Arkansas Derby (G1)
Winner (pts): Overanalyze (100)
2nd, 3rd, 4th (pts): Frac Daddy (40), Carve (20), Falling Sky (10)
CTD Analysis: Normandy Invasion’s strong runner-up finish in last week’s Wood Memorial (G1) went a long way to quiet all the Remsen (G2) bashers, but Overanalyze’s 4 1/4 length victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1) should all but silence them. The Remsen, a 1 1/8 mile race for two-year-olds in late November has failed to be a key race in recent Kentucky Derbies, and it looked as if the trend would continue with the continuous off-the-board performances of it’s top three finishers in the early part of the year. Now the Remsen looks to be responsible for two Derby starters, which is more than such storied juvenile races as the Champagne (G1), CashCall Futurity (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
You will probably still get a good price on Overanalyze in the Kentucky Derby. The Beyer speed figure from the Arkansas Derby didn’t crack 90 (88), which puts the colt on the very low end of recent prep winners. If you don’t subscribe to Beyer, perhaps the BRIS figure of 96 gives you a little more comfort, not to mention the relative ease Overanalyze put away nine rivals after racing wide most of the way. The Oaklawn circuit has taken its share of lumps this Derby prep season and you have to be skeptical of what the future holds for most the Arkansas Derby (G1) entrants, but visually you can’t ask anything more from Overanalyze.
Runner-up Frac Daddy earned enough points to move onto Churchill Downs, but I wouldn’t label his performance promising seeing as he had the perfect inside stalking trip yet was still beaten in a slow race by over four lengths. It was not the most dissapointing display however, as that award goes to Oxbow who attempted a new off-the-pace running style that turned out to be a disaster. The colt clearly did not like watching horses in front of him- or the dirt in his face for that matter- and never got into the race. Nevertheless trainer D. Wayne Lukas will still point for the Kentucky Derby (G1) and likely plan for a more forward position in the early going.
Blue Grass (G1)
Winner (pts): Java’s War (100)
2nd, 3rd, 4th (pts): Palace Malice (40), Charming Kitten (20), Rydilluc (10)
CTD Analysis: Almost getting left in the gate was no bother to jockey Julien Leparoux and Java’s War in the Blue Gras Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. Luckily, Java’s War is the closing type that likes to bide his time in the back before making a big burst down the stretch. He did just that Saturday after the 3/4 pole by picking off all foes in front of him one-by-one.
What did we learn from Java’s War’s performance and the Blue Grass in general? Like recent years, probably not much. Keeneland’s Polytrack surface is kind to closers and can take its toll on the frontrunners by the time they get into the stretch. That fact was painfully evident as favored Rydilluc relinquished the lead to three horses, including the winner, in the late going. Moreover, a good or poor performance doesn’t necessarily translate to the same happening at Churchill Downs three weeks later. Mark Casse was rightfully disappointed with Uncaptured 10th place finish and is most likely skipping the Derby despite having the points. Many would argue the Blue Grass is proof Uncaptured has digressed from two to three, but there’s plenty of instances where horses run night and day differences between Keeneland and Churchill Downs. Plus, we know Uncaptured likes the Churchill surface based on his two graded stakes victories last Fall.
Back to the winner, Java’s War’s best race is still probably the runner-up finish to likely Kentucky Derby favorite Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in March. That race was on dirt and also generated a career-best Beyer speed figure of 96. Still, even that performance is not enough to put him in the top five of Derby choices, however a deep closer can always surprise if the race falls apart from a hot pace.
2nd place Palace Malice will move onto the Derby, but how serious can we take a horse that finished 7th (albeit a troubled trip) and 3rd in his last dirt outings against questionable company?
Charming Kitten, who made a nice wide late move, got the show and currently sits as the last one in the Derby. How much the son of Kitten’s Joy will enjoy the Churchill dirt and step up in company will be a point of contention for many.
Weekend News Summary
The Churchill Downs backside is filling up with Kentucky Derby starters earlier than usual. Verrazano, Overanalyze, and Normandy Invasion were the latest arrivals Sunday// Vyjack has been hanging out in a hyperbaric chamber recently after suffering a lung infection and mucus buildup after the Wood Memorial (G1). Trainer Rudy Rodriguez was hoping Vyjack could fly into Louisville with the Sunday arrivals from New York, but first has to appear before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in order to get a license. The in-person requirement is due to Rodriguez having two recent medication violations in New York. Plans are still to have the Vyjack ready for the Derby// With a number of quick defection announcements Saturday and Sunday, several horses that were outside the top 20 in points are now gearing up for the longest and toughest race of their life. Charming Kitten makes the cut, which gives Todd Pletcher five starters. No word from Bob Baffert (surprise, surprise) on whether Super Ninety Nine, currently #18 in the standings, will make the trip. It is very likely Baffert will only saddle one horse, Sunland Derby (G3) winner Govenor Charlie, in the Kentucky Derby// Falling Sky is another within the top 20 whose connections may opt out of the Run for the Roses// Although there are still two Kentucky Derby point races to run, now is the time for workouts to play just as an important role in the news cycle. There were four key works over the weekend from Orb, Mylute, Black Onyx, and Will Take Charge. Reports and details below// On one hand, you have to give credit to WinStar Farms for trying to mix things up by starting a public poll on who should ride Revolutionary in the Kentucky Derby. On the other hand, you have to wonder what the jockeys and trainer Todd Pletcher think of possibly being the bad guy (or gal) who went against the people’s choice. I imagine they’ll get over it// The Coolmore Lexington (G3) Saturday represents a “Wild Card” race along the Kentucky Derby point schedule, and could have some serious implications. The winner gets 20 points, which is currently the exact cutoff number to make the Derby gate, although a tiebreaker based on non-restricted stakes earnings would have to take effect seeing as several horses have 20 points. Code West wouldn’t have to worry about a tiebreaker if he were to hit the board, having accrued 20 points already// more…
Biggest winners of last Saturday’s action (Bleacher Report)
Biggest disappointments of last Saturday’s action (Bleacher Report)
Blue Grass: Finishers that improved their Kentucky Derby chances (Bleacher Report)
Blue Grass, Arkansas Derby notes (DRF Blog)
Spiral winner Black Onyx back to work (Churchill Downs)
Verrazano arrives at Churchill [video] (Courier Journal)
Verrazano will be favorite (Courier Journal)
Derby points accomplish mission- as long as Illinois Derby winner doesn’t take Preakness (Courier Journal Blog)
Several trainers earn multiple shots at Derby title (Lexington Herald Leader)
Rydullic to return to turf (In The Money)
Orb- PAY- 4F- 48:00- B- 2/8
Mylute- CD- 6F- 1.12:20- B- 1/6
Black Onyx- CD- 5F- 1.00:60- 3/26
Will Take Charge- OP- 1M- 1.40:80- B- 1/1
A Derby list (Pull The Pocket)
Derby Watch List (Star-Ledger)