earn a 25-1 quote for the Derby.

The Great War and Khozan out

The most significant recent Derby scratchings are The Great War and Khozan. The Great War is now trained by Wesley Ward having previously been with Aidan O’Brien in Ireland. He was a disappointing favourite in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park and was reported to have bled during the race. The son of War Front finished fourth to Texas Red in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on his last start for O’Brien and won the 96Rock Stakes by a wide margin on January 31st. Todd Pletcher’s Khozan has suffered an ankle injury and has been ruled out of the Florida Derby on March 28th and is off the Kentucky Derby Trail.


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