5 THINGS TO TAKE AWAY FROM SATURDAY DERBY PREPS
Does Off Track Exaggerate Ability Of Santa Anita Derby Champ?
When they hit the backstretch in Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby eventual winner Exaggerator was loping through the mud some 13 lengths off pace-setter Danzig Candy, the well regarded second choice (8-5) following his wire-to-wire win in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.
As the runners came off the turn Kent Desormeaux had all he could do to keep the son of Curlin from going ten wide or falling sideways as he looked like one of those motorcycle race riders who almost go to the ground when they hug the turns...he was accelerating that quickly.
As Keith Desormeaux trains the colt up to the Derby there will be two takes that will be oft-repeated. The sceptics will look to his second in the Grade 2 San Vicente at 7 furlongs and the third in the Grade 2 San Felipe at a mile and a sixteenth and speculate that in each he loomed up to take command and faltered late on fast surfaces whereas his Santa Anita victory and his triumph in the Grade 3 Delta jackpot to conclude his juvenile campaign were accomplished over a muddy or sloppy surface.
When I gave out Exaggerator on top in the Santa Anita Derby I wasn't concerned about track condition, I believed that the son of Curlin had not yet run his best and was quite satisfied with the $8.80 WIN PAYOFF and $20.00 Exacta with Mor Spirit
On the other hand, we all know that this is the time when talented 3-year olds finally figure it out and it is also worth noting that both Curlin and many of his accomplished progeny took a little longer to develop and once they did stayed consistent.
Whatever Exaggerator doe moving forward the "eye test" for those watching his sweeping and sudden move to the lead coming off the turn in the Santa Anita Derby will be difficult to erase if he makes it to the starting gate the first Saturday in May.
Is Outwork Ready To Take His Place Among The Leaders Or Does Wood Memorial History And A Pair Of Tough Races Make Things Difficult?
When it comes to the extended stable of Todd Pletcher trained Kentucky Derby contenders the glass is more often than not considerably more than half full. So of course the gritty and determined win by Outwork in Saturday's Grade 1 Wood Memorial will elevate the Uncle Mo colt in the eyes of the pundits and public alike.
After an early juvenile MSW win the colt had some problems and did not see the race track again until an allowance win at Tampa Bay in mid-February. Then Pletcher sent him two turns for the first time in his third career start and was hard used to carry his speed deep into the stretch in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby before settling for the place behind Destin.
On Saturday he did what he needed to do to get the points for Kentucky Derby inclusion but once again was all in as he pressed the pace set by Matt King Coal and was all out for the final sixteenth to claim a head victory over the maiden shipper from California, Trojan Nation.
The colt will have 4 weeks to settle in but given a recent Wood Memorial history that is less than flattering when it comes to Kentucky Derby success by its graduates, it is worth considering whether the effort the colt has made to get to this point and the history of the Wood runners moving forward will contribute to this guy being shorter than he should be given the connections.
Once Again Southern California Looks Like Fertile Kentucky Derby Breeding Ground
In 2015 American Pharoah dominated the Southern California scene before gaining his final Kentucky derby foundation when he destroyed rivals in the Arkansas Derby. But dominance also meant that the Southern California based Firing Line and Dortmund ran second and third respectively.
That continued the pattern that saw California Chrome capture the Kentucky Derby in 2014 and prior to Orb winning the 2013 Kentucky it was I'll have Another parlaying his Santa Anita Derby win to Roses Glory with the Southern Cal based by way of Oaklawn runner-up Bodemeister.
And here we are again with this year's west coast wonders as Nyquist, virtue of a commanding Florida Derby win that kept him undefeated and at the top of the division, Exaggerator after his stirring Santa Anita Derby win, Mor Spirit, who continues to turn in solid efforts like his second in the Santa Anita Derby and Cupid, the Rebel Stakes winner who looks to follow Bodemeister's path following his final prep in this Saturday's Arkansas Derby. And if that So-Cal roster needed any more flattering just look to the almost win by the 80-1 maiden Trojan Nation in the Wood Memorial.
Be Careful With Horse For Course Dismissals
On Saturday Brody's Cause returned to form with his definitive victory in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
As a handicapper, of course I gave the Dale Romans trained son of Giant's causeway a big chance based on his previous Breeders' Futurity win and his solid rallying third behind Nyquist in the BC Juvenile over the Keeneland surface.
I picked him second in my releases to my clients and can humbly say that his win coupled with the close third place finish by my win choice and second place finish by my third choice made for a nice Blue Grass Stakes day...
Cherry Wine - 3rd - Trifecta $306.20
Brody's cause - WIN $10.40
My Man Sam - 2nd - Exacta $67.00
...but no sooner did Brody's cause complete a very professional Blue grass win than a number of hesitant nay-sayers began to attribute the victory to his fondness for Keeneland.
That might yet turn out to be fair, but keep this in mind: if he was propelled forward by the horse-for-course advantage at Keeneland, might not that carry forth at Churchill, where Brody's Cause broke his maiden in a very similar off the pace effort at a mile before moving to Keeneland where he won the Breeders' Futurity over none other than Exaggerator?
Many Believe The Best 3-Year Old Won't Be Running In The Kentucky Derby But That Doesn't Mean The Preakness Or Belmont Is Out Of The Question.
When Songbird won last year's BC Juvenile Fillies in faster time for the distance than Nyquist's BC Juvenile triumph the buzz began. It has only gotten louder. But the connections of the brilliant undefeated daughter of Medaglia d'Oro were steadfast they were pointing to the Kentucky Oaks on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby and after last Saturday's "exercise" win in the Santa Anita oaks are on their way to another odds-on victory.
If, however, the filly does what she is expected to do in the Kentucky Oaks there will be tremendous pressure to either run her against the boys in the Preakness or follow the path of the spectacular Rags To Riches, who in 2007 won the Kentucky Oaks, took 5 weeks off, remained in training and out-dueled the Curlin to win the Belmont Stakes.
One can only hope.