In this, the first major weekend of Triple Crown Trail action, the early favorites for the Derby didn't look the part as longshots ruled in all three major stakes events. The results probably caused a lot of people to change their minds in the first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, as the pool closed half an hour after the San Vicente on Sunday.
Sort It Out was the first of three long shot winners this weekend in the Whirlaway Stakes.
The $84,150 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct kicked off the Triple Crown prep action this weekend. A field of 10 mostly locally based 3-year-olds went to post in this 1 1/16 mile event over the inner dirt track, with Remsen Stakes runner-up Galloping Grocer sent off as the 1-2 prohibitive favorite. Also entered were 7-2 second choice Naughty New Yorker and 12-1 shot Scrappy T. As expected, jockey Aaron Gryder sent the favorite to the front right away and Galloping Grocer led the procession through quick fractions of 23.24, 46.76, and 1:11.27, with 15-1 longshot Diamond Wildcat battling with him along the rail. Inside the 1/8 pole, Galloping Grocer weakened after the prolonged front-end duel, setting the race up for the closers. 20-1 longshot Sort It Out, back in seventh early, came out four wide into the lane and ran down the favorite to win by just a neck over another closer, Naughty New Yorker, who also finished well from last. The final time was 1:43.42 over a fast track. It was 1 1/4 length back to Scrappy T in third, and a neck back from him to the favored Galloping Grocer in fourth.
Larry Paltrowitz, managing partner of winning owner Preferred Pals Stable said, "He beat Galloping Grocer and Naughty New Yorker, who beat us by eight lengths last time they ran. Ever since he went long, he's been steadily improving. There is always the thought of nominating him to the Triple Crown. We'll see how the horse comes out and evaluate."
Dominick Schettino, trainer of beaten favorite and fourth-place finisher
Galloping Grocer said, "He's got a pretty big gash on the back of his
left-hind leg; I'll have to check him out. I don't know if a horse stepped
on him on the first turn. He punched late, but just got a little
tired. I'm most concerned about his back leg. He'll move forward off this
race. He was coming off a layoff and they ran fast today."
Scipion continued the upsets in the Risen Star Stakes.
Saturday's action moved to Louisiana with the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. A field of eleven was entered in this 1 1/16 mile event with a $150,000 purse, with Harlington sent off as the 6-5 favorite. The son of Unbridled out of Serena's Song was making his first stakes start for owner Eugene Melnyk and trainer Todd Pletcher after winning both of his career starts so far. When the field got underway, 18-1 shot Electric Light and 15-1 shot Silent Bid contested the pace on the front end, getting the half in 46.75 and 3/4 in 1:11.61. Jockey John Velazquez kept Harlington back in seventh and out of trouble out in the 5 path. Turning for home, the front-runners faded after such a quick pace as 10-1 shot Scipion and 45-1 longshot Real Dandy made their runs from the back of the pack. Gary Stevens took Scipion six wide around the turn, and he rallied strongly through the long Fair Grounds stretch to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:44.54 over Real Dandy. It was just a neck back to 6-1 Storm Surge in third. Favored Harlington was left with too much to do through the lane, and having gone wide the whole trip had nothing left for the drive, finishing a disappointing sixth.
Winning trainer Patrick Biancone said, "He is a late-comer horse and he did his job. He is a very good horse. Normally, he's excited (before the race) but today, he was like a professional. It's a horse that we (think can) go 1 1/2, or 1 1/4, but you cannot rush him." Rider Gary Stevens added, "I've raced him three times and I've been very impressed with what I've seen from him in the mornings. He lost a lot of ground around the turn, had to make up a lot of ground and won with something in reserve. He's a colt with a lot of potential and he handles himself very professionally."
Fusaichi Rock Star wired a field of only four in the San Vicente Stakes.
On Sunday, the scene shifted out west to Santa Anita for the Grade 2 San Vicente, a 7 furlong sprint for a purse of $147,000. With expected heavy favorite Roman Ruler scratching the morning of the race, a short field of just four colts went to post with Consolidator the even-money favorite. For the first six furlongs, 7.5-1 longest shot Fusaichi Rock Star battled on the front end with 2-1 second choice Kirkendahl, through a half in 46.56 and 3/4 in 1:10.34. Consolidator stayed comfortably in behind them in third, while 3-1 third choice Don't Get Bad was well back in fourth. Turning for home, Victor Espinoza took Consolidator out wide for the drive but he didn't fire and the wide trip took his toll as he faded through the lane and finished last. Fusaichi Rock Star took advantage of the ground-saving trip and easily held the lead to the wire in 1:22.59 over the fast track, holding off the fast-closing Don't Get Mad by a length. It was just a neck back to Kirkendahl in third, and 1 1/4 lengths more to the favorite.
Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "This horse had been training great. He's always trained well. We did a surgery on him, a myectomy. He was having trouble with his throat. He would displace real easy. I'll stretch him out (in his next start). I'll find a race for him. I don't know (where). He's always shown a lot."
Victor Espinoza, aboard beaten favorite and last place finisher Consolidator, said, "He broke well and he was right there in position and he ran well, I just think this horse is going to be better when they go a little bit farther. A couple turns are going to be better for him. I'd love to ride him when they go two turns because I know that's going to be his best distance. Seven-eighths is a little quick for him."