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HRN Original Blog:
SoCal_Scoop

2011 Kentucky Derby – West Coast Contention Runs Shallow

And then there were just four.


With confirmation today that both The Factor and J P’s Gusto won’t run, only four horses that have been based on the West Coast at some point in their career are left as contenders for the 20 spots available in the starting gate at Churchill Downs for this year’s $2 million Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I).


The pair of defections benefits the front-running style of Comma to the Top (ranked No. 40 on Horse Racing Nation’s 2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders list), who breezed five furlongs in 1:02.4 at Hollywood Park yesterday under the watchful eye of trainer Peter Miller. Prior to the Santa Anita Derby, Miller had said that his Florida-bred son of Bwana Charlie was not on the road to Louisville, but a second place finish seems to have changed that. Should he make the trip, his six wins would top the Derby field.


However with the two pace pressers being out, another one gets in. Shackelford (No. 48), who lead all the way before getting run down in the final strides of the Florida Derby by Dialed In (No. 3), is off the earnings bubble and intends to run.


Midnight Interlude (No. 12) may have been the least likely contender coming from Bob Baffert’s barn five weeks ago, but after romping home by over eight lengths to break his maiden and winning the Santa Anita Derby, he’s the last hope for the silver-haired wizard. The Kentucky-bred son of War Chant’s six-furlong work at Churchill Downs was the only positive development for Baffert this morning amid tragedy (Gilded Gem broke down and had to be euthanized) and disappointment (The Factor).


The decision by Baffert and owner George Bolton to point The Factor elsewhere is noble considering the allure of running a horse in the Derby. They didn’t want to ruin the Kentucky-bred son of War Front, whom they have high expectations for moving forward in shorter races. From the beginning, there were serious questions about his ability to get two turns, which makes his win in the Rebel Stakes all the more impressive.


After emerging as a top two-year-old while under the care of David Hofmans in 2010, the mismanagement of J P’s Gusto since has been alarming. He was moved to the barn of Joseph Petalino at Oaklawn Park and after a second place finish in the Southwest Stakes, the Kentucky-bred son of Successful Appeal was a huge disappointment in both the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. The addition of blinkers for the Arkansas Derby and the subsequent suicide mission to steal the lead from The Factor were serious head scratchers, and following the race it was reported that Petalino didn’t know where the ownership group had sent the horse or what the plans were moving forward.


Another beneficiary of today’s news is Anthony’s Cross (No. 18), who was scheduled to ship to Louisville today for trainer Eoin Harty. After winning the Robert B. Lewis (watch my coverage below), the Pennsylvania-bred son of Indian Charlie disappointed in the Santa Anita Derby. Last year, he broke his maiden in his only try at Churchill Downs.


Twice the Appeal (No. 16) unexpectedly locked in his spot in the Derby for trainer Jeff Bonde with a win in the Sunland Derby. Also a Kentucky-bred son of Successful Appeal, he broke his maiden at Santa Anita in December against $30,000 claimers after failing in six maiden special weight races in both Northern and Southern California.


Previous casualties on the Kentucky Derby trail from Southern California include Premier Pegasus, who was sidelined by a knee injury after emerging as one of the top contenders after his nearly eight length win in the San Felipe, Jaycito, who has had foot ailments since finishing second in the San Felipe in his only start for Baffert, and Tapizar, who was the top early contender for Steve Asmussen after his win in the Sham Stakes, but suffered an injury after being rank on the lead in the Robert B. Lewis.


Not since Giacomo won as a 50-to-1 long shot in 2005 has a Derby winner come from West Coast roots.


Make sure to follow me on Twitter @mdoche for much more and visit www.pick4blog.com for daily selections and analysis!


To view my horse racing channel on YouTube click here!



 

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Older Comments about 2011 Kentucky Derby – West Coast Contention Runs Shallow...

I though JP's Gusto would step up in the Rebel, but his distance limitations caught up with him. It was a shame to see Pegasus injured.
It will be interesting to see if Rosario would ride Anthony's Cross over Brilliant Speed. Baffert and Espinoza team up with Midnight Interlude in War Emblem style. Very interesting since Espinoza doesn't really ride for Baffert anymore.
The west looked very good earlier this year. The Factor, PrePeg, and Jaycito. It's a shame they got taken out.
Looks like Anthony's Cross is now at #21 on the earning's list ... if he gets in, I can't throw him out.

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Meet Marc Doche

 

As a life long horse racing fan and handicapper, it’s an honor to be joining
Horseracingnation.com to share my knowledge and expertise on a daily basis to horse racing fans.
 
Since the early 1980’s when I visited Santa Anita with my grandfather as a young boy, the track has been in my blood. As soon as I turned 16, I was driving out to the track as much as possible, and with the advent of the self-service machines, was able to wager hassle free.
 
After graduating from UCLA in 2000, I began my career in sports media as a site manager for Athletesdirect.com and a couple of years later became the Media Relations Coordinator for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League.
 
In the past few years, I have moved my focus to covering the Sport of Kings and have worked in the early hours to better understand morning workouts and putting the pieces of the handicapping puzzle together.
 
I have also used my journalistic talents to produce video coverage of stakes races in Southern California, as well as interviews with jockeys, trainers, owners and more. I look forward to providing their in-depth insight to you.