More questions than answers following last weekend's major Kentucky Derby preps

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TwinSpires Staff

April 14th, 2016


Three Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races, all for $1 million purses at 1 1/8 miles, were held last Saturday and two of them were run on wet tracks. The results raised more questions than answers.

In New York, the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) was run on the Aqueduct main track which was listed as “Muddy (sealed).” It is very unlikely the Derby winner will be coming out of New York this year.

 OUTWORK (Uncle Mo), raised the bar again for Mike Repole’s amazing Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) with a gritty victory. He showed good speed, an ability to handle the off going and battled through the lane. 

Sitting second behind third choice MATT KING COAL (Cool Coal Man), Johnny Velazquez stalked a fast pace of :22.91 and :46.93 for the first half mile. The pace slowed down noticeably with the third quarter run in 25.38 seconds. Matt King Coal battled on but Velazquez had a ton of horse turning for home.  

As they straightened away in the stretch, Outwork was three paths off the rail but Velazquez took a peek to his left and with right-hand urging, he came over a path and tightened up on Matt King Coal who veered left and took away the room of 82-to-1 longshot TROJAN NATION (Street Cry).

 Trojan Nation finally got through with a final surge but missed catching Outwork by a head. ADVENTIST (Any Given Saturday) rallied on the far outside to get third after an eventful trip going into the first turn.  

Outwork’s final time was a dull 1:52.92. He earned a BRIS Speed rating of 96 which equals his career best.

 The Wood was your typical fast early/slow late race. The quarter mile times were 22.91, 24.02, 25.38 and 26.59 seconds. His final furlong was run in 14.02 seconds so his last three furlongs were run in 40.61 seconds. Unless he gets a similar kind of racetrack on the first Saturday of May, don’t look for him to get the job done.

Trojan Nation is still a maiden but $190K richer. He is certainly bred to go all day and he had finished third, albeit by nine lengths, behind Bob Baffert’s Rebel Stakes (G2) winner CUPID (Tapit) in a Santa Anita maiden race. That rival will be back in action this Saturday as the Arkansas Derby (G1) favorite at Oaklawn Park.

Adventist is a nice horse that runs in spurts. He looked well beaten before he kicked in again at the sixteenth pole and came home very well. However, it might have just been that the leaders had slowed down so much.

 It was another win in a grade one stakes race worth $1 million to a son of Uncle Mo and Outwork is out of an Empire Maker (Unbridled) mare so distance should not be a problem. He avenged a loss in the Wood by Uncle Mo but will have to improve greatly to be a Derby contender.

Keeneland ran the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) next and this year’s renewal attracted 14 runners. BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway), second betting choice at 42-to-10, made a run around the far turn that you often see the Kentucky Derby winner make. He surged to the lead in the stretch and was a handy winner by 1 ¾ lengths.

 Maybe he’s just a horse for the course since he won the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last year. He has a win over the Churchill Downs main track, breaking his maiden going a mile last September, and ran to his looks in the paddock.

Second was MY MAN SAM (Trappe Shot), who rallied extremely wide from post 14 to catch CHERRY WINE (Paddy O’Prado) at the wire. ZULU (Bernardini), running with blinkers for the first time, was shuffled a bit on the first turn and raced wide before packing it in. The first three horses were 9th, 13th and 11th respectively after six furlongs so it was a strong race for early pacesetter LAOBAN (Uncle Mo), who hung on for fourth.  

My Man Sam might have rescued trainer Chad Brown from a dismal day since SHAGAF (Bernardini) and FLEXIBILITY (Flexibility) both ran poorly in the Wood. Not sure about a son of Trappe Shot (Tapit) going 10 furlongs, but he finished full of run at nine furlongs while losing a ton of ground.  

Brody’s Cause covered the nine furlongs in 1:50.20 and but earned only a 94 BRIS Speed rating. With the ground loss, it might have been a better race than the speed rating indicated and at least the top finishers showed they can handle a big field and pass horses willingly.

Finally, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) was run out on the West Coast and the main track there came up “Sloppy (sealed).” The public made Bob Baffert’s MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya) the 7-to-5 favorite. Second choice was DANZING CANDY (Candy Ride) and EXAGGERATOR (Curlin) was third choice at 7-to-2.  

Danzing Candy gunned to the front and set a very fast pace of 22.15 and 45.24 seconds. He hit six furlongs in 1:10.12 and was trying to replicate his front-end victory in the San Felipe (G2). Sitting second last for the first half of the race, Kent Desormeaux asked Exaggerator for run and the response was immediate. 

He circled the field with little effort and blew by them around the far turn. The leaders packed it in and Exaggerator opened up a commanding lead. Mor Spirit passed the two tired leaders in the stretch and UNCLE LINO (Uncle Mo) held on for third.

Was it the wet track that got Exaggerator back on track? He won the Delta Jackpot (G3) at the end of last year and was a good second behind division leader NYQUIST (Uncle Mo) in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) in a fast time. He covered the nine furlongs in 1:49.66 and earned a BRIS Speed rating of 101, his third triple-digit effort in a row. With two wins on wet tracks and a pedigree that should get him another furlong, he merits strong consideration four weeks from now. 

Even though he was a soundly beaten second, I was very impressed by Mor Spirit. I thought Gary Stevens did just enough and over a track that he never seemed to relish, did not abuse him at all. Might turn out to be a perfect prep for him.