02/01/2016 4:14PM

The week that was in racing, Jan. 25-31, 2016

Barbara D. Livingston
Mohaymen earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Holy Bull.

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.

Graded stakes action across the country

There were eight graded stakes races on Saturday, and two of them offered ten Kentucky Derby points for each winner. At Gulfstream Park, Mohaymen left little doubt that he is the leading Derby contender stabled on the East Coast, cruising to a convincing 3 1/2-length victory over Greenpointcrusader and four other overmatched rivals in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes. At Aqueduct, Sunny Ridge kicked off his 3-year-old campaign with a gritty three-quarter length victory over Vorticity in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes, but that doesn’t mean trainer Jason Servis is caught up in Derby fever.

The Grade 2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park didn’t offer any points to the Derby, but Awesome Banner kept his record perfect and likely earned a berth in one of the Derby preps after registering his third one-sided victory in as many starts, a five-length decision over Economic Model. Similarly, the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes didn’t offer points to the Kentucky Oaks, but Cathryn Sophia’s 5 1/2-length victory have her owners dreaming big.

Other notable performances

At Santa Anita on Saturday, Smokey Image proved he could stretch out around two turns with a runaway victory in the $245,000 California Cup Derby, a victory that should propel him toward a graded stakes race for 3-year-olds next time out.

Shagaf remained unbeaten in two career starts and may have punched his ticket onto the Kentucky Derby trail with a victory in an allowance optional claiming feature at Gulfstream Park on Friday. The Bernardini colt, a homebred for Shadwell Stable, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 78 for the win and could next run in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 27 at Gulfstream.

One of the most outstanding families active notched its latest winner Friday at Tampa, as Conquering led wire-to-wire to break her maiden in her third career start. Trained by Bill Mott for Hill 'n' Dale, the War Front filly is out of Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady. A multiple Grade 1 winner herself, the mare is the dam of champion Will Take Charge, Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy, and Charming, dam of champion Take Charge Brandi. Take Charge Lady and Charming are both members of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah's outstanding first book.

National Handicapping Championship

The 17th Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is in the books. Paul Matties of Ballston Spa, N.Y., topped a field of 629 entries to win the $800,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year at Treasure Island Las Vegas. Matties, 46, amassed a winning score of $399.50 over the three-day tournament from 53 mythical $2 win and place bets – 18 each on Thursday and Friday, 10 in Saturday morning’s semifinal round, and seven in the dramatic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10.

Matties topped a very strong field, including his younger brother, Duke, who finished fourth, and contest veteran Dave Gutfreund, who finished fifth and then won the First Chance contest Sunday to earn $31,000 and qualify for next year’s NHC.

Breeding news

Is Curlin poised for a big year at auction? It was an important year for Hall of Famer Curlin in 2015, with his move from Lane's End to Hill 'n' Dale Farm over the summer after the latter purchased a minority stake in the horse, and his newly-minted status as a member of the six-figure stud fee club. That's not to mention the year his runners had on the track, led by champion 3-year-old female Stellar Wind, Travers Stakes winner Keen Ice, multiple Grade 1 winner Curalina, and other notable graded stakes winners including Exaggerator, Ocean Knight, Off the Tracks, and Diversy Harbor.

Two weeks after being named champion female sprinter for 2015 and three weeks after winning the Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct, La Verdad was officially retired from racing and will be bred to Medaglia d’Oro. She left Belmont Park on Saturday and arrived at Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Ky., on Sunday.

Horses to watch

Santa Anita:
Trainer: Mark Glatt
Last race: Jan. 30, 10th
Finish: 4th by 4 1/2
Beyer: 51
Hammered to favoritism first time out, this Forestry 3-year-old filly seemed full of run into the lane but then hit a wall. Fast pace provides a built-in alibi; she should be fitter next out.

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

reporting by Peter Thomas Fornatale, Dave Grening, Mike Hogan, Marty McGee, Jay Privman, Nicole Russo, Mark Simon, and Mike Welsch