The long and winding road to Kentucky Derby 2016 made a final stop at Oaklawn Park on April 16 and Creator roared home from off the pace to capture the Arkansas Derby.
Now that all of the points races are complete, it is time to focus on final workouts and the post position draw. The horses are beginning to gather under the Twin Spires and the excitement is starting to build.
Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)
G1 Arkansas Derby (4-16-16, 96 BSF): Creator’s late rally fell short in the G2 Rebel but the extra distance helped propel him to victory in the Arkansas Derby. He is clearly on the upswing for Steve Asmussen and I like it when closers rally through traffic, something fellow Derby hopeful Mo Tom has not been able to do. Suddenbreakingnews seemed to be struggling but kept plugging away, found his best stride in the lane, and was up for the place in a solid effort. Whitmore hit the board in the Southwest and Rebel and grabbed show dough on Saturday. To give us a gauge on the LA Derby, the show finisher in that heat, Dazzling Gem, finished an even 4th (beaten 4.75 lengths) in this affair. As for post time favorite Cupid, the wheels fell off the cart in the Arkansas Derby. His race was basically over after a less than ideal break. Garcia tried to push him forward but he was squeezed a bit and was chasing fast fractions before fading badly and crossing the line in 10th place. He surprisingly set the pace in the Rebel and they seemed intent on using the same tactics again but to no avail this time. He exited the Oaklawn showcase with an entrapped epiglottis and will miss the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness is still an option for the Baffert trainee. The pace fell apart in this race, something that has happened quite a bit on the Derby trail recently.
Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders
(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)
Latest Workout: 4f bullet in :46.80 (1/27) at Churchill Downs on April 20.
Comments: I thought he was the best 3-year-old in the country prior to the G1 Florida Derby and I am sticking to my guns for several reasons. In the G1 Florida Derby, he made a mild bid before ending up a well beaten 4th but that does not begin to tell the story. He never looked happy, raced wide from an outer post, was not handling the wet surface, and had to be coaxed to keep up instead of cruising along like he usually does. I will toss-out his final Derby prep and look for him to run a much better race on the first Saturday in May. He shipped to Churchill Downs April 17, uncorked a strong four furlong bullet April 20, and galloped out with interest. He maintains his #1 ranking, a spot he has occupied since I first started my 2016 Derby contender list more than six months ago.
Derby Points (80)
(2) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.60 (39/55) at Santa Anita on April 21.
Comments: Exaggerator really turned the tables on him in the SA Derby but the first Saturday in May is the big prize. He has never finished out of the Exacta, handles any footing, and was 2nd in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall. The one-paced, grinding type lacks explosiveness and that is a major concern but he is a gem of consistency and might be the most reliable of the Derby contenders. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied for more than five months.
Derby Points (84)
(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry)
Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:02.60 (22/28) at Keeneland on April 15.
Comments: With Mohaymen swimming upstream, the undefeated, two-year-old champion had a very easy time of it on the front end against severely overmatched pace rivals in the G1 Florida Derby. I never liked his one sprint/one route path to the Kentucky Derby and he will take more money than he should on the first Saturday in May. Many question his ability to get ten furlongs based on his pedigree and that might be the case but I just don’t think he is fast enough around two turns to win the Derby. His best career number was earned in the G2 San Vicente at seven furlongs earlier this year and his Florida Derby speed figure was nothing special. He shipped to Keeneland to begin Derby preparations April 3 and is scheduled to work next on April 23.
Derby Points (130)
(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication)
Trainer (Keith Desormeaux) – Owner (Big Chief Racing, LLC)
Comments: Both of his two turn wins (Delta Jackpot, SA Derby) were accomplished on wet tracks and he totally freaked at Santa Anita last time. He has turned into a strong late runner, has plenty of seasoning, and I love the way trainer Keith Desormeaux has handled him this year in regards to distance progression (7f San Vicente, 8.5f San Felipe, 9f SA Derby). Kent Desormeaux was more patient with him in the SA Derby and his well-timed ride resulted in a strong finish in his final Derby prep. A wet track at Churchill Downs would make him the one to beat but I am not sure what he will do on dry land. He stays put at #4.
Derby Points (126)
(5) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer)
Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.94 (1/2) at Palm Beach Downs on April 16.
Comments: He was impressive in his final Derby prep (Tampa Bay Derby) and was flattered when a pair of his vanquished foes from that race (Outwork, Brody’s Cause) returned to win the G1 Wood Memorial and G1 Blue Grass. I like his positional speed and improving form but he still needs to prove he can run a big race away from Tampa Bay Downs. His connections were worried about a bounce so they decided to skip his final prep and train up to the Derby. He won the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, returned to the work tab April 2, has never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth, and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start in two months. He has positives and negatives like many top Derby contenders this year.
Derby Points (51)
(6) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)
Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)
Comments: The impressive Southwest winner could not overcome a troubled trip from the outside post in the Rebel Stakes but bounced back with a much better performance in the Arkansas Derby. It looked like he was going nowhere in his final Derby prep but eventually started advancing in the middle of the track and got up for the place to secure a spot on the first Saturday in May. He has plenty of stamina and is one of several quality late runners but has shown some running style versatility in the past.
Derby Points (50)
(7) CREATOR (Tapit – Morena, by Privately Held)
Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (WinStar Farm)
Comments: He broke his maiden in his sixth career start Feb 27, rallied for the show in the G2 Rebel Stakes March 19, and went last-to-first while working his way through traffic to capture his first graded stakes race in the G1 Arkansas Derby April 16. He is getting good in a hurry, has stamina influences throughout his pedigree, and could be heard from late on May 7.
Derby Points (110)
(8) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)
Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)
Comments: The G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner proved once again that Keeneland is his favorite venue after a solid off the pace effort in the G1 Blue Grass. The G1 BC Juvenile show finisher threw in a clunker in his G2 Tampa Bay Derby return on March 12 but some horses do not handle the Tampa Bay surface and he bounced back as expected on April 9. He broke his maiden at Churchill so a return to Kentucky was definitely what the doctor ordered. The Blue Grass pace fell apart and the number did not come back strong. He has been part of my Derby list all along so I have obviously liked him for quite some time.
Derby Points (114)
(9) GUN RUNNER (Candy Ride – Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway)
Trainer (Steve Asmussen) – Owner (Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimney Farms)
Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00 (1/16) at Churchill Downs on April 18.
Comments: He looked good in a pair ground saving, stalk and pounce wins this year in the G2 Risen Star and G2 Louisiana Derby. He did not run fast in either race but jockey Florent Geroux put him in the right spot and gave him every chance to succeed both times. His tactical speed and ability to get the jump on his opponents are big assets when it comes to a race like the Kentucky Derby but he will need to run quite a bit faster to be considered a serious threat to wear the blanket of roses.
Derby Points (151)
(10) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)
Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)
Comments: The sharp wire-to-wire San Felipe winner did not show the same brilliance in the SA Derby. In the latter race, he was sent to the lead and faded badly in the mud. He whipped Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in the San Felipe but finished more than thirteen lengths behind that latter this time. What a difference four weeks and a longer distance can make on the Derby trail. Prior to the SA Derby, his biggest obstacle was his ability to relax and finish. Exaggerator clearly passed his test but not this colt. He is fast and talented but looks like a one-dimensional speed horse with stamina issues. He is better than his last and would appreciate a fast, speed favoring track but ten furlongs looks like a daunting trip.
Derby Points (60)
(11) MO TOM (Uncle Mo – Caroni, by Rubiano)
Trainer (Tom Amoss) – Owner (G M B Racing)
Latest Workout: 4f in :47 (2/27) at Churchill Downs on April 20.
Comments: Everything went right to kick off his sophomore campaign in the G2 LeComte but he has become the poster child for bad racing luck ever since. He was a troubled 3rd in the Risen Star and an even more unlucky 4th in the LA Derby. Closers frequently find trouble but a pair of questionable rides by jockey Corey Lanerie did not help matters. He is very close in ability to Gun Runner but the latter has tactical speed and some quickness to help him avoid traffic woes. He has not run fast yet and the main reason he keeps getting into trouble is because he is not nimble enough to avoid it. He is due for some good luck but finding clear sailing on the first Saturday in May will not be easy.
Derby Points (32)
THE NEXT NINE +1: (12) Outwork, (13) My Man Sam, (14) Whitmore, (15) Shagaf, (16) Tom’s Ready, (17) Lani, (18) Majesto, (19) Oscar Nominated, (20) Trojan Nation, (21) Fellowship