Kentucky Derby Trail: Powerful Second Wave About to Hit

Kentucky Derby Trail: Powerful Second Wave About to Hit
Photo: Lou Hodges, Jr
Risen Star winner Gradepoint going in Sunday's Louisiana Derby.
We've been reading about the same cast of characters for a long time, and no one has really jumped to the head of the class. The second wave, however, has been building in intensity, but is it too late to cause any damage on the first Saturday in May?

Among the list of latecomers are some very talented horses who, even if they don't make the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), will have a lot to say about the 3-year-old picture later on. Some of these are still available at Bally's at an enticing, get-in-on-the-bottom-floor price, while others are being bet way down despite the arduous task that lies ahead of them. Some are inexperienced horses who have begun their careers late, and others have shown stakes form at two, but are very late getting started at three.

Making up the second wave are: Redskin Warrior, who still has not been beyond six furlongs, but his tremendous talent and potential make him an enticing play at 60-1, especially if he should run another brilliant race in the Gotham (gr. III); Quintons Gold Rush, who is only 25-1 despite having only two career starts, but could take a big step forward in Saturday's San Rafael Stakes (gr. II); Rock Hard Ten has been hammered down to 20-1, and that was before he won a mile allowance race Wednesday in only his second career start (note, however, his :26 final quarter); Tapit, who was playing catch-up before losing 19 days of training due to a shin problem, yet is still only 15-1, will be making an ambitious 3-year-old debut in the Florida Derby (gr. I), in what basically will be a crash course in "Getting to the Derby;" Odds On, who has not won beyond six furlongs and needs to harness his speed, may run next in the San Felipe (gr. II); Pomeroy, who won't make his 3-year-old debut until the Gotham, has good 2-year-old form, which makes him somewhat appealing at 100-1; Canadian champ Judiths Wild Rush (150-1), who has been working brilliantly at Belmont, also may make his 3-year-old debut in the Gotham; Purge, could be something special after two exceptional performances at six furlongs, but the Derby, for which he's 60-1, would be a major push for him.

One horse, who is somewhere in between a second waver and a late first waver, is the exciting Eddington, who has been knocked down from 300-1 to 18-1. A showdown between Eddington and Redskin Warrior in the Gotham could be one of the more exciting battles of the year. Mark Hennig, however, is not going to crank Eddington up to win that race. With three 1 1/16-mile races under him already this year, he doesn't need two 1 1/8-mile races to be ready for the Derby, and in fact, that might do more harm than good. He's getting so good so fast, too many two-turn races could take the edge off come Derby Day. By dropping back to one turn, it will help get the colt back off the pace a little and set him up nicely for the Wood Memorial (gr. I). Amazingly, this colt is still green. Imagine when he learns to switch leads and level off earlier. But, with all his talent, he still needs to be tested for class, and he should get that test in the Gotham.

Speaking of latecomers, there has been no official word from Ballydoyle regarding the Derby, but trainer Aidan O'Brien said he should have a better idea in two weeks. One name being tossed around is the regally bred Grand Reward, a son of Storm Cat, out of champion Serena's Song, who broke his maiden first time out at Newbury, then was fourth in a four-horse blanket finish in the Gimcrack Stakes (Eng-II), second in the Mill Reef Stakes (Eng-II), and a fast-closing sixth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths, in the Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I), in which he was fractious at the gate and dwelt at the start. He needs distance racing and fast, and we'll see if O'Brien can find something for him over the all-weather track at Lingfield. But, if they do decide to point for the Derby, the right way to go about it probably would be to come here for a prep. O'Brien also has a few other Storm Cats who might be under consideration.

So, are there still any megabombs out there at Bally's? Probably nothing outrageous, but Kitten's Joy, king of the Eastern turf horses, is still 100-1, despite the good possibility we'll see him try the dirt in the either the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) or Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). Remember, this colt has won three times already at nine furlongs, and his female family traces to Spectacular Bid.

Another interesting 100-1 shot is Shadowland, who gets a chance to make those odds look like a bargain in the Sunday's Louisiana Derby (gr. II). Although Beyer followers will cringe at his low numbers, he is coming off a good second to the classy Fire Slam in the Lecomte, and the third-place finisher, Two Down Automatic, came back and ran a fast-closing second to the undefeated Smarty Jones in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. He has a good deal of stamina in his female family, has been training sharply, and now looks to be trainer Ralph Nicks' main Derby hope following the setback to Tiger Hunt.

Bob Baffert is starting to get excited about Preachinatthebar, who had made great progress over the last three or four weeks. At 40-1, he has some solid stakes credentials. He's heading for the San Felipe, and could team up with stablemate Odds On. Is it possible, Baffert might be sitting on a 350-1 powder keg? Well, it's quite a reach considering his recent form, but Totally Platinum has been tearing up the track in the morning and could show up in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate. If he can get his act together, he has a distance pedigree to die for. Baffert will get a good line on Wimbledon in the Louisiana Derby when he steps way up in class off his runaway maiden victory.

Speaking of Baffert, look for a big race from Consecrate in the San Rafael. The son of Silver Charm has been a different horse since being gelded, and ran a much improved race in the San Vicente, despite being too close to a hot pace and hanging tough in the stretch. He's in against much better horses this time, but if he's running strongly in the stretch and is competitive with the likes of Lion Heart, he could be one to watch.

Shaniko, the once-talked about son of A.P. Indy, is another who will get a class check in the Louisiana Derby. He drilled Eddington by 6 1/2 lengths in the latter's pre-blinkers days, and although he was beaten soundly by Swingforthefences in a subsequent allowance race, he made a big early move on the turn over a speed-biased track and now gets a long stretch and fair track to show his stuff. Once again, only a strong effort is needed to move forward.

Finally, here is an interesting equation. Gradepoint wins 1 1/16-mile allowance race by a half-length over Maisie's son on Jan. 2 before winning the Risen Star (gr. II). Stablemate Breakaway beats Maisie's son by 9 1/2 lengths in an 1 1/16-mile allowance race on Feb. 15. Both colts run as an entry in the Louisiana Derby. Gradepoint is 20-1 at Bally's. Breakaway is 150-1. Yes, Gradepoint looks more like a 1 1/4-mile horse, but it's still food for thought.

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