Saturday’s big three Kentucky Derby preps should be pretty formful, with one or two standouts in each race. But, there’s a lot more to these races than who is going to win. While they are all prestigious events, let’s not forget the fact that they are indeed preps.
Winning these and next week’s stakes is a short-term fix. It feels good while it lasts, but it is the ultimate euphoria on May 2 that you want to experience, and you have to make sure that you don’t scale the top of the proverbial mountain too soon.
Remember, it’s been 20 years since the winner of the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) has come back to win the Run for the Roses. On the other hand, Giacomo, Charismatic, Real Quiet, and Silver Charm all came off defeats in the Santa Anita Derby to score at Churchill Downs.
Fusaichi Pegasus is the only Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner in the past 28 years to capture the Kentucky Derby. But during that time, Funny Cide, Monarchos, and Go for Gin were able to win the
The Illinois Derby (gr. II) has produced its share of winners who earned triple digit Beyers, but only War Emblem has gone on to win at Churchill Downs, and that’s when the race was run at Sportsman’s Park.
Pioneerof the Nile and The Pamplemousse are the headliners in the Santa Anita Derby, but you can bet Bob Baffert, trainer of runners-up Silver Charm and Real Quiet, is not going to lose any sleep if Pioneerof the Nile should also run second on Saturday, as long as the race moves him forward. With three consecutive victories in his belt, he is in an excellent position to just let the Santa Anita Derby carry him to
Consider these preps as pool shots. Sinking your ball is fine, but it doesn’t do much good if you don’t position the cue ball for the next shot.
The horse who is slightly under the radar and actually is coming into the Santa Anita Derby with a chance to put himself in great position for the first Saturday in May is Chocolate Candy. He has no earnings concerns, and with a seven-week freshening since his El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) victory, all he needs is a good second- or third-place finish and a decent hike in speed figures to set him up for a peak performance on May 2. Even if he wins on Saturday, his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, has put him in a position where he’s not going to empty out, and will surely have a lot left in the tank for the Kentucky Derby.
Mention must be made of Mr. Hot Stuff. The full-brother to Colonel John has to put in a huge effort Saturday in order to come away with a first- or second-place finish, which he’ll need to make it into the
The addition of the speedster Z Day will assure an honest, if not blazing, pace, and likely will force The Pamplemousse to return to his previous stalking style, and certainly will help Pioneerof the Nile, Chocolate Candy, and Mr. Hott Stuff. All The Pamplemousse has to do is make sure he's not backing up in the final furlong. Watch for the lightly raced
The most interesting aspect of the Wood Memorial is seeing where I Want Revenge is right now after his monster performance in the
Friesan Fire ’s trainer, Larry Jones, was so fearful of his colt peaking in his final prep, he decided to forego it altogether and train him up to the
Imperial Council, other than the pressure of having to finish first or second, is in a good position, because he could take a big step forward off the
One horse with no earnings concerns is West Side Bernie, and even a solid third-place finish after his poor effort in the Lane’s End (gr. II) would put him in track for the
The Illinois Derby (gr. II) is the race in which to pick up the much-needed earnings. Only Musket Man is secure, so it will be a real battle for the top two placings. Perfect Song is a dangerous speed horse who is bred to run all day, and could emerge from this race as serious pace factor at Churchill Downs. Nowhere to Hide gets blinkers off and should be sitting on a big race after an excellent effort in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) and a decent enough performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) over a quirky surface that many shippers don’t handle well.
Giant Oak’s connections said after the Louisiana Derby that the colt was no longer on the
As for the others, Free Country tries to rebound off two bad efforts, in which he obviously detested the surface each time – in the Sam Davis at