Five Kentucky Derby Horses DeJulio Is Watching
by BRUNO DEJULIO
Many of you are already talking Kentucky Derby, and I’m not even done with my Christmas shopping!
Now, I am not the type to jump on Derby bandwagons this far away from the race, but I do enjoy identifying horses who could develop as three-year-olds. A Kentucky Derby winner shows talent by January, but development through February and March is key.
The Racing With Bruno/Bruno With the Works team has been keeping tabs on workouts across the country, and I have come up with five horses to watch (listed below in alphabetical order).
Airoforce ~ Affinity for the track and the ability to handle Churchill Downs is huge. This Colonel John colt, purchased as a 2yo in training for $350,000, won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on November 28 in his first start on dirt. He has done everything asked of him and he loves Churchill. But, can he handle 10 furlongs in May?
Collected ~ Baffert told me this City Zip colt that has yet to race on dirt is his sleeper. He broke his maiden coming down the hill at Santa Anita and then finished 2nd in the Cecil B. De Mille at Del Mar to a seasoned turf juvenile, Dressed in Hermes.
Conquest Big E ~ Big E just shipped down to Palm Meadows and I will get a chance to see this big light grey colt for Mark Casse train in the flesh. He caught our eye right away at Saratoga working in 59s on our watch on August 8, 15 and the 30th. The August 15 move was from the gate. This $700,000 Mark Casse purchase is a talent and a colt I am looking forward to watch in south Florida this winter.
Mor Spirit ~ This Eskendereya colt was scintillating last spring, making our Florida Fasig Tipton March Sale short list off a 10.20, 21.40, and 35 flat preview. He handled a deep and sandy Gulfstream Park main superbly. Baffert bought the colt for $650,000, and told me on Monday that, "he got big,” 16 and 1/2 hands and weighing 1177 lbs. Baffert added, ”Pharoah was the same size and 1188 pounds when he won the BC." Mor Spirit won the Los Alamitos Futurity on December 20 and Baffert noted, ”he doesn't have brilliant speed, but gets stronger if ridden right.” I Think Bob likes this one; our conversation began with Bob saying ”Mor Spirit is the real deal.’’
Vilma ~ Never count Nicholas P. Zito out, the ‘P’ stands for patience. He may not be getting the same caliber of horses as 10 years ago, but year in and year out he comes up with a Derby prospect. We picked Vilma up at Saratoga this past summer. A $30,000 yearling buy by Richard Pell and the Hurricane Boys, Vilma, could have Nick back in business again. Vilma took time to get it. He was slow from the gate, slow into doing things, and while the Broken Vow colt out of a Mt. Livermore mare looked like a lost puppy at the Spa, you could tell he was going to show natural ability. He is still a maiden and to be a classic horse you have to learn how to run. Some horses are naturals and right away know what to do — we call them precocious, and those don't tend to win Derbies. The Derby winner is a breed of his own and they develop into the first Saturday in May.
Santa Anita Park kicks off on Saturday, December 26, and Gulfstream Park is slowly warming up as horses have shipped in and are training in South Florida.
We will also offer full Tampa Bay Downs, Fair Grounds, Aqueduct and Oaklawn Park products. The aforementioned tracks will all have our exclusive workout rankings. I have developed new feature based on my observations and experience in the morning and afternoon. It has already made a difference in how my staff and I view works in the morning.
Triple Crown nominations will be released in February.