Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Invasion of the Killer B's

Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Invasion of the Killer B's
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Haskin: Barbaro "seems to be getting stronger and sharper each day."
Bob Baffert, Bob McNair, Bob and John, Bode Baffert, and Beverly Lewis, wife of the late Bob Lewis. There is a distinct theme being played in Barn 33 on the Churchill Downs backstretch, which was a "B" hive of activity Wednesday morning.

The appearance of the Baffert clan, Bob and John, and Point Determined drew a large gathering of media and a throng of visitors, which has snowballed out of control over the past few years.

But let's back up a little to a couple of works last Sunday that could have a huge impact on the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). It is kind of frustrating to be at Churchill Downs for two weeks and have two of the best Derby works at Santa Anita. But the final Derby preps by Point Determined and Bob and John were so good, you have to re-think your selections and start leaning more toward the two Baffert horses.

Watching the works on TVG Tuesday, one has to be impressed -- and, in a way, amazed--by the way Point Determined worked compared to his previous work. The son of Point Given   has always been a lazy work horse, so it wasn't surprising to see him work in company with the stakes-winning Da Stoops last week and get pasted several times with the whip. It was a good sharpener and lung opener, but this last work was completely different and enlightening.

Working in company with Evaluate, Point Determined broke off at the pole so quickly it looked as if he was going run off from his workmate, who could barely keep up with him. Victor Espinoza had all he could do to stay just ahead of him. Finally, after turning for home, Espinoza was told by Baffert to just let him go, and the colt opened up in a flash without any urging at all, doing everything on his own and being throttled down nearing the wire. This was a stark contrast from his previous work, and looks to be an indication that Point Determined is as sharp as he's ever been and is ready for a peak performance.

He sure doesn't look lazy anymore, and another sign of this newly found aggression was the way he acted walking to the barn after coming off the van. He tried to rear and buck, and was bouncing all the way to the barn. Both Baffert and assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said he'd never done anything like that before.

Point Determined has the perfect running style for the way the race is shaping up; he is the type of horse who gets stronger in the final furlong; and you know he'll get the mile and-a-quarter. He is one you definitely have to throw into the mix just off that last work, which makes the race now even more difficult to pick than it was before.

And if that isn't enough, Bob and John also had a sensational work Sunday, without company as usual, and was striding out beautifully, with his head down and reaching out with those long strides, while under a bit more urging than Point Determined. He also looked strong galloping this morning, and was totally focused and into the bit. He's handled every kind of track he's been on, and it sure looked as if he was right at home at Churchill Downs. One would have sworn he's been over the track numerous times the way he went over it.

From a physical standpoint, he makes quite an appearance. He has the perfect build for a mile and-a-quarter horse -- one that keeps coming at you and tries to run you into the ground. He runs with his head low and covers a great deal of ground. Along with Sinister Minister, the wild and wacky love him or hate him horse in the Derby, Baffert is as well armed as he's ever been.

And we still have one more California shipper to mention. You may be looking for horses to throw out by now, but you're not going to find it here. A. P. Warrior made a splendid appearance this morning, highlighted by his radiant coat and dapples on his hind quarters. He turned in a solid gallop, spending most of it looking off to his right at whatever activity still remained by 9:30. The son of A.P. Indy will be discussed in the handicapping angle portion in Friday's analysis.

Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner Deputy Glitters breezed five furlongs in 1:03 1/5 and was going very easily throughout. Although the time was slow, he looked good and was handling the track fine.

One horse who is flourishing at Churchill Downs is Barbaro, who had another spirited gallop, and was on the muscle again coming off the track, throwing his head back and forth. He is a joy to watch in action, with those humongous strides. The son of Dynaformer covers as much ground as any horse seen in a while. He seems to be getting stronger and sharper each day.

Of the other horses seen on the track this morning, Flashy Bull looked excellent and has a beautiful way of moving. Bluegrass Cat was a handful, wanting to get it on and fighting his rider throughout his gallop. This is as aggressive as this colt has been in the past two weeks. Keyed Entry also was hard to handle once again.

In tomorrow's column, we'll discuss the post position draw and possible strategy that might result from it. And on Friday, we'll put the whole mess together and try to come up with an overall picture based on appearance, works, gallops, demeanor, and incorporate them all with any interesting handicapping angles. What will result from that we have no idea, as this definitely is one of the most perplexing--if not the most perplexing--Derbys ever.

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