THE Brad Cox-trained Winstar-owned Timberlake went into last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as one of the favourites after convincingly winning the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. He could only finish fourth there to Fierceness but the Into Mischief colt got back on the Kentucky Derby trail with a two-length win under jockey Cristian Torres in the Grade 2 $1,250,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park last Saturday.

In what looked a decent trial, Timberlake picked up 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby through his third victory in six starts, which ensures the $350,000 yearling of a spot in the Run for the Roses.

Brad Cox and regular jockey Florent Geroux were in Saudi Arabia with Saudi Crown and Elliott Walden, racing manager of WinStar Farm, said afterwards: “It was a great effort. There was a lot to like. I loved the way he relaxed behind horses. He ran with a little keenness last year but he’s settled in, grown up, and matured.”

A final Derby prep is not yet decided for the colt who now tops the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 66 points.


Cristian Torres gave Timberlake a patient ride in a field of 12. Torres moved the 4/5 favourite into contention four wide on the final turn and grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch and, despite drifting out, he opened up a length lead at the eighth pole and moved clear, covering the distance in 1m44secs.

Ken McPeek trained second- and third-place finishers. Common Defense came from seventh to finish a clear second, three lengths ahead of stablemate Northern Flame,

Common Defense received 25 qualifying points and now has 27, fifth on the Derby leaderboard.

The fillies’ trial at Oaklawn, the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes, went in impressive style to the D Wayne Lukas-trained outsider Lemon Muffin by three and a half lengths.

No link in Saratoga breakdowns

THE Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority released a report looking into the unusually high number of horse deaths during the 2023 season at the Saratoga Race Course. In all, 14 horses died during training and racing last season.

It included two injuries in the latter stages of Grade 1 races. The unbeaten colt New York Thunder appeared to have the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes won as he drew clear of the field, but suffered a catastrophic injury to his left foreleg.

The race was reminiscent of the Grade 1 Test Stakes in which Maple Leaf Mel was yards away from a win, only to break down when almost crossing the finishing line.

According to the report, a multitude of risk factors likely contributed to the fatalities at the 2023 meet, but HISA found no clear association between known risk factors and the spike in injuries based on testing and inspection of the racing surfaces.

HISA reports the impact of unusually wet weather cannot be “overlooked.”