With convincing victories in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) to remain unbeaten around two turns, Brother Derek is expected to take another long stride on the Triple Crown trail as the 6-5 favorite in the $200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.Nine 3-year-olds were entered in the 1 1/16-mile test.Brother Derek is pegged by one racing publication as the 6-1 early favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The California-bred has been training spectacularly for Saturday's assignment. It follows his toppling of Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) champion Stevie Wonderboy, the 3-5 favorite in the San Rafael. With Stevie Wonderboy now on the sidelines due to a hairline fracture, Cecil Peacock's son of Benchmark has gained the public's fancy.Brother Derek has given popular trainer Dan Hendricks his first top Derby prospect. The 47-year-old Hendricks trains from a wheelchair after suffering damage to his vertebrae in a 2004 motocross accident. The San Rafael was the colt's fourth win in six starts and raised his earnings to $592,080. "Every race he runs, he keeps improving," says jockey Alex Solis. "He keeps amazing me how much he's maturing and how classy he is."Bobby Frankel's Latent Heat is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line for the Santa Catalina. The Juddmonte Farms' colt, a homebred son of Maria's Mon, impressed with a 2 ¾-length maiden win while running seven furlongs in 1:23 on Jan. 21. Assigned 115 pounds, Latent Heat will get a seven-pound break from 122-pound high weight Brother Derek.Trainer Bob Baffert is represented by the Ontario-bred Wanna Runner, looking to rebound from a fifth-place finish behind Cause to Believe in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Bay Meadows Jan. 29.Objective, a tenacious second in the El Camino Real by three-quarters of a length after setting a solid pace, travels south for trainer Peter Miller.
An intriguing prospect is Niagara Causeway, whose two best races were on the grass. But trainer Ron Sticka feels this is an opportune time to see what the son of Giant's Causeway is made of.
"This is the time to try Noble Causeway on the dirt," Sticka said, "because it's early in his career (fifth start). If he likes the dirt, great; if he doesn't, we can always go back to the turf in the summer. I think already he's a pretty decent turf horse."Niagara Causeway, 30-1 on the morning line with Felipe Martinize aboard, broke his maiden at 1 1/8 miles on grass Feb. 1 and was second at one mile on turf before that.$200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II, Race 5, 2 p.m.), 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Hawkinsville (KY), 115, Mike Smith, 15/1
2. Mister Triester (KY), 115, Kent Desormeaux, 8/1
3. Latent Heat (KY), 115, Patrick Valenzuela, 5/2
4. Wanna Runner (ON), 117, Victor Espinoza, 6/1
5. Niagara Causeway (KY), 115, Felipe Martinez, 30/1
6. Objective (KY), 117, Garrett Gomez, 12/1
7. Brother Derek (CA), 122, Alex Solis, 6/5
8. Blazing Sunset (KY), 115, Tyler Baze, 30/1
9. Sacred Light (KY), 115, Aaron Gryder, 12/1