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Derby watch: Caracortado arrives on the scene

One of the best parts about the early portion of the Kentucky Derby trail is, much like pre-season play, virtually everyone can dream about claiming the big prize.

In the aftermath of this weekend's prep races, certain camps had their wistful feelings thoroughly validated.

Trainer Mike Machowsky admittedly didn't sleep much Saturday night after his charge Caracortado took down two well-regarded Derby contenders in Tiz Chrome and American Lion to win the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Though Caracortado was unbeaten in his four previous starts, his modest pedigree (by Cat Dreams) and the fact he was testing graded stakes company for the first time made him a bit of a dark horse in the 11⁄16-mile race.

The chestnut gelding looked ultra professional, however, as he stalked Tiz Chrome and American Lion through the early fractions before unleashing a big 3-wide move on the turn for home.

"I'm still pretty pumped up," Machowsky said Sunday. "I woke about 1:30 a.m. and couldn't sleep anymore. I'm going to see how he reacts and... go from there. But the spacing of (the San Felipe Stakes on March 13) would be good."

American Lion may have come up a little short, but the WinStar Farm crew still had a solid weekend with homebred Rule's impressive victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Much like his Delta Jackpot win, Rule was pressed on the front end throughout the 11⁄16-mile Sam F. Davis and Schoolyard Dreams appeared ready to blow right on by at the head of the lane.

In an impressive display of mettle, Rule fought back to draw off handily and notch his second graded stakes victory.

"It's what you want to see — the horse improves and has the tenacity," said Doug Cauthen, president of WinStar Farm. "We're excited, because he's one of several that we hope are going to keep improving."