Accelerate looks amazing at Santa Anita with 110 Beyer

Accelerate looks amazing at Santa Anita with 110 Beyer

March 13, 2018 3:02 AM
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In addition to the three Kentucky Derby prep stakes that were run at Aqueduct, Santa Anita and Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, there were several other performances worth special comment.

Among them was Accelerate’s victory in the Grade-1, $600K Santa Anita Handicap at 1-1/4 miles that earned him a terrific 110 Beyer Speed Figure. On the same SA card, in another Grade-1 – the $400K, Triple Bend at 7-furlongs – City of Light scored a hard fought victory over Bobby Abu Dhabi to earn a 106 Beyer Figure. It should be noted this was the lightly-raced City of Light’s second straight Grade-1 score – in his first outing of 2018.

In a few other interesting Saturday stakes: Harlan Punch earned a 105 Beyer winning the $150K, ungraded Stymie at one mile around one turn at Aqueduct; on the same N.Y. racing card, Skyler’s Scramjet earned a 103 Figure scoring his fifth victory and first stakes from 10 career starts.

At Tampa Bay Downs the 6-year-old War Story ran back to one of his best races, posting a 107 Beyer while taking the ungraded 1-1/16 mile Challenger Stakes. Previously, this Jorge Navarro trained gelding had earned more than $2 million from 25 career starts; but, he had not won since the Grade-2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont last June.

On the Derby prep scene, by far the best race was the G-2, $400K San Felipe Stakes at 1-1/16 miles. That was the Santa Anita race in which the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie seemed to hold off Bolt d’ Oro after a roughly contested duel through the final quarter mile.

Unfortunately for the Baffert trainee, a good stewards’ review determined McKinzie was the major offender, bumping out from his rail position into Bolt d’Oro in the upper stretch and again nearing the wire. These bumping incidents, especially those in the final 40 yards, apparently cost Bolt d’Oro his best chance to score a narrow win.

That said, we all should realize this was Bolt d’Oro’s first outing since finishing third to Game Magic in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar last fall and just the fourth career outing for McKinzie!

As I saw the race, neither horse lost any status as Derby contenders. Frankly, I was doubly impressed as each of these legit Derby prospects posted 101 Beyer Figures for their good efforts.

Speaking of lightly raced 3-year-olds, longshot Quip, making his fourth lifetime start, earned a 94 Beyer winning a hard fought duel with Flameaway in the 1-1/16 mile, $400K, G-2 Tampa Bay Derby. Likewise, in Aqueduct’s $300K, G-3 Gotham mile stakes, Enticed proved best in his fifth lifetime start to earn a career best 95 Figure.

With these latest results, here are my current top Derby prospects, along with 10 more to watch carefully, plus an important correction to a previously mentioned Derby horse to watch:

1 and 1A – Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie were hard to separate in the San Felipe and both horses made equally positive impressions. I rank them tied at the top right now.

3. GOOD MAGIC – Going into the Fountain of Youth stakes at Gulfstream, Feb. 27, I ranked him first based on his 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win. While he ran reasonably well in the F of Y, Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie vaulted above him on my current list.

4. AUDIBLE – Won G-2 Holy Bull by 5-1/2 lengths Feb. 3 and is training well for Todd Pletcher.

5. ENTICED – Gamely won the Gotham Mile at Aqueduct on Saturday with a much improved performance. One of this son of Medaglia d’Oro’s top credentials is he won a Graded stakes last fall at Churchill Downs. He also seems to prefer distance races.

6. JUSTIFY – This Bob Baffert trainee made a strong first impression winning his career debut at 7 furlongs with a terrific 104 Beyer Speed Figure, best by any 3-year-old to date. Although Baffert is not sure where Justify will run next, or if he will gain enough experience to make the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby, I’m guessing he will ship to Arkansas for a race beyond a mile that will help determine his Derby status.

Beyond the top six listed above, I suggest keeping an eye out for these nine that are on my personal horses to watch list: The Jerry Hollendorfer trained Kanthaka, who earned a 99 Beyer Figure last month; Machismo, who finished strongly in his early February maiden score; Bob Baffert’s Solomini, who has been working strongly and his Axman, who posted a 97 Figure Jan. 1 and ran well vs. Kanthaka; plus, Bravazo, Snapper Sinclair, Catholic Boy, Flameaway and World of Trouble.

In addition, I must point out that a Derby prospect I listed in my last two columns was misidentified as Noble Moon. His actual name is Noble Iron. Moreover, this Todd Pletcher trainee seemed to learn a lot when he ran third to Bravazo on Feb. 17. Pending his next race, we will find out if he really will be a Derby contender.