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Road to Kentucky Derby 136 - vol. 6

A pretty quiet week on the Derby trail with the rain-out of the Grade 3 Sham in SoCal.  There were, however, some important news items concering some of the top contenders:

Bob Baffert will send his top rated Derby contender, Looking At Luckyto Oaklawn Park for the Grade 3 Rebel Stakes on March 13th.  The Rebel will be Lookin at Lucky's first start as a three year old and his first attempt at running on a traditional dirt surface.  Mark me down as someone that loves this move from Bobby B.; I was not looking forward to trying to decide what to do with Lucky had he continued to run and and win at Santa Anita and then ship to Churchill with nary a race run on dirt.  This way we get to see what he's got and at least answer some questions about his ability to run on a non-synthetic track.

The same Thoroughbred Times article that discusses Lookin At Lucky also mentions that Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Vale of York (IRE), will make his three year old debut tomorrow in a non-group stakes at Meydan in Dubai.  His next race following tomorrow's event will likely be the Group 2 UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup undercard.  Unlike Lookin At Lucky, Vale of York will almost certainly arrive in Louisville without a single attempt at racing on a traditional dirt surface or a single prep race here in North America.  He'll also have to adjust after the long, long trip from Dubai to the United States.  

Not to be overly critical, and this is certainly an issue that others have raised many, many times in the past, but if the Dubai boys are so passionate about winning the Derby you'd think they would finally realize that it would be much easier to accomplish if they trained and raced their three year olds here in the United States.  Maybe one day they'll prove all the naysayers wrong (in fact, I'm guessing it will happen one of these years) but until that occurs I'm going to throw out any horse that has to travel that great of a distance to run in what is the toughest race in the United States (and one of the toughest in the world) to win.

There has been a bit of a buzz down at the Fair Grounds about the three year old colt, Fast Alex, a son of Afleet Alex out of a Unbridled mare.  Fast Alex won an N1X/OC event on Monday and will apparently be pointed to the Louisiana Derby later on this month.  (A video replay of that race can be found here.)  Fast Alex looks like a fairly promising colt, but I'm not sure I'm sold on him as a true contender for the Derby at this point for a couple of reasons.  First, while he made a long, visually impressive closing run to win that race on Monday the rest of the field was pretty much walking home the last quarter of a mile after very, very soft opening fractions.  The track was sloppy and sealed, so you can certainly argue that the condition of the surface played a significant part in the slowness of the race but I'd personally like to see a better final fraction from a horse that went 1:14+ for the first six furlongs and wasn't pressing the pace.  Second, Fast Alex had to work awfully hard to beat a group of horses that had never beaten winners and posted a lukewarm 83 Beyer in the process.  

It should be noted that Fast Alex's two races prior to Monday's were very solid efforts and he could turn out to be a pretty nice three year old but I'm not sure if he's going to develop enough in the next two months to be a serious player in Louisville.  The Preakness or the Belmont, however, might make some sense.

Last Week

Boarderland Derby (chart):   Raise the Bridle crossed the finish line first but was taken down by the stewards due to some serious bumping at the top of the stretch.  Stablemate Storming Saint, who was beaten by a neck ended up as the official winner.  Storming Saint's claim to fame prior to the Boarderland Derby was a Maiden Special Weight win at Zia Park back in late November.  He'll likely pop up next in the Sunland Derby, a Grade 3 event that could earn him some graded earnings.  Storming Saint earned an 82 Beyer for his effort at Sunland Park.

John Battaglia Memorial (chart): It apparently was DQ Saturday around the country as the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway park saw a similar scenario to that at Sunland - a DQ of the first horse to cross the finish line with the place horse becoming the official winner. The DQ'd horse, Codoy, has spent most of his career running over the lawn but won his one and only race over the Turfway plastic back on September 20th.  He flopped pretty badly in the BC Juvenile Turf but did come back to run a strong race on Saturday but was DQ'd  and placed second.  The declared winner, Vow to Wager, has now won back-to-back starts for trainer Dale Romans at Turfway.

This race was a pretty big mess both when the horses came of the final turn and when they got into deep stretch, with horses fanning five or six wide and trading paint all over the place.  Codoy cut off Vow to Wager twice: once by drifting wide coming off the turn and pinching Vow to Wager, and then again in deep stretch when he drifted in after passing the 1/16th pole.  After watching the replay several times it's tough to argue with the stewards decision when you see Codoy getting into Vow to Wager twice and Vow to Wager still getting up for second and only losing by three quarters of a length.  Without that interference you can make an excellent case that Vow to Wager would have gone by Codoy in the stretch.  

The Beyer for the Battaglia came up a very soft 74.  Even if you aren't a slave to speed figures it's hard to see any of the horses from this race as serious Derby contenders unless they take some huge steps forward in the next two months.

This Week

Two graded Derby preps this weekend: the re-scheduled Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.  They will go a mile and an eighth in the Sham and a mile in the sixteenth in the Gotham.  

Over at Gulfstream there is a third graded stakes races for three year olds, only this one will be run over the turf (Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes).  And while a turf race might not be a true Derby prep, any graded stakes race for three year olds has the potential to impact which horses make the starting gate in Louisville.

The entries for all three of this weekend's three year old graded stakes races have been drawn with both the Gotham and the Sham coming up with ten entries and the Palm Beach Stakes drawing nine.  

I'll have a preview up of all three races on Friday.

Top 10 Contenders

No prep races of any note run this past weekend so no changes to the Top 10.








Tough to argue against him on top after a powerful Fountain of Youth.




Holds onto #2 but the stretch-out in the Fla. Derby will tell much.



Jackson Bend

This colt just keeps running solid races.



Lookin At Lucky

Bob Baffert to send him to the Rebel on March 13th.



Buddy's Saint

Still think he's pretty good but needs to rebound after awful FOY.



Noble's Promise

Connections pointing towards the Rebel at Oaklawn.




He ran them off their feet in the Southwest.




Like to see what he would have done with a better break from the gate.



Uh Oh Bango

Likely pointed towards Rebel for first start of 2010.




Set quicky pace and dispatched foes at TAM.