Potential Derby Contenders Line Up March 2 at Fair Grounds
Most handicappers this weekend will understandably be turning their attention to the stakes-packed Saturday card at Gulfstream Park, but players on the lookout for up-and-coming Kentucky Derby contenders are advised to check out the action at Fair Grounds as well.The nine-race Saturday card includes a trio of intriguing races for three-year-olds. The action kicks off with the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes, a one-mile turf event scheduled as the fourth race on the card. #6 Marquee Prince, who ran respectably against accomplished Kentucky Derby candidates in both the Street Sense Stakes and the Remington Springboard Mile on dirt, scored a win over this course and distance in the Lloyd Captain Maestri Memorial Stakes on February 2 and has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite for the high-profile team of trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux.
#7 Spectacular Gem, #8 Bluegrass Parkway, and #3 Logical Myth, who ran 2-3-4 in the Lloyd Captain Maestri Memorial, will be back to challenge Marquee Prince again, and Bluegrass Parkway in particular could be a major threat since he endured a troubled trip in that race and previously showed strong form against quality competition at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, and Gulfstream Park.
An interesting newcomer is #5 Tobacco Road, a stakes winner on dirt who finished second by a head in his turf debut, a 5 ½-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Fair Grounds on February 10. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the son of Quality Road is 10-1 on the morning line and could be an intriguing alternative to the favorites if he can handle the stretch-out to a mile.
The fifth race of the day, a 1-mile and 70-yard allowance optional claiming event, is short on quantity (just five starters) but high on potential quality. #2 Aquadini won a deep maiden race at Fair Grounds on February 2, producing a big finish from just off the pace to win by 5 ¾ lengths, and from all appearances he’s the horse to beat on Saturday. #5 Courtyard, distant runner-up behind the graded stakes-experienced Dream Maker in a February 9 allowance optional claiming race at Fair Grounds, figures to be the second wagering choice over the late-running local maiden winner #1 Americandy, a stoutly-bred son of Candy Ride who could improve with experience and maturity.
The third and final race of note is the seventh on the card, an 8.5-furlong maiden special weight. The morning line favorites are #6 Green Fleet (5-2) and #2 Scalper (3-1), two colts formerly trained in California by the Hall of Fame conditioner . They couldn’t quite hold their own on that tough circuit—between them, they’ve gone 0-for-7—but they’ve landed in the barns of Brad Cox and Michael Stidham, two of the leading trainers at Fair Grounds, and could be more competitive on this easier racing circuit.
Still, the home team will be well-represented by #4 Rubin Hurricane, a $1 million yearling purchase conditioned by Steve Asmussen. The son of Orb ran an even race to finish fourth in his debut on February 2 at Fair Grounds, but could improve with that run under his belt; after all, Asmussen wins at a 22% strike rate with second-time starters, a bit higher than his typical percentage with debuting runners.
Post time for the first race of the day is 1:30 p.m. Eastern.