Derby Top 10: Danzing Candy, Destin in; Nyquist still on top

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Slowly but surely, Todd Pletcher’s talented 3-year-olds are beginning to emerge from the pack less than eight weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

The trainer’s latest triumph came in the Tampa Bay Derby, with Destin outdueling stablemate Outwork by one length. The win on Saturday moves the gray colt onto the AP’s latest Run to the Roses Top 10 list of Kentucky Derby contenders at No. 5.

“The way he’s been doing, he could be” a Derby horse, winning rider Javier Castellano said. “He could be destined to win it – who knows?”

Destin’s final prep will be either the Wood Memorial or the Blue Grass on April 9, or the Arkansas Derby on April 16. Pletcher has a second colt in the Top 10 in No. 8 Zulu, runner-up in the Fountain of Youth on March 5.

Unbeatens Nyquist and Mohaymen remain 1-2 as they train toward their showdown in the Florida Derby on April 2.

A shakeup took place beneath the leaders, thanks mostly to the results of the San Felipe on Saturday.

Danzing Candy led just about the entire race under Mike Smith and upset 8-5 favorite Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in winning his stakes debut. The colt trained by Cliff Sise Jr., soars onto the list at No. 3 with his two-length win in stakes and track record time. Next up is the Santa Anita Derby on April 2.

Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit finished with a rush for second, and dips to No. 4. Third-place finisher Exaggerator falls off the list.

Both are expected to take on Danzing Candy in the Santa Anita Derby.

“Bob usually doesn’t come down (to the winner’s circle) unless it’s for a picture,” Mor Spirit’s jockey Gary Stevens said, “but he came down and had a smile on his face and I said, `I think we’re in a real good spot right now,’ and he was pretty happy in defeat.”

The $900,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park is the lone Derby prep on Saturday, and a huge field is expected. It’s the race that launched American Pharoah’s 3-year-old campaign that resulted in the colt becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Likely heading the field is Suddenbreakingnews, winner of the Southwest Stakes in his last start. The gelding is No. 7 this week. Also expected to be entered on Wednesday are Whitmore, American Dubai, Discreetness, Cutacorner, Creator, Cherry Wine, Siding Spring, Spikes Shirl, Z Royal, Ralis and Cupid. Ralis won the Hopeful last year for Nyquist’s trainer Doug O’Neill. Baffert trains Cupid.

After last weekend’s preps, Mohaymen still leads with 71 Derby qualifying points. Destin moves into second place with Gun Runner at 51, and Danzing Candy and Shagaf are next with 50 points apiece,

The latest Derby future wager odds were set Sunday night, and Mohaymen is now the 7-2 favorite, with the mutuel field at 5-1.

Here’s our Top 10:

1. Nyquist (Doug O’Neill, trainer; Mario Gutierrez, jockey): Unbeaten colt warming up well in Santa Anita for showdown with Mohaymen. … Worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 at Santa Anita last week. … Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park, April 2. … Derby odds (pool 3): 7-1.

2. Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado): Unbeaten Fountain of Youth winner worked 4 furlongs in 49.40 at Palm Beach Downs last week. … Leader in Derby qualifying points with 70. … Next start: Florida Derby. … Odds: 7-2.

3. Danzing Candy (Cliff Sise Jr., Mike Smith): Made quite a stakes debut in winning San Felipe. … Colt has won three in a row after eighth-place finish in first race. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita, April 9. … Odds: 17-1.

4. Mor Spirit (Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens): Strong finish for second in San Felipe. … Longer races could work to his advantage. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby. … Odds: 12-1.

5. Destin (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Tampa Bay Derby winner handled first real test without issue. … Gray colt has three wins in five races. … Next start: Undecided. … Odds: 15-1.

6. Shagaf (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr.): Gotham winner remains in New York for final prep next month. … Has 3-0 record for owner Shadwell Stable, which also owns Mohaymen. … Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, April 9. … Odds: 14-1.

7. Suddenbreakingnews (Donnie Von Hemel, Luis Quinonez): Southwest winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 at Oaklawn on Saturday. … Gelding has won two of past three starts. … Next start: Rebel, Oaklawn Park, Saturday. … Odds: 14-1.

8. Zulu (Pletcher, John Velazquez): Fountain of Youth runner-up is one to watch in next race. … Next start: Florida Derby. … Odds: 28-1.

9. Mo Tom (Tom Amoss, Lanerie): Lecomte winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.60 at the Fair Grounds on Sunday. … Ran third in Risen Star despite being bothered in stretch. … Next start: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, March 26. … Odds: 15-1.

10. Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux): Risen Star winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 at the Fair Grounds on Monday. … Has three wins in four starts. … Next start: Louisiana Derby. … Odds: 25-1.

Keep an eye on: Brody’s Cause, Cupid, Exaggerator, Greenpointcrusader, Whitmore.

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Forte is slight 5-2 favorite for Belmont Stakes over stablemate Tapit Trice

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Forte is finally getting a crack at running in a Triple Crown race. The colt, who was scratched the day of the Kentucky Derby, is the early favorite for the Belmont Stakes.

Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion, was made the slight 5-2 favorite for the grueling 1 1/2-mile race.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the colt will break from the No. 6 post in the nine-horse field at Belmont Park. Pletcher’s other horse, Tapit Trice, is the 3-1 second choice and drew the No. 2 post.

Forte was the early Derby favorite, but was scratched by Kentucky officials the morning of the May 6 race because of a bruised right foot. He was on a vets’ list that kept him out of the Preakness, but has since come off it.

“He’s doing great, he’s training really well. He hasn’t missed any training,” said Mike Repole, co-owner of Forte. “We still think this is the best 3-year-old in the crop and he’s going to prove that.”

Mage, the Kentucky Derby winner, is skipping the Triple Crown finale after finishing third in the Preakness on May 20.

Angel of Empire is the third choice at 7-2. He finished third in the Derby and is one of three horses in the race trained by Brad Cox.

National Treasure, the Preakness winner trained by Bob Baffert, is 5-1. He drew the No. 4 post.

Arcangelo is 8-1 and will break from the No. 3 post. He is trained by Jena Antonucci, who will try to become the first woman trainer to win the Belmont.

The other four entries are listed at double-digit odds.

The Belmont field, in post position order, with jockeys and odds:

Tapit Shoes, Jose Ortiz, 20-1; Tapit Trice, Luis Saez, 3-1, Arcangelo, Javier Castellano, 8-1; National Treasure, 5-1, John Velazquez; Il Miracolo, 30-1, Marcos Meneses; Forte, 5-2, Irad Ortiz Jr.; Hit Show, 10-1, Manny Franco; Angel of Empire, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Red Route One, Joel Rosario, 15-1.

Preakness winner National Treasure has final workout for Belmont Stakes

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Preakness winner National Treasure breezed five furlongs in his final workout for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes this weekend.

Working on the main track at Belmont Park with exercise rider Erick Garcia aboard, National Treasure was timed in 59.55 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.20 and seven furlongs in 1:25.20. It was the second workout on the track for the Bob Baffert-trained colt.

“He worked very well this morning,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant. “It’s a big track and you can find yourself lost out there. Erick did an excellent job working him and now we’re just waiting for the race.”

National Treasure was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby before the Preakness on May 20.

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Red Route One also posted his final work for the final jewel of the Triple Crown, breezing a half-mile in 50.20 seconds over Belmont Park’s dirt training track.

“I thought he went beautiful,” said Toby Sheets, Asmussen’s Belmont-based assistant. “It was nice and fluid and he came back with good energy. I’m very happy with him. We wanted to be out on the track before it got really busy.”

Red Route One finished fourth in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course, almost five lengths behind National Treasure.

Kentucky Derby winner Mage is not running in the Belmont Stakes.