Kentucky Derby prep race season heats up this coming President’s Day holiday weekend with a four pack of stakes for three-year-olds on tap at tracks around the country. The annual “Run for the Roses” will be held Saturday May 2 at Churchill Downs and this year, Virginians will have nine different sites they can place their Derby wagers at.
On Valentine’s Day, Friday Feb. 14, Turfway Park hosts the $100,000 John Battaglia Stakes at 8:12 PM, which serves as a 3-year-old prep for their March 15 Jeff Ruby Stakes (Gr. 3). Also on the card is the $75,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Turfway’s first post Friday is 6:15 PM.
On Saturday (Feb. 15), Fair Grounds hosts the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (Gr. 2), featured race on their Louisiana Derby Preview card and a key Derby prep. Two Risen Star divisions will be contested at 6:38 PM and 7:12 PM and showcase respective 11 and 12 horse fields. A trio of graded stakes populate the under card including the $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (Gr. 2) for sophomore fillies, and a pair of Grade 3’s — the Mineshaft Stakes and Fair Grounds Stakes. A guaranteed $400,000 Pick-4 will encompass races 10-13. The 10th race goes to post at 5:32 PM.
On the same day, Golden Gate plays host to their $100,000 El Camino Real Derby. A field of 11 will battle at 6:45 PM.
Finally, Oaklawn takes center stage holiday Monday with the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (Gr. 3), a major prep for their upcoming Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Oaklawn also will present a pair of other Grade 3 stakes on Monday — the Razorback Handicap and Bayakoa Stakes.
They may not hosting Derby preps, but Laurel has one of their biggest days of the year on Saturday. A pair of $250,000 Grade 3 events — the Barbara Fritchie and General George — highlight their card which also includes another trio of $100,000 stakes. The two will go to post at 3:20 and 3:49 PM.
Once holiday weekend is in the books, Derby prep action resumes in a big way on February 29 when Gulfstream plays host to the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (Gr 2), one of nine graded stakes Gulfstream has on the card that afternoon.
Local horseplayers also should note that a FREE Colonial Downs Handicapping Series will begin on February 29 at five different OTBs: VA-Horseplay sites at Breakers Sports Grille (Henrico), Ponies & Pints (Richmond), Buckets Bar & Grill (Chesapeake) and The Windmill OTB Sports Grill (Collinsville) along with the OTB at Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in New Kent. Players can compete for $11,000 in betting vouchers and prizes between Feb. 29 and July 25 (11 contests total), and try to win one of two seats Colonial will give away to the $3 Million National Handicapping Championship in 2021.