More than a dozen serious Kentucky Derby contenders are scheduled to enter the starting gates Saturday in the $300,000 Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the $250,000 Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., and the $250,000 Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
It’s the single biggest day of Derby preps yet, and all three serve as springboards to bigger 3-year-old races down the line, eventually culminating in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1.
The Risen Star, which at 1 1/16 miles is the major prep for the Louisiana Derby on March 27, has attracted Lecomte Stakes winner Ron the Greek, who came from last to win the Grade 3 stake with a powerful closing kick. It will also include Discreetly Mine, one of many Todd Pletcher Derby contenders, and the Bill Mott-trained Drosselmeyer.
The Fountain of Youth, the longest of Saturday’s three races at 1 1/8 miles, is the final major springboard to the Florida Derby on March 20. It drew a field of 10, including Buddy’s Saint, who is ranked No. 2 in our Kentucky Derby Top 10 and will be making his 2010 debut. It will also include a pair of Pletcher hopefuls — Aikenite and Eskendereya —
and the Nick Zito-trained Jackson Bend, who is the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
The Southwest Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event that was canceled Monday because of freezing temperatures and rescheduled for Saturday, attracted a field of 10 that includes three local horses — Conveyance (Bob Baffert), Domonation (John Sadler) and Cardiff Giant (Jorge Periban). Two other colts on many Derby watch lists — Dryfly and Dublin — also will run in the Southwest, which is a major prep for the Arkansas Derby on April 10.
Meanwhile, the Richard Dutrow-trained D’ Funnybone, thought to be a major Derby contender last fall before a last-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 7, will try to climb back into the picture when he starts in the $150,000 Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes, a 7-furlong event for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park that will be run two races before the Fountain of Youth.
If you’re planning to watch the three Derby preps on the Internet, the Risen Star goes off first at about 1:45 p.m., PST, followed by the Southwest Stakes at about 2:25 p.m. and the Fountain of Youth at 2:40. If you’re interested in the Hutcheson, it’s scheduled to go postward at about 1:35 p.m., PST.