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Kentucky Derby 2018 Report March 14

Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie, two of the top ranked Kentucky Derby 2018 contenders, put on a show in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, March 10.

Robert Lewis Stakes winner Lombo shot straight to the front in the San Felipe, but McKinzie was all over him from the get-go under Mike Smith. Bolt d’Oro tucked in behind the early leaders from the inside post under Javier Castellano.

McKinzie took a short lead over the tiring Lombo, and Bolt d’Oro made an eye-catching 3-wide move around the far turn. Turning for home, Bolt d’Oro bumped with McKinzie, and the latter returned the favor in deep stretch under left hand whipping from Smith. McKinzie prevailed by a head, with Bolt d’Oro 6+ lengths in front of show finisher Kanthaka. Hold all tickets!

The stewards took a look at the two bumping incidents, and they unanimously felt that the one in deep stretch may have cost Bolt d’Oro a winning chance, so they reversed the order of finish and put the Mick Ruis trainee on top. I cannot argue with a decision that could have gone either way. The top two ran huge, and they are both top tier Kentucky Derby contenders at this stage.  

Bolt d’Oro was making his first start since the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was originally supposed to begin his sophomore campaign in the San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 10, but a minor muscle pull derailed those plans. Trainer Mick Ruis said that he was about 80% fit for the San Felipe, and he should be wound as tight as a drum for the Santa Anita Derby.

What is it with McKinzie and disqualifications? He was placed first over stablemate Solomini in the Los Al Futurity, and he had his number taken down in the San Felipe. He is certainly battled-tested after the aforementioned two races, and he easily won his debut and the Sham Stakes (blinkers off). He reminds me a bit of Silver Charm.  

Let’s look back at the other two Kentucky Derby points races from March 10:

Gotham Stakes (Aqueduct, 3-10-18; 161 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating)

Enticed was a flat 4th in his 3-year-old bow in the Holy Bull, but the Gotham was a whole new ballgame. He stalked wide from the outside post, made steady progress in the lane while catching front running longshot Old Time Revival (clearly second best), and won geared down by a bit less than three lengths under Junior Alvarado. Post time favorite Free Drop Billy was best of the rest in 3rd, and Firenze Fire ended up an even 4th. The latter has now accumulated 29 Derby points, but 25 of those points were captured in one-turn mile events. He goes next in the Wood Memorial, but he has always had stamina concerns, and after back-to-back losses, he drops off my list. I do not know how strong this one-turn prep was, but Enticed looked good winning, has quality connections, and a nice pedigree. He has enough points to make the Derby gate for Kiaran McLaughlin.

Tampa Bay Derby (Tampa Bay Downs, 3-10-18; 138 Final Rating)

19-1 longshot Quip picked up 50 Derby points in a game one-length tally over Sam F. Davis winner Flameaway and front runner World of Trouble. Vino Rosso was a flat 4th for Todd Pletcher, and was followed by Tiz Mischief and Untamed Domain. The winner was making his first start since finishing 7th in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last fall. This race did not look strong visually, and reminded me a bit of the first two 50 point races (Risen Star, Fountain of Youth). 

Quip Handicapping Horse Racing Past Performances 

There are a pair of Derby points races on the docket for Saturday, March 17. The big one is the Rebel Stakes (winner to receive 50 Derby points) at Oaklawn Park. A large field in expected for the Hot Springs, Arkansas affair, including Combatant, Title Ready, and Zing Zang for trainer Steve Asmussen. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas plans to start Southwest show finisher Sporting Chance, and he drilled a half-mile bullet in :47.00 (1/21) at Oaklawn on March 12. Solomini will almost certainly be the Rebel favorite for Bob Baffert. Others targeting the race include Curlin’s Honor, Higher Power, and Magnum Moon. 

The Jeff Ruby Steaks (winner to receive 20 Derby points) at Turfway Park, formerly known as the Sprial Stakes, is expected to have a large field, including last year’s G3 Grey Stakes hero Archaggelos. Choo Choo and Mugaritz are expected to ship in from Golden Gate Fields, and former “exceptional eleven” member Hollywood Staris scheduled to start for trainer Dale Romans. The top local hopes are Magicalmeister, Sky Promise, and Arawak. 

In other Kentucky Derby 2018 contender news, Risen Star upsetter Bravazo (54 Derby points) breezed a 5f bullet in 1:00.00 (1/8) at Oaklawn Park on March 12. He will complete his Derby preparations in the Louisiana Derby on March 24.

Combatant (12 Derby points), runner-up in his last three Derby points races, breezed 4f in :51.60 (42/52) at Oaklawn Park on March 11. He goes next in the Rebel Stakes on March 17.

Mississippi (zero Derby points) continues his steady work pattern since finishing 2nd in an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4. He has breezed four times since that race, most recently logging a half-mile in :50.20 (50/77) at Palm Meadows on March 10.

I am very sad to report that Smarty Jones winner Mourinho had to be euthanized followed a training accident at Santa Anita Park on March 12. According to trainer Bob Baffert, he suffered a severe sesamoid fracture in a front leg. He was working in company with stablemate Restoring Hope (Sunland Derby hopeful). 

Southwest hero My Boy Jack (12 Derby points) went 5f in 1:01.60 (29/61) at Santa Anita for trainer Keith Desormeaux on March 10. The Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 24 is the next race on his dance card.

Looking at the international road to the Derby, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn is heading to the UAE Derby after winning the Patton Stakes at Dundalk (Ireland) on March 9. Trainer Aidan O’Brien would like to run him at Churchill on the first Saturday in May.

Gronkoswki, another overseas runner, captured the Road to the Derby Condition Stakes at Kempton Park (Great Britain) on March 7. Trainer Jeremy Noseda plans to bring his to the US to compete in the Wood Memorial or Blue Grass Stakes. 

In a late developing story, Withers winner Avery Island, my sixth-ranked Derby contender last week, came up lame after his most recent workout on March 9 and is currently being evaluated at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky. This is the worst possible time to have any type of physical setback, and here is hoping for some good news and a speedy recovery.   

Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven" Kentucky Derby 2018 Contenders

(1) BOLT D’ORO (Medaglia d’Oro - Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy)

Trainer (Mick Ruis) - Owner (Ruis Racing)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 143 (San Felipe Stakes, SA, 3-10-18)

Comments: He has been my one and only top ranked Derby contender since I started my list at the end of the Del Mar summer meet last September. I did not lose faith in the 2-time grade one winner following his wide 3rd in the BC Juvenile, and I was not overly concerned when he came up with a minor muscle pull earlier this year. He did everything asked of him and more while not fully cranked in the San Felipe, and he should be ready to roll in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.         

Derby Points (64)

Bolt De Oro Kentucky Derby Past Performances 

(2) SOLOMINI (Curlin - Surf Song, by Storm Cat)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Zayat Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 140 (BC Juvenile, 11-4-17)

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in :59.00 (1/61) at Santa Anita Park on March 10.

Comments: The G1 FrontRunner and BC Juvenile runner-up had his number taken down in the Los Al Futurity (placed 3rd behind McKinzie and Instilled Regard). He got sick earlier this winter and returned to the work tab on Feb. 3. He has been working steadily all month and his last four moves were bullets. The Baffert/Zayat Stables runner is taking the American Pharoah path to the Derby, beginning with the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, March 17.    

Derby Points (14)

(3) MCKINZIE (Street Sense - Runway Model, by Petionville)

Trainer (Bob Baffert) - Owner (Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, Paul Weitman)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 149 (Sham Stakes, SA, 1-6-18)

Comments: He has turned into a tough street fighter for Baffert. He can be brilliant, like his big debut win, and his razor sharp off the pace tally in the G3 Sham. In his other two races, he battled hard throughout and was placed first via DQ in the G1 Los Al Futurity, and he gave Bolt d’Oro all he could handle and had his number taken down after playing bumper cars with that foe in deep stretch in the San Felipe (143 Final Rating). He is in need of a less eventful race in his final Derby prep, and he is definitely one of the top Derby contenders at this stage. The Santa Anita Derby might be his next race. 
Derby Points (40)

Mckinzie Kentucky Derby Contender Prep Race Past Performances 

(4) AUDIBLE (Into Mischief - Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing) 

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 156 (Holy Bull Stakes, GP, 2-3-18)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.99 (3/12) at Palm Beach Downs on March 10.

Comments: After four lifetime starts, he has a trio of wins and a show finish. He stepped up to face much better foes in his stakes debut in the Holy Bull at the Gulf on Feb. 3, and he was more than up to the task in an effortless 5+ length tally after tracking moderate splits. The Florida Derby on March 31 will be his last Kentucky Derby prep race.        

Derby Points (10)

(5) GOOD MAGIC  (Curlin - Glinda the Good, by Hard Spun)

Trainer (Chad Brown) - Owner (e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 153 (BC Juvenile, 11-4-17)

Comments: Maybe too much was expected of him in his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He definitely did not deliver the goods that day in a flat show finish, and it looking increasingly likely that he needed the race. Granted, he was not the same horse in his sophomore bow that we saw in the BC Juvenile, but, on a positive note, he has a solid 2-year-old foundation, is in good shape on the Derby points list, and appears healthy and sound. He could easily show much more in his next start, which will likely be the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday, April 7. He is one of four remaining original "exceptional eleven" members from last September, along with Bolt d'Oro, Solomini, and Free Drop Billy.  

Derby Points (34) 

(6) CATHOLIC BOY (More Than Ready - Song of Bernadette, by Bernardini)

Trainer (Jonathan Thomas) - Owner (Robert V. LaPenta)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 134 (Remsen Stakes, AQU, 12-2-17)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.40 (1/1) at Bridlewood Farm on March 10.

Comments: His 3-for-4 juvenile campaign included a sharp turf/dirt victory in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on 12-2-17. He made his first start as a 3-year-old in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 10. He rallied into tepid splits in the Davis and finished a respectable 2nd in a race he likely needed. It looks like his connections have settled on the March 31 Florida Derby for his final Derby prep, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. will replace Manny Franco in the irons. He really a top two finish at the end of the month to secure a starting spot under the Twin Spires.   

Derby Points (14)

(7) NOBLE INDY (Take Charge Indy - Noble Maz, by Storm Boot)

Trainer (Todd Pletcher) - Owner (WinStar Farm)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 141 (OC, GP, 1-11-18)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.39 (7/12) at Palm Beach Downs on March 10.

Comments: He won his first two starts at Gulfstream Park before shipping to Fair Grounds and landing the show in his stakes debut in the G2 Risen Star Stakes (140 Final Rating) on Feb. 17. The lightly raced colt most likely needs a top two finish in his final Derby prep (probably the Louisiana Derby).  

Derby Points (10) 

(8) INSTILLED REGARD (Arch - Enhancing, by Forestry)

Trainer (Jerry Hollendorfer) - Owner (OXO Equine LLC)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 138 (Risen Star Stakes, FG, 2-17-18)

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:03.40 (77/103) at Santa Anita Park on March 13.

Comments: He burst onto the Derby trail scene after a troubled, close-up 3rd (placed 2nd via disqualification) in the G1 Los Al Futurity, and followed that up with a decisive score in the G3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 13. He ended up a disappointing 4th in the Risen Star Stakes last time and will have to run much better in his final Derby prep (Louisiana Derby or Santa Anita Derby). 

Derby Points (19)

(9) JUSTIFY (Scat Daddy - Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper)

Trainer (Bob Baffert)

Owners (China Horse Club, Head of Plains, Starlight Racing, WinStar Farm)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 146 (Maiden Special Weight, SA, 2-18-18)

Comments: Bob Baffert’s impressive debut winner was back in three weeks, and made short work of his four allowance rivals in his first start around two turns at Santa Anita Park on March 11 (141 Final Rating). He is obviously very talented but the late bloomer is scrambling to make the gate on the first Saturday in May. He will get one shot in an upcoming Derby points race, and the Santa Anita Derby might be the race he ends up targeting. 

Justify Kentucky Derby Prep Race Past Performance 
(10) ENTICED  (Medaglia d’Oro - It’s Tricky, by Mineshaft)

Trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) - Owner (Godolphin Racing, LLC.)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 161 (Gotham Stakes, AQU, 3-10-18)

Comments: You can go back to his G1 Champagne show finish to see his quality. He was part of contested pace that day, dropped back to stalk, and held the show in a game effort. He followed that up with a gritty win in a productive renewal of the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (subsequent stakes winners Promises Fulfilled, Reride, Quip, Bravazo). He was a flat 4th from the inside post in his G2 Holy Bull return, but bounced back in a big way from the outside post in the G3 Gotham on March 10. It looks like the Wood Memorial on April 7 will be his final Derby prep. He is bred to handle nine furlongs at the very least, and might be getting good at the right time.  

Derby Points (63)

(11) FREE DROP BILLY (Union Rags - Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway)

Trainer (Dale Romans) - Owner (Albaugh Family Stables)

Top Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating: 140 (Gotham Stakes, AQU, 3-10-18)

Comments: Last year’s G1 Breeders’ Futurity (140 Final Rating) hero at Keeneland began his sophomore campaign with a clear place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3. He only had four published works prior to the Holy Bull, and he matched his career best 140 Today’s Racing Digest Final Rating that day. He entered the Fountain of Youth Stakes but scratched in favor of the Gotham Stakes (one mile) at Aqueduct on March 10. In the Gotham, he rallied to finish a clear 3rd (another 140 Final Rating) while no match to the top two finishers. He was part of my original “exceptional eleven” last September, so I have a soft spot for him, plus his sire Union Rags was my 2012 Derby-Belmont horse. It appears that Free Drop Billy is a notch below the best, and his preferred distance is anyone’s guess. He will wrap up his road to the Derby in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 7.       

Derby Points (24)

THE NEXT NINE: (12) Bravazo - 54 Derby points, (13) Promises Fulfilled - 52 points, (14) Quip - 50 points, (15) Flameaway - 30 points, (16) Firenze Fire - 29 points, (17) Snapper Sinclair - 22 points, (18) Strike Power - 20 points, (19) Combatant - 12 points, (20) My Boy Jack - 12 points. 

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