Nothing that happened in New York or Illinois on Saturday should have the connections of Pyro and Big Brown, the top two 3-year-olds in the country, shaking in their shoes.
The $500,000 Wood Memorial, which was supposed to be a return to glory for champion 2-year-old War Pass, had a staggering finish, eventually won by Tale Of Ekati, who went off at 8-1.
Some 15 minutes later at Hawthorne, Recapturetheglory, a 15-1 longshot whose only previous win came against maidens at the Stickney track last fall, led throughout, exposing Z Humor, Atoned and favored Denis Of Cork as Kentucky Derby pretenders.
Undefeated in the first four races of his career, War Pass finished last after an eventful trip as the 1-20 favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 15, but got the front-running trip he needs in the Wood.
Although hounded by longshot and eventual last-place finisher Inner Light through some legitimate fractions early, War Pass, the 9-10 choice on Saturday, had 2 1/2 lengths after six furlongs but couldn't stay through a final eighth of a mile that took nearly 14 seconds to negotiate.
Making his second start of 2008, Tale Of Ekati, who had won the Futurity at Belmont Park last spring before floundering in the slop in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was up to prevail by half a length. Edgar Prado, who also won the $300,000 Carter with the undefeated Bustin Stones, rode the Tale Of The Cat colt for owner-breeder Charles Fipke and trainer Barclay Tagg.
Co-owned by trainer Louie Roussel III and Ronny Lamarque, who campaigned Risen Star, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1988 en route to earning champion 3-year-old honors, Recapturetheglory won by four lengths under jockey E.T. Baird.
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Mike Smith had a memorable day in Arkansas.
The foursome, who teamed to win the Kentucky Derby three years ago with Giacomo, won the $500,000 Apple Blossom and the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.
Making her first start outside California, Zenyatta remained undefeated with a powerful victory over Ginger Punch, the champion older female in 2007, while Tiago ended a four-race losing streak with a narrow victory over Santa Anita Handicap winner Heatseeker in the Oaklawn.
Little Belle, a 16-1 longshot whose two earlier victories had come over the inner track at Aqueduct, earned herself a start in the Kentucky Oaks on May 2 at Churchill Downs with a neck victory over Bsharpsonata in the $500,000 Ashland at Keeneland.
Rajiv Maragh rode the A.P. Indy filly for owner-breeder Darley Stable and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The disappointment in the Grade I was Country Star, who finished fifth as the favorite in her first start of 2008.
In the three Grade IIs on the program at Santa Anita, Greg's Gold turned the tables on Surf Cat with a victory in the $200,000 Potrero Grande Handicap, favored Daytona took the $150,000 Arcadia and Missit was successful in her U.S. debut, edging Sweeter Still in the $150,000 Providencia.
The victory was the ninth in 25 starts for Greg's Gold, a 7-year-old Lake George gelding owned by breeder Bill Boswell and trained by David Hofmans.