The Kentucky Derby picture gets shaken up once more. Topping the stakes action was the historic Triple Crown prep: the $1 million Rebel Stakes, wherein a smashing performance was delivered by a Baffert-colt who may have us second guessing who's the top three-year-old in training.
We had the Azeri stakes which featured the return and triumph of our Kentucky Oaks winner. We had the top two finishers of last year's BC sprint throw it down in the stretch, plus two more stakes races where a just a neck separated the winner and placer.
Let's jump right into the recap!
The $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) was won by CONCERT TOUR, ridden by Joel Rosario, trained by Bob Baffert, owned by Gary and Mary West — emphatically; call it "poetry in motion."
We expected a stretch battle with even-money favored CADDO RIVER, but CONCERT TOUR said, ‘We'll have no such thing!' and then took off with the win.
CONCERT TOUR broke beautifully and was guided to the front by jockey Joel Rosario to show the way through opening fractions of 23.42, 47.53. CONCERT TOUR set an honest pace, tracked by CADDO RIVER in second. The field was not strung out, only about six lengths from front to back. With three furlongs to go, CONCERT TOUR is let out a notch. He quickens eagerly and glides into the stretch, starting to widen while still in hand. CADDO RIVER is unable to keep up and is under a ride, HOZIER and BIG LAKE improve their positions from mid pack. But when they come for home, they are all battling for second as CONCERT TOUR opens up by as much as five lengths. He is much the best and geared down late crossing the wire; not once feeling the whip. HOZIER gets up to complete the Baffert-exacta; BIG LAKE runs on to take third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth over the dirt was 1:43.18.
CONCERT TOUR paid $5.40 to win, $3.80 to place, and $3.40 to show. He is by STREET SENSE out of PURSE STRINGS by TAPIT. He's now 3-for-3 with earnings pushed to $756,600. He'll earn 50 qualifying points for his Road to Kentucky Derby. Having passed his two-turn test, he may train up to the Arkansas Derby (G1) as his final prep before the Run for the Roses.
The $200K Hot Spring Stakes was won by C Z ROCKET, ridden by Florent Geroux, trained by Peter Miller, owned by Madaket Stables LLC, Gary Barber, and Tom Kagele — closing with the strongest momentum!
C Z ROCKET was slow to get underway and found himself toward the rear of the field, as 34-1 pacesetter FIRECROW opened the quarter in 21.65 and the half in 44.65. They raced along the backstretch with no more than five lengths between them. C Z ROCKET was biding his time, rating behind WHITMORE. The leaders start to slow down and WHITMORE makes the first move. He hits the front at the top of stretch and dashes for home, but C Z ROCKET is swung 6-wide into the clear for his own run. It's a blitz to the wire between these two, but C Z ROCKET had the better momentum and surged on by to win by neck. WHITEMORE ran well to be second, FLAGSTAFF secured third. The final time for the six furlong sprint was 1:09.04.
C Z ROCKET paid $7.20 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.40 to show. He is by CITY ZIP out of SUCCESSFUL SARAH by SUCCESSFUL APPEAL. He's now won 6 of his last 7 starts with earnings now pushed over $1 million. He earned his third-highest speed figure to date, turning the tables on WHITMORE who defeated him in last year's Breeder's Cup Sprint (G1). It's possible we'll see him ship to Dubai for the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) later this month.
The $350K Azeri Stakes (G2) was won by SHEDARESTHEDEVIL, ridden by Florent Geroux, trained by Brad Cox, owned by WinStar Farm LLC — in game victory, going wire to wire.
SHEDARESTHEDEVIL broke the best and made for the lead. She was allowed to set the pace, uncontested, through an opening quarter of 23.93 and a half of 47.79. She galloped through the backside comfortably on her own, until LETRUSKA and ENVOUTANTE were given their cue and ranged up for the lead turning for home; the three of them set down for the drive together. It is SHEDARESTHEDEVIL going the best! She digs down gamely, hanging on to her neck-lead. LETRUSKA makes one final surge with one-sixteenth of a furlong left but is denied by a head when they reach the wire. GETRIDOFWHATAILESU ran up the rail to beat ENVOUTANTE for third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth ws 1:42.57
SHEDARESTHEDEVIL paid $5.60 win, $3.00 to place, and $2.20 to show. She is by DAREDEVIL out of STARSHIP WARPSPEED by CONGRATS. She's now won 4 of her last 5 races, pushed her earnings to over $1.5 million, and achieved her second-highest speed figure to shoe. This consistent filly has hit the board in 11 of 12 starts.
The $500K Essex Handicap was won by SILVER STATE, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., trained by Steve Asmussen, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing LLC — in a gutsy win, turning back the late run from RATED R SUPERSTAR.
SILVER STATE broke alertly but was positioned midpack, right off the leading flight, as the field made their way through opening quarters of 23.57, 47.67. SILVER STATE makes his move toward the leaders with three furlongs to run, but must move 4wide as RATED R SUPERSTAR ranged up beside him as well. Entering the stretch we've got 5 horses in a line! The closers caught up with the leaders. But SILVER STATE and RATED R SUPERSTAR go on with it and duke it out in the lane. SILVER STATE is stubborn to let RATED R SUPERSTAR by and gamely holds him at bay to secure the win. NIGHT OPS ran on to be third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth was 1:42.73.
SILVER STATE paid $4.40 to win, $3.00 to place, and $2.10 to show. He is by HARD SPUN out of SUPREME by EMPIRE MAKER. He's now won four in a row, pushed his earnings to $630,094 and earned his highest speed figure in the effort. He's hit the board 8 times out of 9 career races.
The $150K Temperence Hill Stakes won by CARLOS L., ridden by Alex Canchari, trained by McLean Robertson, owned by Good Friends II LLC — leading every step of the way, in a $97 to win upset!
This was a one mile and one-half journey over the dirt. CARLOS L. broke the best and made for the lead, setting opening fractions of 24.16 for the quarter, 48.39 for the half. The field was strung way out, almost 25 lengths from front to back. Three furlongs to go, PLAINSMAN and LONE ROCK range up to even terms with the leader, making three in a line with TENFOLD commencing his rally along the rail. But CARLOS L. is fighting off all challengers! He repels LONE ROCK, who takes a run at him from the center of the track but could do no better than second. He also keeps TENFOLD at bay, who threaded his way up but could only manage third. The final time for the one mile and one-half race was 2:23.37.
CARLOS L. paid $97.40 to win, $31.00 to place, and $12.00 to show. He is by HOLD ME BACK out of BLESS YOUR HEART by LEWIS MICHAEL. He wins his 2nd race from 7 U.S. starts. He pushes his earnings to $262,999, while earning his highest speed figure to date.
Interesting to note that CARLOS L. had never gone beyond a mile and one-eighth prior to this race. Matter of fact, he was mostly sprinting! He found it in him to go the one mile and one-half journey and gut out a hard-fought victory.