Despite the troubles at Santa Anita, several Kentucky Derby prep races ran this weekend at Tampa Bay, Aqueduct and Turfway.
Tampa Bay Derby - Tampa Bay Downs
TACITUS was sent off at 8-1 in the Tampa Bay Derby for trainer Bill Mott. Rated midpack by Ortiz up the backstretch, the colt came late on the rail to outpower OUTSHINE and take the Tampa Bay Derby by 1 1/4 lengths, finishing the 1 1/16th miles in 1:42.36 breaking the 2017 stakes record set by TAPWRIT. The favorite at 7-5, WIN WIN WIN, finished third with ZENDEN holding for fourth.
While Ortiz was onboard TAPWRIT in 2017 when he won the Tampa Bay Derby the first time, Bill Mott hadn't won the race since 1997 with ZEDE. TACITUS earned 50 points towards the Road to the Kentucky Derby, slotting him into the fourth place on the Derby leaderboard.
Challenger Stakes - Tampa Bay Downs
FLAMEAWAY broke well under Ortiz and took the lead. Nobody challenged them on the backstretch, so that's where they stayed. Turning for home, KILLYBEGS CAPTAIN took the lead briefly, but FLAMEAWAY responded to Ortiz and took the win in 1:41.89 over 1 1/16th miles, setting a stakes and track record. FLAMEAWAY is owned by John Oxley and trained by Mark Casse.
Heavenly Prize Invitational - Aqueduct
DIVINE PARK broke from the gates in the Heavenly Prize Invitational and never looked back last year. The chestnut mare had the same game plan this year when she took the lead from ROAD TO VICTORY with an opening quarter in :23.81 over a sloppy, but sealed track. The mare kept the lead into the turn. SPLIT TIME made a late move in the turn, but DIVINE MISS GRAY found more speed and took the victory by three lengths and with a final time of 1:37.32. MIDNIGHT DISGUISE and ROAD TO VICTORY finished behind her.
$300,000 Gotham Stakes - Aqueduct
MUCH BETTER set a blistering pace with KNICKS GO. The pair set an opening quarter of :22.36. Shaking free of KNICKS GO, MUCH BETTER opened up a four-length lead, running the half in :44.42. MIND CONTROL and INSTAGRAND joined coming out of the turn. Coming from the middle of the track, HAIKAL catapulted to the front, winning by a length in 1:35.63.
HAIKAL earned 50 points towards the Derby trail. MIND CONTROL earned 20 points, bringing him up to a total of 30. INSTAGRAND finished a nose ahead of MUCH BETTER for third. HAIKAL is now third on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
$200,000 Jeff Ruby Stakes - Turfway Park
SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN broke quickly and took wrestled FIVE STAR GENERAL for the lead running the first quarter in :23.61. He then led the field all the way home, despite a challenge in the second turn from DYNAMIC RACER. Winning by 3 1/4 lengths, SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN finished in 1:52.05.
The win gave SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN 20 points towards the Kentucky Derby. DYNAMIC RACER earned 8 and MOONSTER earned four. In fifth place, FIVE STAR GENERAL earning two points.
Santa Anita Update
Seeing as the Kentucky Derby is just two months away and Santa Anita hosts some prominent prep races, they have made some adjustments to their stakes schedule.
The track has canceled four stakes and have rescheduled several others. While main track is still closed, the training track is scheduled to reopen March 11th. Track management is hopeful that the main track will reopen March 22nd.
Dennis Moore, a track consultant, has been heading a team of maintenance personnel who have been inspecting the track and amending the soil. Santa Anita has also announced new safety measures.
The canceled stakes races include the San Felipe Stakes (G2), Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3), the California Stakes (G2) and the China Doll Stakes for fillies. The Santa Anita Handicap (G1) will run April 6th, the same day as the Santa Anita Derby (G1). The Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1T) will be ran March 30th, with the Santa Ana Stakes (G3T). The Beholder Mile Stakes (G1) and the San Carlos Stakes (G2) have been moved to March 23rd with the San Luis Rey Stakes (G2T). The San Simeon Stakes (G3T) and the Irish O'Brien Stakes will run March 31st. The Kona Gold Stakes (G2) will run April 20th.
Fortunately rain has held off since last Wednesday and the track maintenance team has been able to harrow, roto-till and aerate the track to get it into a uniform profile.