The Kentucky Derby Trail continued to excite last weekend, and we also had some impressive fillies on the Kentucky Oaks side of things. Overall, it was a sneaky-good weekend for racing. Here are the three horses who we thought were most impressive after all the dust had settled:
1. Sole Volante
The Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) produced a mild upset for the second straight year when the Patrick Biancone-trained Sole Volante flew home late to pick up a 2 1/2-length victory. Right from the gate, Sole Volante dropped towards the back of the field, enjoying the brutally-fast pace in front of him. At the top of the lane, the heavily-favored Independence Hall moved to the front, but Sole Volante was unwinding a rally behind him. After stalking the hot pace, Independence Hall had softened, which allowed Sole Volante to cruise by him in mid-stretch. This victory has place Sole Volante squarely in the Kentucky Derby conversation heading into his next prep race.
The San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park is not an official Kentucky Derby Prep Race, but it likely produced several horses who will try to jump onto the trail in their next starts. The most exciting prospect is Nadal, who won the race by 3/4 of a length. Right from the break, Nadal was running fast near the lead, then won a determined stretch duel with second-place finisher Ginobili. The margin of victory has some skeptical about his ability to go longer, but remember: this was only his second start. He should improve a great deal off of this effort. It was extremely impressive to see him dig down deep and hold off a big effort form Ginobili.
3. Venetian Harbor
We can’t forget about the beastly performance from the filly Venetian Harbor, who stamped herself as a top contender for the Kentucky Oaks after a blowout victory in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. After a beautiful break, she took the lead right from the start and never looked back, cruising to a 9 1/4-length triumph. The field she faced wasn’t much; however, she beat them like a good horse should. The only question mark going forward is her pedigree, which might get a little iffy at the 1 1/8-mile distance. Still, we know that this filly has a large amount of talent.