After battling the flu all week, I’ve never been so glad to see the weekend. Sleeping 20 hours a day tends to leave one out of the loop news-wise, so I’m just catching up. Visionaire will skip the G1 Florida Derby and ship to Keeneland on March 30, probably to run in the G1 Blue Grass against Pyro, although the G2 Illinois Derby is still a possibility. Next weekend’s Florida Derby is looking monstrously good with Elysium Fields, Fierce Wind, Smooth Air, Face the Cat, Hey Bryn, Big Brown and Peruvian “mystery horse” Tomcito. Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Fierce Wind was purchased by Halsey Minor this week; C-NET founder Minor bought Dream Rush for $3.3 million at last year's Fasig-Tipton November sale. Rebel Stakes winner Sierra Sunset is out with a hairline ankle fracture, while filly phenom Eight Belles has been nominated for the G2 Arkansas Derby, perhaps on a trajectory leading to a Kentucky Derby start. Actually, with the quality of three-year-old fillies this year, I’d like to see several more try the boys on the first Saturday in May.
In terms of Derby prep races, a light weekend with the only graded contest being the G2 Lane’s End at Turfway Park. Two words: Turf War. This full-brother to 4-year-old Grasshopper was kept too far off the pace by Calvin Borel in the G3 Southwest Stakes, plus 8-furlongs was too short for him. With his previous rider Patrick Husbands up for trainer Mark Casse, I expect a more tactical ride and much better result. BC Juvenile Turf third-place finisher Cannonball tries polytrack for the first time; it will be interesting to see if he can carry over that turf form. He gets Alex Solis in place of the injured Elvis Trujillo. I also expect a phenomenal effort out of Racecar Rhapsody who has worked extremely well leading up to this first start at three.
In the non-graded Rushaway, Casse sends out the lightly-raced Miner’s Claim, another undefeated Mineshaft colt (like Rags to Riches’ half-brother Casino Drive), who has been working well coming off a layoff. I also like Graham Motion’s Icabad Crane and Ken McPeek’s Tejanos Eliminator. At Laurel, Wonder Mon looks pretty good in the NG Private Terms, particularly considering his competition of late, including a runner-up finish to Hey Bryn last out. For this Maryland-bred, this is his home turf so I’m pegging him for the win over Apple Special and the coupled entry of Malibu Kid and Springs Road.
Finally, for all of Danthebluegrassman’s fans a photo of the new retiree, relaxing this week at Alfred Nuckols’ Hurstland Farm prior to heading to Old Friends. Fellow TBA blogger Teresa over at Brooklyn Backstretch took this picture while on her Spring Break roadtrip, and reports that Dan “looks amazingly happy and healthy, and incredibly friendly.” Bloodhorse announced that Dan will serve as the official mascot of the Festival of the Bluegrass at Kentucky Horse Park, June 12-15, with a song-writing contest to be held in his honor. Wonderful!