In the Money

Horse racing insight that's loose on the lead

Kentucky Derby Path: Stakes Saturday

January 31st, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Three stakes that might have implications on the Kentucky Derby trail Saturday are the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Hutcheson at Gulfstream and the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay.

The Withers offers Derby points (10 for the winner, 4 for second, 2 for third and 1 for fourth), while the Sam F. Davis and Hutcheson do not. The Withers and Sam F. Davis are 1 1/16-miles on dirt; the Hutcheson is seven furlongs.

It could be an interesting day for New York-based stallion Noble Causeway. The sire has a runner competing in each of the stakes races: undefeated colt Samraat, the 7-5 favorite in the Withers, and gelding Noble Cornerstone, who is 7-2 in the Sam F. Davis. Kent Desromeaux passed on a chance to ride Unbridled’s Note in the Arcadia Stakes at Santa Anita to stick with Noble Cornerstone. ““We really appreciate the opportunity given to us by Steve Asmussen, but Kent’s main focus is on winning the Derby and that’s the priority right now,” said Desormeaux’s agent Danny Thomas.

While Harpoon is the center of attention in the Sam F. Davis, keep an eye on Matador, the Mark Casse-trained Ontario-bred. He’s a son of Malibu Moon making his first start on dirt and he’s trained over a dirt surface at Palm Meadows very well. Cousin Stephen gets a second chance after a disappointing fifth in an allowance. Longshot Imaginethatmom’s lone win was the one time he ran over a fast dirt track.

Mark Casse's Matador is a son of Malibu Moon trying dirt

Mark Casse’s Matador is a son of Malibu Moon trying dirt

The Withers features the heralded Uncle Sigh, a son of Indian Charlie who romped by nearly 15 lengths in his second start. He’ll likely be part of the pace from that rail spot. He does boast some stamina on the dam side, so his pedigree is intriguing regarding classic distances. Another interesting contender is the consistent Classic Giacnroll, a son of longshot Derby winner Giacomo. Also notable is Parx invader Honorable Judge, full brother of Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner and 2010 Withers victor Afleet Again. The Daily Racing Form’s David Grening reported that Honorable Judge had throat surgery after his tenth-place finish in the Iroquois, and he bounced back to win at Parx after that procedure.

At seven furlongs, the Hutcheson is tailored more for burgeoning sprinters, but a few of these contenders could head to the Fountain of Youth or the Florida Derby off a solid performance. C. Zee boasts an interesting pedigree as he is by Elusive Bluff, a son of Elusive Quality who was 2 for 2 in his short career. Spot, a son of Pulpit, boasts a great pedigree for stretching out and he turned a corner when switching to dirt last out. Todd Pletcher’s Trail Blaze could be a solid middle-distance runner in the making. Longshot Tashir faces tough company but has performed well on dirt.

In the maiden ranks, keep an eye on race 5 at Gulfstream Park Saturday. Sassicaia is a highly-regarded son of Bernardini, Ragtime makes his second start for Shug McGaughey and the one with the win-early pedigree is Va Banque. The performance of Madd Exchange in the fifth could give a read on Gambler’s Ghost in the Hutcheson.



Cairo Prince likely to skip Fountain of Youth, head to Florida Derby

January 31st, 2014

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Friday that Holy Bull winner Cairo Prince will likely bypass the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 22 and instead train up to the Florida Derby on March 29 at Gulfstream Park.

“The plans right now are to probably just point for the Florida Derby,” McLaughlin said in Gulfstream Park’s press notes. “The Holy Bull was a huge effort, and they’re not machines. It’s hard to run every four weeks and run your best. We’ll still look at (the Fountain of Youth), but we might very well skip it.”

A tweet from the Kiaran McLauhlin account said: “Cairo Prince’s next race will most likely be the Florida Derby on March 29th at Gulfstream Park.”

“Cairo’s doing great and eating up well,” McLaughlin said. “He’s just doing real well. He’s back to the track training. The Holy Bull was such a huge effort, and we have to look down the road to the first Saturday in May.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported earlier this week that Remsen Stakes winner Honor Code will miss the Fountain of Youth because of a minor setback.


Kentucky Derby Path: Curse of Apollo could get firm test this year

January 31st, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

You start hearing about it every year, usually around late April when the Kentucky Derby field is narrowed down and all are seeking to separate the pretenders from the real contenders.

The “Curse of Apollo” is one of the most touted and well-known Derby angles. It refers to Apollo, winner of the Derby in 1882 and the last horse to win the prestigious race who didn’t have a start at the age of 2.

Kentucky Derby: Will the Curse of Apollo come to an end in 2014?

Kentucky Derby: Will the Curse of Apollo come to an end in 2014?

Handicappers with a firm belief in this angle – who instantly will toss a Derby contender that began his or her career at 3 – had their faith somewhat shaken when Bodemeister nearly stole it on the front end before being passed by I’ll Have Another in 2012. He came up short, but Bodemeister – who began his career in a maiden race at Santa Anita on Jan. 16 – shed light on the fact that it’s possible for a talented, classy horse to overcome these “rules.”

The Curse of Apollo could get a firm test in 2014. This year, there appear to be many contenders who could end up deep on the Derby trail who didn’t start at 2. Most popular are the Todd Pletcher-trained “Trio of Tapits” based at Gulfstream. Constitution, Hartford and Anchor Down are all sons of Tapit who made their debuts as 3-year-olds in January. All three were impressive in their first starts, boast solid pedigrees and appear to have bright futures.

The same trend is occurring at Oaklawn as well. Paganol, a son of Tiz Wonderful trained by Cody Autrey, won a key maiden race at that track on Jan. 11. He’s on the Derby trail and being pointed to the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 17. The colt who finished second to Paganol while making his debut, Street Strategy, came back to win impressively at Oaklawn Thursday in his second start and could also be headed to a stakes race soon. Street Strategy, a powerful gray trained by Randy Morse, is a son of 2007 Derby winner Street Sense.

While some would say a late start is the main obstacle for these contenders, it’s more likely the Derby point system. While other Derby hopefuls who got an early start have collected a few points along the way, these late bloomers will need to be at their best quickly to earn enough points to make the field.

Is this the year the Curse of Apollo is eradicated? Stay tuned.



Another Kentucky Derby contender for Calvin Borel: Street Strategy

January 30th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Jockey Calvin Borel is firmly in this year’s Kentucky Derby mix with Almost Famous, a solid fourth in the Holy Bull, and Ride on Curlin, who won his 3-year-old debut in an allowance at Oaklawn.

Borel might be adding a third contender to the list in Street Strategy, a son of Street Sense who powered his way to a six-and-a-half length win at Oaklawn Thursday in his second start.

Street Strategy, a gray colt trained by Randy Morse and owned by Iron Horse Racing, was quite professional in victory. He grabbed the early lead, was passed and positioned between two horses, rated, then re-emerged with the lead and drew off.

The final time of 1:42.05 is on the slow side for a mile, but it should be noted times have been on the slower side for the Oaklawn meet so far, and Street Strategy was firmly in hand at the wire.

In his debut on Jan. 11, Street Strategy rallied from far off the pace to finish second to the highly regarded Paganol. Paganol is under consideration for the Southwest Stakes.

Borel is fond of Street Sense progeny, and it’s obvious why. Borel guided Street Sense to a win in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, the first of three Derby victories for Borel.

Street Strategy is one of many intriguing 3-year-olds who would have to overcome the “curse of Apollo.” Apollo, the 1882 Derby winner, was the last horse to win the Derby without racing at the age of 2.



Kentucky Oaks Path: Las Virgenes Stakes sports talented field

January 29th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

While the California-based Kentucky Derby points races haven’t shed much light on contenders, the Oaks points races out West are looking quite salty.

The Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita – which offers 10 points to the winner, four for second, two for third and one for fourth – features an eight-horse field loaded with promise.

The one-mile test marks the anticipated return of Hollywood Starlet winner Streaming for trainer Bob Baffert. The daughter of Smart Strike is 2 for 2 and will be making her first start on dirt, although she trains on dirt regularly and posts superb times. She’s cutting back in distance from the 1 1/16-mile Starlet off the layoff. This filly is already considered a top Oaks prospect and could vault into the top three with a sharp performance here.

Taste Like Candy, who couldn’t last and was beaten by Streaming after setting the pace in the Starlet, was the victim of another Baffert filly, Awesome Baby, in the Santa Ynez Stakes. In that six-and-a-half furlong contest, Taste Like Candy was moved into a stalking position, but could never reach Awesome Baby.

Blue Norther Stakes winner Sushi Empire is a daughter of Empire Maker making her first start on dirt in her sixth career start. Although she doesn’t boast the credentials or the speed of a few of these foes, that pedigree angle is often dangerous. She boasts a classy pedigree, out of the Danzig mare Dowell House, who won on multiple surfaces.

Proof of the Empire Maker angle will break from post four. Artemis fared well in her first two starts, but the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee had a breakout performance when she switched to dirt, coming from off the pace to break her maiden at a mile. This is an “under-the-radar” Oaks contender who could make a name for herself here.

Earthflight makes her U.S. debut in tough company. She’s shown steady improvement with experience, but works on dirt toward her first try on the surface don’t inspire. Look for her to make an impact on turf.

Arethusa looked like the real deal when she romped on synthetic in the Sharp Cat Stakes. Her fifth place performance in the Starlet was the result of a terrible start in which she bore out and was bumped hard. It could be this daughter of A.P. Indy, out of a Coronado’s Quest mare, is maturing slowly. She has a pedigree tailored for classic distances.

Fashion Plate is interesting in this spot. She flourished when switching to dirt and moving into a pacesetter’s role. It will be interesting to see what tactics are used here under the guidance of jockey Gary Stevens. The daughter of Old Fashioned has a pedigree suited for sprint to middle distances.

Saintly Joan, a daughter of Northern Afleet, was third in the Sharp Cat and fifth in the Blue Norther. She’s facing many of the same foes here and would need a sharp turnaround to beat them.




Honor Code’s detour could pave the way for Top Billing

January 29th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Wednesday that Honor Code will bypass the Fountain of Youth because of a minor setback.

Trainer Shug McGaughey told Alicia Wincze-Hughes that a future race like the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct is in play and that the son of A.P. Indy, considered one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites, isn’t “out of the picture yet.” Here’s the link:

McGaughey has not firmed up plans yet for one of his other top 3-year-olds, Top Billing, who won an allowance race in impressive fashion Saturday. With Honor Code out, the Fountain of Youth has now come into play for the son of Curlin, and it could be a perfect fit.

Top Billing has already performed well in two starts on the Gulfstream surface. The Feb. 22 test would appear to fit a two-race schedule if that’s what McGaughey is seeking. Also, Top Billing is behind the mark when it comes to points. The Fountain of Youth offers 50 points to the winner, 20 points to second, 10 to third and five to fourth. Last year, the 20th horse to qualify for the Derby had 10 points. As far as point projections, however, much depends on defections prior to the race.

Luckily, the setback for Honor Code appears to be minor. This new path could prove to be a benefit for both Derby contenders.



Kentucky Derby Path: Shug McGaughey’s Trio on the Trail

January 29th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Shug McGaughey’s Kentucky Derby dreams came true last year with Orb. This year, he’s in prime position to make it two in a row.

McGaughey boasts two top prospects and a third under-the-radar possible contender. Honor Code, who beat Saturday’s Holy Bull winner Cairo Prince in a gutsy effort in the Grade 2 Remsen in November, is his most popular Derby hopeful. The son of A.P. Indy, 2 of 3 in his young career, is training steadily at Payson Park in Florida for his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 22. He’s dominated the Derby Future Wagers so far, most recently listed at 10-1 in the Wynn’s Las Vegas book. He also closed at 10-1 in Churchill Downs’ first Derby Future Wager in November.

While Honor Code sits atop most Derby lists, In the Money has ranked one of McGaughey’s other 3-year-olds, Top Billing, much higher than his stable mate since December.

Top Billing, who landed on the Derby radar with his eye-catching debut over the slop at Laurel on Dec. 6, is 2 of 3 and has yet to try stakes company. His powerful allowance win on the Holy Bull undercard drew almost as much attention as Cairo Prince’s sharp victory in the Holy Bull.

Top Billing, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, features a pedigree more suited for the first Saturday in May. He isn’t dependent on a pace scenario and his pedigree is loaded with stamina influence.

Shug McGaughey

Shug McGaughey

McGaughey will seek to keep these two separated on the trail. The next start for Top Billing is yet to be determined.

“The one thing we’re not going to do is overcook him early — that’s not going to happen,” McGaughey said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how he comes out of this. I was a little nervous about running him back in three weeks, but he trained well and came out of it well. It does show he can do it.

“This horse has an unbelievably good mind. When he schooled the other day, he was perfect, and he was perfect again today. If we do have to send him somewhere, that won’t be a problem.”

While Mr. Speaker will head back to turf after finishing seventh in his first try on dirt in the Holy Bull, there’s another contender hiding out in McGaughey’s barn.

Ironicus, a son of Distorted Humor out of the A.P. Indy mare Meghan’s Joy, was smashing in his second start, also his 3-year-old debut. He hit the gate at the start, which left him last in the nine-horse field of the 1 /16-mile race on turf at Gulfstream Park. That didn’t deter him, as he launched a superb stretch rally to pass the field and win by a length and a quarter.

Ironicus began his career in a maiden race on dirt won by Surfing U S A that also featured highly-regarded Juba on Nov. 30 at Aqueduct. While Ironicus showed little in that first start – finishing 12th among 13 – he did get bumped at the start and at one point was seven-wide. Chalk that debut up to experience. He’s trained very respectably on dirt at Payson Park, and if he gets a second chance on dirt, look for improvement, particularly if Joel Rosario stays aboard.

Ironicus is half-brother of Seal Cove and Quiet Harbor, both stakes winners on turf, but is also a sibling to dirt winners: Hunting won the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct (1 1/8-miles); Norumbega won two races on dirt at 1 1/8-miles and was second in the Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct.




Kentucky Derby Path: Conquest Titan renewed with change in tactics

January 25th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

Conquest Titan began his career as a front-running speed horse. In his first two races, he was pushed to an early lead, and only able to carry that speed once – on synthetic in the seven-furlong Swynford Stakes at Woodbine.

A change in tactics has resulted in a rejuvenated – and much more successful – Conquest Titan. Trainer Mark Casse elected to go in a different direction with the son of Birdstone, and he responded with one of the best races of the 2013 juvenile season.

Conquest Titan

Conquest Titan

When he returned to Churchill Downs from a disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, a race in which he was hustled on the pace early but regressed, Conquest Titan was supposed to alter his style and come from off the pace.

What happened, however, wasn’t by design. The colt stumbled at the start of his optional claiming race on Nov. 30 and was left far behind his 11 foes. He remained at the back of the pack until jockey Shaun Bridgmohan asked him for run, and he orchestrated a mesmerizing rally in which he adeptly maneuvered through traffic in the mile test and passed each rival. He emerged the leader and won by a length and three-quarters.

That solidified the colt’s future moving forward. Stepping back into stakes company again in Saturday’s Grade 2 Holy Bull, the plan once again was to have Conquest Titan make a run from off the pace. Once again, however, he was compromised at the start.

Breaking from a wide post (nine) in the field of 11 going 1 1/16-miles, Conquest Titan was pinched back in the flurry of outside horses trying to gain position heading into the first turn. He was left last.

“We had hoped to not be so far back, but going into the first turn, they sandwiched him, so Shaun (Bridgmohan) did the right thing and took him back,” Casse said. “This is not the easiest place to come from out of it.”

As he did at Churchill Downs, Conquest Titan bided his time and embarked on a rally midway through the race. Seventh in the stretch, he made up substantial ground to finish second to dominant winner Cairo Prince.

Although he wasn’t beating Cairo Prince, Conquest Titan once again overcame adversity. Most importantly, he closed from last on a surface known for favoring front-runners and stalkers.

“We wanted to know if he fit with these horses, and I think he proved that today,” Casse said. “He has a special place he likes really well (Churchill Downs) and they run there on the first Saturday in May, so that’s good. I’ll have to talk to the owner, but we’ll probably stay here.”




Kentucky Derby Path: Mystery of Shared Belief continues

January 24th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

The status of Shared Belief, the undefeated champion 2-year-old male, is now a mystery.

The son of Candy Ride, a popular Kentucky Derby contender part-owned by sports radio host Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing, has been sidelined recently by an abscess in his right front hoof.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer indicated to multiple sources this week that Shared Belief would likely work Friday morning.

Shared Belief didn’t work, however, and everyone’s left in the dark as to why.

According to the Santa Anita press notes, when asked about the missed work, Hollendorfer said “There is no update.”

Hollendorfer was asked again and replied: “I don’t have any news for the next 15 days.”

Shared Belief was being pointed to the Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 8, but now his status is unclear.

Stay tuned.


Kentucky Derby Path: Derby picture in focus this weekend with Holy Bull Stakes

January 24th, 2014

By J.J. Hysell

With the promising field in Saturday’s Grade 2 Holy Bull and several intriguing allowance races across the country, the Kentucky Derby picture should be more in focus by Monday.

The key word here is “should,” as occasionally surprises in these January races can throw Derby watch lists into disarray.

On Friday, all eyes will be on the fifth race at Fair Grounds as Unknown Road, a son of Bernardini trained by Al Stall, returns for his third start. He drew attention with his 11-length romp over the surface to break his maiden in December. Prior to that, he was second to Coup de Grace, who is entered in Saturday’s Holy Bull. His performance could shed some light on what to expect from Coup de Grace Saturday. Also, Unknown Road is stretching out from six furlongs to 1 mile and 70 yards. The half-brother of outstanding filly Banshee Breeze won on the front end last time out, but also rated well behind Coup de Grace. It will be interesting to see what running style Shaun Bridgmohan implements in the field of six.

Stall also entered stablemate Purple Sky, who has yet to run back to that impressive run in his second start at Churchill Downs. Note that Rosie Napravnik is aboard for the first time. Robby Albarado, aboard Purple Sky in his previous races, gets on Interchange, a stakes-placed Delaware Park shipper coming off a long layoff.

At Santa Anita Friday, Dance With Fate, eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, makes his 3-year-old debut in an allowance race on turf (race 2). Also interesting to note is I’ll Wrap it Up, fourth in the Sham, makes short turnaround and returns to turf for Doug O’Neill. Not a race with Derby implications, but should be a fun one to watch.


The best Derby prep field assembled so far this season is featured in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull at Gulfstream.

Coup de Grace is a colt loaded with story lines. The son of Tapit, trained by Chad Brown and campaigned by Fox Hill Farm, will try two turns for the first time and will make his run from the rail. Jockey John Velazquez will be aboard, set to ride Saturday for the first time since he was injured in a spill at the Breeders’ Cup. In both of his wins he’s been on the front end, so tactics will be key here. If he’s pushed back and forced to rate, how he performs would be even more telling. His pedigree suggests his top is 1 1/16-1 1/8 and his dosage index is 2.47. How Unknown Road performs in Friday’s allowance at Fair Grounds could also serve as an early indicator.

Financial Mogul ran his best race when forced to come from very far off the pace in the Nashua. He made up substantial ground to finish second to Cairo Prince, who is also entered here. “He’s not ready for the best race of his life, but hopefully this will move him forward and show that he belongs, and keep dancing the bigger dances,” trainer Rick Violette said. Violette also noted his last breeze was “fabulous.” The long layoff for the son of Street Boss is the concern. His lone win was in the slop, but he ran a strong race on a fast track in the Nashua. Interesting pedigree is sprint/turf heavy on sire side but features Snow Chief as dam sire. Snow Chief won the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby and Preakness Stakes en route to being named champion 3-year-old in 1986. Financial Mogul’s dosage is 1.86.

Best Plan Yet is a Florida-bred son of Hear No Evil who is a stakes winner and is 2 for 2 at this distance. He was quite consistent until his ninth-place finish in his first try over the surface, the Gulfstream Park Derby. He could play a role in this race, but his pedigree is all sprint, his dosage is 4.60 and moving forward he’s not a Kentucky Derby contender.

Almost Famous

Almost Famous

Almost Famous, scratched the day of the Kentucky Jockey Club with a stone bruise, has healed and he’s won at this distance. He’s intriguing as his debut was jaw-dropping to see live and he’s been able to carry his speed in two of three starts so far. The layoff could be a concern here, and his pedigree is middle distance, but he shouldn’t be discounted as a Derby contender. The son of Unbridled’s Song has a dosage of 3.40. He’s one of two Derby hopefuls for Calvin Borel, who also rides Ride on Curlin.

Our Caravan is by In the Money Sire to Watch Daaher, who won the Jerome and Cigar Mile. This Michael Dilger trainee is jumping up to a tough task after a debut win at this distance. The pedigree boasts stamina on the sire side and is mostly sprint on the dam side; dosage of 3.00.

The revelation of Mr. Speaker on dirt is one of the top storylines of the race. He’s been superb on turf in his last two races, is a Grade 3 winner and has the look of a serious route runner. The Shug McGaughey trainee can go to the lead or come from off the pace. The son of Pulpit, out of the mare Salute, who is out of champ Personal Ensign, has a pedigree suited for dirt and his works indicate he can handle it as well. Interesting he’s a May colt but already is well-developed. His dosage is 3.71; Orb’s was 3.21. Definite Derby contender if he can handle dirt in his face.

So how good is Honor Code? Some help with that question might be provided by the performance of his rival, Cairo Prince, who surrendered to him late in the Remsen. This Pioneerof the Nile colt hasn’t shown many flaws, including handling a wide post with aplomb in the Nahua. He had one “off” work at Palm Meadows, but rebounded with two bullets. Hard to find fault with him – even with the layoff, as trainer Kiaran McLaughlin can bring them back ready. New sire Pioneerof the Nile has emerged as a multi-surface sire and he boasts Holy Bull himself as a dam sire. What’s puzzling is the daunting 7.00 dosage figure.

Wicked Strong will also deliver a gauge on the quality of the Remsen. He was a solid closing third in that 1 1/8-mile test and he switches to jockey Javier Castellano, who must never be discounted at Gulfstream. Hard Spun progeny have excelled more at middle distances, but the Charismatic line on the dam side is appealing. His dosage is 2.27.

After a dramatic fade to last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Conquest Titan returned with one of the best performances of a 2-year-old in 2013 in an allowance at Churchill Downs. His last-to-first rally was truly a rare spectacle, considering his stumble at the start and how he had to maneuver through traffic. Interesting comments from trainer Mark Casse about this Birdstone colt’s running style: he is better coming from off the pace, so look for that tactic here from Shaun Bridgmohan. Birdstone progeny can be quirky, but a solid performance from this colt will vault him to the top spot in the Derby rankings. The question is if he can switch that turn of foot to this Gulfstream surface. His dosage is 2.43.

Conquest Titan

Conquest Titan

Woodbine-based Katerina Vassilieva brings longshot Big Bazinga, who faltered in his first start on dirt in the Delta jackpot. The son of Bluegrass Cat has yet to replicate his eye-catching debut in synthetic. He has superb turf breeding on the dam side. His dosage is 3.00.

The lone Todd Pletcher entry, Intense Holiday, drew the far outside post of the 12-horse field. He raced frequently to close out his juvenile season, competing in three graded stakes in a two month period. The son of Harlan’s Holiday’s lone win was leading start to finish, and because of post position, jockey Joel Rosario will likely need to hustle him up to the pace. On the post, Starlight’s Dan Lucarelli said: “Hopefully this will make him get more involved early and see from that standpoint what he can do.” Harlan’s Holiday progeny tend to do well as juveniles and up to 1 1/16 miles, but there’s a drop off when they stretch out beyond that. His dosage is 3.80.

Prior to the Holy Bull, Gulfstream offers three dirt races for 3-year-old colts and geldings, including an anticipated allowance route. The fourth race, at 1 1/16-miles, features one of Shug McGaughey’s top 3-year-olds, Top Billing, and the Todd Pletcher-trained Surfing U S A. Top Billing got a solid education in his last-out loss to Commissioner at 1 1/8 miles and needs to establish himself as a stakes horse here. Surfing U S A is a legitimate threat despite the fact the son of Roman Ruler is stretching out from seven furlongs. Pletcher also entered Mike Repole’s Monopolize, a $500,000 son of Bernardini who won a solid race at Aqueduct and shouldn’t be overlooked. Hesinfront is a War Front trying dirt for the first time as is Rockford, who has a keen turf pedigree but has trained very well on dirt for new conditioner Bill Mott.

In the sixth race, a mile maiden test, trainer Michael Matz unveils the brother of speedy Reneesgotzip in L.A. Freeway. Woodfield Springs is a son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass and he’s trying dirt for the first time after a promising debut on turf.

In the third race, Todd Pletcher continues to unveil his tough Tapit 3-year-olds with Anchor Down, a half-brother of Sweet Lulu.

At Santa Anita Saturday, the California Cup Derby features Tamarando, the Del Mar Futurity and Real Quiet Stakes winner trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. He was listed at 40-1 in the most recent Wynn’s Las Vegas Derby Futures.