Photo: Benoit Photo
This Saturday at Santa Anita, under the backdrop of the glorious San Gabriel Mountains, a talented field of nine Derby hopefuls will line up in the San Felipe (Gr. 2) looking to take that all important next step towards Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May. The field as whole is very interesting, and in my opinion, has a lot of potential. The highly touted Bayern was supposed to make his stakes debut after a pair of smashing wins to begin his racing career, but he will be an early scratch as Bob Baffert reported Thursday afternoon his colt had a bruised inside quarter. While I am disappointed we will not get to see Bayern run, another contender I am very interested in, California Chrome, jumps back into open company after a visually impressive win in the Cal Cup Derby last out. I am very excited about this race so let’s not delay. Here is my take on the pace scenario and my thoughts on the field…
Pace – I have a feeling the pace is going to be contested and possibly hot. Unstoppable Colby, Sawyer’s Hill, Kristo, and Midnight Hawk all like to race up close. I will be looking for a presser/stalker to swoop on by to take the cash.
Homerun Kitten – I am passing on this colt. I did not like his last start in the Robert B. Lewis at all and I don’t believe this race will be any easier. He would have to jump up huge to even contend.
Unstoppable Colby – This Oaklawn invader is up against it today in my opinion. The waters are getting a lot deeper, and in my eyes, he has no chance of getting that easy lead like he had in his last. I will pass today.
Rprettyboyfloyd – Although I do think this maiden has some talent, I can’t see him recording his first win here. This will be his first time around two turns and he would have to show a lot more to take this down against this field. I am willing to use him underneath, however. I could definitely see him rounding out a Tri or Super.
California Chrome – I am all in on this colt. He owns a win over the track, at today’s trip, and I thought he looked unreal in his last while crushing the field in the Cal Cup Derby. I know that was in state-bred ranks, but I have a feeling he has the talent to step back into open company just fine. I see him sitting a very nice stalking trip off the speeds, and hopefully running on by them down the lane. I consider him a very strong contender.
Sawyer’s Hill – This maiden will be trying two turns for the first time, up against it pace wise, and I just cannot endorse. I will pass.
Bayern – (Although he scratched, here is what I had to say about him anyway) There is a lot of hype surrounding this colt and for good reason. He is a perfect two for two and has crushed his opponents by a combined eighteen and a quarter lengths. Typically, when a horse records a Beyer of 90 or higher first time out, I like to bet against them in their next start. The logic behind this is that with an effort that demanding first time out, the horse will usually regress next out as an underlay. The angle has served me very well in the past. With that being said, when a horse comes back and runs an even bigger fig that he ran first out, he may be special and that is exactly what Bayern did in start number two. But, having said all that, I will take my chances and play against him today. I just feel while he is talented, the waters do get deeper here and he is up against it from a pace perspective. I will let him beat me today, and if he does so stylishly, I have no shame in saying I will be knocking people down to get on his bandwagon tomorrow.
Kristo – He is another one in here who I feel may be at a pace disadvantage. For that reason, I am going to limit his use to underneath in the exotics. In his last start in the Sham, I don’t think that we saw a clear indication of his ability. That was his first start against winners, and the winner Midnight Hawk had a positional advantage on him and he really didn’t stand a chance. He could turn out to be any kind, but for now I am against him.
Schoolofhardrocks – At first glance this colt looked a little bit interesting to me. Breaking your maiden at Del Mar, going a mile, while breaking from the rail is no easy task at first asking. Upon closer inspection though, he got a real nice set up that race. He has been working well enough for his return, but this is a lot to ask. I will limit his use to rounding out the Tri and Super.
Midnight Hawk – After watching the replay of the Robert B. Lewis a few more times, I think I may have been a bit too harsh on him. He was a bit wide into the first turn that day and endured a three wide journey throughout. With that said, I still don’t think he gets the job done here and I will limit his use to underneath in the exotics.
Recanted – Unless this colt looks superb in the paddock and post parade, I don’t think there is any way I use him. This will be his first start on dirt and I think it is too tall of a task for this colt. I will pass.
The Play – As I have already stated, I am all in on California Chrome. His last race was just so visually impressive, and I envision him getting a great trip today. If I was playing multi-race exotics I would feel pretty comfortable singling him.
Ladder #4 California Chrome – 5 to win – 10 to place – 20 to show
Exacta – 4 with 6-9
I was really disappointed to see the scratch of Bayern. I was going to take a shot against him, but I was curious to see what he was made of. With him out of this race, though, I think California Chrome absolutely cruises. His last two victories have really caught my eye and I am anticipating he will handle the rise back into open company just fine. I will be watching him closely as he is high on my list of Derby prospects.
Have a winning day at the windows, folks. I’ll be back sometime early next week to write the San Felipe follow up. Have a great weekend everyone and enjoy a fantastic weekend of racing.