Horse racing news, notes, & stakes previews for 2/3/21

Let’s recap the horse racing headlines from last weekend and preview what’s to come in the week ahead.

GREATEST HONOUR, MEDINA SPIRIT impress in latest Derby preps

GREATEST HONOUR closed like a shot to win the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream last Saturday under Jose Ortiz. The 5 3/4-length winning margin was quite inspiring for the son of Tapit, who needed four starts to break his maiden. Favored PRIME FACTOR was a distant and disappointing third.

Hours later at Santa Anita, Abel Cedillo and MEDINA SPIRIT survived a slugfest in the stretch with ROMAN CENTURION and HOT ROD CHARLIE in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis. That the Bob Baffert trainee had enough energy late after running hard early caught the eye.

FRANK’S ROCKETTE returns a winner in American Beauty

Unseen since flopping in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, FRANK’S ROCKETTE returned a winner while dropping back in with fillies and mares on Saturday in Oaklawn’s $150,000 American Beauty Stakes. Florent Geroux needed only to hand-ride the talented daughter of Into Mischief to a 1 1/4-length score over AMY’S CHALLENGE.

LETRUSKA romps in Houston Ladies Classic

LETRUSKA left little doubt about who was best when she scored by 3 1/2-lengths in Sam Houston’s Grade III Houston Ladies Classic on Sunday under Jesus Castanon. She took the lead in short order and never looked back. 10-1 shot UJJAYI rounded out the $14.40 exacta.

Another pair of Derby preps await bettors this weekend

Let’s take a quick look at Aqueduct’s Withers Stakes and Tampa Bay’s Sam F. Davis Stakes, along with some other important races going on this weekend.

Saturday

The Grade III, $250,000 Withers Stakes (Aqueduct Race 8, 4:25 p.m. ET)

#3 CAPO KANE could be the horse to beat in the Withers, if he runs back to his 6 1/4-length score in the Jerome Stakes over this course. Opposing him will be a pair of maiden-breakers at a mile for Todd Pletcher in #6 OVERTOOK and #7 DONEGAL BAY, among this field of nine.

The Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (Tampa Race 11, 5:02 p.m. ET)

#5 SMILEY SOBOTKA and #3 KNOWN AGENDA are both looking for breakthrough victories in the Sam F. Davis. The former was last seen running second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill, while the latter ran third in the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct last time out. Eleven others stand in their way.

The Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (Tampa Race 8, 3:30 p.m. ET)

#9 SOLE VOLANTE, who stamped himself as a Derby contender in last year’s Sam F. Davis, resurfaces in the Tampa Bay Stakes off a sixth-place finish in the Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream.

Chad Brown counters with #12 GREYES CREEK, a winner of three straight races. A field of 12 will face the gate in this one.

The Grade II, $200,000 San Marcos Stakes (Santa Anita Race 4, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Rescheduled from last Saturday (weather), the San Marcos features several familiar faces on the Southern Cal turf circuit, including #1 CLEOPATRA’S STRIKE, #6 OSCAR DOMINGUEZ, and #5 SALVATOR MUNDI. A field of six goes postward for this 1 1/4-mile clash.

The Grade II, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (Santa Anita Race 7, 6 p.m. ET)

Though it doesn’t carry any Derby points, Santa Anita’s seven-furlong San Vicente can be used as a springboard for lightly-raced three-year-olds with visions of roses in May. Grade I Arkansas Derby winner Nadal used this race as a prep in 2020, and eventual Derby winner Nyquist scored here in 2016.

Not surprisingly, Baffert has a strong one-two punch in this field of six with #1 FREEDOM FIGHTER and #6 CONCERT TOUR.

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