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With a moniker of The Great Race Place, Santa Anita Park delighted fans and bettors alike this past weekend with tremendous racing action, including key preps for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Oaks (G1) as well as the emergence of a new player in the older male dirt handicap division.
Here’s who made our latest Three Stars of the Week:
Not only did Life Is Good look stronger than ever while winning Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes (G2) by 8 lengths as he pleased, but he completed the 1 1/16-mile event 1.68 seconds faster than when his older, well-seasoned stablemate Mastering won at the same distance earlier on the card. After this latest impressive effort, the undefeated colt is now the #1 Kentucky Derby contender on the board of anyone with half a brain, and his Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith seems to think that extra distance should be no problem.
Whether it was a much-needed jockey change to Joel Rosario, the extra distance, or both, the Richard Baltas-trained Idol was a machine rolling down the middle of the stretch of Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap (G1). He showed grit, determination, and fight to get past Express Train in the late stages to win at elevated odds of 5/1, thanks to the even-money favorite Maxfield faltering after reportedly not taking to the track. Since Maxfield was considered among many to be the best older dirt male in America, does this put Idol in his place? Likely not off of just the one winning effort, but he certainly made a case for belonging in the conversation.
When regular rider Umberto Rispoli chose to ride Smooth Like Strait over him, Hit the Road was left picking up the riding services of Florent Geroux, in town to ride the day’s massive card. All Geroux did was pilot Hit the Road expertly around and inside of horses, eventually nailing Smooth Like Strait on the wire to win Saturday’s Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) by a neck and give trainer Dan Blacker his first career Grade 1 score. He defeated several of the best turf milers from the east coast as well and has now stamped himself a legitimate contender heading into the summer.
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