Horse Racing, Kentucky Downs Special Edition at The Downey Profile®
Derby Trail: Where They're Going Next
By Dick Downey
We’re in full tilt mode now, with Kentucky Derby prep races going nine furlongs. Let's see where the contenders are going next during this exciting phase of the Kentucky Derby Trail. Almost 90 horses are covered in today’s survey.
Black Onyx, winner of the Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral, has the Kentucky Derby penciled in next on his calendar. He's the earliest Derby arrival to Churchill Downs this year, and you have to like that move by Kelly Breen. Black Onyx has 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, enough to make the race.
Govenor Charlie, winner of the Grade III Sunland Derby in only his third start, is presumably Kentucky Derby-bound with his 50 points. But remember, Mike Pegram said two things. He’ll leave it up to Bob Baffert – and losing in the Derby is no fun.
Baffert will put Flashback and his 30 points in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, and Garrett Gomez will ride in place of the ousted Julien Leparoux, who is still looking for a Derby horse after running next-to-last in the Spiral on Balance the Books. Gomez will try to get Flashback to rate, then finish strongly.
Jerry Hollendorfer will also stay home for the Santa Anita Derby with Hear the Ghost, owner of 50 points. "I don't have any doubt that he will get the Derby distance," Corey Nakatani said after winning the Grade II San Felipe stakes. Presumably, Hollendorfer, a big fan of Nakatani, agrees.
Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby will finally meet again on Saturday in the Grade I Florida Derby. Since they ran one-two in the Grade III Holy Bull, Itsmyluckyday has put in five workouts, and Shanghai Bobby has put in six. This is an interesting race for many reasons, including the fact that Itsmyluckyday has only 10 points for Eddie Plesa, Jr., and Shanghai Bobby has 24 for Todd Pletcher. Both of them need points. A win adds 100 points, a second 40 points, third 20 points and fourth 10 points.
Normandy Invasion probably has fewer Derby points than any big name on the Derby Trail with 4. He’s been firing bullets at Palm Meadows for the Grade I Wood Memorial, where he'll undoubtedly be fully cranked -- and joined by a large crowd, if early indications are accurate. The Chad Brown trainee needs a better trip then he got in the Risen Star.
Orb, another one with 50 points, put in a final breeze for the Florida Derby on Monday, and everything is good to go for Shug McCaughey. Will Orb need a fast front-end setup like he got in the Grade II Fountain of Youth? Will he rate effectively behind more moderate fractions?
Oxbow, who looked like the winner deep into the Risen Star stretch, will run again in the Grade I Arkansas Derby. D. Wayne Lukas likes it that he can lead Oxbow over from his own barn. He has 36 Derby points and may or may not need more.
Will Take Charge, who’s atop the leaderboard with 60 points after running down Oxbow in the Risen Star, is being considered for the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass by Lukas.
Revolutionary will get a chance to put his stretch-running ways to the test at Fair Grounds on Saturday in the Grade II Louisiana Derby. He won the Grade III Withers during the final jump in a last-to-first effort for Pletcher. The colt may be in make-it-or-break-it status with only 10 Derby points to his credit so far.
Uncaptured, second in the Spiral off a four-month layoff, is expected to run back three weeks later in the Blue Grass for Mark Casse. You have to respect what the trainer and his horse accomplished last Saturday, and they now have 30 points. Who knows, that might turn out to be enough, but it depends on what happens in the coming weeks.
Verrazano, who led all individually-named horses in all three Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools, is at Palm Meadows training for the Wood Memorial. He has 50 points. Assuming all goes well in New York, maybe Pletcher will bring Verrazano and the rest of his Florida group to Kentucky earlier than he did last year. It would be great to see them in the flesh at Churchill Downs during the days leading up to the first Saturday in May.
Meanwhile, Vyjack, with 50 points, lies in wait for Verrazano, and connections say they are confident. Unfortunately, trainer Rudy Rodriguez is on suspension. He’ll be back inside the track grounds a couple of days before the Wood, however.
Starting this weekend, seven Kentucky Derby prep races carry 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth: The Besilu Stables Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, UAE Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, Toyota Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby. Then there are two Wild Card races that could add to the outcome, the Grade III Coolmore Lexington and the Grade III Derby Trial. They carry 20, 8, 4 and 2 points.
After his third in the Sunland Derby, will Abraham’s connections run him again and try to make the Kentucky Derby? Or will they map out a path the Preakness? This colt has talent and will gain more maturity in time. He has 10 Derby points.
Abstraction, impressive March 13 maiden winner at Fair Grounds, is not on the Derby Trail. David Carroll Said the Preakness is a "possibility but not a probability." The Belmont stakes is a goal.
Always in a Tiz missed the Rebel for reasons not known here, but he’s back in New York at the home base of Dominick Schettino and is reportedly pointing to the Wood Memorial. He has no points.
Charming Kitten returned to the worktab on Sunday for the first time since running second in the Grade III Palm Beach. Look for him and Pletcher making an all-or-nothing shot at the Derby in the Blue Grass -- along with others.
Those would include Rydilluc, who defeated Charming Kitten in the Palm Beach. This past Saturday, Gary Contessa breezed the colt seven furlongs on the turf, his second move since the win on March 3.
Clearly Now, who has 2 points, remains a mystery at this post. After he won the Grade III Swale Stakes, Brian Lynch said the Florida Derby could be next. Lynch hedged a bit, though, saying, "Who knows? He might turn out to be a top turf miler. We'll see."
Undrafted, a closing third in the Swale for Mike Maker, was late-nominated to the Triple Crown, so maybe we’ll see something from him soon. He hasn’t put in a recorded breeze since the March 2 Swale and has no points.
Code West was edged by a nose in the Risen Star, picking up 20 points in the process. We'll see him again at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby for Baffert.
Team Valor’s Barry Irwin said after Crop Report won the Rushaway that we won’t see that one in the Kentucky Derby, but that the Belmont Stakes might be just the thing for him. The next day, Irwin mentioned the Peter Pan as a possibility for Crop Report‘s next race. It’s a week after the Kentucky Derby and four weeks before the Belmont. Graham Motion trains.
Demonic had to bypass the San Felipe. The Sunland Derby was considered, but he wasn‘t entered. Now we wait to see if the Santa Anita Derby is coming. He had his most recent work on Friday, so his next one will be very important. He hasn’t any points.
Baffert sent Dan's Legacy to the Rebel, and he finished third while saving ground, moving his total to 20 points. He'll be sent back to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby.
Departing and Sunbean, both late-nominated to the Triple Crown, will compete in the Louisiana Derby for Al Stall, Jr.
Various press offices have had Dewey Square going in either the Louisiana Derby, the Wood Memorial or the Arkansas Derby -- as of late last week. But what about the Blue Grass? After all, Dewey Square raced on turf last time out. We'll know more on Wednesday. Dewey Square has 2 points.
Dice Flavor, the El Camino Real Derby winner running in the Group 2 UAE Derby this weekend for Paddy Gallagher, wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown.
Mark Casse said late last week that Dynamic Sky, possessor of 13 points, is heading to the Blue Grass. He wasn’t pleased with the ride he got when fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Elnaawi, with 10 points, remains on track for the Wood Memorial. He had a tough trip in the Gotham, and Kiaran McLaughlin hopes for clearer sailing next time.
John Terranova II will send Falling Sky, who has 20 points, to the Arkansas Derby, saying that the timing is good, and that the colt fits in well with that type of track, where "speed is pretty good."
Fear the Kitten, with 6 points, had traffic trouble while saving ground under Rosie Napravnik in the Spiral. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Maker give him another try in the Blue Grass if it’s feasible.
Frac Daddy, with 4 points after setbacks from a grabbed quarter and a throat ulcer, looks ready to go in the Florida Derby for Ken McPeek.
Tony Dutrow’s Giant Finish was late-nominated to the Triple Crown after running third in the Spiral. The Blue Grass is the next target. He has 10 points.
Goldencents, who moved in the wrong direction in the San Felipe and who has 29 Derby points, worked very slowly last Thursday. Presumably Doug O'Neill wants him to rate better in the Santa Anita Derby than he did in the San Felipe.
Gunderman looked like a next-start in the Illinois Derby, which carries no Derby points, for his Chicago connections. However, as of this dictation, he hasn’t put in a workout since winning a Gulfstream allowance on March 2.
He's Had Enough took off for Dubai a few days ago and will compete in the UAE Derby on Saturday. Doug O'Neill wants to see if he can handle the Tapeta surface. He has 6 points, and one has to wonder if the race on Saturday isn’t the major goal for now. He’s one of only two in the UAE Derby that’s Triple Crown-nominated.
McPeek will send Java‘s War, whom the trainer recently described as a small colt that is "almost feminine," to the Blue Grass. "He's got a great mind," McPeek said, adding that the colt has enough turf pedigree to warrant a run on Keeneland’s Polytrack. Java’s War needs to add to his 22 Derby points.
Lines of Battle to the UAE Derby. He's the other one in that race that’s Triple Crown-nominated. He’ll run for Aidan O'Brien and was last seen finishing seventh in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He has no Derby points.
Carl Nafzger's Looking Cool is not on the Derby Trail, but let's see whether he could be considered for the Preakness. He defeated the well-regarded River Rocks in a March 17 allowance at Gulfstream.
Noble Tune, Chad Brown's recent late-running turf allowance winner at Tampa on March 9, is being pointed to the Blue Grass and has no Derby points.
After his off-the-board finish in the Gotham, Overanalyze won't run in New York again very soon and is being pointed by Pletcher to the Arkansas Derby. He has 10 points.
Pletcher also has Palace Malice, third in the Risen Star, trying to win Saturday's Louisiana Derby and pad his 10 points.
Baffert’s Power Broker was mentioned for the Wood Memorial, but as of Monday, it looks like the Santa Anita Derby will be his first start of the year. He got 10 points last year winning the Grade I FrontRunner, formerly the Norfolk.
No word yet on Baffert's plans for Shakin It Up, fourth after trying to close on the speedy track at Sunland Park on Sunday. He got 5 points for his effort.
Speak Logistics, who missed a little training with a minor problem, is back on track for Plesa. The Blue Grass now appears to be the goal, not the Wood Memorial. That will give him an extra week. He has 11 points.
There’s no telling how many horses in the 2013 Derby will be trained by Pletcher and Baffert. Baffert will try to regroup with Super Ninety Nine in the Santa Anita Derby after a no-points finish in the Rebel. He picked up 10 winning the Southwest.
Titletown Five, who needed a little more time after a slow breeze on March 19 for Lukas, bypassed the Sunland Derby and is headed to the Louisiana Derby. Like several others in that one, he’s without Derby points.
Paul Aguirre, trainer of Tiz a Minister, has mentioned both the Santa Anita Derby and the Blue Grass. Tiz a Minister has 10 points.
After spinning his wheels on the track in the Rebel, it's not clear where Treasury Bill will go next. The Santa Anita Derby would come up only three weeks later, leaving another road trip as his only option. He has no Derby points.
The Arkansas Derby is probably next for impressive allowance winner War Academy. The colt finally clicked going two turns for the first time, and the effort was impressive enough that he received pretty decent backing in Pool 3 of the Derby Future Wager. He’s another one who lacks points. Baffert trains.
Gotham runner-up West Hills Giant has put in a couple of works recently and looks probable for the Wood Memorial for Terranova. The trainer mentioned the Blue Grass as a possible alternative. West Hill Giant has 20 points.
Are You Kidding Me, late-nominated to the Triple Crown, to the Florida Derby.
Bambazonki to the Blue Grass.
Brazilian Court, late-nominated to the Triple Crown, to the Louisiana Derby.
Cerro isn't going to race again until he puts in two consecutive good workouts, Irwin said on Saturday. He didn’t say whether a breeze on March 18 (1:02.80) qualified. It was Cerro’s first move since a speed-laden run in the Fountain of Youth. On Monday, Cerro worked on turf, four in :52.44 (11/12), breezing, at Palm Meadows.
The future for Curly Top is uncertain. He has a checkered worktab and did not appear on the tab again Monday at Santa Anita.
Divine Ambition, second to Crop Report in the Rushaway after setting the pace, may be pointed to the Coolmore Lexington on April 20.
Escapefromreality has not breezed since finishing ninth in the Gotham, and he hasn't shown up on a probables list for the Wood Memorial.
Maiden winner Footbridge to the Blue Grass.
Fortify wasn’t entered in the UAE Derby. Plans are unknown.
Go Get the Basil: Maybe the Wood Memorial. Not Triple Crown nominated.
Golden Soul to the Louisiana Derby.
Ground Transport to the Louisiana Derby.
Heaven’s Runway to the Arkansas Derby.
Hip Four Sixtynine, late-nominated to the Triple Crown, to the Louisiana Derby.
Incognito to the Illinois Derby.
Joshua’s Comprise to the Florida Derby? Don’t count it out yet. We’ll know for sure on Wednesday.
Merit Man to the Florida Derby.
Micromanage, mentioned for the Belmont Stakes early this year, has been working steadily at Palm Meadows.
Mr Palmer to the Wood Memorial.
Mylute to the Louisiana Derby.
Narvaez, late-nominated to the Triple Crown, to the Florida Derby.
Nina's Dragon, runner-up in the El Camino Real Derby, to the Louisiana Derby. Not nominated to the Triple Crown.
Pick of the Litter, not nominated to the Triple Crown, to the Florida Derby at last report.
Pontiff, a maiden not nominated to the Triple Crown, to the Florida Derby at last report.
Proud Strike to the Louisiana Derby.
Siete de Oros to the Wood Memorial unless something is wrong. He missed a workout this past weekend.
Taken by the Storm, fourth in the Spiral off two weeks‘ rest, would run back three weeks later if he goes to the Blue Grass.
Texas Bling to the Arkansas Derby.
Tiz the Truth is not on the Derby Trail and is being trained for races this Summer.
The Truth and K G: Maybe the Wood Memorial. Not Triple Crown nominated.
Transparent to the Wood Memorial, per the Churchill Downs press office late last week.
Up with the Birds -- not nominated to the Triple Crown and pointed to the Canadian Classics -- to the Blue Grass.
Whiskey Bravo to the Louisiana Derby.
Caveat: This list is not intended to cover all Triple Crown nominees.