Form returned to the sophomore ranks in the trio of huge Kentucky Derby prep races over the weekend.
Santa Anita Derby (G1)
JUSTIFY cruised to the lead from the start and was never seriously challenged in running his mark to a perfect three-for-three in dynamic fashion. Bob Baffert trainee stayed a wide course throughout and clocked nine furlongs on the fast main oval in 1:49 3/5 with Mike Smith.
The whopping 114 BRIS Speed figure Justify earned is the top number on the three-year-old circuit this season. Here is our Kentucky Derby favorite.
Grade 1 hero BOLT D’ORO raced in second from the outset but could never get on even terms with the winner. Mick Ruis trainee was more than six lengths clear of third under the wire. Medaglia d’Oro colt posted a career-best 110 Speed number in what might have been an ideal Kentucky Derby prep.
Lecomte (G3) victor INSTILLED REGARD was the letdown in the field. $1 million Arch colt has now run fourth in two straight and it might be time for the talented colt to regroup.
Justify and Bolt d’Oro have set the bar high for their fellow sophomores.
Wood Memorial (G2)
Pletcher’s VINO ROSSO put together the promise he displayed in the mornings with a three-length win beneath John Velazquez. Colt tracked off a solid early pace and closed best, while widest of all, to punch his Kentucky Derby ticket.
ENTICED poked a head in front during the stretch run but was worn down late by the winner in a good runner-up performance. Kiaran McLaughlin trainee impressed when challenged in the lane, only giving way in the latter stages. Enticed will benefit from this event.
RESTORING HOPE, coming off of a maiden win, was third best and six lengths clear of his closest foe. Fine prospect was outmoved by the top duo in early stretch, though he found his best stride late and also galloped out in a powerful manner
I truly believe that Restoring Hope will be a serious sophomore in 2018 with additional seasoning.
Vino Rosso was rewarded with a lifetime-topping 102 BRIS Speed number and is a contender on May 5. Colt completed his final eighth in a solid :12 4/5 and distance is not an issue for him. It’s surely worth note that Velazquez has tabbed him as his Derby mount (with other options available).
Enticed made two moves in the race and had a tricky voyage being forced in by the winner in the stretch. Son of Medaglia d’Oro is classy and belongs with the top in his division. This was a very good Kentucky Derby prep run.
Blue Grass (G2)
Champion GOOD MAGIC moved to the fore at the top of the lane and held off a stubborn FLAMEAWAY down the stretch to post a 1 ½-length tally. Chad Brown pupil finished off 1 1/18 miles in 1:50 beneath Jose Ortiz and registered a 98 BRIS Speed number for his work.
The aforementioned Flameaway was never given a break in the Blue Grass while contesting the lead from the outset. Mark Casse trainee is such a genuine colt and I admire his traits more every time he steps onto the track.
SPORTING CHANCE tracked inside just off the pace, moved out in the lane as a threat, and then bolted inside the final furlong after receiving a left-handed whip to extinguish his Derby chances. Ironically, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee did similar when taking the Hopeful (G1) at two, cutting in front of FREE DROP BILLY in that race as well.
I gained a measure of appreciation for ‘Billy exiting this contest. Colt wasn’t going to win the Blue Grass, but he displayed fine athleticism weaving through and picking off horses approaching the turn for home. He certainly intrigues me as a Derby longshot for the exotics at huge odds.
Good Magic didn’t earn a flashy BRIS Speed number with a 98, though he looked like a winner every step of this race. Curlin colt has excellent tactical presence and is push-button when given his cue. He is very professional despite racing only five times.
Chestnut peaked in his third race at two when dominating the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and could peak at Churchill Downs in four weeks. The champ has not been dethroned as of yet.