Mendelssohn punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby with an eye-popping 18-1/2 length win in the UAE Derby in Dubai, earning the highest Beyer Speed Figure for a 3-year-old this year (106).
Audible did the same thing at Gulfstream Park in Florida making it four wins in a row, winning the Grade I Florida Derby by a comfortable margin.
Meanwhile, this Saturday’s major west coast 3-year-old Kentucky Derby prep, the $1 million Grade I Santa Anita Derby, had plenty of drama of its own with the race yet to be run.
McKinzie – who won the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 after a stirring stretch battle with Bolt d’Oro only to be disqualified for interfering with that rival in a questionable call – will not run.
The Bob Baffert trainee reportedly injured a hock behind. The injury is not believed to be too serious, but it remains to be seen if McKinzie has enough time to recover and get into a different prep such as the Arkansas Derby or Lexington Stakes in the weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby.
With McKinzie out of the Santa Anita Derby, Bolt d’Oro looms a prohibitive favorite given the fact he had missed some training prior to the San Felipe and may have needed the outing.
He has trained very well out of that taxing effort and based on his excellent form as a 2-year-old in 2017 he has every right to move forward on Saturday.
The question now becomes: Who will take on Bolt d’Oro?
Trainer Bob Baffert is looking down his deep bench for replacements, and depending upon how he worked Monday morning, the undefeated Justify may be re-routed from his original target of the April 14 Arkansas Derby and stay home for the Santa Anita Derby.
Baffert had Solomini pointing to the Wood Memorial this Saturday, but he could easily wind up at Oaklawn Park next week since the Arkansas Derby has Grade I status and the Wood Memorial is “just” a Grade II event.
Then there is Restoring Hope, who failed to draw into the Sunland Park Derby on March 24 due to a lack of Graded Stakes earnings. Baffert has been looking for an option for that colt and the Santa Anita Derby could be the right opportunity.
Instilled Regard, winner of the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds prior to finishing fourth as the favorite in the Risen Star at that same track, is listed as definite for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
The defection of McKinzie could open the door for horses like Ayacara, a well beaten fifth in the San Felipe, and Pepe Tono, a distant third behind Justify in an overnight race March 11, to join the party.
The Santa Anita Derby field could change even more prior to Wednesday’s entry deadline as those looking for Kentucky Derby qualifying points could find the race much more attractive with McKinzie out of the picture.
Not only does trainer Baffert have to skip this Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby with McKinzie, his undefeated Grade I winning filly Dream Tree has also been sidelined and will miss this Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Oaks.
With Dream Tree out of the picture, Midnight Bijou, already a two-time Graded Stakes winner at the meet for trainer Bill Spawr, becomes strictly the one to beat.
The daughter of Midnight Lute was beaten a nose by Dream Tree in each of her first two lifetime starts, but rebounded to break her Maiden winning the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes going seven furlongs before stretching out for the first time and winning the Grade III Santa Ysabel in handy fashion.
Baffert again will send a replacement for his top gun. Thirteen Squared, second to Midnight Bisou in the Santa Ysabel, will represent Baffert in the Santa Anita Oaks.
The rest of the field is muddled at this point, though Grade II placed Exuberance figures to stretch back out in the Oaks.
Spectator, who beat older fillies and mares in her March 18 comeback sprint, could take some catching as she stretches out for the very first time.
There will be a 12-race card featuring Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. In addition to the Santa Anita Oaks, the Grade II Royal Heroine for older fillies and mares on turf, the Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on turf, the Echo Eddie Stakes for Cal-bred 3-year-old sprinters, and the Evening Jewel Stakes for Cal-bred 3-year-old filly sprinters will be part of the fun.
And to cap things off, how about an Arabian race? The $100,000 HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Darley Award Stakes will be run as the final race on the card but will not be part of the Pick Six, late Pick Five, or late Pick Four.
Damn good call
Santa Anita track announcer Michael Wrona gets credit for best call of the week. As Rhettbutler was pulling away to victory in Sunday’s third race and Catability was running on for second, Wrona mentioned “Rhettbutler doesn’t give a damn.”
Keep up the good work, Michael.
If only we could hear the race calls in the Press Box. It’s been years and still no speakers to hear one of the best announcers in the business.
Santa Anita, Thursday, Race 8 – Flynn (post 7): With a huge Pick Six carryover of $339,082 going into Thursday, this first-time starter looks very live.
Trainer Steve Miyadi tends to work horses very slow, so Flynn’s five furlong gate drill of 58-4/5 March 16 jumps off the page. He uses “go to” rider Evin Roman, so expect Flynn to come out running.