Derby DreamsWritten by Jon Stettin
There are three Kentucky Derby points races on Saturday. The Gotham, The Tampa Bay Derby, and The San Felipe all offer hope and the ever-important points to get into the gate on the First Saturday in May. Sure, these races are fun to wager on, but for me, that is not the only enjoyment I derive from them. I enjoy trying to spot that horse that will peak in the big dance, and not before it.
With the inception of the point process a few years back, the option of training your horse up to the Derby was all but taken away. You have to have your horse ready to fire an A race at least once before the goal. For example, Mack Miller did not have to worry about that when his Sea Hero won. Now, your hand will be tipped, but it is still fun, and potentially rewarding, to find the horse that will fire his best shot in the big one.
I have written many columns on what I look for in a Derby horse. It’s not what a lot of people look for. You can find some of those columns here or at Past the Wire. I won’t reiterate all that now but will share who has my attention in the three preps on Saturday and why.
Let’s start out west at Santa Anita in the San Felipe. Sure Bob Baffert, as expected has two prospects in there that can easily win, and still step up come Derby day, but another horse in there has caught my eye. Honor A. P. looks like a stone-cold runner. In his debut for the ever-patient Shirreffs, he came from way back to finish a closing second to stakes class Ginobilli. He followed that up breaking his maiden in a runaway, and on the front end to boot showing versatility. The sky is the limit here and even with Shirreffs taking his sweet time, this ridgling should improve Saturday and make his presence felt even against the two Baffert killers. More importantly though, this one looks like one to watch for significant forward moves in the future. A strong race Saturday puts him high on my list.
The Tampa Bay Derby drew 12, several of which do not look like Derby horses to me. Sole Volante has run two good and improving races since switched to the dirt. I love his somewhat under the radar pedigree. I am not sure how many forward moves he has in him but if he is assured a spot on Saturday, then he can come in fresh. That would make him awfully dangerous.
Market Analysis impressed me in his debut. I believe he is fast, classy, and can be a top stakes horse. I don’t know he is ready to win on Saturday, but if he progresses steadily, and is not rushed too much, he can be a danger come the Run for the Roses. I’ll be watching him for sure.
Untitled is awfully interesting in The Gotham. This guy can run and proved it in his debut. His last at Tampa against highly regarded Governor Morris was a good race. The one-turn mile suits him well, but if he can get two turns, which he is bred to do, and learns to rate a little better, he can be a force going forward. I think he is the one to beat Saturday, and if he does things right, he is one to watch come another Saturday.
I am not sure how good Sixto is or isn’t, but if he were to run well, I’d take another look at him. Montauk Traffic is a contender Saturday, but I question if he wants two turns. If he does, he is a maybe. Attachment Rate is logical on paper, but I need to see more.
These are the ones that have my attention on Saturday. I will be watching with an eye on the future. Eliminating any of them is as valuable to me as upgrading them. It is all part of the process to be right when it counts.