Derby Preps Headline Weekend Slate

A pair of 20-point GI Kentucky Derby preps headline Saturday’s stakes action in the U.S.

Aqueduct’s GIII Withers S.–pushed back a week due to cold weather–was helped slightly from a field size perspective by the delay and a group of seven are now set to line up. Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show (Candy Ride {Arg}) invades from Oaklawn and will look to provide trainer Brad Cox with a first Withers trophy. A dominant debut winner going seven panels at Keeneland in October, he could only manage fourth as the favorite in a two-turn Churchill allowance Nov. 26, but the strength of that field has been demonstrated in the interim. Winner Confidence Game (Candy Ride {Arg}) was third in January’s GIII Lecomte S., while runner-up Rocket Can (Into Mischief) annexed last week’s GIII Holy Bull S. Hit Show, meanwhile, took an Oaklawn allowance by daylight Dec. 17, good for a career-best 82 Beyer Speed Figure. His dam Actress (Tapit) was an 8 1/4-length winner of the track-and-trip GIII Comely S. in 2017. A trio of stakes-winning New York-breds also figure to have a say: Arctic Arrogance (Frosted), General Banker (Central Banker) and Andiamo a Firenze (Speightstown) were second, third and fifth, respectively, in the one-mile Jerome S. Jan. 7.

Meanwhile, down south, a full field of 12 will contest the GIII Sam F. Davis S. Danny Gargan trainee Dubyuhnell (Good Magic) makes his first start since a breakout tally in the nine-furlong GII Remsen S. in the Aqueduct slop Dec. 3. He earned a field-best 90 Beyer for that performance. ‘TDN Rising Star’ Champions Dream (Justify) was also a member of the Gargan barn when he scored in the Big A’s GIII Nashua S. in November. Subsequently transferred to trainer Mark Casse by owner Rosedown Racing Stables, he was beaten a neck by re-opposing Zydeceaux (Cajun Breeze) in the local seven-furlong Pasco S. Jan. 14. Trainer Todd Pletcher owns a record six Davis wins, but is looking to end a drought since 2016. He sends out Litigate (Blame), a well-beaten second last time in a Gulfstream allowance behind Holy Bull beaten favorite Cyclone Mischief (Into Mischief).

Saturday’s Tampa card also marks the return of champion juvenile filly Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief), who takes on GII Demoiselle S. winner and ‘Rising Star’ Julia Shining (Curlin) in the Suncoast S.

A third Derby qualifier, the 10-point El Camino Real Derby, takes place Saturday at Golden Gate. Bob Baffert and The Avengers send a pair northward to square off with unbeaten local speedster Harcyn (Goldencents).

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