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By Steve Davidowitz | On Saturday and Sunday at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and Gulfstream Park in Florida, we’re going to learn a lot about some of the highest rated 3-year-olds in this year’s Triple Crown chase. We’re also going to be treated to a terrific sprint race at Santa Anita Park, involving the fastest horse in training, THE FACTOR, and last year’s Sprint Champion AMAZOMBIE.
In the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds, the Todd Pletcher trained EL PADRINO is scheduled to meet 10 rivals, many of whom have won a recent race or performed well in various stakes. Winner of a 1-1/16 mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan 29, El Padrino is being kept apart from Pletcher’s other top rated 3-year-old ALGORITHMS, who is running Sunday in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream. So far, El Padrino has been acting as if he will live up to his royal breeding as a son of PULPIT out of a GIANT’S CAUSEWAY mare. Not only has he won two of his four career outings, but he was a good third last fall in the Grade-2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.
“He showed flashes last year,” Pletcher said. “But we really like the way he won that allowance race in his first start this year. He seems to be getting stronger and more relaxed. We know he will need to build on that to win (the Risen Star) and go on to the (Kentucky) Derby.”
Among El Padrino’s key rivals in the Risen Star will be the 1-2-3 finishers in the Grade-3 LeComte over the Fair Grounds racing surface — MR BOWLING, Z DAGER and SHARED PROPERTY — plus a fit shipper from Oaklawn Park — MR. OPTIMIZER — and two horses who each won their two most recent starts — TIZANEXPENSE and MARK VELESI .
So far, El Padrino’s claim to fame is the gaudy 100 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in his GP allowance win last month. While such numbers on paper do not guarantee a winning result, only a handful of other 3-year-olds have scored that high to date. Fact is, the highest Beyer Speed Figure earned by any of El Padrino’s foes on Saturday is an 84. At the Risen Star distance of 1-1/16 miles, the difference in overall speed as measured by that 84 rating and a 100 Beyer Figures of 100 equates to about 6-1/2 lengths.
More precisely, only eight different 3-year-olds thus far in 2012 have topped 100 and the seasonal best Beyer of 105 was earned by El Padrino’s previously mentioned stablemate — Algorithms — who earned his top Fig. , when he defeated Juvenile Champion HANSEN in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on the same Jan 29 card that El Padrino scored his promising allowance win.
As stated, Algorithms will be in action this weekend. On Sunday at Gulfstream he will be the headline horse in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes against his own high powered stablemate DISCREET DANCER and Michael Matz’ highly regarded UNION RAGS.
While this Grade-2 race at 1-1/16 miles may not have many others in the field who have demonstrated Graded Stakes talent, Union Rags was a solid second to Hansen in the BC Juvenile and Discreet Dancer has won both of his starts to date as if he might be one of the best 3 year old milers in America.
At Santa Anita, in the 7 furlong, $200,000 San Carlos Stakes, Sprint Champ Amazombie will be making his first start since his Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory at a distance slightly longer than his preferred 6 and 6-1/2 furlongs. By contrast, The Factor will be seeking his fourth win in his fourth try at the 7 furlong distance — all of them Graded stakes.
The two top rated sprint stars also will have to contend with ROTHKO, as the latter was a good second to The Factor in the 7 furlong Malibu when both were 3-year-olds competing in that Grade-1 stakes on opening day at Santa Anita, Dec. 26.
In addition to the Risen Star, the Fountain of Youth and the San Carlos, there are several other high quality stakes on the national racing calendar this weekend. But the three races profiled above will not only command the most attention, they are likely to have the greatest significance for all the horses involved.
Follow the Derby Prep Races and get ready for the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
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