Samurai looks Sharp for Hollywood Derby

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

Alastair Bull

November 24th, 2017

Sharp Samurai has had the wood over the West Coast turf 3-year-olds this year, but he’ll have to beat some eastern invaders to win the 1 1/8-mile Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar Nov. 25.

The First Samurai gelding has won four consecutive stakes races, and convincingly beat five of his nine rivals in the Twilight Derby (G2) while conceding weight to all of them at Del Mar Oct. 28.

As he is meeting them at level weights in the Hollywood Derby, his connections will be confident in his chances of adding a grade one race to his seasonal tally.

Of those beaten in the Twilight Derby, runner-up Big Score and fourth-place finisher Channel Maker – who gained good ground in the latter stages – might be the biggest dangers. Bowies Hero, third in the Twilight Derby, should run well again, while Just Howard and Ann Arbor Eddie will need to improve.

The most interesting of the newcomers from the west is Mo Town. Touted as a possible Kentucky Derby contender a year ago after winning the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct, Mo Town disappointed in both the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and the Wood Memorial (G2) in spring.

Two allowance starts on dirt in early fall produced nothing, but when switched to turf at Belmont Park Oct. 12, he zoomed away from an allowance field by 6 ½ lengths. If he arrives in similar form he may be the most likely horse to test Sharp Samurai.

Also arriving from the east is Souper Tapit. He beat Channel Maker to win the Marine Stakes (G3) on the Woodbine all-weather track May 28, but since then has finished seventh in the English Channel Stakes at Belmont Park and third in an Aqueduct allowance Nov. 11.

The only other runner in the field is Ritzy A.P. He was well beaten by Sharp Samurai when finishing sixth in the Del Mar Derby (G2) Sept. 3 but has since won an allowance at Del Mar.

If Sharp Samurai is on his game it’s hard to see any of those defeated by him in the Twilight Derby turning the tables, though they should be considered for exotic bets. If anything is going to beat him it is probably Mo Town, though his form is hard to line up.