Derby Trail Possible for Griffin's Cobalt Blue

(from Santa Anita report)
Merv Griffin’s Cobalt Blue may have raced himself back onto the Triple Crown trail Wednesday with an eye-catching victory in a $53,000 allowance event while returning from five months on the sidelines at Santa Anita.

With leading rider Garrett Gomez in the saddle for the second race on the card, Cobalt Blue rallied strongly on the outside to overtake Street Lights in the stretch amd win by one length while traveling six furlongs in a rapid 1:09.12.

Trainer Doug O’Neill had been using the race to determine whether the chestnut son of Golden Missile, purchased early last year by entertainer and entrepreneur Griffin for $325,000, deserved to start in a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prep in March.

Cobalt Blue would appear to have gained that opportunity with his comeback victory following a layoff necessitated by a strained ligament in a hind leg that was discovered after a dull performance in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar Aug. 13.

“Merv and I talk about the Kentucky Derby all the time, and that’s his dream,” O’Neill told The Daily Racing Form prior to Wednesday’s race. “This horse sure has the body and pedigree to train like that special kind of horse.”

Griffin's Stevie Wonderboy had been considered a leading Kentucky Derby contender last year after winning the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), but a condylar fracture of the right front leg knocked him off the Triple Crown trail.

The $600,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park on March 18 had been mentioned as a potential next step for Cobalt Blue if he ran well on Wednesday.

In scoring his second win in three starts, Griffin’s colt paid $6.40, $4, and $2.80.

Street Lights, ridden by Victor Espinoza, paid $3.80 and $2.60.

Can This Be True, the 6-5 favorite with Tyler Baze aboard, finished third, 5 ½ lengths behind the runner-up, and paid $2.10 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)