By J.J. Hysell
The Kentucky Derby trail is heating up as connections of several early prospects are making plans for the route they’ll take to Churchill Downs.
Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm announced Coup de Grace, the 2 for 2 son of Tapit trained by Chad Brown, is likely to make his next start in either the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25 or the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 18.
Coup de Grace made an impressive debut at Aqueduct and followed up with a sharp allowance win at Gulfstream on Dec. 15.
“His next race should let us know just how much talent he has,” Porter said.
Almost Famous, a son of Unbridled’s Song trained by Pat Byrne, is likely to make his next start in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1.
Almost Famous, a Churchill Downs-based allowance winner who is 2 for 3, was scratched from the Kentucky Jockey Club the day of the race with a bruised hind hoof.
“The Gulfstream Park Derby is a good spot for him,” Byrne said in a press release. “It wasn’t originally in my plans, but he’s acting like he wants to run and he’s doing well. . . We’ll take it one race at a time, but obviously the Florida Derby would be a nice target, and we’ll go from there. Gulfstream is always a tough meeting.”
Two top Mark Casse trainees – Coastline and Conquest Titan – are currently based at Palm Meadows and are possible for the Holy Bull.
Coastline, a son of Speightstown, won the Street Sense Stakes and was eighth after a troubled start in his most recent race, the Delta Downs Jackpot on Nov. 23.
Conquest Titan delivered one of the most impressive performances of both Stars of Tomorrow cards at Churchill Downs with his last-to-first victory in an allowance on Nov. 30.
Trainer Larry Jones has a nice Derby prospect in Albano, brother of Mark Valeski, runner-up in both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby.
Albano, winner of the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 21 and 2 for 3 overall, will likely stay based at Fair Grounds for his Triple Crown campaign, beginning with the Lecomte.
“We’ll just hope he turns out to be a few steps better than his older brother,” Jones said in the Fair Grounds notes.
Shug McGaughey recently issued an update on his top 2-year-olds, Honor Code and Top Billing, both at Payson Park in Florida.
On Honor Code, gutsy winner of the Remsen Stakes, McGaughey said: “I’ll probably start working him around the first of the year and see where it takes us. I would think the Fountain of Youth would – if everything went right – probably be in our plans, but before that, I don’t know.”
On Top Billing, a son of Curlin and an impressive debut winner over the slop at Laurel, he said: “I’ll look for a spot for him when I see the new (condition) book.”