The barn of trainer Mario Morales will be quite busy this April as the top 3-year-olds in the Morales barn are preparing for their upcoming stakes starts.
On the homefront, the colt Tapicero is entered to run in Saturday’s $250,000 Calder Derby at Calder Casino & Race Course, while the filly Florida Sun is training for the $65,000 Calder Oaks to be held on April 12. The Triple Crown nominee colt Casiguapo is in Kentucky to run in the $750,000 Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 12 at Keeneland Race Course in the hopes of earning enough points to be able to run in the $2 million Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3.
The 1 1/16-mile Calder Derby will be just the second career stakes appearance for Tapicero. He had an impressive performance in his career debut in the 5 ½-furlong Excellent Luck Stakes at Calder last November, finishing second by 2 ¾ of a length while coming up down the stretch to take the place. After an eighth-place finish in a 1-mile maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park last December, Tapicero got back on track for his 3-year-old season. He finished third in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight race in February, placed second by just a head in a 6-furlong maiden special weight race on March 9 then easily broke his maiden in his most recent start on March 21 in a 1-mile maiden special weight race by 7 ½ lengths.
“His last three races were third, second, first; since he won, now runs this stakes race. He is showing that he is improving and reaching higher,” said Morales. “He has a lot of chance to win the race. I have a lot of confidence in my horse.”
Tapicero’s win on March 21 capped a sweep of the maiden races on the card that day for Morales, as just two races prior his top up-and-coming filly Florida Sun also broke her maiden in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight race for fillies. Despite her jockey losing the whip in the race, Florida Sun surged ahead down the stretch to win by a length.
The 1 1/16-mile Calder Oaks, which has been taken off the turf, will be the stakes debut for Florida Sun as well as the longest distance the filly has ever run. Her first career start came in January at Gulfstream in a 5-furlong maiden claiming race on the turf. She finished third. When she jumped up to a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight race on the dirt in February at Gulfstream, she ran fifth. On March 8 when she made her first Calder start in a 6-furlong maiden special weight race, she finished third.
“We have to work on the distance because she is a fast filly and now she is going to run a mile and a sixteenth,” said Morales. “We are training her for the distance. We are providing her with experience.”
While Morales will be at Calder for Tapicero’s Calder Derby run, he will be traveling to Kentucky soon after to join Casiguapo at Keeneland for the Blue Grass on April 12. Casiguapo boarded the van on Wednesday to head up to Kentucky to begin his final preparations for the Kentucky Derby. Casiguapo currently ranks 37th on the Kentucky Derby standings points list with five points and non-restricted stakes earnings of $271,050.
Morales said that Casiguapo will just gallop at Keeneland leading into the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass.
Casiguapo was initially entered for the $400,000 1 1/16-mile Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream on February 22 but was scratched. He has not run since early February where he made his first appearance as a 3-year-old in a 6-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream and finished fifth.
Casiguapo started his career at Calder last June with a third-place finish in the 5 ½-furlong Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes at Calder before breaking his maiden last July at Calder in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight race. He came second in the 7-furlong Grade I Hopeful Stakes last September at Saratoga Race Course before earning his first Kentucky Derby point with a fourth-place finish in the 1-mile Grade I Champagne Stakes last October at Belmont Park. He closed out his 2-year-old season with a second place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Grade III Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes last November at Delta Downs, earning four points.
The Blue Grass offers 100 points to the winner, 40 points for second place, and 20 points for third place towards points in the Kentucky Derby standings. The 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby allows a maximum of 20 horses in the field and four also-eligibles, with the entrants qualifying based on largest number of points and highest number of non-restricted stakes earnings.
“We didn’t gain enough points to run in the Derby so we are taking a chance and going to the Blue Grass,” said Morales. “We are going to try him in there because if he comes first, second, or third, we qualify for the Derby.”