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by Handicappers / Globeform
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Globeform Analyses to the most important prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 5.

Keeping full focus on the cream of the 3-year-olds, from the running of the San Miguel at Santa Anita four months before the big day in Louisville, via top class events like the Florida Derby (G1), Wood Memorial (G1), Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and Santa Anita Derby (G1), also visiting Dubai for the UAE Derby (G2), this section will give you an in-depth understanding of how all potential contenders progress through their preparations.


The Tampa Bay Derby (G3) 8.5 furlongs dirt – Tampa Bay Downs 17 March

1 – Street Sense (Street Cry) C Borel
2 – Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor) J Velazquez
3 – Delightful Kiss (Kissin Kris) J Sanchez
4 – Most Distinguished (Dixie Union) D Centeno
5 – All I Can Get (Slew City Slew) A Gonzalez

Others: Optimistic Steve, Lisselan Muse

Won by: Nose (after stretch duel), 6 ¼ lengths, 2, 10 Time: 1:43.11 (track record)

Still any doubters out there? This was a cracking good seasonal debut by Street Sense and he is firmly on course for the Run for The Roses. What was most surprising in this prep, was the betting, as Any Given Saturday was made favorite to beat Street Sense. Why? This is why: Firstly, Any Given Saturday had the benefit of a recent run, after winning a soft Sam Davis Stakes here a month ago. Secondly, he is trained by Todd Pletcher, whose horses have been in incredible form lately. Thirdly, Carl Nafzger had said that Street Sense would not be fully tuned up (and why should he?). And fourthly, probably the most crucial factor, the race was run over 1 1/16 miles. While that suits Any Given Saturday very well, it is certainly on the sharp side for Street Sense.

He overcame all these factors, to beat the betting favorite, though only by a nose. Street Sense was ridden some five lengths off the early pace, while Any Given Saturday was in third early on – following All I Can Say and Most Distinguished. As the backstretch was nearly completed, John Velazquez crept closer on Any Given Saturday, and peaked back over his shoulder to see where Street Sense might be. That was just before Street Sense made a huge move, to close in. It almost looked like he was carried forward by magnetism, and Calvin Borel was still just hanging on to him.

This is a world class colt – the best juvenile since Arazi – and he now proved that he has trained on at three. He got a ground saving trip, as Borel rode him much like he had in the BC Juvenile, while Any Given Saturday went three wide. The came neck ’n’ neck down the straight, in a first rate battle, and Street Sense got the verdict by a nose. He carried 2lbs more than Any Given Saturday. The pair drew 6 ¼ lengths clear of the third placed Delightful Kiss. From time to time these Derby preps can give good pointers to other divisions too, and it is well worth noting that Delightful Kiss was coming out of races against the classy turf runners Soldiers Dancer and Sedgefield, and also that he had beaten Sightseeing and Chelokee (nice winner since) on his last start. Most Distinguished, coming off a near eight-length maiden win at Gulfstream (on his eighth start) was fourth, beaten 8 ¼ lengths + 6lbs by Street Sense.

Street Sense goes for the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland next month, and that will be his final prep for the Derby that matters the most.

The Rebel Stakes (G3) 8.5 furlongs dirt – Oaklawn Park 17 March

1 – Curlin (Smart Strike) R Albarado
2 – Officer Rocket (Officer) L Quinonez
3 – Teuflesberg (Johannesburg) S Elliott
4 – Going Ballistic (Lite the Fuse) M Berry
5 – U D Ghetto (Honor and Glory) T Thompson

Others: Wannabeinclued, Xchanger, Flying First Class, Sumac

Won by: 5 ¼ lengths (comfortably), 2 ½, 1 ¼, 1 Time: 1:44.7 (fast track)

Curlin took one so important step in the direction of Churchill Downs here. Not only did he prove himself in stakes company – albeit against horses that would have no chance in a Grade 1 -, he also picked up $300,000 in graded stakes earnings. That cash is badly needed, if you want to feel confident about taking aim at the Kentucky Derby with a horse coming off a debut win in February. By that time, most Derby contenders have been in at least two stakes races already, and have stakes earnings giving them a place in the field. Curlin, one of our ’top five’ before the Rebel, is now miles more likely to make the cut than he was Saturday morning, and he must be elevated after winning so comfortably at Oaklawn. Always cool, calm and collected – before during and after the race – he did not look like a horse with only one lifetime race under his belt. He rated kindly just off the pace, raced wide, made a move on the final turn, led into the stretch, and simply sailed away for a very easy and impressive win.

Officer Rocket outstayed Teuflesberg for second, beating the Southwest winner by 2 ½ lengths. It was the other way round as they ran one-two here a month ago, but Officer Rocket was now 5lbs better off at the weights, and the added distance was also in his favor.

Going Ballistic ran a nice race in fourth, but this is as high as they should fly with him – and we can forget the rest, including the speedy Flying First Class. He ought to be dropped right back down to sprinting.

So, how good was this win? Curlin, who had won a Gulfstream maiden by nearly thirteen lengths on his debut in early February – when trained by Helen Pitts – did put his new trainer Steve Asmussen back on the Derby trail (he has Tiz Wonderful working, but will not ready for May 6). Receiving weight from his main rivals, though conceding in the ’experience department’, he totally outclassed them. He will stay further, and he does not appear difficult to adjust to any pace scenario. But this was not a perfect prep – it was an easy one, and it secured the vital prize money. What he still lacks, is a real fight. Talented as this colt is, he has won his two races by the combined margin of 17 lengths. Which means that, as time is running out, Curlin himself probably believes that racing will be like this all the time. Asmussen will of course put him in a tougher spot next time. If he went into the Derby with another win like this he would be among the favorites – but he might get a bit of a shock, by the whole experience, from the paddock, the post parade in front of ’half the world’, and by hooking up with more seasoned pros in the race.

His time was 4,5 seconds slower than the track record, set by Heatherten in 1984. Street Sense broke the track record, as he got his nose in front of Any Given Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3). I am not trying to say that Curlin is over four seconds behind Street Sense – but there is wide gap still to close. But, if asked which one of the two will improve the most on what they have done so far, the answer is easy.

That is Curlin, no doubt about that.

Louisiana Derby (G2) 8.5 furlongs dirt – Fair Grounds 10 March

1 – Circular Quay (Thunder Gulch) J Velazquez
2 – Ketchikan (Mr Greeley) L Melancon
3 – Zanjero (Cherokee Run) G Gomez
4 – Imawildandcrazyguy (Wild Event) F Jara
5 – Birdbirdstheword (Pure Prize) R Albarado
6 – Liquidity (Tiznow) C Nakatani
7 – Slew’s Tizzy (Tiznow) J Leparoux
8 – Soaring By (Deputy Minister) E Prado

Won by: 2 ¼ lengths (quite easily), 3, ¾, 1 ½, hd, 4, 7 ¼ Time: 1:43.01 (fast track)

Circular Quay impressed as he came from last to first, to gain what looked quite an easy win over the local hope Ketchikan - who had set solid fractions (though racing well in hand) leading Liquidity, who faded tamely and ran well below his true form. Circular Quay was nearly back to his best here – perhaps we should say he is back to his best, and there seems to be more to come form the Thunder Gulch colt. He won with a bit in hand here and is a serious contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Zanjero may not be – as his form is already levelling out a bit. He ran better when third behind Notional and Imawildandcrazyguy in the Risen Star Stakes (G3). The latter was beaten by Zanjero here, as he met him at level weights (he was receiving 4lbs in the Risen Star).

From the Globeform Annual:

Circular Quay was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), but beaten 10 lengths by the winner Street Sense, and it was not his best performance to date. It was not even his second best! He ran in three big races as a juvenile, and performed to GF 116+, 112+ and 110+ in these three. The son of Thunder Gulch ran a solid race behind Street Sense, but he ran even better two starts earlier, when winning the Hopeful Stakes (G1). After that win he was a beaten favorite in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, where Great Hunter seemed to outstay Circular Quay and beat him by 1 ¾ lengths. Street Sense was third. It was a strong, strong race that has produced a bunch of subsequent winners.

Circular Quay had previously been visually so, so impressive when coming from around fifteen lengths off the pace to simply blow by Scat Daddy for a 4 ¼-length win in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) over 7 furlongs at Saratoga. Scat Daddy went on to win the Champagne Stakes (G1) in good style, giving the form a nice boost, and he also ran quite well at the Breeders’ Cup, to finish fourth.

Back in July, Circular Quay defeated Shermanesque by an easy 1 ¼ lengths in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, where he had been an impressive debut winner four weeks earlier.

On his best form, Circular Quay is a most exciting prospect, and a runner we would expect to see winning at Grade One level again at three. It is hard to know what to make of him, quite yet, though. Is he closing sprint-miler, or will he stay 1 ¼ miles and be a serious contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1)? Tough call, but this colt understandably prominent in various Kentucky Derby future books. His turn of foot will always make him most effective over fast tracks.

Form summary

High class colt, ran remarkable race when coming from way off the pace to win G1 over 7 fur. at Saratoga (third start), 2nd in G1 at Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs.


Circular Quay made his seasonal debut in the Risen Star (G3) at the Fair Grounds in February, but was ’wiped out’ as a horse clipped heels in front of him at the top of the straight – he did well to take fifth behind Notional. He bounced right back with a solid 2 ¼-length win over Ketcikan in the Louisiana Derby (G2) over 8.5 furlongs at the same track in March, coming from last to first and looking as good as ever.

Looking ahead

The level of his success at three may depend on his ability to stay. He looks a Derby horse but if a shorter trip is what he ideally wants, we would love to see Circular Quay in the Met Mile (G1).

Pedigree Notes

Thunder Gulch won the Kentucky Derby (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1), Florida Derby (G1) and Travers Stakes (G1). As a sire, he is best known for champion Point Given (see Point Ashley) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Spain, and in 2006 he was also represented by Las Virgenes (G1) and Santa Anita Oaks (G1) winner Balance, who won the 2007 Santa Margarita Hcap (G1).

Circle of Light won the Spinaway Stakes (G1) and was placed in the Matron (G1) Ashland (G1) and Shuylerville (G2). She is also dam of Circle the World (Fuasichi Pegasus), a winner and 4th in the 2006 Iowa Derby. Circle of Light was covered by Giant’s Causeway in 2006. She also has a 2005 brother to Circle the World.

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) 8.5 furlongs dirt – Santa Anita 3 March

1 – Great Hunter (Aptitude) C Nakatani
2 – Sam P. (Cat Thief) G Gomez
3 – Saint Paul (Sweetsouthernsaint) A Solis

Others: Boutros, French Transition, Scat Thief, Tiago, Hurry Up Austin, Tap It Light

Won by: 1 ¼ lengths (dominant), 2 ¼ lengths, 3 ¼ lengths Time: 1:42.89 (fast track)

Great Hunter came from quite a long way back, and made giant strides on the home turn. He was simply towering over his rivals in this comeback. He was in front midway down the lane, may have idled a bit, but kept on well to beat a determined Sam P. By 1 ¼ lengths, while conceding 2lbs. Sam P. Is a tough customer, he looked beaten and unlikely to be in the first five, as they neared the home bend, but staying is his game. He ran very much like he had done when winning a mile allowance race at Churchill Downs last November. He had been fourth, well beaten, behind Nobiz Like Shobiz, in the Holy Bull (G3) – but was also second behind the impressive Any Given Saturday at Keeneland last fall.

Great Hunter looked in fine shape here. The win told us little new about his class, but it was an ideal way to return and he is probably a serious Derby contender. He improved on his sixth start as a juvenile, when winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) over 8.5 furlongs over the new polytrack surface at Keeneland, staying on really well at the end to beat Circular Quay by 1 ¾ lengths, with Street Sense back in third spot. His winning time was quite a bit better than that recorded by Bel Air Beauty in the Alcibiades Stakes (G2) 24 hours earlier.

Not that the Breeders’ Futurity form needed any indirect boosts. Four weeks later and we saw the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs, also over 8.5 furlongs, where the trifecta was filled by the same trio, albeit in reverse order. Street Sense was best in the Juvenile, beating Circular Quay by 10 lengths. Great Hunter, like the other two coming from off the pace but never as far back, ran on for third. He was 2 ¼ lengths behind Circular Quay, and 2 ¾ lengths in front of the fourth placed Scat Daddy, who had landed the Champagne Stakes (G1) on his previous start.

Prior to his Keeneland success, Great Hunter had been second three times in valuable events in California. After breaking his maiden at Lone Star Park (second start), he was 2 ¾ lengths behind E Z Warrior in the 6-furlong Hollywood Juvenile Championship (G3), 3 lengths behind Principle Secret in the 6.5-furlong Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar, and 1 ¾ lengths behind Horse Greeley in the 7-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G2). He was never far off the pace in any of these events, and in the Breeders’ Futurity, Great Hunter raced in fifth early on. At the Breeders’ Cup, he suffered some interference on the first bend, and dropped further back than he had become used to. That said, the pace was extremely strong, and deep closers dominated the finish.

Great Hunter’s sire Aptitude peaked at four; when he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Hollywood Gold Cup. As a 3-year-old, he ran second Kentucky Derby (G1) – behind Fusaichi Pegasus – and was also runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (G1). He has also sired Outperformance (G3 win on turf).
The Lews Memorial favorite’s dam, the Roy daughter Zenith, won three races, and ran second in the Gardenia Handicap (G3). Zenith is a half-sister to the G3 placed minor stakes winner Im Out First.

The Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) 9 furlongs dirt – Gulfstream Park 3 March

1 – Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) / J Velazquez
2 – Stormello (Stormy Atlantic) K Desormeaux
3 – Nobiz Like Shobiz (Albert the Great) C Velasquez
4 – Adore the Gold (Formal Gold) E Prado
5 – Hal’s My Hope (Halo’s Image) J Rivera

Others: Drums of Thunder, Meritocracy, Divine Master, Johannesburg Star

Won by: nose (just got up), ½ length, ½ length, 3 ¼ lengths Time: 1:49.1 (fast track)

Scat Daddy showed a new dimension to his game here, as he was held up at the back of the field, had quite a bit to make up as they turned for home, and finished to some effect o catch the leader Stormello. Scat Daddy, proving not only that he has trained on but also that he has a fair amount of stamina, produced his career best performance, running to Globeform 111+, while Stormello was very game in defeat – giving the winner 2lbs and just losing in the final stride. This was tough luck for Stormello and his connections, not least since they had experienced a troubled – and much too long – journey across country to take up this engagement. Stormello ran to GF 115+ last year, when he won the Hollywood Futurity (G1), and he was nearly as good here – on his first start of the year.

It is hard to imagine the front-running Stomello being equally effective over 10 furlongs but Scat Daddy ran like a horse that will stay the Kentucky Derby (G1) distance. Is he classy enough? Hard to say though one still has to bear in mind that this colt is more exposed than many other leading contenders.

Nobiz Like Shobiz was once more hanging to his left when coming under pressure – and his Holy Bull (G3) runner-up, Drums of Thunder finished a dull sixth here, indicating that the Holy Bull form was nothing special. Barclay Tagg’s contender’s best run to date is still last year’s Remsen Stakes (G2) win, when he outclassed Zanjero.

Adore the Gold, coming off a good win in the 6.5-furlong Swale Stakes (G2) here last month. The Michael Gorham trainee, stretchoing optimistically out in trip, hit the front early in the straight, but Stormello fought back well and – although Adore the Gold improved slightly finishing fourth in the ’FOY’, he does look more and more like a natural miler.

Hals’ My Hope, who was taking a massive step up in class, drags the form of this race a bit down, finishing fifth, just 4 ¼ lengths behind Scat Daddy. The first two both looked quite determined, however, and we will here more from both in coming weeks. Stormello is a possible for the UAE Derby (G2) at Nad Al Sheba on March 31.

The Hutcheson Stakes (G2) 7.5 furlongs dirt – Gulfstream Park 3 March

..98 – King of The Roxy (Littleexpectations) / E Prado
..94 – Bold Start (Jump Start) / K Desormeaux
..95 – Out of Gwedda (Out of Place) / J Velazquez

Others: Reata’s Rocket, Air Lord, Storm in May, Forefathers, Finallymadeit, Spin Master

Won by: 2 ¼ lengths (going away), 5 ½ lengths, neck Time: 1:28.00 (fast track)

A solid comeback by the Team Valor runnerKing of The Roxy, who made a nice move on the turn, and could be called the winner shortly into the straight. He overcame a long layoff, he overcame a slow start, and he overcame a wide trip – to win the race going away. Bold Start produced his career best in second, beating Out of Gwedda by 5 ½ lengths for the place. If there is a G1 horse in this race, it is just the one; the winner.

King of The Roxy was among the better juveniles last year, when second to Chase City in the Saratoga Special (G3) before beating C.P. West in the Futurity (G2) at Belmont Park. His running style here suggests that he will have no problems at all with a mile, and he could stay furlongs. The Hutcheson is half a furlong further than it used to be / but it is still as unlikely to throw up a Kentucky Derby winner.

The Southwest Stakes 8 furlongs dirt – Oaklawn Park 19 February

1 – Teuflesberg (Johannesburg) / S Elliott
2 – Officer Rocket (Officer) / C Borel
3 – Forty Grams (Distorted Humor) / D Meche

Won by: 1 1/2 lengths (readily), 1 length Time: 1:1:38.2 (fast track)

Teuflesberg went straight to the lead and stayed there, in a race that is highly unlikely to throw up a future Grade One winner. He ran on gamely to hold Officer Rocket, a G3 winner last year, at bay. The speedy Forty Grams tired in the stretch but held on for third, beating Hard Spun - who ran as if something was amiss. He had beaten Teufelsberg by 8 ¾ lengths into third when they met in the LeComte Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds in January.

The Sam F Davis Stakes 8.5 furlongs dirt – Tampa Bay Downs 17 February

1 – Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor) / J Velazquez
2 – All I Can Get (Slew City Slew) / J Gonzalez
3 – James Wilfred (Trippi) / D Centeno

Won by: 2 ¾ lengths (readily), 3 ½ lengths Time: 1:44.27 (fast track)

Any Given Saturday had been found a soft spot for his 3yo debut here, and he broke little sweat in defeating 33-1 shot All I Can Get and 15-1 shot James Wilfred, plus four others. The field was well strung out in the end, as Any Given Saturday beat the last finisher by 19 lengths. He came home 2 ¾ lengths ahead of the runner-up, after seeming to idle a bit when he hit the front. Kept up to his task by Velazquez, who had him racing just off the speed early, he was pushed out to the line. His second to Tiz Wonderful in last year’s Jockey Club Cup (G2) was better form, but this was a good starting point for the son of Distorted Humor. He is still lacking in experience. His runner-up, All I Can Say, had won 4 of his 6 previous starts, but was also beaten 4 ¾ lengths into fourth behind Barkley Sound in the Pasco on his most recent outing. Third placed James Wilfred was coming off a fifth behind Storm in May in the Sunshine Millions Dash (where was slowly away).

He beat ’nothing’ but no horse can do more than win and Any Given Saturday is probably on course for better things.

The San Vicente Stakes (G2) 7 furlongs dirt – Santa Anita 11 February

1 – Noble Court (Doneraile Court) / C Nakatani / 118lbs
2 – Law Breaker (Silver Deputy) / A Gryder / 115lbs
3 – Half Famous (Tribal Rule) / A Delgadillo / 118lbs

Won by: Neck (just held on), 1 3/4 lengths Time: 1:23.12 (fast track)

Noble Court won an uninspiring edition to the 7-furlong San Vicente Stakes (G2), as he kicked on at the top of the lane and just held on to win by a neck from Law Breaker (Silver Deputy), who was receiving 3lbs. Trained by John Sadler, and again ridden by Corey Nakatani, Noble Court was coming off a third place finish behind E Z Warrior and Hurry Up Austin in the 6-furlong San Miguel here at Santa Anita on January 7. He looked like a horse wanting more distance that day, and he stepped up by one furlong here – but did not seem to be ready for two turns, that’s for sure. His runner-up, Law Breaker, had previously been third to Kolo (well beaten in the Sham Stakes since) in the Eddie Logan on turf, and beaten Red Level by ¾ length in an allowance heat on dirt. This is not too inspiring formlines.

E Z Warrior was intended to run in the San Vicente but had to bypass, and Hurry Up Austin was scratched at the start. Only five ran, none with a previous stakes win. Half Famous, a long way behind Notional when last in the San Rafael (G2), finished third, beaten just 2 lengths. This was not a race that will produce a contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

The Risen Star Stakes (G3) 8.5 furlongs dirt – Fair Grounds 10 February

1 – Notional (In Excess) / R Albarado / 122lbs
2 – Imawildandcrazyguy (Wild Event) / F Jara / 116lbs
3 – Zanjero (Cherokee Run) / J Castanon / 120lbs

Won by: 2 ¼ lengths (readily), head Time: 1:44.18 (fast track)

Notional improved slightly on the form he produced when winning the San Rafael (G2) by 4 lengths form the non-staying Tenfold, as he was quite a comfortable winner over Imawildandcrazyguy, who was finishing well and just got up for second. He had won an optional claimer by 10 lengths at Calder on his most recent start, and previously run a respectable race for third behind Green Vegas in the In Reality at the same venue. He had no chance with Notional though, who, after Circular Quay’s mishap, was different class here.

Circular Quay had to take up sharply at the top of the lane, as Slew’s City fell in front of him. He ran on for fifth, and it is anybody’s guess what would have happened without this unfortunate incident.

Notional ran in blinkers again, as he had done for the first time in the San Rafael. He was ridden from off the pace here, however, showing himself to be quite versatile. This was his fifth lifetime start and third win. He has improved all along and it is hard to say how far he can go. He has also given Stormello a bit of a boost – the horse that beat him into sixth in the Hollywood Futurity (G1) last December. Prior to that run, Notional had finished third behind the classy duo Belgravia and Dilemma in the Hollywood Prevue (G3). By In Excess, out of the French Deputy mare Truly Blessed, this colt promises to stay at least 9 furlongs.

Zanjero made a nice return, not having run since his second to Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct in November. He was no match for Nobiz Like Shobiz, who made a good comeback when winning the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) last weekend, but Zanjero could well be improving this year. He had previously beaten the impressive maiden winner First Defence readily by a length over 8.5 furlongs at Churchill Downs.

The Sham Stakes (G3) 9 furlongs dirt – Santa Anita 3 February

1 – Ravel (Fusaichi Pegasus) / G Gomez / 118lbs
2 – Liquidity (Tiznow) / C Nakatani / 119lbs
3 – Song of Navarone (Sultry Song) / J Court / 118lbs

Won by: 1 length (gamely), 3 lengths Time: 1:48.91 (fast track)

Ravel took a good step in the right direction here, outstaying the more experienced rival Liquidity, as the pair had the race between them virtually through the stretch. Liquidity went off the even money favorite, based on his good stakes form, but the maiden winner Ravel proved too good – and that will probably always be the case when these colts meet. Ravel is a very nice son of Fusaichi Pegasus, and he seems to have more scope for improvement.

Out of the A.P. Indy mare Let, Ravel cost $950,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sales. His dam won the Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap (G2) and was second to Well Chosen in the Ashland Stakes (G1), over the speed favoring Keelenad track. She went to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) over the same distance, but could manage only fifth behind Keeper Hill. Let is a half-sister to Eagle Cafe, who won the 9-furlong Japan Cup Dirt (G1), having earlier been third in the Prix Dollar (G2) over 10 furlongs on turf in France. Ravel should have no problems with 1 ¼ miles, he has made few mistakes in his three races to date, and could well develop into a serious Derby contender..

He was impressive when winning his second start, racing with great zest just off the pace, before moving up smoothly to beat Level Red by 3 ½ lengths (Level Red came back to beat Time Squared – who was last in the Sham).

Liquidity was coming off a good second to Stormello in the Hollywood Futurity (G1) over 8.5 furlongs at Hollywood Park in December, when Silent Soul was fifth and Notional was back in sixth. Notional reversed the form with Silent Soul when winning the San Rafael Stakes (G2) next time, beating Tenfold (who was an odds-on loser here yesterday) by 4 lengths. Liquidity gives us a good line to Stormello, who was in some of the best juvenile races last year, and – at this point – it is easy to prefer Ravel over Stormello.

The Holy Bull Stakes (G3) 8 furlongs dirt – Gulfstream Park 3 February

1 – Nobiz Like Shobiz (Albert the Great) / C Velazquez / 120lbs
2 – Drums of Thunder (Concerto) / M Cruz / 120lbs
3 – Scat Daddy (Johanneburg) / 120lbs

Won by: 1 ½ (readily), 1 ¼ Time: 1:35.47 (fast track)

Nobiz Like Shobiz came through his seasonal debut in a satisfactory, if not spectacular, way. He was odds-on to beat seven rivals in the one-mile Holy Bull Stakes (G3), and did so without too much trouble – after showing early speed and quickening clear at the top of the lane. He was hanging left though, just like last year, and was only 1 ½ lengths better than the 27-1 shot Drums of Thunder (Concerto). Drums of Thunder was making his ninth career start for the Kaplan barn, and he had landed the What a Pleasure Stakes by beating Green Vegas at Calder in December. That form is clearly better than it appeared at the time but there can be no doubt, Nobiz Like Shobiz will meet much better horses in his upcoming races.

Scat Daddy (Johannesburg), who had beaten him in the Champagne (G1) last year, seemed to drop off the Derby trail already, as he was a dull third. He was probably just a typical, precocious juvenile last year, who will find life tough at three.

The Barclay Tagg trained Nobiz Like Shobiz had won the 9-furlong Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct in December. Facing a decent, if not top class, field, he simply smashed them. He showed a superb turn of foot early in the straight, and shot clear for a 6 ½-length win over Zanjero, who was running on well from the back. Zanjero had previously been a game winner over First Defence (who was coming off an impressive maiden win), with Wham 3 lengths beaten in third. On the same day as the Remsen, Wham met Sam P. over at Churchill Downs – and was also beaten 3 lengths. Wham was beginning to look exposed, but also game and consistent, telling us there is little to choose between Zanjero and Sam P. And that Nobiz Like Shobiz is way clear of both. This was confirmed as Sam P. was fourth in the Holy Bull, beaten 11 ¼ lengths.

The LeComte Stakes (G3) 8 furlongs dirt – Fair Grounds 13 January

1 – Hard Spun (Danzig) G Pino / 122lbs
2 – Izzie’s Halo (Halo’s Image) J Campbell / 116lbs
3 – Teufelsberg (Johanneberg) R Albarado / 122lbs

Won by: 6 ½ (easy), 2 1/4 Time: 1:37.87 (fast track)

Hard Spun remained unbeaten in four starts as he outclassed his six rivals here. Making all the running, the son of Danzig quickened right away from his nearest pusruer, Teufelsberg, at the top of the lane and was a very comfortable winner. This win puts him on target for some of the more demanding Triple Crown preps, and he may be pointing to the Arkansas Derby. Is he good enough for Grade One company? Hard to say, but he sure looked well above G3 in this event. Another question is; will he stay 1 ¼ miles? First impression is that he can ”do a Lawyer Ron” – and dominate in this corner in the early parts of the season. He may have a bit too much speed for the Run for The Roses but his dam won over 1 ½ miles so it is possible that Hard Spun will stay 1 ¼ miles. If so, he's a strong contender.

Izzie’s Halo outstayed Teufelsberg to take second – the latter had tried to go with the winner, and that might have cost Teufelsberg the place. None of these two look like proper Triple Crown contenders.

The San Rafael Stakes (G2) 8.5 furlongs dirt – Santa Anita 13 January

1 – Notional (In Excess) C Nakatani / 119lbs
2 – Tenfold (Tiznow) V Espiniza / 116lbs
3 – Grapelli (Thunder Gulch) G Gomez / 116lbs

Won by: 4 (easy), head Time: 1:36.48 (fast track)

Notional gave Hollywood Futurity (G1) winner Stormello a nice boost when landing the San Rafael (G2) - having been sixth in the big race at Hollywood Park in December. The son of In Excess, fitted with blinkers for the first time by trainer Doug O'Neill, was an easy 4-length winner over the pacesetter Tenfold (Tiznow), trained by Bob Baffert, who came out best in a triple photo for the place. Notional, ridden Corey Nakatani, raced in third early, moved ahead at the top of the lane and won as he pleased. He was giving three pounds to his nearest rivals and was by far the best. It is hard to see any of those behind him here reversing the form in the near future.

This was his fourth lifetime start and he improved really niceely here. Prior to the Hollywood Futurity, he had finished third behind the classy duo Belgravia and Dilemma in the Hollywood Prevue (G3). By In Excess, out of the French Deputy mare Truly Blessed, this colt promises to stay at least 9 furlongs – and he could be a contender for the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Tenfold, just holding on from Grapelli and Silent Soul in a scramble for second, is also a good sort – but had his stamina limitations exposed after setting the pace. A drop down to a mile will be to his advantage. He was a good maiden winner from Carman over 7 furlongs here on Dec 26.

The San Miguel 6 furlongs dirt – Santa Anita 7 January

1 – E Z Warrior (Exploit) D Flores / 122lbs
2 – Hurry Up Austin (Lake Austin) J Court / 115lbs
3 – Noble Court (Doneraile Court) C Nakatani / 117lbs

Won by: 1 ¾ lengths (easy), ¾ lengths Time: 1.08.82 (fast track)

E Z Warrior (Exploit) remained unbeaten in three starts, as he won the 6-furlong San Miguel Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita on Sunday. Going wire to wire, the $1.2 million purchase beat Hurry Up Austin (Lake Austin) by two easy lengths in 1.08.82. Ridden by David Flores, the 1-2 favorite looked a pretty smart prospect here, and never came under serious pressure. Last year. E Z Warrior won a 5-furlong maiden at Hollywood Park (beating Belknap) before capturing the 6-furlong Hollywood Juvenile Championship (G3) by 2 ¾ lengths from Great Hunter – who went on to win the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, and take third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) – behind Street Sense (who he had beaten in the Lane’s End).

These formlines are working out well and E Z Warrior is clearly a Graded stakes winner in the making. He was carrying 5 pounds more than the much more experienced Hurry Up Austin, trained by Melvin Stute. But is this unbeaten Baffert kid a Kentucky Derby (G1) horse? Probably not. He posesses too much speed.

Noble Court (Doneraile Court), making only his third lifetime start for trainer John Sadler, ran a nice race to take third. He reversed the form with Colonel Chick, who had beaten him on his debut, and stepped up well on his 4-length win over Spankey Come Home in a Hollywood maiden in December. Noble Court will be better suited by a mile, he will certainly beat Hurry Up Austin in the future – though the latter gives us interesting formlines to runners like Belgravia, Ididntdoanything and Chief’s Magic, who have all beaten Hurry Up Austin fair and square.

Last update: 2007-04-20 03:39:44 (First published: 2007-01-07 18:16:14 )

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