Kentucky Derby Trail: The Future is Now

Kentucky Derby Trail: The Future is Now
Photo: Mathea Kelley
Pulsion makes his dirt debut in the Fountain of Youth.
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Of the 23 individual betting interests in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, 10 are running this weekend and six ran last weekend. That means the fabric of this year’s Derby picture is going to be greatly altered by Sunday. It also means that a good number of Future Wager tickets will be virtually worthless after only a week.

 

With all the stakes action coming up at Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, and Golden Gate, this may be the best opportunity you’re going to get to find a huge overlay, put a saver on him, and get instant monetary gratification. You can even use your winnings to try again on the second Future Wager if you so desire.

 

And there is also a possibility that the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner will be in action over the weekend and will not even be in any of the stakes. More on that later.

 

We all are aware of the familiar names that will dominate the betting – Buddy's Saint, Jackson Bend, Eskendereya  , Drosselmeyer  , Dryfly, Ron the Greek, Conveyance, Dublin, D' Funnybone  , A Little Warm, Ranger Heartley, and Connemara.

 

Because of the size and depth of the fields there are several horses who likely will go off at odds longer than they should and have an excellent shot to either win or complete a hefty exotic wager. This may be the last chance you have to get great value on them if they should step up and run big.

 

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

 

A potential big overlay in here who has a good shot of at least finishing in the money is Aikenite  , who will be all but forgotten after his sixth-place finish at 7-2 in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III), an oddly run race in which he totally deviated from his normal come-from-behind running style. After bobbling at the break and getting bumped, he got caught up in a :45 3/5 half, going head and head with four horses, including a headstrong Homeboykris and Piscitelli, as well as Jackson Bend.

 

Going back to two turns (he finished a fast-closing second in the grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity and a respectable fifth in the grade I Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), he should return to his normal style of running and be coming on strongly in the final furlong. If you don’t have him in the Future Wager at 54-1, here is at least an opportunity to get good odds on him in this race or put him in the exactas and trifectas. He is by Yes It's True  , not known for stamina, but his female family is strong enough. And there’s no question he likes the dirt, having closed fast to finish third in the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) after breaking his maiden at Saratoga.

 

The "gut feeling horse" in the Fountain of Youth is Pulsion, making his dirt debut for trainer Patrick Biancone. This horse has been plagued by various setbacks, including suffering a laceration when in heavy traffic going into the first turn of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Prior to that throw-out race, he came flying late after breaking from the 10-post in the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I), finishing second to juvenile champion Lookin At Lucky  , beaten only 1 3/4 lengths. With a six-furlong work in 1:12 at Gulfstream, followed by another six-furlong drill in 1:11 and a bullet five-furlongs in :59 3/5, there is no doubt he will be sharp for this race and all indications are that he will handle the dirt just fine; maybe even improve on it. Even if he needs this race, he still could finish in the money at a big price and then go on to bigger and better things.

 

Just a note about Prince Will I Am; although he’s probably not quite ready to win this race, he could be one to watch down the road. He’s bred for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

 

So, if you’re not inclined to take a straight shot on Aikenite and Pulsion, the feeling here is that both are enticing price horses to fill the exotics.

 

RISEN STAR

 

With a good deal of money expected to be bet on the highly touted Drosselmeyer and the LeComte (gr. III) winner Ron the Greek, as well as the buzz horse, Tempted to Tapit, don’t be surprised to see a classy colt like Discreetly Mine   go off at decent odds, Pletcher or no Pletcher. Many will dismiss him off his fourth-place finish in the Spectacular Bid Stakes (gr. III), but that race was on a sloppy track and Pletcher was forced to run him at six furlongs, a distance way too short for him. Pletcher could have run him back in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II), but the fact he decided to stretch him out to two turns suggests he has Derby on his mind.

 

On Jan. 31, Pletcher worked almost all his top horses five furlongs and they all went in the 1:01 and change range, with a couple a little slower. But Discreetly Mine worked his five furlongs in a bullet :59 1/5.

 

We all know about his royal pedigree, and he did run second in the grade I Champagne and grade II Futurity last year after destroying Super Saver   by 6 1/4 lengths in maiden race at Saratoga. His Beyer Speed Figures haven’t improved since that maiden race, which could turn some speed pundits off, but he is a horse who looks to have a lot of improvement left. This will be his last chance to make that improvement if he hopes to get to the Derby, and based on his class and that awesome work, he should have a big shot to move forward.

 

We’re not sure what kind of odds Stay Put will go off at, but if they’re long enough to make him appealing, there’s no telling how good he is. We do know he can sure motor home. Two weeks ago we profiled Hotep, despite his slow time, because of how visually impressive he was winning an allowance/optional claimer. He may not be fast enough right now to handle this bunch, but if he can hit the board and look good doing it, breaking from post 10, he could develop into a serious horse by the first Saturday in May.

 

But Discreetly Mine is the potential overlay in here in what looks to be a wide-open race with no big standout.

 

HUTCHESON

 

This is a tough race, with three brilliant horses to contend with – D’ Funnybone, A Little Warm, and Wildcat Frankie. So, it’s not going to be easy to find someone to pull off an upset. The intriguing horse is Radiohead, who was a tough, consistent colt in Europe in group I and II company. He actually ran a decent race stretching out in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Breaking from post 11, he dropped way out of it, almost a dozen lengths back, got caught up in that aforementioned traffic jam on the first turn, and despite finishing seventh, was running on well at the end, beaten only four lengths in one of those typical mad scramble synthetic track finishes.

 

He didn’t draw well on the rail, but his final work in a bullet :59 2/5 indicates he’s ready to come out running for Rick Dutrow, who also has D’ Funnybone and is envisioning a one-two finish. He gets Julien Leparoux, who should have him placed in a good spot. And most important, he’s going to be a decent price.

 

SOUTHWEST

 

I’ve liked Dublin since I first laid eyes on him at Saratoga last year, but he like Conveyance will be short odds, as will Dryfly. I’m still not quite sure how far he wants to go, but he’s so talented and is such a physical presence, you don’t know how far that will take him. If his epiglottis surgery works as well as trainer Wayne Lukas believes it will, he should return to his Hopeful (gr. I) form. If he’s a decent price, which one would have to doubt, he should have an ideal trip sitting behind Conveyance and Dryfly. He goes from post 10 to post 3 in the re-draw. There are several others in the field who are capable of busting out, but it’s difficult to single one out. Pletcher, of course, is represented (will there be any 3-year-old stakes in which he doesn’t have a runner?) with the promising Mission Impazible  , but he still has to prove he wants to stretch out, and he wound up in the 10-post in the re-draw after getting post 4 originally. One horse who is capable of showing big improvement off his last is Cool Bullet, who ran a good fourth in the LeComte (gr. III) in his first two-turn race, rating kindly while stretching out from six furlongs to a mile and 40 yards. By Red Bullet, out of a Saint Ballado mare, he should have no problem going middle distances.

 

EL CAMINO REAL DERBY

 

There isn’t much to dig into. Connemara topped a very early Top 20 list of unproven 3-year-olds, but ran a bit dull in the California Derby. He should improve, but will certainly be no bargain in here. It’s difficult separating the California Derby runners, so the best bet is to look at Jairzihno on the far outside. It’s not a good draw, but this European import ran a sneaky-good race in his third-place finish to The Program in his U.S. debut. After breaking slowly, he was unable to close into a dawdling :25 4/5—:50 2/5—1:15 pace, but still turned in an even performance and matched strides with the first two. He’s being wheeled back in only 17 days, but remember he started six times last year in a 3 1/2-month period, so he obviously can handle it. We just don’t know how good he is. What we do know is that he’ll be a good price in here.

 

Allowance action

 

Getting back to our tease about the Derby winner being seen over the weekend, but not in any of the stakes races, pay close attention to a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Feb. 21, especially one horse in particular. And guess what, it’s a Pletcher horse – Colizeo. This is a good time to say that if Pletcher does not get his first Derby win this year, with such an abundance of riches, he sure can’t blame it on a lack of firepower or not having a Derby-type horse. Just about all of his are Derby-type horses with Derby pedigrees. He has a good chance of equaling his record of five Derby starters in one year, and if he does, all should have a legitimate shot if they continue to progress.

 

Colizeo has a great future, based on his impressive maiden victory and classy pedigree, and if he can defeat the likes of Fly Down and First Dude  , two promising colts, you can bet he will be a major player on the Derby trail. The same applies to Fly Down and First Dude if they can run huge in here.

 

The journey of Odysseus

 

Here they come. Just about this time each year, a second wave of talented 3-year-olds hits the Derby trail, and we got a glimpse of one of them Wednesday when Padua Stables’ Odysseus demolished an allowance field at Tampa Bay Downs by 15 lengths in near-track record time for trainer Tom Albertrani. Although he didn’t beat much, he did it the right way, tracking the pace, allowing the pacesetter and second choice, Exhi  , to open up by almost five lengths, and then blew right on by him when jockey Rajib Maragh gave him the cue.

 

He had his ears pinned the whole way and was looking to do more after crossing the wire. You had to love the way he kept his head and down and was always reaching out with good extension.

 

Again, this was a field he should have manhandled if he expects to make it to Churchill Downs, but he displayed great style, has a commanding presence and terrific cruising speed, and you have to be impressed with his female family. By A.P. Indy’s son Malibu Moon  , he has three Belmont Stakes winners and an English Triple Crown winner in his first three generations; his second dam is a full-sister to major distance stakes winners De la Rose and Upper Nile; and he has strong stamina influences in his tail-female family in Nijinsky II and Round Table.

 

All the pieces are there and we just have to see how they come together in his next start, which one would think will come in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). That would allow Albertrani to get another prep in him on April 3, as opposed to waiting for the Florida Derby (gr. I) and then having to go six weeks to the Kentucky Derby. And you know he loves this track.

 

Everyone who has ever been around this horse has fallen in love with him. He was a huge foal weighing over 140 pounds, but was always light on his feet.

 

“He was always an incredible walker with a loose gait and easy movement,” said Carrie Brogden of Machmer Hall, where Odysseus was foaled and raised. “He was the type of horse that you would see walking from several fields away and someone would say ‘Who's that?’ 

 

“He always had a great attitude and was very strong and healthy. He was the kind of horse that could live on air and water. He was such a good doer.” 

 

Consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, he was purchased for $110,000 by Nick and Jaqui DeMeric, who “loved his walk and everything about him.”

 

They then consigned him to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.'s 2-year-old sale, where he was purchased by Satish Sanan’s Padua Stables for $250,000. When Brogden called Nick DeMeric after the race to congratulate him, he told her that the horse would make his heart flutter every time he worked him.

 

You can bet Wednesday’s performance had Sanan’s heart fluttering. Few have attempted to do more for the Thoroughbred industry in recent years than Sanan, so maybe the Derby gods finally are ready to reward him.

 

Don’t give up on Lent

 

There were a lot of Lentenor   fans who were disappointed that Barbaro’s full brother was beaten in a grass allowance race Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park, but he ran a good race considering he’s still a bit green and fought hard all the way to the wire, and never saw the winner. Don’t let Lentenor’s defeat take away from the victory by Doubles Partner, yet another good 3-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by WinStar Farm. The son of Rock Hard Ten at first seemed reluctant to go through a wide opening along the rail. When he attempted to get through, pace-setting Saint Elgius, who had drifted off the fence, came back in and soundly bumped Doubles Partner, who was now in very tight quarters. That seemed to get his blood up and he pretty much shoved Elgius out of his way, muscling his way through, and just got up in the final strides to beat Lentenor by a half-length in as game an effort as you’ll see from a young horse.

 

Godolphin update

 

Vale of York, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, may run in a 1 3/16 mile listed race March 4. “He is a bit behind schedule, but going OK,” said racing manager Simon Crisford. “We wont decide on any future plans until we see how he races at Meydan.”

 

Mendip, who won a seven-furlong allowance race at Meydan recently could also show up in that same race. “He will need to improve a lot to get a berth in the UAE Derby,” Crisford said

 

As for Tahitian Warrior, who Godolphin purchased after his impressive maiden victory at Gulfsteam, he is being aimed for a race on March 4 or 5. after which a decision will be made which direction they will go with him. “We hope he will be good enough to run in the UAE Derby (UAE-II), but we haven’t gotten any further than that with his future plans,” Crisford said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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