04/11/2016 5:45PM

The week that was in racing, April 4-10, 2016

Benoit & Associates
Exaggerator wins the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday.

Here's a collection of some of the biggest stories in horse racing, all in one place. Unless noted, all of the links here are to free stories on DRF.com.

Three Grade 1 preps for Kentucky Derby

The field of runners for the Kentucky Derby came into sharper focus after three big prep races Saturday as the top two finishers of each earned enough points to make the gate on the first Saturday in May. At Santa Anita, rain led to a sloppy surface as Exaggerator turned the tables on many of the rivals in the Santa Anita Derby, winning impressively by six lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

The Blue Grass Stakes featured a full field of 14 3-year-olds at Keeneland, and only one of them had ever won a stakes race before. That horse, Brody’s Cause, won the second Grade 1 of his career, closing in the stretch after sitting about 10 lengths behind the front-runners early just as he had when he won the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall. For the win, Brody’s Cause earned a career-best Beyer of 91.

The Wood Memorial featured an exciting finish, with Outwork prevailing by a head over the fast-closing maiden Trojan Nation. Both earned Beyer Speed Figures of 93 for their efforts, and both earned enough points to face each other again in the Kentucky Derby.

These preps may have solidified the bulk of the field for the Derby, but for those who weren’t totally sold on Nyquist, Saturday’s major preps offered little clarity in terms of top contenders. Instead, the results were as clear as the slop that prevailed at Santa Anita and the mud at Aqueduct.

Kentucky Oaks preps stamp Songbird as big favorite

The undefeated champion 2-year-old filly of 2015, Songbird, made her first start on an off track in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies and ran a race similar to her previous six wins on fast tracks – she won easily and without urging in the final furlong from jockey Mike Smith.

The Grade 1 Ashland Stakes was supposed to decide which 3-year-old fillies among Cathryn Sophia, Rachel’s Valentina, and Carina Mia would be the top challengers to Songbird when the 142nd Kentucky Oaks is run May 6 at Churchill Downs. But as the Ashland went deep in the stretch Saturday at Keeneland, that aspect of the Oaks suddenly got fuzzier, not clearer. Weep No More swept past that tiring trio in the final yards to post a 30-1 stunner, and now fans are left to wonder just how low the Oaks odds on Songbird will go.

Also on Saturday, Lewis Bay glided over the gooey going at Aqueduct to win the Grade 2 Gazelle by 1 1/2 lengths, thereby earning the honor of facing Songbird in the Kentucky Oaks.

Graded stakes action around the country

The Grade 1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland featured a very strong field older filly and mare sprinters Saturday. 2015 Breeders’ Cup winners Wavell Avenue and Stopchargingmaria were both making their 2016 debuts in a field of 11 that featured eight graded stakes winners, but Sheer Drama stole the show, winning by a neck.

Salutos Amigos has competed in the last two Breeders’ Cup Sprints and the Golden Shaheen in Dubai, but he had never won a Grade 1 stakes. But on Saturday in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, he swung widest at the top of the stretch and ran down Southern California-invader Calculator in the shadow of the wire to capture his first Grade 1 win.

Saturday at Keeneland also featured wins by Undrafted in the Grade 2 Shakertown and Ami’s Flatter in the Grade 3 Commonwealth, while at Aqueduct Unified stayed perfect in the Bay Shore and Kid Cruz won the Excelsior. What a View extended his win streak in the Grade 3 Thunder Road at Santa Anita for jockey Kent Desormeaux, who also rode Decked Out to a win in the Grade 3 Providencia.

On Sunday, Carrumba provided an emotional victory in the Grade 3 Top Flight, just five days after her owner and breeder Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps died.

Other top performances

Enola Gray, a 3-year-old California-bred filly by Grazen, made her debut in Sunday’s seventh race at Santa Anita and simply ran away from her eight rivals, winning by more than 16 lengths in a time that was within three-fifths of a second off the track record. The 99 Beyer that she earned for the effort is the second highest of any sophomore filly in 2016 and stamps her as one to watch going forward.

On Saturday at Santa Anita, American Freedom won his debut for trainer Bob Baffert, earning a Beyer of 98. After the race, Baffert was so impressed that he quipped he’d found his Haskell horse.

Breeding news

The champion Zenyatta has delivered a colt by popular young stallion War Front, her team announced Monday. The 12-year-old Street Cry mare is boarded at Lane’s End in Kentucky for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, who were in Lexington to greet the new arrival.

Lentenor, one of two full brothers to tragic Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro standing at stud, was represented by his first starter Sunday when Macy’s Attitude finished eighth in a maiden special weight at Keeneland.

Horses to watch

Santa Anita:

Trainer: Hector Palma
Last race: April 9, 10th
Finish: 7th by 13 lengths
Beyer: 44
Favored in a California-bred stakes, he was uncomfortable with the sloppy going and retreated. Progeny of his sire, Good Journey, often do not care for mud; follow on dry land.

DRF Plus subscribers can see the rest of Brad Free’s horses to watch from last week by clicking here.

reporting by Steve Andersen, David Grening, Mike Hogan, Byron King, Dave Litfin, Marty McGee, Jay Privman, Nicole Russo, and Mike Watchmaker

Carlos Carles More than 1 year ago
Only a 99 for a horse that did all the heavy lifting and nearly broke a track record? What do you have to do to get triple digits? 
Bill Minjoe More than 1 year ago
The track was playing ultra fast