Final thoughts on Tampa Bay Derby, Gotham, San Felipe, and Justify

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TwinSpires Staff

March 14th, 2018


So, what are we to make of last weekend's three-year-old races? I was not impressed by what I saw Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) when QUIP was able to stalk WORLD OF TROUBLE and take over in the lane. FLAMEAWAY rallied nicely for third and the betting favorite, VINO ROSSO, was terrible.
The pace was extremely slow as was the final time. World of Trouble ran through the lane with his ears straight up like he was waiting for instructions what to do. I thought he had a chance to steal it and not only was he not able to but he was sent off as the betting favorite.
Quip won by a length in 1:44.72 and paid $40.20. Flameaway got the place by a neck and at least he showed he doesn't have to be on the lead to do his best. Quip earned a solid BRIS speed rating of 98; a career best by 10 points.
Up at Aqueduct, the one-turn Gotham (G3) was run over a dull track and it looked like ENTICED would never get by OLD TIME REVIVAL. He finally did in the last furlong and went on to a 2 3/4-length win in 1:38.24 and earned a robust BRIS speed rating of 104. He won the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last November over Fountain of Youth (G2) winner PROMISES FULFILLED but did nothing in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Enticed is the type horse that gives me a hard time and is probably way better than I think. The Saturday main track at Aqueduct was hard to gauge and despite a terrific pedigree for going two turns on the dirt, he looked to be the second string behind Kiaran McLaughlin's other three-year-old AVERY ISLAND, who has been injured.
The real action was at Santa Anita over the weekend. The San Felipe (G2) lived up to its advance billing with a electrifying stretch duel between BOLT D'ORO and MCKINZIE, with McKinzie winning but was disqualified by the stewards for contact nearing the wire.
McKInzie worked brilliantly for the San Felipe and he raced brilliantly. Mike Smith got him into the pace and he raced in between horses. Javier Castellano looked like he had a perfect spot in behind the top three while saving ground on the rail.
Nearing the top of the stretch, McKinzie cruised to the lead and Bolt d'Oro made a sudden move to join him on the outside. It looked like he would go right by but Smith still had a lot of horse and when he asked McKinzie for more, the top two came together before straightening out.
The two battled as team in tight quarters and there was some more contact nearing the wire. Castellano had Bolt d'Oro so close to McKinzie that there was no room for Smith to use his right-hand whip so he had to go left-handed and he came out and bumped Bolt d'Oro.
The stewards looked, then looked some more, then, finally, took McKinzie down. I would not have made a change but there was some contact at a critical part of the race.
Bolt d'Oro was gallant, coming off a long layoff with his schedule interrupted by a muscle pull in January. My only fear from his race was that it might have been too strenuous on him this close to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and we will see how he comes out of it.
McKinzie is the picture of consistency and is one tough customer. I expect to see him back in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and a re-match with Bolt d'Oro.
Rains came later on Saturday and Sunday's track was listed as muddy. JUSTIFY was coming back for another start after his brilliant debut on February 18. Bob Baffert said after that he had a plan to get to the Derby and this race must have been what he had in mind -- a two-turn mile against allowance foes.
Mike Smith replaced Drayden Van Dyke in the irons and Justify was sent off at 1-20. The next highest price was almost 15-1. Smith let him walk out of the gate and engaged the leaders on the outside going into the clubhouse turn. The pace was hot -- 22.42 and 45.10 -- and Justify dragged him to the lead around the far turn.
Without any visible encouragement, Justify took off and it looked like your typical Baffert morning workout, except it was 1:35 p.m. (PDT). The son of Scat Daddy opened up five furlongs and won going away while being throttled down to a 6 1/2-length win. His final time was 1:35.73 and, considering the ground loss, it was awesome. As easy as it was, he earned a BRIS speed rating of 104.
The ability to cruise at a high speed and then go when the rider asks is what makes great horses. His cruising speed is as good as anyone's and the energy he shows in the lane is awesome.
With that out of the way, he now needs Derby points and there are a lot of options available. The Arkansas Derby (G1) makes sense but that race might come up tougher than Baffert wants. I would make it known that is where Justify is going and maybe scare some of the contenders away. Regardless, nobody in their right mind wants to face him.