Florida Derby Weekend Stakes Preview
Happy Florida Derby Day!
Today we get three of the primary preps for the Kentucky Derby – the Florida Derby, the Arkansas Derby, and the Santa Anita Derby – all of these races provide 100-40-20-10 Derby points. I’ll tackle the events in Hallandale Beach and Hot Springs.
Race 14 – The Florida Derby – Grade I
One Mile and One Furlong on the Dirt for Three Year Olds
April 2nd, 2022
Strike Hard: Two back in the Mucho Macho Man he ran a decent second to Simplification but couldn’t make up any ground late (83 Beyer). Last effort in the Sam Davis at Tampa resulted in a fourth place finish (78 Beyer) where he wide down the backstretch and fanned five wide on the far turn. He ran on well but was no match for Classic Causeway. Could come running late for a small piece of the action.
Classic Causeway: Won the Tampa Bay Derby (84 Beyer) and the Sam F. Davis (88 Beyer) by setting the early pace and taking them all the way. Those figs are a bit light, and he will not have his own way today as Charge It should be the controlling speed on his outside. Nice horse but I think he gets found out today. Looking elsewhere.
Simplification: In the Fountain of Youth (96 Beyer) he sat off the early pace and made a five wide move which saw him sweep past the leaders to draw off in the final sixteenth. Two back in the Holy Bull he stalked and made a strong finishing move to finish second. Those two efforts showed a different side than the “need the lead” approach employed early in his career. That experience will serve him well today if he finds an inside stalking position behind a strong early pace. Legit win candidate.
King of Truth: Appears to be way over his head here. Top dirt Beyer is 58. 100-1 is an underlay.
Pappacap: Stalked Epicenter in the Risen Star with a good inside trip but caved in late when the running got serious (76 Beyer). Two back in the Lecomte he had a similar inside stalking run on Epicenter and stayed on better that day for third (87 Beyer). Hard to see a third perfect trip in a row. Don’t see it against this group.
Charge It: Pletcher trained colt takes on winners for the first time after breaking his maiden going the flat mile at Gulfstream (93 Beyer) in his second career start. Tries Grade I company today, and he’ll have company up front but draws outside of Classic Causeway. It’s Pletcher, it’s Gulfstream, he’s a Tapit, and is firing bullet workouts. Stretches out to nine furlongs and two turns for the first time with Lasix coming off. Pletcher has won this race a record six times and is a remarkable 50% (4/8) in dirt route grade one stakes at Gulfstream over the past five years. The Pick.
White Abarrio: Was impressive in the winning the Holy Bull (97 Beyer) two months ago where he stalked the early pace and drew off in the stretch to win by fourth plus lengths. Three for three on the Gulfstream dirt for Saffie Joseph. I don’t like that he missed his last work due to a temperature last week. He did breeze three furlongs on Tuesday – but that wasn’t the original plan. Doesn’t seem to be fast enough early to strike the lead or fast enough late to close. He’ll beat me if he wins.
Cajun’s Magic: All six starts have been at Gulfstream with four of those in restricted races. Tried open company in the Holy Bull last out where he ran an OK fifth but was no threat to the winner. Passing.
O Captain: Picked up the pieces for third last out in the Fountain of Youth (88 Beyer). That was a very good result given that he had a tough outside draw. That was his second start off of a freshening and his first race at two turns. Will look to lay well off the pace a make a big run down the stretch. Potential at a big price.
Clapton: Derby fever appears to strike again. He mainly has been competing in Florida bred allowance company and won last out with an 80 Beyer. The slightly better recent form was with Lasix – which comes off today. Water is too deep.
Steal Sunshine: Maiden winner tries stakes company off a surprising second against N1X company at 25-1. The 82 Beyer that day would not be competitive here. Seems like a reach to go to the Florida Derby off that effort, but he has shown he can get nine furlongs. Pass.
Race 10– The Arkansas Derby – Grade I
One Mile and One Furlong on the Dirt for Three Year Olds
April 2nd, 2022
Hall of Famer Wayne Lukas is the dean of American trainers and a living legend. Amongst his numerous accomplishments, Lukas is the only trainer to win the Arkansas Derby with a filly. He did it in 1984 with Althea. Thirty-eight years later he tries to do it again with Secret Oath.
To contrast the eras – Althea ran nine times as two year old including eight graded stakes races. Eight graded stakes – as a two year old! The Arkansas Derby was her thirteenth lifetime start. By comparison, Secret Oath has six career starts.
As for the balance of the field, five of the nine entries today come out of the Rebel Stakes, including the winner that day – Un Ojo.
Kavod: Blinkers come off for this speedball who has gotten to the front in both the Rebel and Southwest only to fade in the stretch. Goes an additional half furlong today and while the Blinkers off move is designed to get this colt to relax – the inside draw means he has to go early or risk getting shuffled way back. Don’t think he wants to go this far, and the race flow works against him. Toss.
Chasing Time: Tried stakes company for the first time last out in the Rebel Stakes (77 Beyer) where he ran an OK fifth, but he didn’t make headway in the stretch even though he had a clear run at the leaders. That effort was preceded by a seven length win against N1X company (81 Beyer). Not fast enough.
Barber Road: Consistent performer at Oaklawn this winter where he has two seconds and a close up third all coming in graded stakes. Hasn’t shown the needed punch at the end of races to get the top prize. Last out in the Rebel (83 Beyer) he made a good run at the leaders but was just a touch short at the wire. Added distance might help as he was moving late in the Rebel. Grinder type who will keep running all the way to the wire. Hits the board.
Doppelganger: This one was trained by Bob Baffert up until recently when he was transferred to the barn of Tim Yakteen to allow the horse to earn points for the Kentucky Derby given Baffert’s suspension and the ongoing legal maneuverings. He was a decent second last out in the San Felipe (89 Beyer) but was never getting close to Forbidden Kingdom as he stretched out to two turns for the first time. Should be competitive with a stalking trip. Hall of Famer Johnny V picks up the mount. Win candidate.
Un Ojo: Upset winner of the Rebel (84 Beyer) with a nice inside trip. He looked done at the sixteenth pole but rebroke and dug in gamely to get the win at 75-1. Prior effort was a good second in the Gotham in the Big A (80 Beyer) – that fig was upgraded nine points after several runners showed significant performance improvements in next out efforts. He likes the track and is a grinder type who keeps coming but last time was the time. Pass.
Secret Oath: She has dominated three year filles in the two Kentucky Oaks prep races that have been held in Hot Springs this year. Now Lukas sends her out to try the boys. She was fantastic in her last start in the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn earning a 92 Beyer and going almost a full second faster than the colts in the Rebel which was on the same card. Her speed figs are the best of this group, and she can win even without a move forward. Race flow should suit her as there will be plenty of early pace for her to stalk. Luis Contreras, who has guided her to her last three wins, stays in the irons. The Pick.
Ben Diesel: Two back he was a decent third in the Southwest Stakes (84 Beyer) where he got a ground saving trip all the way home. Wasn’t good enough to keep up with Newgrange or Barber Road that day. Last out in the Rebel he was a no impact eighth. Not sure he wants longer and get an additional 16th today. One paced type. Pass.
Cyberknife: Won last out in Optional Claiming company (87 Beyer) – two back he was a distant sixth in the Lecomte Stakes. Probably finds an easier spot here than he would have if he stayed at Fair Grounds but doesn’t seem fast enough. His only two Beyers in the 80s were with Lasix on – which comes off today. Water is too deep here.
We The People: Undefeated in two career starts for Rodolphe Brisset. Last out he easily handled N1X company by five lengths going eight and half furlongs as the odd on favorite. Could be anything off of his two efforts. Gets the acid test today where faces some experienced stakes quality horse. Needs to work a trip from the nine hole – but should sit chilly off the early pacemakers. Prat picks up the mount. Gets a piece.