Colonel John was all set to run for the roses the morning after his late-running victory in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), but the trainer for the runner-up, the persevering Bob Black Jack, plans to weigh his options.
Jim Kasparoff, who trains Bob Black Jack for his brother Tim and partner Jeff Harmon, wasn't ready to commit to the May 3 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in spite of his game second in Santa Anita's major 3-year-old fixture, where he finished a half-length behind Colonel John.
“He looks good this morning, and I’d say we have no plans right now, but the Kentucky Derby is an option,” the 33-year-old trainer said April 6. “Over the next week and a half, we’ll discuss everything, but he’s got to be doing well and show me he deserves to go.”
Bob Black Jack became the world record holder at six furlongs (1:06 2/5) in a 3 1/2-length win in the Sunshine Millions Dash Jan. 26 at Santa Anita. The California-bred Stormy Jack colt surprised the experts when he came back with a solid third-place effort behind Georgie Boy in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe (gr. II), his first route try, on March 15.
In the Santa Anita Derby, the speedy Bob Black Jack showed an added dimension, settling behind pacesetter Coast Guard while pressing the leader on the outside for most of the race. Bob Black Jack took the lead in the stretch but raced somewhat erratically in the final eighth of a mile as Colonel John unleashed his dramatic bid.
Kasparoff said Bob Black Jack has a total of $178,800 in graded stakes earnings, the criteria for inclusion in the Kentucky Derby if more than 20 enter.
Colonel John, meanwhile, came back “great” from his stirring Santa Anita Derby victory, establishing the Eoin Harty trainee as one of the favorites for the Derby at Churchill Downs.
Colonel John reinforced the confidence Harty holds for the Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow .
“He certainly proved himself as a contender (for the Derby) and justified the faith I’ve always had in him,” said Harty, who was an assistant to Bob Baffert for seven years, during which Baffert won the Run for the Roses twice, with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998.
“I’ve always felt Colonel John was a very good horse and it all came together yesterday,” added Harty. He plans to give the bay colt two workouts at Santa Anita before shipping to Churchill Downs 12 days before the Derby, and then have one work over the Churchill Downs surface.
“Hopefully, it will all go according to plan,” Harty said, “but that’s the way it looks right now.”
Coast Guard, who finished third by 1 1/2 lengths at 19-1 after leading into the stretch, came out of the race well, but trainer David Hofmans said, “We are not considering the Kentucky Derby. I don’t know what we’re doing yet.”
Craig Dollase said El Gato Malo came out of the race in good shape, “at least initially, but no decision has been made on his next race.” El Gato Malo finished fifth as the 9-5 choice, beaten 5 1/4 lengths.