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After a two-week hiatus, the Kentucky Derby trail heats back up this weekend. Three Kentucky Derby prep races are on the agenda for Saturday, including the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, and the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. The action has been a little slow for a lot of the teams so far this year, but it is getting ready to pick up in a major way as the Kentucky Derby is now the main focus.
1. Ryan Stillman/Jon White – It could be a big week for a team that already had a lot to be excited about. Enticed is scheduled to make his 2018 debut in the Holy Bull, while Untamed Domain will start on the grass in the Dania Beach Stakes this weekend at Gulfstream Park. It is not a derby prep race, but is a tightener for one down the road. Their star horse, McKinzie, was back on the workout tab last week as he prepares for his next start, and Montauk finally had a workout on Sunday morning at Palm Beach Downs after an extended break. The one downside is that Mask, who was targeting the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on February 17 at Fair Grounds, recently had a setback and is currently on the bench. Otherwise, all systems are go!
2. Aaron Halterman – Amazingly, all five horses ran on the same weekend in January, and it’s possible that at least four of them will do the same in February. The Grade 3 LeComte Stakes winner Instilled Regard is on track for the Risen Star, while the Smarty Jones Stakes winner Mourinho is headed to the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. Both have had recent workout at Santa Anita. The runner-ups in those race, Combatant and Principe Guilherme, have not had workouts since then, but both are said to be on target for the Risen Star and Southwest, respectively. That leaves recent allowance winner Noble Indy, whose plans are pending. He recently had a workout at Palm Beach Downs on January 27.
3. Jared Welch – Most of his horses continue to train beautifully. This team’s general manager is starting to get impatient, but help is on the way! Sporting Chance is burning up the track in the mornings as he gets set for his 2018 debut in the Southwest. Dak Attack has made steady progress since his last race and is on target for a start in either the Holy Bull or the Sam F. Davis. Zulfikhar continues to be a very under-the-radar Baffert horse who’s had a long line of solid works leading up to a start in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. However, his stable star, Solomini, has not had a work since the December 28 after coming down with a slight illness, and Greyvitos is very iffy to make it onto the Derby Trail after an injury will force him to miss the winter months.
4. Dan “The Fan Man” Waite – Things are about to heat up for this team. His star, Catholic Boy, is putting forth solid works in preparation for a start in the Sam F. Davis next weekend. Vino Rosso is doing much of the same for trainer Todd Pletcher and is also likely to target that race. Hollywood Star continues his solid progress towards a 2018 debut that could come very soon; he worked a bullet 5 furlongs last Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park. Nero could run in the San Vicente next after his maiden-breaking score as he continues to improve for Baffert. That leaves Concur as the only real downer, as he finished third in a recent maiden special weight at Santa Anita.
5. Mike “Saratoga Slim” Spector – Business will officially begin to pick up for this team when Avery Island makes his 2018 debut in the Withers, where he’ll be the likely favorite. Restoring Hope will also run this week in a Friday maiden special weight at Santa Anita. This is a race that he desperately needs to win. More good news came with the announcement that Javier Castellano is set to ride Bolt d’Oro for his upcoming start in the San Felipe. Copper Bullet continues steady works as he makes his way back to the track, and Navistar will likely run in either the Holy Bull or the Sam F. Davis.
6. Curtis “Magic” Kalleward – The general manager of this team is officially fired up. His star and favorite horse, Good Magic, worked a bullet on Sunday and is starting to get serious about making his 2018 debut. Mendelssohn remains hard to find news about, so he remains a wild card, but Marconi put a serious work towards a possible start this weekend in the Withers, and Curlin’s Honor is progressing nicely at Fair Grounds. Vision still hasn’t had a workout this year, which is the only downer this week, but things are progressively looking better for this team.
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