Kentucky Derby Context: Hidden Stash

April 19th, 2021 horse racing analyst James Scully attended his first Kentucky Derby in 1981. Along with a brief profile of this year’s contenders, he is providing some historical context.

A rallying second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Hidden Stash was compromised by a troubled trip and moderate pace when finishing fourth most recently in the Blue Grass S. (G2) at Keeneland. His late kick could prove more effective in the Kentucky Derby.

Hidden Stash has earned qualifying points in all three starts this season for owner BBN Racing and trainer Vicki Oliver. The chestnut colt’s last win came at Churchill Downs in November, a rallying entry-level allowance tally in his juvenile finale.

The top two in the Blue Grass – Essential Quality and Highly Motivated – took advantage of the slow race flow with forwardly-placed trips. Hidden Stash ran better than it looks on paper, closing well in the latter stages once clear, and he’s bred to appreciate added ground in the 1 1/4-mile Derby distance.

From the second crop of Constitution, who sired 2020 Belmont S. (G1) winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Tiz the Law, Kentucky-bred Hidden Stash is out of a mare by Smart Strike. He counts Danzig as the second maternal damsire, and 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed as the third.

Hidden Stash will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for BBN Racing and Oliver. Jockey Rafael Bajarano is winless from 10 previous attempts. Florida Derby (G1) winner Constitution was forced to miss the 2014 Kentucky Derby after being sidelined by a minor injury.

Let’s a look back at Affirmed’s Kentucky Derby, which involved arguably the greatest rivalry in Triple Crown history.

The 1978 Kentucky Derby marked the seventh matchup between Affirmed and Alydar, but it was the first meeting at age three. Affirmed had four wins – the Futurity (G1), Hopeful (G1), Laurel Futurity (G1), and Youthful S. Alydar captured the Champagne (G1) and Great American S. over his bitter adversary.

Both rolled through their Kentucky Derby prep races. Affirmed readied on the West Coast, recording wins in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Hollywood Derby (G1). Alydar wintered in Florida, pocketing the Flamingo S. (G1) at Hialeah and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park before tuning up with a 13-length romp in the Blue Grass S. (G1) at Keeneland.

Affirmed got the jump on Alydar at Churchill Downs, taking a clear lead into the stretch. Alydar left himself too much to do from nearly 20 lengths off the early pace, but reduced a sizable deficit with an eye-catching rally through the final furlongs, missing by about a length in second.

Hidden Stash will try to build his own legacy in this year’s Kentucky Derby.