A trio of major prep races took place over the weekend, with a few standout performers stating their cases as prime Kentucky Derby contenders.
SAN FELIPE (G2)
Grade 1 winners BOLT D’ORO and MCKINZIE turned for home in a virtual deadlock and put on a show with a thrilling stretch drive to the finish. The former was a head shy under the wire, but eventually placed first by the stewards after it was determined that McKinzie interfered with the colt.
Trained by Mick Ruis and making his 2018 debut, the ultra-talented Bolt d’Oro showed his push-button acceleration once again under a fine ride from Javier Castellano. He couldn’t have started his Kentucky Derby (G1) campaign in much better fashion. The Medaglia d’Oro colt should have gotten a great deal of fitness out of his return race, too.
McKinzie raced in a most professional fashion while quickening when given his cue from Mike Smith. The son of Street Sense switched leads when asked and showed a whole lot of heart and determination in never letting his main rival by in the latter stages.
At this point, I have to think that this pair has to rank 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby race, in whichever order you prefer.
KANTHAKA and PEACE both rallied pretty well in the lane and I would love to see both leave the West Coast in their next respective prep races to avoid the formidable top pair.
TAMPA BAY DERBY (G2)
QUIP earned his first graded tally with a one-length victory under Florent Geroux in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). The son of Distorted Humor broke perfectly and was well in hand while forcing the pace in second to midstretch, before inching clear late in an excellent sophomore debut.
Quip is very intriguing to me. The Rodolphe Brisset trainee flashed good potential with a pair of wins from a trio of tries as a juvenile and earned a lifetime-best 98 BRIS Speed figure for his Tampa Bay Derby work. The bay colt has a solid foundation under him with four career races to date.
FLAMEAWAY proved that his Sam F. Davis S. (G3) heist was no fluke when finding his best stride late in a courageous runner-up finish. The Mark Casse trainee is a genuine three-year-old who advances to his next prep in fine form. I have been underestimating Flameaway to this point.
The Scat Daddy colt earned a healthy 110 Late Pace figure to suggest that 1 1/8 miles will be in his wheelhouse.
Pacesetter WORLD OF TROUBLE was game in defeat and gives the impression of a high-class, middle-distance runner. The speedy colt, coming off a near 14-length score in the Pasco S., was 4 3/4 lengths clear of his nearest foe at the wire.
I still have not given up on VINO ROSSO, who ran evenly in a first with blinkers on. The Todd Pletcher pupil was closer to the pace while saving ground on the rail but didn’t kick on with the top trio inside the final furlong.
Vino Rosso is still a talented colt for sure, though he will have to show more push-button acceleration to be a major Kentucky Derby threat. He won the gallop out once again and will thrive with longer trips. Don’t toss the likely Wood Memorial (G2) starter just yet.
GOTHAM S. (G3)
Godolphin homebred ENTICED took command inside the final furlong and powered home a 2 3/4-length victor under Junior Alvarado. The Kiaran McLaughlin charge got back to his winning ways after a subpar effort in the Holy Bull S. (G2) and registered a lifetime-topping 104 BRIS Speed number in the process.
Runner-up OLD TIME REVIVAL took a short lead nearing the turn for home, opened up a solid edge in the lane and finished four lengths clear of third at big odds. The Kenny Decker trainee easily ran his best race to date and deserves another chance with this kind.
FREE DROP BILLY and FIRENZE FIRE, the respective third and fourth in the Gotham, both disappointed in my opinion. The cut-back to a one-turn mile could have impacted each, though this was not a great or deep field and the duo needed better to be in my Kentucky Derby discussion.
Enticed is an interesting horse going forward, but he looks to be a notch below my top Derby contenders at this juncture. He is a bit of a hard read to me, but I liked him as a juvenile and the next race will be his make-or-break in my view.