Kentucky Derby and Oaks Roundup: Jan. 4, 2021

January 5th, 2021

Capo Kane, Life Is Good, Kalypso…impressive performances on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks were par for the course over the first three days of 2021.

With four months remaining until the first Saturday in May, the action is heating up. The top juveniles of 2020 are 3-year-olds now, racing and training diligently with an eye on competing at Churchill Downs in the spring.

Let’s look back at all that transpired last week:

Changes on the Leaderboard

The New Year kicked off with a pair of Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races on opposite ends of the country. At Aqueduct on New Year’s Day, Capo Kane was a decisive front-running winner of the Jerome S., defeating Eagle Orb by 6 1/4 lengths to secure 10 qualifying points.

The following afternoon, Life Is Good earned the same number of points with a gate-to-wire score in the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, defeating stablemate Medina Spirit by three-quarters of a length. Capo Kane and Life Is Good rank eighth and ninth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, while Eagle Orb (19th place) and Medina Spirit (20th place) currently round out the Top 20 with 4 points apiece.

Most of post-weekend attention has been focused on Life Is Good, the early Kentucky Derby favorite after dominating his debut at Del Mar. The Bob Baffert trainee surprisingly prevailed by just three-quarters of a length after leading by four lengths at the eighth pole, but Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith explained Life Is Good wasn’t fully focused and has a lot more to give.

“He’s just very, very talented,” Smith told Santa Anita. “We don’t know yet how talented. We haven’t gotten close yet.”

On the Work Tab

Cowan: In his first breeze since finishing second in the Remington Springboard Mile S., Cowan traveled an easy 4 furlongs in :52.40 on Thursday at Oaklawn Park.

Essential Quality: The expected 2-year-old champion has already turned in three winter workouts at Fair Grounds, including a half-mile in :48.80 on Sunday.

Hot Rod Charlie: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up clocked 4 furlongs in :48.00 on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Jackie’s Warrior: The Champagne (G1) winner returned to the work tab last Tuesday at Fair Grounds, traveling a modest half-mile in :52.60.

Midnight Bourbon: Twice graded stakes-placed on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Midnight Bourbon has been training steadily at Fair Grounds, working 5 furlongs in 1:01.00 on Monday.

Sittin On Go: The Iroquois (G3) winner is wintering at Gulfstream Park, where he breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.77 on Sunday.

Smiley Sobotka: Runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), Smiley Sobotka has joined stablemate Sittin On Go at Gulfstream for the winter and clocked 5 furlongs in 1:02.06 on Sunday.

Spielberg: Fresh off a victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), Spielberg worked 4 furlongs in :48.00 on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Ten for Ten: Remsen (G2) runner-up has traveled to Florida for the winter, where he cruised through a half-mile in :50.60 on Thursday at Payson Park.

The Great One: Bounced back from a narrow defeat in the Los Alamitos Futurity to breeze a half-mile in :48.60 on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Road to the Kentucky Oaks

Following a one-month hiatus, the Road to the Kentucky Oaks resumed on Sunday with the Santa Ynez (G2) at Santa Anita. The speedy Starlet (G1) runner-up Kalypso was favored at 9-10 and clearly relished cutting back to 7 furlongs, pressing the pace before edging away to defeat stablemate Frosteria by 1 3/4 lengths.

Victorious in the 6-furlong Anoakia S. last fall, Kalypso’s best efforts have come in sprints, though trainer Bob Baffert hasn’t ruled out the possibility of trying Kalypso around two turns again in the future. The daughter of Brody’s Cause has the pedigree to run at least a mile and currently ranks fourth on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 14 points.

Frosteria, runner-up in all four of her starts to date, debuted in 10th place on the leaderboard with 4 points.

Looking Ahead

A quiet weekend is on the horizon, after which Fair Grounds will take the spotlight with a pair of important Derby and Oaks preps on Jan. 16. The 1 1/16-mile Lecomte (G3) will award Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis, while the one-mile and 70-yard Silverbulletday S. for fillies will award Kentucky Oaks points on the same split.