Kentucky Derby and Oaks Roundup: Feb. 1, 2021
The last week of January brought an abundance of action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. Four qualifying races were contested at Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, and Oaklawn Park, and each one produced an exciting winner with the credentials to keep improving.
Let’s review all the news and notes from a busy weekend:
Changes on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
Four weeks after finishing second in the Sham (G3), Medina Spirit secured a victory of his own on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Favored at even-money in the 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis (G3), Medina Spirit turned in a remarkably gritty performance. After carving out fast fractions of :22.89 and :46.61, the dark bay colt dug deep down the stretch to win by a neck in 1:46.26.
A son of Protonico conditioned by six-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit picked up 10 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, ascending to fourth place on the leaderboard with 14 points total. Runner-up Roman Centurian (four points, 25th place), third-place runner Hot Rod Charlie (10 points, seventh place) and fourth-place finisher Spielberg (13 points, fifth place) also picked up points while rounding out the Robert B. Lewis superfecta.
Medina Spirit may have shown impressive determination, but Greatest Honour showed brilliance when romping to victory in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park. After rating off the pace in seventh place, the son of Tapit advanced smoothly around the far turn to seize command at the top of the stretch. From there, Greatest Honour drew off strongly to score by 5 3/4 lengths in 1:43.19.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb, Greatest Honour debuted in 10th place on the leaderboard with 10 points. Superfecta finishers Tarantino (four points, 19th place), Prime Factor (two points, 30th place) and Papetu (one point, 38th place) likewise picked up their first points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Recent Maiden Winners
Soup and Sandwich was an impressive newcomer to the Derby scene last week, crushing a 6 1/2-furlong maiden sprint at Gulfstream by 7 1/4 lengths. A son of two-time leading sire Into Mischief, Soup and Sandwich is a Live Oak Plantation homebred conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.
He’s in Charge and The Reds also posted eye-catching maiden victories over the weekend. For more information, check out the latest edition of our Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch series.
On the Road to the Kentucky Derby Work Tab
Cowan: Took things easy on Sunday at Fair Grounds, traveling a slow half mile in :52.00.
Eagle Orb: Clocked five furlongs in a bullet 1:01.20 over the Belmont Park training track on Wednesday.
Essential Quality: Turned in his longest workout of the year on Sunday at Fair Grounds, stepping up to six furlongs and breezing the distance in 1:13.00.
Get Her Number: Worked an easy three furlongs in :39.20 on Thursday at the San Luis Rey Training Center.
Keepmeinmind: Tackled a muddy main track at Oaklawn last Tuesday and breezed five furlongs in 1:02.00.
Life Is Good: After taking a little time off, the early Kentucky Derby favorite returned to the work tab with a half mile in :49.60 at Santa Anita on Wednesday.
Mandaloun: In his first workout since finishing third in the Lecomte (G3), Mandaloun breezed four furlongs in :48.20 on Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Proxy: The Lecomte runner-up was also back in action at Fair Grounds on Saturday, traveling a half mile in :48.20.
Rombauer: After scratching from the Robert B. Lewis, Rombauer clocked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Sunday at Santa Anita.
Smiley Sobotka: Took to the Gulfstream Park main track on Saturday and blazed a rapid four furlongs in :46.81.
Road to the Kentucky Oaks
The rapidly improving Will’s Secret threw her hat in the ring as a Kentucky Oaks contender with a runaway victory in the Martha Washington S. on Saturday at Oaklawn. Overlooked at odds of 8-1, the Dallas Stewart trainee rated near the back of a compact field early on, then swooped into contention on the far turn and drew clear to win the one-mile heat by 5 1/2 lengths.
A daughter of 2013 Kentucky Derby starter Will Take Charge, Will’s Secret reached the finish line in 1:38.78 to earn 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. She now sits ninth on the leaderboard, while distant Martha Washington runner-up Coach rounds out the Top 14 with six points to her credit.
Will’s Rocket wasn’t the only impressive prep winner over the weekend. Zaajel, hailing from the barn of Todd Pletcher, overcame a slow start and a wide journey to win Gulfstream Park’s seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) in 1:24.72. The daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense picked up 10 qualification points, placing her 12th on the leaderboard.
Lady Traveler gained four points for her late-charging, runner-up effort in the Forward Gal, but currently ranks 16th on the leaderboard, just outside the Top 14 cutoff.
Looking Ahead on the Road to the Kentucky Derby
Another big Saturday awaits with coast-to-coast action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks. Four prep races (two for each series) are on the agenda, with each awarding points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis.
At Aqueduct, the Withers (G3) is the highlight of the weekend. Jerome S. winner Capo Kane is among the expected starters, and victory in the 1 1/8-mile race would give him a total of 20 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby—an excellent start on his way to qualifying for the Run for the Roses.
Tampa Bay Downs will join in on the Derby action with the Sam F. Davis (G3), a local prep for next month’s lucrative Tampa Bay Derby (G2). A large field is expected for the 1 1/16-mile race, including Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) runner-up Smiley Sobotka and Remsen (G2) third-place finisher Known Agenda.
Tampa Bay Downs will also host the Suncoast S., a Kentucky Oaks prep held over one mile and 40 yards. Local stakes winners Feeling Mischief and Special Princess have already shown an affinity for the track, stamping them as logical contenders while stretching out around two turns.
Lastly, Santa Anita will host the one-mile Las Virgenes (G3), which could potentially attract Bob Baffert’s Santa Ynez (G2) 1-2 finishers Kalypso and Frosteria. Flashy Los Alamitos maiden winner Moonlight d’Oro is another noteworthy contender.