Three 100-point Kentucky Derby prep races make this Saturday the biggest day in pre-Derby racing for 2018. The most interesting contest of the day is the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, though the Santa Anita Derby is where the likely Kentucky Derby favorite will be annointed. The Wood Memorial continues to drop in the quality of its field, but still must be considered a major tune-up.
At Keeneland, there are seven potential winners in a field of 15. I have to assume that last year’s two-year old champ, Good Magic, just ran a bad race last time when he came off a four-month layoff and placed third in the Fountain of Youth. He’s my selection to win the Blue Grass this week. Free Drop Billy has consistently high speed figures and has finished in the top three in six of his seven starts, while Kanthaka has faced very tough company and has two wins and a third. Flameaway has won five times in and eight-race career, with Quip coming off a win in the Tampa Bay Derby, where Flameaway was second. Blended Citizen has just two wins in eight starts and the last two have been on synthetic surfaces. Still, he’s run 100 Brisnet speed figures in both races with a first and a second, and Sporting Chance won the Grade 1 Hopeful.
The Santa Anita Derby should be a two-horse race with the winner taking the favorite’s role at the Kentucky Derby, possible sharing that spot with McKinzie. This Saturday it’s going to be Justify grabbing the headlines. He’s run twice, both at Santa Anita, and has a speed figure over 100 in both races. The only horse who can challenge him is Bold ‘d Oro, winner of the San Felipe and three of his other four starts, all over 90 speed ratings. He’s very good, but there’s a chance that Instilled Regard might make a splash with his two wins and high speed totals.
Enticed just won the Gotham Stakes here at Aqueduct with a speed number of 104. He has three wins in five starts and is my pick for the Wood. Restoring Hope just broke his maiden, but is shipping from California for this race. Why would trainer Bob Baffert ship him to New York if he didn’t have something? Old Time Revival ran well in the Gotham and has good numbers, but Firenze Fire is the danger based on back-class. Vino Rosso never run a bad race, so look over his charts before making your wager.
Last weekend, Audible blew away the field in the Florida Derby with Hofburg second and Catholic Boy fourth. In Dubai, Mendelssohn obliterated his opponents by nearly 20 lengths while setting a track record in the UAE Derby. The UAE Derby was just a minor race on the card in Dubai, worth a mere $2 million. The big race of the day was the second-richest race on the planet, the Dubai World Cup with a purse of $10 million. Last year a horse named Thunder Snow performed so well in the Dubai Derby that I made him my Kentucky Derby pick, but unfortunately, he ran about 10 steps and decided to have nothing more to do with that race. For a year I’ve heard nothing by nasty comments about my choice for 2017. Guess what — Thunder Snow won the Dubai World Cup last Saturday and is now rated as the top thoroughbred in the entire world! Maybe I’ll pick Mendelsson this year.
Top 20 prospects (with points earned toward Derby entrance in parenthesis)
1. McKinzie (40) — won Sham with 98 Beyer, second in San Felipe
2. Bolt d’Oro (64) — third BC Juvenile, won Front Runner with 103 Beyer
3. Mendelssohn (100) — demolished UAE Derby field
4. Justify (0) — won first two outings easily
5. Audible (110) — won Holy Bull, won Florida Derby
6. Magnum Moon (50) — won Rebel Stakes easily
7. Noble Indy (110) — third Risen Star, won Louisiana Derby
8. Solomini (34) — second in Rebel was not that great
9. Gronkowski (Euro) — qualified through Europe races
10. My Boy Jack (32) — won Southwest Stakes, third Louisiana Derby
11. Flameaway (30) — won Sam Davis, second Tampa Bay Derby
12. Enticed (63) — won Grade 2 Jockey Club, won Gotham Stakes
13. Good Magic (34) — ran evenly in Fountain of Youth
14. Runaway Ghost (50) — won Sunland Derby
15. Quip (50) — won Tampa Bay Derby
16. Hofburg (40) — second Florida Derby
17. Kanthaka (10) — won San Vincente, ran third at SanFelipe
18. Instilled Regard (19) — fourth Risen Star, still can do better
19. Catholic Boy (24) — won Remsen, fourth Florida Derby
20. Blended Citizen (20) — won Jeff Ruby on artificial surface