Handicapping Insights for the Kentucky Derby
Weekend Kentucky Derby Prep-Race Implications
by Dick Powell
When the dust settled after the weekend’s action for 3yos, I couldn’t help but think that the biggest winner was the Kentucky Derby G1 itself. Things could not have worked out better for publicizing a race that needs no publicizing.
On Friday, GRONKOWSKI was able to find room on the inside and win the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle. It was enough to clinch a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby since he finished first in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Run down a mile straightaway, Jamie Spencer had Gronkowski behind horses while on the grandstand side and had to wait for an opening. He steered him to the rail and when he found room, he surged to the lead to win going away by 1 ¼ lengths and earned 30 more eligibility points on the European Road to the Derby.
The son of LONHRO has won his last four starts on all-weather tracks and will make his dirt debut on the first Saturday in May.
Many New England Patriots have attended the Kentucky Derby and Rob Gronkowski has been one of them. Now, he and his namesake colt can appear together and whether the equine version has a legitimate chance to win or not, the shared namesake will be dwarfed by the non-racing media covering the connection. Coincidentally, the colt and the tight end are big and goofy.
MENDELSSOHN shipped to Dubai for Saturday’s $2 million UAE Derby G2 going 1 3/16 miles on the dirt track at Meydan. Usually, the dirt track is quite slow and cuppy when the sun is up but none of it mattered for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf G1 winner.
Sent off as the close second betting choice behind GOLD TOWN, Mendelssohn broke sharply with Ryan Moore and continued on to the clubhouse turn. Moore was busily riding him and he then settled beautifully on the run up the backstretch. Around the far turn, Moore sensed some pressure from Gold Town and he let the tempo out a notch.
Mendelsshon’s stride was sensational and was gobbling up ground effortlessly while his rivals floundered. Moore poured the pace on in the stretch to where the final margin was 18 ¼ lengths and his final time of 1:55.18 seconds was the fastest since the race was run at 1 3/16 miles.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, fresh off a record 28 group or grade one stakes wins last year, Mendelssohn goes to the Kentucky Derby with the best credentials of any foreign shipper. The fact that he went through Dubai makes it more intriguing and every time his UAE Derby win will be shown in the next five weeks, Meydan will be in the background. This was truly special.
Saturday saw the $1 million Florida Derby G1 at Gulfstream Park. Behind a suicidal pace duel, AUDIBLE sat farther behind than normal but when he actually dropped back to eighth down the backside, red flags went up. But, don’t worry, there’s a reason that Johnny Velazquez is in the Hall of Fame. After putting him to sleep, he woke him up going into the far turn and started passing horses.
By the top of the stretch, it was all Audible as Velazquez kept his mind on business and the New York-bred son of INTO MISCHIEF won by three lengths while drifting some in the deep stretch.
In the Holy Bull Stakes G2, Audible ran a 105 BRIS speed rating and with eight weeks off, he came back with a 107 in the Florida Derby. Trainer Todd Pletcher now has five weeks to keep him moving forward and he will probably leave him at his Palm Beach Downs training center to avoid any bad weather in Kentucky.
(Mendelssohn and Bill Carstanjen courtesy of Newcastle Racecourse)