We know this: Bob Baffert has Danthebluegrassman on the Derby trail, but he's taking the easier route and hasn't been using a big-name rider. Baffert's remaining 3-year-olds remain extremely questionable at best, although Puerto Banus is capable of enough improvement if he can show some kick in the stretch. Can Baffert make it to Churchill this year? If he wants to he probably can, but making it there with a legitimate contender is another story. Right now, he has one, and that horse still has to prove it outside of Golden Gate.
We know this: Wayne Lukas' barrel has pretty much been emptied, starting with the loss last year of Jump Start and continuing right through last weekend with the poor showings of Shah Jehan, Storm Commander, Traditional, and earlier Gold Dollar.
Can Baffert and Lukas buy their way to Churchill? The answer, as always, is yes, as long as there's some owner out there with a promising 3-year-old who's willing to sell. But going strictly by what is in their barn now, they are both down to one final grasp at a big horse, and that grasp will come in Saturday's first race at Santa Anita.
If either Baffert's True Monarch or Lukas' Historic Speech wins, and the chances are good that one will, then there could be a path to Louiville awaiting them by way of New York. With Saturday's race being run at only six furlongs, an impressive score would set them up nicely for the Gotham, and we all know that California shippers usually run huge shipping to Aqueduct in March and April. A big race there and it's on to the Wood Memorial. Then, just like that, next stop Louisville. Sounds simple, doesn't it?
Of course, there is a catch. True Monarch, after looking brilliant breaking his maiden going 5 1/2 furlongs, stretched out to a mile and tired after pressing the early pace, even though the field came home the last quarter in :26 2/5. So, why is he even worth mentioning? Because, simply put, he's a good-looking horse who appears to have ability, and who has the pedigree to go long. We don't understand why he tired in his last start, unless it was a :58 2/5 workout four days before the race, his second :58 2/5 work in January. But if he can win impressively on Saturday, we still feel he has a future going two turns, and the one-turn mile of the Gotham might be a good steppingstone.
As for Historic Speech, the son of Pulpit was impressive breaking his maiden at Del Mar, going seven furlongs in 1:22 3/5. He's come back slowly this year, and in his second start back, finished third in a seven-furlong allowance race. It's really reaching to think this colt can take Lukas to the Derby, but he's just about all he's got right now.