Quick takes on latest round of 2019 Kentucky Derby preps

Profile Picture: Dick Powell

April 8th, 2019

Some quick impressions of last weekends’ major Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races. *** Slow tracks do not necessarily mean slow horses but the winning times of the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2) were painfully slow. All three main tracks were slow all day – witness how slow the final times were on the various undercard stakes races. Wood Memorial 1:51.23 Blue Grass Stakes 1:50.93 Santa Anita Derby 1:51.28 *** The horse that looks good after all this is CUTTING HUMOR, winner of the Sunland Park Derby (G3) in 1:46.94 seconds. *** Not sure if INSTAGRAND will ever be a classic horse but I thought he ran pretty well while trying to make all the running on a dull Santa Anita main track. *** GAME WINNER has now lost both of his 2019 starts but he was very wide against short fields without any help in the pace department. I wasn’t convinced Bob Baffert had the screws completely tightened for the Santa Anita Derby and would not rule him out. *** Loved the way that Mike Smith dropped ROADSTER far enough back from the kickback and saved ground while idling. When Smith asked him to go, the response was electric. Now Smith has to choose between ROADSTER and OMAHA BEACH who runs in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. *** TACITUS was absolutely clobbered after the start of the Wood Memorial and you don’t see many horses recover from that. He is now two-for-two since Bill Mott added Lasix and showed that he can handle the rough and tumble of the Kentucky Derby. *** VEKOMA won the Blue Grass Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths but he scares the daylights out of me. His action up front with his right lead is not pretty to watch and he looks like he will kick the horse racing to his outside. He’s won three of four starts so he passes his vet test in the morning and has twice earned triple-digit BRIS speed ratings going a mile or more so he has earned his spot in the Derby. But, he still scares the daylights out of me. *** WIN WIN WIN was far back in the Blue Grass and as he was commencing his rally, he hit traffic at the top of the stretch. He recovered enough to win the photo for second and has a spot in the Derby if trainer Mike Trombetta and Live Oak Plantation decide to go. *** SIGNALMAN is a big, impressive colt from Ken McPeek. He lost the photo for second in the Blue Grass and is now on the bubble pending the results of the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes (G3) this weekend. It will be a shame if he doesn’t make the top 20 but it might be the best thing for him. *** ANOTHERTWISTAFATE only has 30 Kentucky Derby eligibility points and is on the bubble to make the starting gate. By winning the El Camino Real Derby, he earned a spot in the Preakness Stakes (G1). I was hoping trainer Blaine Wright would take him back and continue training on the Tapeta at his home base of Golden Gate Fields, but the EHV-1 case there prompted him to prolong his stay at Sunland Park, where he ran second to CUTTING HUMOR and worked a fastest-of-seven half-mile breeze last Thursday. Anothertwistafate has now shipped to Keeneland for one last try to make the Derby in the Lexington. *** Danny Gargan may have made the claim of the year when he reached in and took TAX for $50,000 in a maiden race at Keeneland on October 21. The gelded son of Arch came back and was a good third in the Remsen Stakes (G2) then won the Withers Stakes (G3). In the Wood, he used his gate speed to avoid all the bumping at the start and after stalking the leaders, battled with TACITUS through the lane before succumbing. He has now earned over $300,000 since the claim and he has an interesting pedigree (out of a dam by Giant’s Causeway) for all the lucrative turf races for three-year-olds this year at Belmont and Saratoga. Photo of Roadster nabbing Game Winner in the Santa Anita Derby (c) Benoit Photo