This week we get serious on Derby

This week we get serious on Derby

March 27, 2018 3:06 AM
by

Did we see the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner compete in last Saturday’s Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds or in Sunday’s Sunland Park Derby?

I say no.

Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy re-rallied for the victory and with 100 qualifying points is in the Kentucky Derby. While he is improving, he is still green, and the fact he was able to re-rally for the win may have more to say about his competition than anything else.

Sunland Derby winner Runaway Ghost was beaten 36 lengths by Solomini, McKinzie, and Instilled Regard in the Grade I Los Alamitos Derby last December. It is doubtful he has improved enough to make up that deficit on the first Saturday in May.

The Kentucky Derby winner will likely have his final prep in the next three weeks. Those to keep an eye on and the races in which they are likely to compete include:

UAE Derby at Meydan City in Dubai, March 31 – Mendelssohn: The winner of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar tries dirt for the first time in the UAE Derby, and being a half-brother to champion Beholder suggests he will handle the surface switch. Top trainer Aiden O’Brien has the Kentucky Derby on this one’s radar depending on how he performs Saturday.

Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, March 31 – Audible, Promises Fulfilled, and Catholic Boy: Audible finished strong to win the Holy Bull Stakes going 1-1/16 miles. Promises Fulfilled ran the Fountain of Youth field off their feet March 3. Both have breeding that makes them suspect at the 10 furlong Kentucky Derby distance, so stamina is key. Catholic Boy disappointed in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 10 and must prove he is as good on dirt as he is on turf.

Santa Anita Derby April 7 – Bolt d’Oro, McKinzie, Instilled Regard: McKinzie beat Bolt d’Oro only to be DQ’d behind that one in the San Felipe Stakes. That latter was coming off a setback prior to his 2018 debut and may have needed that outing. Both are battle-tested and talented. Instilled Regard threw in a dud in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, but he has shown he can compete with top 3-year-olds.

Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 7 – Good Magic, Flameaway: 2017 Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old Good Magic needs to step up after finishing third in his 3-year-old debut behind Promises Fulfilled in the Fountain of Youth. He improved with racing last year, so a move forward seems likely. Flameaway showed some versatility rallying from off the pace to end up second in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Wood Memorial at Aqueduct April 7 – Solomini: Baffert trainee had a troubled trip in the Rebel at Oaklawn March 17 and should be tough after working in company with so many top sophomores in his own barn all winter.

Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park April 14: Could be the most intriguing prep with the lightly-raced but extremely talented 3-year-olds Magnum Moon (trained by Todd Pletcher) and Justify (trained by Bob Baffert) scheduled to face off. Both have to catch up quickly on experience and need the points to get into the Kentucky Derby. If one jumps forward in this race watch out at Churchill Downs.

Watch the Derby prep races closely, take some notes, and keep tabs on how these 3-year-olds come out of their final prep races. It could pay major dividends wagering on the Run for the Roses Saturday, May 5.

SA did right

Santa Anita cancelled their race card last Thursday. I agree and support the stance that the safety of the horses and riders come first. What I found interesting was the timing of the cancellation.

Scratch time on Thursday was 8 a.m. The late scratches were made public and some 15 horses were declared from the Thursday afternoon card.

The rain that started to fall Thursday morning was expected and coming off three dark days there was plenty of time to seal the main track to protect it.

So why was the cancellation not announced until after 9:30 a.m.?

Per California Horse Racing Board rules, all medication like Lasix must be administered to horses racing at least four hours prior to running. Since the races were still scheduled to be run at scratch time, horses running in the first three races (with noon first post) had to be medicated prior to cancellation.

Those vet procedures are a cost to the owners. Not cancelling at scratch time cost many owners (including me) needless vet bills getting our horses prepared to compete. There are other expenses like changing shoes for the wet conditions, too.

One other interesting factor. The races for this past Sunday were drawn that same Thursday morning. It turned out that only four of the races in the condition book for that day filled with enough horses so they could be used (one of the races had enough entries to be split into two separate races). Five of the cancelled races from Thursday were used to complete the 10-race card for Sunday.

It makes you wonder a little if the races were called off late on Thursday primarily for the safety of the horses (most likely) or so the track could use those races to help fill a weekend day card that was light on entries.

It worked out well for Santa Anita, as total handle this past Sunday ($10,094,989) was 17.6% higher than the previous Sunday with a nine-race card ($8,583,489).

I paid my vet bill.

Play of the Week: Santa Anita, Thursday, Race 6 – Route Six Six (post 4). Three-year-old from the Brian Koriner stable improved nicely when stretched out around two turns for the first time Feb. 16 and should fall into a nice trip pressing the pace. He appears set for career win No. 1.