Lots of depth for Kentucky Derby
April 10, 2018 3:00 AM
by Dave Valento
The 2018 Kentucky Derby is shaping up to be one of the deepest in recent memory. A case can be made for more than half of the expected field.
Not surprisingly super-trainer Bob Baffert will figure prominently again.
Baffert saddled Justify on Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby and saw his colt go wire to wire, out-grinding the game Bolt D’Oro, to remain undefeated heading to Kentucky. It was another sharp effort for the $500,000 son of Scat Daddy. He went to the lead and held the runner-up safe throughout.
Justify will be one of the top 5 choices in the Derby, along with Euro star Mendelssohn, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ Good Magic, Todd Pletcher’s Florida Derby winner Audible, and Bolt D’Oro.
Another might surge forward depending on the outcome of the Arkansas Derby this Saturday.
Justify looks eerily similar to Indian Charlie, another Baffert colt from two decades earlier. In 1998, Bob Baffert was just beginning a dizzying ascent to the top of American Thoroughbred training when he saddled Indian Charlie and Real Quiet in the Derby.
For the first time in his career he was coming in as a Kentucky Derby winning trainer after Silver Charm won in 1997. Just like Justify, Indian Charlie came into the Santa Anita Derby undefeated and unchallenged. Neither had tried stakes before and both were blessed with ample speed. Both left California with their record unblemished. Interestingly both had beaten six runners in the Santa Anita Derby defeating the runner-up by three lengths while third was about 10 behind.
Indian Charlie would go off as the 5-2 favorite in the Kentucky Derby. He always traveled near the lead, made a surge at the top of the stretch to get into second behind Real Quiet but went flat in the lane and was lucky to hold Nick Zito’s Halory Hunter for third.
As good as Justify has looked, and he has looked great, he may have the most to prove versus his main rivals next month.
He beat very little in all three starts except Bolt D’Oro, who was severely disadvantaged chasing the unchallenged wire to wire winner. There is a lot left to happen before final decisions are made for the Derby but the feeling here is Justify will end up being an underlay in a loaded Derby field.
2 fillies sparkle
Midnight Bisou closed from far back to win the Santa Anita Oaks going away in a sensational effort. She is 3 for 5 in her career having lost two nose bobs to Baffert-trained Dream Tree. The daughter of Midnight Lute, trained by Bill Spawr, will be a handful in the Kentucky Oaks.
At Keeneland, Monomoy Girl went wire to wire to win the Grade 1 Ashland by five lengths. She was just as dominant as Midnight Bisou.
The Brad Cox trainee has now won 5 of 6 with her only defeat coming in the G2 Golden Rod by a neck. She’ll be another serious player in Kentucky.
Play of the Week
No. 12 LALIBELA in race 4 at Keeneland on Wednesday.
She is coming off a debut maiden win going 1M-1/8, not an easy thing to do. She also had a very troubled trip but exploded late to win at 31-1. Has a strong pedigree with Devil’s Bag and Glorious Song in the mix.
Trainer and owner had G1 turfer, Somalia Lemonade. She won her debut at a price and returned to win in her second start.
Morning line odds are 6-1. Post time is 11:45 PT.