When unbeaten Independence Hall rolled to a four-length victory in the $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day, it signaled the start of Kentucky Derby season in horse racing. Thoroughbred aged on January 1, meaning the crop that will do battle on this year’s Derby trail are now three years old and ready for the limelight.
Independence Hall’s victory under Jose Ortiz was the third straight for the son of Constitution, who is trained by Michael Trombetta. Both of his stakes wins have been at Aqueduct and by open lengths; he will now ship to Florida to prepare for the rest of his spring.
At Gulfstream Park on Saturday, the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man is the first step on the Derby trail there. The field of seven is well matched, with As Seen on TV a 5-2 choice after winning the Juvenile Sprint across town in November. Chance It is 9-5 morning line after winning a pair of the Florida Stallion Series races, including the In Reality around two turns by more than seven lengths. South Bend, by Algorithms, was a stakes winner at Churchill Downs in October but didn’t prefer the slop in grade 2 company last out.
Florida’s Derby trail includes races like the Fountain of Youth Stakes in February and the Florida Derby in March. Dennis’ Moment, the well-regarded Dale Romans-trainee, blew the start at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and is now on the comeback trail with an eye on the Fountain of Youth.
In California, well-regarded Tizamagician finally broke his maiden in his sixth start after running second four times, including behind some very talented horses. Tizamagician, by Tiznow, is trained by Richard Mandella, who last year campaigned Omaha Beach to Kentucky Derby favoritism.
One of the horses to beat him in the past has been Honor A.P., who was slated to go favored in the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita on Saturday, but has been withdrawn. That leaves a field of six including the highly regarded Taishan for trainer Richard Baltas, and a pair from the Bob Baffert barn, Azul Coast and Authentic.
The road to the Santa Anita Derby (G1) runs through the Robert B. Lewis (G3) on February 1, and the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) on March 7.