GI “Apple Blossom” blooms into full view this Friday!

The GI $500,000, “Apple Blossom” Stakes is up this Friday at Oaklawn Park with a field of just 5, 4yo and up Fillies and Mares, going 1 1/16 mile.

Leading this short field at 4/5 is Havre De Grace.  This leader of the ladies handicap division this year appears ready for another big Oaklawn test as her last victory here was a stunner in the GIII Azeri Stakes. She finally defeated Blind Luck (who is not running here on friday) in a graded stakes race on her own terms! So she has to be the clear favorite here and only a bad ride from Eclipse Award winning jockey Ramon Dominguez could ruin this party. So we will go out on a limb here and say she should be first into your boxed exotics!

Shipping in from sunny Southern California way are a pair of top-flight ladies in multiple Graded Stakes winner Switch at 6/5 and recent GI Santa Margarita winner Miss Match at 10/1 . These two tangled in that same Santa Margarita contest where Switch did everything but win that day as Miss Match came on late to nip Switch at the wire. Those two ladies covered the 1 1/8 mile course that day in a very good 1:46  and 4/5. So these fine ladies should be in your exacta, trifecta wagers as there’s no super wagering here in this 5 horse field!

At 15/1 is Belle Watling a chilean import, where she was known as the Zenyatta of South America, well not quite, but she was a big-time multiple group/grade winner down there! She’s had some success in the States with a win and a 3rd in some minor dust-ups here but this will be her first big dance. She is a turf horse by trade and can go the longer distances with ease, so 1 1/16 mile isn’t going to be a problem for her here! Looking for a little foreign-intrigue in your exotics, try her in one of your 50 cent Oaklawn tri’s!

At 10/1 is Absintheminded who finished a decent 3rd here in that GIII Azeri Stakes last month. No, she probably won’t win against this crowd but for another Oaklawn 50 cent’er, put her at the back of a tri.

So what we have in this compact field just might be a B/C Ladies Classic preview, a rematch between the two Santa Margarita foes, a hot senorita from way down under and a up and coming 4yo trying to gain some respect!

What more elements could we add to make this the best “race of the day”, oh, I know how about a $500,000 purse and get mentioned in the same breath with the 2-time winner of this race, Zenyatta!

So Gracie and Switch are logical 1’s and 2’s with the all button filling in your 3rd’s!

It probably won’t payout well as a 5 horse fields are liken to do and any scratches here, well, we all know how that will pay out!

Sounds like a good enough reason to be plugged into this race on Friday!

GI $1 Million “Arkansas Derby” is last of the GI’s “Derby Trail” Preps!

Oaklawn Park scene of the 2011 Arkansas Derby!

The last of this year’s GI “Derby Trail” Prep’s is coming up this Saturday at Oaklawn Park in the Arkansas Derby going 1 1/8 mile! We’ve highlighted the field for you below!

Some thoughts from DRF on this GI!

See Free PP’s! 

Arkansas Derby
Purse: $1 million; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

1. Nehro, Corey Nakatani, 5-1
2. Elite Alex, Calvin Borel, 8-1
3. The Factor, Martin Garcia, 7-5
4. Brethren, Ramon Dominguez, 10-1
5. Sway Away, Patrick Valenzuela, 6-1
6. Caleb’s Posse, Eddie Razo, 10-1
7. Truman’s Commander, Israel Ocampo, 30-1
8. Alternation, Luis Quinonez, 10-1
9. Dance City, Javier Castellano, 15-1
10. Archarcharch, Jon Court, 12-1
11. J P’s Gusto, Cliff Berry, 15-1
12. J W Blue, Joe Rocco Jr., 30-1
13. Saratoga Red, Terry Thompson, 30-1

The 7/5 favorite here is The Factor coming out of a surprisingly good performance in the GII Rebel Stakes here last month in a pulling away from the field victory. He should be in your exotics somewhere!

Six other Rebel Stakes finishers are here too in Caleb’s Posse at 10/1 who finished up a strong 2nd that day, Archarcharch at 12/1 finished 3rd, Saratoga Red at 30/1 here finished 4th, J W Blue also at 30/1 here finished 5th, the speedy Sway Away at 6/1 here finished 6th that day and J. P.’s Gusto whose 15/1 here finished way back in 7th that day!

Alternation and Elite Alex were scratches that day and are 10/1 and 8/1 respectively here!

Alternation and Caleb’s Posse may be a paired entry here on Saturday!

The new shooters here are Nehro at 5/1, is the 2nd place finisher in the Louisiana Derby a few Saturdays ago and 2nd choice here on Saturday!

Brethren at 10/1 is here still smarting from his Tampa Bay Derby debacle and in need of some redemption here on Saturday.

Dance City at 15/1 is coming off a big-time allowance win to be here, much like Alternation is!

Bring up the rear is Truman’s Commander at 30/1 is a recent mile maiden winner and should be no factor here on Saturday!

So if The Factor can go 1 1/8 here on Saturday he will be a top Derby favorite on May 7th, if not, than a big pace collapse is coming here, so look for Nehro, Caleb’s Posse, Archarcharch, Alternation, Dance City and whoever has improved over their last very dismal performances will come and get him in the last 1/16. This race is all about whether The Factor can do that front running act of his for 1 1/8 mile and our guess is he can’t!

It has been a very tough Derby Trail so far with long shots and maiden’s having their way in almost all of them. So box everything you do, spread the risk around to as many different runners as makes sense to you in dime supers and hope you can hit it right!

 This one has that same upset feel to it, as someone with long odds has a very good chance of a surprise win here!

So Oaklawn Park makes its final contribution to the “Derby Trail” here Saturday with the Arkansas Derby and maybe 2, 3 or 4 of these starters can make it to Louisville on the first Saturday of May after their efforts in this contest.

So the GI portion of the “Derby Trail” will be in the books here on Saturday and we’ll give that descriptor a rest until the 2012″ Derby Trail” starts up in earnest early next year.

From here on out we are on the “Triple Crown Trail”!

First stop is Louisville, Churchill Downs and the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby in just 3 more Saturdays now!

“Havre de Grace” finally gets by “Blind Luck” in GIII “Azeri Stakes”!

Harve de Grace finishing off Blind Luck!

In this, their 5th meeting, Havre de Grace finally put the ghosts of losing to Blind Luck to rest yesterday, in the GIII “Azeri Stakes” for 4yos & up, going 1 1/16 mile, for a nice purse of $150k, with Absintheminded taking 3rd out on the Oaklawn Park main track!

Havre de Grace, now under the tutelage of trainer Larry Jones, sat a cool 4th in this race’s early panels, just stalking the pace set by Absintheminded with Blind Luck loping along in her usual trailing template!

Havre de Grace moved up on the far turn to catch, past and drew off on Absintheminded who held on for 3rd and powered home to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Blind Luck who came storming from last on the far turn, down the center of track, to get up for only a 2nd place showing here yesterday!

Some take-away’s to ponder from this contest!

The Hollendorfer crew can stop complaining about that fast Santa Anita surface, your girl couldn’t get up in time to win here either. Maybe she has lose a step or two, maybe going all in at the end works every time but once, like in ‘Texas Hold’em’ or maybe she’s just been watching too many Zenyatta training films!

Either way, take your 30k here and wait for next month’s Apple Blossom at a longer 1 1/8 distance and if Santa Anita isn’t your brand of vodka. Ok. the Apple Blossom and the Louisville Handicaps are coming up soon, try her in these classic contests! We need all the good 4yo fillies we can get here!

Harve de Grace hasn’t heard the last of Blind Luck this year, even if they manage to avoid one another all season a Breeders Cup Ladies Classic meeting would seem to be in the cards, right now! So Mr. Jones get your girl ready for Louisville in the Fall!

So our picks worked out just fine here with these two coming in as your 1’s and 2’s and if you mixed in a little Absintheminded or Tidal Pool at the back of your tri’s or supers then we didn’t do you wrong here on Saturday!

So we’ll take our props and move on to next Saturday’s busy race day with the Big Dubai World Cup races from the Meydan Racecourse where Gio Ponti will try his hand again in their $10,000,000 dust-up!

The$1 millionLouisiana Derby from the Fairgrounds is also up along with the $500kVinery Racing Spiral Stakes from Turfway Park with some great Stakes and Graded Stakes action, from well just about everywhere.

Remember, there’s only 5 more Saturday’s until the “Run for the Roses” commences. So if you’ve got a 3yo out there, they better be running soon or you can watch the Derby from the comfort of your stall!

 “See race replay below”!

“The Factor” goes gate to wire in GII “Rebel Stakes” win!

The Factor goes wire to wire in GII Rebel Stakes!

“The Factor”  had a  dominating win today in the GII $300,000, Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park today.

With Martin Garcia riding for trainer Bob Baffert, The Factor, as the favorite,  finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.19 over a fast track, showing he can go 2-turns and win.

The Factor, son of War Front, set good early fractions of 23.33, 46.77, and 1:10.98  as he held and then lengthen that lead to a final margin of about six lengths, with Caleb’s Posse, a 24-1 shot, finishing second and a neck back further for 3rd was Archarcharch. Sway Away, the big second choice, was never in this race at anytime!

This scratch laden race of an original 13 entries found early scratches in – Dreaminofthewin, Elite Alex, and Glint – while Alternation, acted up in the gate, leading him to being scratched late. The start was delayed for about 10 minutes because of his antics.

So what can we take away from this race?

Well, “The Factor” can go 2-turns, on the lead, at 1 1/16 mile as he just plain wore out everyone today here with those hot early factions. I don’t think even a young Rachel Alexandra would have been able to keep up with that kind of early heat. But this isn’t Churchill Downs with  1 1/4 mile to be run while being bumped by 19 other 3yo runners. That winner circle appearance is still far off yet.

So look for The Factor next in the Santa Anita Derby or right here in the Arkansas Derby either way he will have to try that front-running act over 1 1/8 next time. Can he do it, we think so but only time will tell.

So with this big splash of his here today, I can just read it now an East Vs. West showdown with “Uncle Mo” taking on” The Factor“,  in America’s biggest race, a true Derby Slugfest, with $2 million in prize money up for grabs! It’s a  horse racing blogger’s dream come true!

Get ready everyone, the 3yo wheat has now been separated from the chaff and we’ve only big time 3yo Derbys left to be run here in the heart of the”Derby Trail” season! It’s going to get wild from here on out, so buckle up out there everyone “ Dangerous 3yo curves ahead“!

See Race replay below!