Road to the Derby heats up with 3 weekend warm-up races

SUNLAND PARK, Nm. (FOX 56) — The road to the Kentucky Derby is heating up as the first weekend of high-stakes 100-point Derby prep races took place across the country.

Epicenter won the Louisiana Derby and Crown Royal won the United Arab Emirates Derby on Saturday, with each horse earning 100 points and taking first and second place in the standings respectively.

Slow Down Andy beat Bye Bye Bobby in the Sunland Derby in New Mexico on Sunday to earn a key 50 points in the derby, which puts horse Reddam Racing LLC in 4th place to wrap up the weekend.

Reddam Racing LLC caused a stir in thoroughbred racing in 2012 with their 3-year-old colt I’ll Have Another, which won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Another promising horse for the breeder picked up all 50 points at Sunland Racecourse and could take one of the 20 available spots in the Run of the Roses starting grid.

There are two key weekends remaining on the road to the Derby with three 100 point races over the next two Saturdays, with the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland highlighting the final warm-up weekend on April 9.

More on Epicenter’s rise to the top of the derby points standings is below, via The Associated Press.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Favorite Epicenter took a big step toward the Kentucky Derby, passing leader Zozos and Pioneer of Medina entering the stretch and pulling away for a 2 1/2 victory Saturday in the Louisiana Derby at $1 million at Fair Grounds.

The Steve Asmussen-trained bay colt started the 3-Year-Old Grade 2 Stakes race from the No. 6 position tied for money and tucked behind Zozos with Pioneer of Medina to his right as the horses raced within half a length of each other until the final bend.

Epicenter quickly charged forward and was cleared in the stretch, following its 2 3/4 length win in the Risen Star Stakes on February 19 for its second consecutive victory with a second this year. Candy Ride’s Not This Time-Silent Candy son has won four of six career starts and earned $1,010,639.

“The progression of the races for us to a mile and an eighth and now a mile and 3/16ths, and the opportunity to tuck it in today, we feel we are as prepared as we could be mentally and physically, with a big chance at the Kentucky Derby,” the Hall of Fame coach said.

Jockey Joel Rosario, who won the Louisiana Derby last year aboard Hot Rod Charlie, guided Epicenter 1 3/16 miles in a record time of 1:54.38 and paid $4, 2.80 $ and $2.40. Second in the Derby standings with 64 points to come, he is now in the lead after scoring 100 points for the 148th Run for the Roses on May 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Zozos, trained by Brad Cox, brought in $3.40 and $2.80 and had 40 points. Pioneering Medina, the pupil of Todd Pletcher who left as a 5-2 second pick, was two lengths away and paid $5 to show up.

Rosario’s triumph in the Louisiana Derby was the second ranked stake in a five-game winning streak. Earlier he rode filly Echo Zulu to victory by a nose over Hidden Connection in Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.

About Ethel Partin

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