First Look: 3 weekend preps heat up Kentucky Derby chase

First Look: 3 weekend preps heat up Kentucky Derby chase
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

This weekend brings us what likely will be the first win-and-you're-in Kentucky Derby prep, as the Risen Star will offer 50 points to the winner. And Eclipse award winner Essential Quality, the current favorite in Derby futures, will make his 3-year-old debut Monday in the Southwest.

Also on the calendar: a Kentucky Oaks prep at Fair Grounds, Monomoy Girl makes her 2021 debut, and Wells Bayou is entered in two weekend stakes. And No Parole returns to racing after a four-month layoff.

[RELATED: See who may join the favorites in the Kentucky Derby odds]

Here's an early look at the fields.

Derby preps — Saturday

Risen Star (G2), Fair Grounds, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds, 50-20-10-5 points

We'll have a new name atop the Kentucky Derby points board after this race, which features the top four finishers of the Lecomte: in order, Midnight Bourbon, Proxy, Mandaloun and Santa Cruiser. Keepmeinmind, who hasn't raced since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November, is expected to opt out of this one in favor of the Southwest Stakes (G3).

2021 Risen Star (G2)

El Camino Real Derby, Golden Gate Fields, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds, 10-4-2-1 points

Golden Gate racing officials weren't available Sunday to provide probable entries for this spot, which offers an automatic berth in the Preakness. But one starter is likely to be Rombauer, who finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last out. He was scratched for the Jan. 30 Robert B. Lewis.

Monday

Southwest (G3), Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds, 10-4-2-1 points

Essential Quality is expected to make his long-awaited return here after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to jump to the top of the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Keepmeinmind was second in the Juvenile and is second on the points list, with 18 points. Jackie's Warrior also would make his first start here since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he finished fourth.

2021 Southwest Stakes (G3)

Oaks prep — Saturday

Rachel Alexandra (G2), Fair Grounds, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-old fillies, 50-20-10-5 points

Travel Column returns here for Brad Cox after winning the Nov. 28 Goldenrod (G2) in her last start. Charlie's Penny, Souper Sensational and Moon Swag finished 1-2-3 in the Silverbulletday on Jan. 16, with Littlestitious coming in fifth.

2021 Rachel Alexandra (G2)

Other graded stakes

Saturday

Fair Grounds Stakes (G3), Fair Grounds, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 4-year-olds and up

Brad Cox brings two here: Factor This, a disappointing eighth in both the Breeders' Cup Mile and the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2) after five wins in his previous six races, and Set Piece, coming off a win in the Prairie Bayou. Logical Myth has won three straight and four of his last five starts.

2021 Fair Grounds Stakes (G3)

Mineshaft (G3), Fair Grounds, 1 1/16 miles, 4-year-olds and up

Undefeated Maxfield makes his 2021 debut here for trainer Brendan Walsh. His win in December's Tenacious Stakes was his first start since a leg injury in June. Wells Bayou also makes his second start off an injury either here or in the Razorback — he is entered in both after finishing third in the Louisiana Stakes on Jan. 16 for Brad Cox.

2021 Mineshaft Stakes (G3)

Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3), Gulfstream, 6 furlongs, 4-year-olds and up

Mischevious Alex won the Swale Stakes (G3) and the Gotham (G3) to start last year before finishing fourth in the Woody Stephens and (G1) and 10th in the Aug. 1 H. Allen Jerkens (G1). He didn't race again until debuting this year with an allowance optional claiming score at this track and and distance. Cajun Brother got his first stakes win in the Sunshine Sprint last out.

2021 Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3)

Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (G3), Gulfstream, 5 furlongs (Turf), 4-year-olds and up

Leinster won the Shakertown (G2) and Woodford (G2) at Keeneland before his third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Imprimis had won two straight before finishing 13th in the BC Turf Sprint and then bouncing back to win the Jan. 1 Janus here.

2021 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (LS)

General's Stake (G3), Laurel Park, 7 furlongs, 4-year-olds and up

Since winning the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) in October, Majestic Dunhill has lost two straight G3 outings — the Fall Highweight and the Mr. Prospector. The last time Laki was in a graded stakes, he won the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Pimlico. Then he stepped out of graded company and lost his next three starts, though he did make the board in each.

2021 General George (G3)

Barbara Fritchie (G3), Laurel Park, 7 furlongs, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up

Hello Beautiful has won her last three starts, all at Laurel Park. This is the first race of the year for Dontletsweetfoolya, winner of five straight in the second half of 2020.

2021 Barbara Fritchie (G3)

Razorback (G3) Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles, 4-year-olds and up

As mentioned, Wells Bayou is entered both here and in the Feb. 13 Mineshaft for Brad Cox. He also entered Owendale here, who followed up his fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile with a third-place finish in the Clark (G1). Dale Romans also brings two, Mr Freeze and Coastal Defense. Mystic Guide has finished in the money in each of his six starts, including a win in the Jim Dandy (G2) before his runner-up effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

2021 Razorback Handicap (G3)

Santa Monica (G2), Santa Anita, 7 furlongs, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up

Bob Baffert has two here: Qahira, winner of five of her eight starts, and Merneith, third when stepping up in the LaBrea (G1) after two straight wins. Hard Not to Love, winner of the 2020 edition of this race, hasn't scored since but has finished in the money in four of five starts. Fair Maiden returned to racing in September after a 10-month layoff, winning an allowance race and the LaBrea (G1) with a fourth-place finish in the Fort Springs in between.

2021 Santa Monica (G2)

Sunday

Sweet Life (G3), Santa Anita, 6 furlongs (turf), 3-year-old fillies

Majestic Steps broke her maiden for Philip D'Amato here on Jan. 2 after four tries in her native Ireland. Go Greta broke her maiden last out in July in England and is expected here for her first start since.

2021 Sweet Life Stakes (G3)

Monday

Bayakoa (G3), Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up

Brad Cox will see if he can keep the streak going for repeat champion and now 6-year-old Monomoy Girl. Her win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last out capped a perfect four-for-four season. Finite's fourth-place finish in the La Brea (G1) followed a score in the Chilukki (G3) in November.

2021 Bayakoa (G3)

Also of interest: No Parole, winner of the 2020 Woody Stephens (G1) returns to racing on Wednesday in the LA Bred Premier Spirit at Delta Downs. It's his first start since a sixth-place finish in the Phoenix Stakes (G2) on Oct. 2.

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