As January has passed into February, it’s time to hunker down and get serious—about Kentucky Derby contenders, naturally. With three preps on Saturday (not to mention a couple interesting maiden races), I’m just about fully engaged with horse racing again. If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for Derby Prep Alert at Hello Race Fans!—not only are we previewing all the major Derby and Oaks races, but you can get FREE past performances for the races, courtesy of Brisnet.com. Here are my thoughts on Saturday’s races:
Santa Anita, Race 1:
Making his debut, Stratify (A.P. Indy) is the first foal out of G2 Honorable Miss victress Burmilla, who crushed her maiden effort going six furlongs—not to mention her multiple G1-placed dam Nannerl won first-up. As per Darley initiative, he won’t run on Lasix, and breaking from the rail doesn’t appear advantageous, so I’ll take a pass this time on him. Bob Baffert sends out Mile High Magic (Roman Ruler) who’s posted blazing works in advance of this start—his unraced dam is out of champion Hall of Fame mare Silverbulletday. Bet on him taking serious money with Martin Garcia aboard. Likely for a price consider Broker Brett (More Than Ready); as any good Distorted Humor filly should, his dam Queen of Green won at first-asking, and he comes from a strong performing family, including G2 turf winner Turnofthecentury who smashed a large field going 8.5 furlong on dirt in his maiden effort—winning by nearly 10 lengths.
Aqueduct, Race 9 (G3 Withers):
Alpha (Bernardini) is among my Top Ten Derby contenders at this point, and off his dominating Count Fleet victory last out, the Withers appears to be at his mercy. If I had to choose an upset chance, it would be Tiger Walk (Tale of the Cat), an impressive allowance winner his first time on dirt. His unraced dam’s half brother Supremo won the G2 Norfolk—not to mention his unraced second dam is a half sister to Dynaformer. From the rail, Hakama (First Samurai) should also be in the exotics; he broke his maiden in impressive style over this track, and comes from an impressive Claiborne Farms family that includes G3 Louisiana Derby runner-up Stop Watch and G3 off-turf Transylvania winner Boss Lafitte.
Gulfstream, Race 9:
If any maiden race this weekend could produce a Classic winner, this 9-furlong dirt event would be it. A likely contender is Battle Hardened (Giant’s Causeway) who just missed at this distance last out—he’s a half brother to G1 Stephen Foster winner Colonial Colony. Finishing just behind Battle Hardened in that December 31 race, Suns Out Guns Out (Empire Maker) also should be in the exotics; his dam is a full sister to G1-placed router Tenpins. Tiz Yankee (Tiznow) has the damline breeding as well—his second dam, G1 Vanity winner Private Persuasion is a full sister to Torchera, dam of G1 Belmont winner Da’Tara. Mark Casse sends out a dynamic duo that still appear distance-challenged: Wine Police’s half brother Moon Traveler (Malibu Moon) and Dynamical (Hard Spun) whose half sister is G1 Matron runner-up Featherbed. Todd Pletcher entry Dixie Dice (Dixie Union) is closely related to G1 Travers runner-up Grasshopper, which is probably why he brought $400k as a yearling. For price, Awaited (Unbridled’s Song) is a huge upset chance here. Forget that Saratoga race—this full brother to G1 Belmont runner-up Dunkirk has been working extremely well in advance of this 2012 debut, and with blinkers on looks to make his G1 Kentucky Oaks-winning dam Secret Status proud.
Tampa Bay, Race 11 (G3 Sam F. Davis):
Everywhere he runs these days, Todd Pletcher has a hot hand, but I’m not sold on Ecabroni (Smoke Glacken) here. State of Play (War Front) should make the transition from turf to dirt with ease, while Gulfstream Park Derby winner Reveron (Songandaprayer) hopes to transfer his good form to Tampa Bay. Given his previous form here, Prospective (Malibu Moon) could be an underlay, and if he runs here instead of at Gulfstream, I’m all in on Battle Hardened (Giant’s Causeway).
Santa Anita, Race 6 (G2 Robert B. Lewis):
With Liaison (Indian Charlie) and Sky Kingdom (Empire Maker), Bob Baffert is doubly-blessed in this race—the latter is just behind Alpha on my Top Ten Derby list. Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit) has twice just missed against Liaison, and looks to be training well in advance of this start. That said, I’m thrilled to see Isn’t He Clever (Smarty Jones) shipping in from Sunland to take on the big boys, as he’s definitely got classy breeding—his dam is a full sister to multiple G1-placed Flag Down. For a price, Myung Kwon Cho’s Groovin’ Solo (Bob and John) could be an upset for the exotics; his half brother Street Hero won the G1 Norfolk, while another half brother Premier Pegasus won last year’s G2 San Felipe.