Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: American Pharoah’s half-brother Triple Tap impresses

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 15th, 2021

Will Triple Tap take a shot at qualifying for the Kentucky Derby? That’s the question racing fans everywhere are asking after the widely hyped colt produced an impressive debut victory on Saturday at Santa Anita.

But Triple Tap wasn’t the only eye-catching sophomore maiden winner of the weekend. Here are the latest names to know as the Triple Crown series draws closer:

Bears Watching

A half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Code of Honor, Bears Watching showed promise in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Gulfstream Park, rallying late to finish third by less than a length. But the son of Karakontie took a big step forward when stretching out over seven furlongs on Saturday at Gulfstream.

Favored at 7-10 with jockey Jose Ortiz aboard, Bears Watching left no doubt about his superiority. After tracking fast splits of :22.69 and :45.74 from fourth place, Bears Watching pounced to the front at the top of the stretch and pulled clear under a hand ride to win by 7 3/4 lengths in 1:22.95.

A William S. Farish homebred trained by Shug McGaughey, Bears Watching isn’t nominated to the Triple Crown, but nevertheless appears to have a bright future. The Kentucky Derby is likely coming up too soon for Bears Watching, but depending on how quickly he progresses, the Belmont (G1) five weeks later could be a viable goal.

Triple Tap

It’s probably too late for Triple Tap to make an attempt at qualifying for the Kentucky Derby—after all, the first Saturday in May is just seven weeks away. But six-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert has worked wonders before, and Triple Tap certainly has the breeding to excel in the spring classics.

A son of three-time leading sire Tapit out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma, Triple Tap is a half-brother to Baffert’s 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, as well as a full brother to the Grade 1-winning filly Chasing Yesterday. With this elite pedigree in tow, Triple Tap was favored at 1-5 to win his debut sprinting seven furlongs at Santa Anita, and the Summer Wind Equine homebred delivered on expectations with a convincing victory.

Flashing speed from the start, Triple Tap pressed fractions of :23.31 and :46.63 while facing just three rivals, then advanced to take command at the top of the stretch. Under a confident hand ride from jockey Flavien Prat, the chestnut colt found his best stride late in the race, sprinting the final furlong in a quick :12.15 to draw clear and beat stablemate Barraza by 4 1/4 lengths.

Triple Tap gave the impression that longer distances won’t be an issue, so racing fans will watch with interest to see if Baffert gives the exciting sophomore a try in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) or Arkansas Derby (G1), where a top-two finish could secure a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby.