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Another week has passed during the pandemic, yet horse racing still rolls onward. Oaklawn Park took center stage with the weekend’s lone stakes event, but we saw some great performances at Gulfstream Park, too. Let’s take a look at who made our latest Three Stars of the Week:
What a way to make a 2020 debut! Trainer Wesley Ward sent Kimari, a multiple turf sprint stakes winner, to Oaklawn Park for her first start of the year, and she responded with a resounding score in the Purple Martin Stakes. Despite drawing the rail under new rider Channing Hill, Kimari was able to get over and run between horses while Edgeway and Frank’s Rockette dueled early. At the top of the stretch, Hill put Kimari into the clear and sent her after the front-runners. She ran past them in deep stretch before crossing 1 3/4 lengths clear with Hill celebrating in the irons. Kimari has now established herself as one of the strongest sprinting 3-year-old fillies no matter the surface, as she has now won on both fast and sloppy dirt and both firm and soft turf. Ward has said that he intends to target either the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) or the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) as her year-end goal.
When your trainer compares you to his Preakness Stakes (G1) winner, you have some big shoes to fill. Last year, Mark Casse said that Proven Strategies could be the next War of Will, a statement that he backed up when entering this colt in three turf stakes in 2019, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), where he lost by just 2 lengths. Casse followed this same pattern with War of Will when he was a juvenile, too, before he blossomed as a 3-year-old. Proven Strategies broke his maiden last out, then followed it with another strong performance on Sunday against Florida-bred allowance foes. Casse’s top jockey Tyler Gaffalione put the son of Sky Mesa on the front end immediately and he never relented, cruising home in hand to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Another start against stakes foes – this time as a multiple winner – should be next.
After breaking his maiden at Belmont Park last October, this Mark Hennig trainee was considered a likely Kentucky Derby (G1) Trail prospect, but he missed several months of training. Hennig picked this 7-furlong spot for his 2020 debut, but it nearly ended right as it began when Sonneman stumbled badly out of the gate and spotted the front-runners several lengths. Jockey Joel Rosario didn’t panic, though, and let Sonneman find his footing. Still in last as he hit the far turn, Rosario proved why he’s the best closing rider in the country. Sonneman flew down the stretch and passed the front-runners with 1/16 of a mile to go, then cruised in late to win by 1 1/2 lengths. He’s a son of Curlin and his dam, Zardana, was the horse who ended the legendary Rachel Alexandra’s nine-race win streak, so expect Sonneman to excel as the races get longer. With the Kentucky Derby having moved to September, he still has a chance to make the starting gate in the Run for the Roses.
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