Racing Roundtable: Drum Roll Please, Kopion shine in Derby, Oaks preps, and more

January 9th, 2024

This week, the Racing Roundtable grades the win by Drum Roll Please in the Jerome S., a one-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) prep held at Aqueduct, Kopion's potential for Richard Mandella following her win in the Santa Ynez (G3), and then looks back at other notable performances from the weekend.

What were your impressions of Drum Roll Please in the Jerome?

Vance Hanson: Over a noticeably deep surface that was producing slow times all day, Drum Roll Please won solidly enough over an unremarkable field as a heavy favorite. He is now 2-for-2 in one-turn races at Aqueduct, so a run in the Gotham (G3) in March would probably be an ideal spot for him. But connections naturally want to test his two-turn prowess again as soon as possible, so he will now be pointed toward the nine-furlong Withers (G3) next month. He deserves that chance, as his two-turn abilities weren't set in stone when finishing third in the Dec. 2 Remsen (G2) over a muddy, speed-favoring track. The main knock against him is that his Jerome speed rating came back an 83, the second lowest of his career to date. I'm taking a wait-and-see approach with him, especially as winner of a race that hasn't really found legs since being repurposed as a nominal Kentucky Derby prep more than a decade ago.

Ashley Anderson: His late kick was impressive, but his final time of 1:41.91 was a bit lackluster, along with his 83 Brisnet Speed figure. Drum Roll Please earned a 120 Class Rating for his win in the Jerome, but the field size was small (five) with a 115 Race Rating, a bit lighter than the 116 RR Drum Roll Please challenged in the Remsen, where he finished more than four lengths behind winner Dornoch and runner-up Sierra Leone. Drum Roll Please is likely to target the Feb. 3 Withers, where he'll stretch back out to the two-turn Remsen distance of 1 1/8 miles, and he looked more capable of handling the added ground with his win on Saturday. Trainer Brad Cox noted that Drum Roll Please has "grown up physically and mentally" since the fall, but I'll wait to see how he does beyond a mile before I consider him a serious Kentucky Derby contender. The top Brisnet figures of the first three sophomores on the current Derby leaderboard โ€” Fierceness, Locked, and Timberlake โ€” are all significantly better than Drum Roll Please's career-best (96). Drum Roll Please will need to develop more speed to compete with those three should he continue down the Derby trail.

Who is Richard Mandella's better filly prospect: Tamara or Kopion?

VH: In the short term it is Kopion, as Tamara continues to heal from a minor splint fracture suffered in the Breeders' Cup. However, I'd still give Tamara the long-term edge, given what she showed last summer at Del Mar in her maiden and in the Del Mar Debutante (G1). Although overestimated as an odds-on choice in the Breeders' Cup, Tamara at her best is probably better than what she showed that day, and of course she has the great lineage in her favor, too, as a daughter of four-time champion and Hall of Famer Beholder. Kopion didn't have to break much of a sweat to defeat what was assembled to face her in the Santa Ynez, and a road trip outside Southern California might be required in order for her to receive a proper test.

AA: While we've yet to see Tamara since her disappointing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), I give her the advantage at the moment. The Bolt d'Oro three-year-old out of Beholder had her best race two back in the Del Mar Debutante, when she dominated by 6 3/4 lengths against 11 rivals and recorded a career-best 100 Brisnet Speed figure for the effort. She also received a 121 Class Rating, two points higher than the career-best 119 CR earned by Kopion with her win in the Santa Ynez versus three rivals.

Tamara was heavily favored in the Breeders' Cup but faltered after setting a hot early pace. I expect her to bounce back in her three-year-old debut, and her pedigree is obviously a huge plus. Kopion is still one to watch as an unbeaten filly coming off a 5 3/4-length win in a Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep. Kopion's pedigree is also enticing as an Omaha Beach filly out of a mare by Victory Gallop, who won the 1998 Belmont (G1) and was runner-up to Real Quiet in that year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1). She's one to look out for, but Tamara is still the top filly in Mandella's barn.

What else caught your eye this weekend?

VH: Races like the Wait a While S. and Ginger Brew S. at Gulfstream have not been traditional springboards to greatness for turf fillies, but Ozara, who won both over the past month, potentially might be cut from a different cloth. A winner on debut in a key maiden at Saratoga, Ozara subsequently finished fourth in the one-turn Natalama (G1) at Woodbine and then second in the Chelsey Flower S. at Aqueduct. But she's found her stride in Florida this winter, most recently taking Saturday's Ginger Brew by a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths in an impressive raw time of 1:33.85 for a mile. If anything, her value as a broodmare prospect has skyrocketed. The Irish-bred is by Lope de Vega, who stands for a six-figure fee, and out of a half-sister to Golden Horn, the 2015 Epsom Derby (G1) and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner.

AA: Ari's Magic made his debut as a three-year-old for Christophe Clement on Friday in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Tampa Bay Downs. Against seven rivals, the Good Magic colt settled toward the back of the pack before advancing to within three lengths of the lead through a half-mile and rallying past the leaders in the stretch to win by more than four lengths. He posted an 84 Brisnet speed figure in the effort on a fast track. Notably, Ari's Magic is a son of Good Magic, who sired last year's Kentucky Derby winner Mage. The colt is also out of a mare by Pioneerof the Nile, famously the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, similar to Good Magic. While he's making his debut at three, Mage defied history last year as just the third Kentucky Derby winner to not have raced at age two. Clement, most known as a turf trainer, also won a Triple Crown race, the 2014 Belmont, with Tonalist, so Ari's Magic could be one to watch as a potential Derby contender as the season progresses.

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