Essential Quality brings his 4-for-4 record to Keeneland for the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday as he looks to regain his No. 1 position on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The Santa Anita Derby (G1) field has opened up with the injury to likely favorite Life Is Good. And the winners of the Remsen (G2), the Withers (G3) and the Gotham (G3) face off in the Wood Memorial (G2).
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Each of the three races offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby points to the top four finishers. Before that Thursday's Cardinal Condition Stakes at Chelmsford City in England will offer 30-12-6-3 points on the European road to the Derby.
Also on the calendar this weekend are the final five Kentucky Oaks points races.
Here are the likely fields for the North American preps and other graded stakes this weekend.
Kentucky Derby preps
Blue Grass (G2), Keeneland, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds
After winning three starts as a 2-year-old, Essential Quality has raced only once this year in a 4 1/4-length win over Spielberg in the Southwest (G3). Highly Motivated's distance ability will be tested again here; his third-place effort in the one-mile Gotham was his only start longer than 6 1/2 furlongs. Keepmeinmind might make the Arkansas Derby (G1) his final Derby prep, but was also under consideration here. And trainer Randolphe Brisset told HRN Monday that Tarantino will wheel back here after stumbling in the Jeff Ruby (G3) and walking off.
Santa Anita Derby (G1), Santa Anita, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds
With Life Is Good having to sit this one out, Bob Baffert is expected to start Medina Spirit, with two scores and two seconds in four starts, and Defunded, who broke his maiden at Santa Anita on March 6 at six furlongs. Rock Your World has won both his starts, including a 2 1/4-length score in the Pasadena Stakes here at one mile. Ottothelegend broke his maiden at Santa Anita on March 6 at 1 1/16 miles.
Wood Memorial (G2), Aqueduct, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds
This race features five probable starters who won stakes races last out, but the one likely to draw the most attention has only two starts, none in stakes. That would be Prevalence, the Godolphin homebred and Brendan Walsh trainee who has won his only two starts, both this year at Gulfstream. Weyburn already has 50 Kentucky Derby points by virtue of his Gotham score, but Brooklyn Strong and Risk Taking both need to add considerably to their 10 points to be in the Churchill Downs starting gate May 1.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Beaumont (G3), Keeneland, 7 furlongs, 3-year-old fillies
This seven-furlong sprint offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks points. Sorrento (G2) winner My Girl Red will look to rebound from her sixth-place finish in the Del Mar Debutante (G1). Amalfi Princess hit the board in each of her five starts but has not tried a stakes since a fourth-place finish in the Matron (G3) in October.
Ashland (G1), Keeneland, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-old fillies
Undefeated Malathaat is expected to make her 2021 debut for Todd Pletcher in this race, which offers 100-40-20-10 points toward the Kentucky Oaks. It also is the seasonal bow for Simply Ravishing, who won her first three starts for Kenny McPeek but then finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Golden Rod (G2). Will's Secret has won three straight, accumulating 60 Oaks points with wins in the Martha Washington and Honeybee (G3).
Santa Anita Oaks (G2), Santa Anita, 1 1/6 miles 3-year-old fillies
This one looks to be a small field, even with 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks points on the line. Baffert's Beautiful Gift broke her maiden in her second try in October and then won the Santa Ysabel (G3) in her next start, giving her 50 Oaks points. Javanica is a Godolphin homebred who has finished second in each of her four starts.
Gazelle (G2), Aqueduct, 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-old fillies
After winning her first two starts Zaajel finished sixth of seven in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) for Pletcher. Army Wife, a probable both here and in the Ashland, would make her first stakes start after finishing first or second in her last three races. This race offers 100-40-20-10 points toward the Kentucky Oaks.
Fantasy (G3), Oaklawn, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-old fillies
After winning her first three starts Coach finished third in the Golden Rod (G2), second in the Martha Washington and fifth in the Honeybee (G3) last out. Pauline's Pearl's second-place finish in the Honeybee was her first race since breaking her maiden on third try in January at this distance. This is also a 100-40-20-10-point race.
Other graded stakes
Distaff Handicap (G3), Aqueduct, 7 furlongs, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up
This will be the 2021 debut for Paris Lights, winner of her last three starts, including the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) last out. Lady Kate looks to improve after a 10th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff after finishing fourth in the Spinster (G1) and second in the La Troienne (G1) last fall.
Transylvania (G3), Keeneland, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 3-year-old males
Fire At Will, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, returns to the grass after finishing eighth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) last out. Scarlett Sky has hit the board in all six of her starts, all on turf.
Carter Handicap (G1), Aqueduct, 7 furlongs, 4-year-olds and up
Mind Control would make his first start of the year after being winless in six tries since last March. Mischevious Alex is 2-for-2 this year, and Shoplifted has finished in the money in his last three starts.
Madison (G1), Keeneland, 7 furlongs, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up
Kimari has hit the board in all nine of her starts, and her win in the Spring Fever came after a five-month layoff. Bell's the One hit the board in her last four starts, all graded stakes, including a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. And Sanenus was in the money in her last four starts, including a score in the La Cañada (G3) in January.
Appalachian (G2), Keeneland, 1 mile (turf), 3-year-old fillies
Saranya has a career record of 6: 2-3-1, including two scores this year. Jouster won two before finishing second in the Florida Oaks (G3). Oyster Box had two wins in two career starts before finishing third in the Florida Oaks.
Shakertown (G2), Keeneland (turf), 5 1/2 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up
Imprimis won the Jan. 1 Janus Stakes before his second in the Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs last out in February. Bound For Nowhere has not raced since a third-place finish in the delayed 2020 version of this race in July.
Royal Heroine (G2), Santa Anita, 1 mile (turf) fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up
After a five-month layoff, Charmaine's Mia has two wins in two starts this year – the Las Cienegas (G3) and the Buena Vista (G2). Warren's Showtime has finished in the money in 15 of her 17 lifetime starts.
Commonwealth (G3), Keeneland, 7 furlongs, 4-year-olds and up
Hidden Scroll jumps back into stakes company after winning a six-furlong allowance at Oaklawn in January. Attachment Rate also took the allowance path, scoring in February at Gulfstream. Special Reserve has won two straight allowance starts.
Providencia (G3), Santa Anita, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3-year-old fillies
The top three finishers in the China Doll Stakes – Going Global, Closing Remarks and Quattroelle – are expected to meet again here along with fifth-place finisher Golden. Ivy League broke her maiden on her sixth try in February in her first race longer than a mile.
Bay Shore (G3), Aqueduct, 7 furlongs, 3-year-olds
Drain the Clock finished second to Greatest Honour last out in the Fountain of Youth (G2) for Saffie Joseph Jr. Bob Baffert's Freedom Fighter was second in the San Vicente (G2) and third in the Gotham (G3) in his first two starts this year. Whiskey Double gets his first stakes start after winning an allowance race in February for Steve Asmussen.
Excelsior (G3), Aqueduct, 1 1/8 miles, 4-year-olds and up
Modernist has not scored in four stakes starts since winning last year's Risen Star (G2), though he was third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and second in the Challenger (G3). Mr. Buff has two wins and second since his fifth-place finish in the Cigar Mile (G1) in December.
Las Flores (G3), Santa Anita, 6 furlongs, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up
Edgeway has a 5: 3-1-1 record for John Sadler. Biddy Duke has not won in three tries since scoring in the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (G3) in October.
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