2003 Kentucky Derby Preps Aventura Stakes, Illinois Derby, and Santa Anita Derby
Three major Kentucky Derby preps were run on Saturday, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, the Grade 2 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, and the Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream. These should be the final starts before the Kentucky Derby for most of the entrants, with the Santa Anita Derby being the final major prep on the west coast and the Illinois Derby having the distinction of being the race won by last year's dual classic winner War Emblem. In recent memory only 1999 dual classic winner Charismatic ran an additional prep race between his Santa Anita Derby start and his Triple Crown run. There was a national pick three wager, the NTRA Spring Pick 3, offered on the three races and the results today will also have an effect on Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager which closes on Sunday.
The main event of the day was the Santa Anita Derby (G1), for a guaranteed purse of $750,000.
Buddy Gil winner of the Santa Anita Derby.
This event featured three horses trained by Bob Baffert, one of which was the highly regarded Kafwain. He was sent off as the 9-5 second choice after his second place finish in the Louisiana Derby last out, although he was subsequently disqualified for excessive clenbuterol in his post race tests. The 3-2 favorite was Atswhatimtalkinbout, a late charging second by a nose in the San Felipe Stakes last time out. However, it was the horse who won the San Felipe that came out on top once again. Buddy Gil, dismissed at over 6-1, settled in mid-pack early and, making headway turning for home, got to the front a furlong out and outfinished 36-1 longshot Indian Express to win by a head in 1:49.36 for the 1 1/8 miles. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Indian Express' stablemate Kafwain in third while Atswhatimtalkinbout suffered from a bobbled start and had too much to do late, finishing fourth. Winning trainer Jeff Mullins said, "I had all the confidence in my horse, even though I didn't know we had it won until we hit the wire. (Buddy Gil) is so honest and gives all his heart every single time. We're definitely thinking (Kentucky) Derby for him, but we have to get him back to the barn and make sure everything is all right with him before we make that kind of decision. Four weeks is a good time between this race and then, so we'll just have to take it one day at a time. He definitely earned his chance to be there, though." It was jockey Gary Stevens' ninth Santa Anita Derby win, breaking Bill Shoemaker's record for most Santa Anita Derby wins.
Ten Most Wanted winner of the Illinois Derby.
At Hawthorne, Ten Most Wanted, third in the El Camino Real Derby last out, finally got his first graded stakes win in the Illinois Derby. Sent off as the lukewarm 5-2 favorite, jockey Pat Day saved ground in seventh early, then angled out mid stretch, powering away to a 4 length win over longshots Fund Of Funds and Foufa's Warrior in a time of 1:51.47 for the 1 1/8 miles. 3-1 second choice Lone Star Sky was fourth again. Pat Day said, "He did everything I asked of him. Last time I rode him he was a little bit aggressive and then he settled. Today he was really focused and really into the game. He settled nicely and he was there for me when I called on him." Winning trainer Craig Dollase said, "I know the owners will want to head to the Kentucky Derby and this horse is bred to go a mile and a quarter. We'll head to Kentucky in a month."
Dynever winner of the Aventura Stakes.
Gulfstream Park featured the $250,000 Aventura Stakes, an ungraded event at 1 1/16 miles. 4-5 favorite Dynever, coming off an 8 1/4 length win in a maiden event last out, defeated Fountain of Youth runner-up Supah Blitz by 3 1/4 lengths. He unleashed a wide rally from seventh place on the turn to win in a final time of 1:43.06. 3-1 second choice Valid Video, coming off two straight stakes victories in restricted company, disappointed in sixth. Although the first two finishers are Triple Crown nominated, neither is likely to go to Churchill Downs. Winning trainer Christophe Clement is considering the Lone Star Derby on May 10 for Dynever's next start.