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The Road to the Kentucky Derby Begins

The first case of Kentucky Derby fever sweeps the nation tomorrow with two major prep races on the West Coast, including the Grade II $250,000 Robert B. Lewis at a mile and an eighth at Santa Anita.

 

But, will anything really be decided after tomorrow’s races? Not likely.

 

Steve Asmussen's Tapizar (ranked #4 on Horse Racing Nation’s 2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders list), is listed as the prohibitive 4-to-5 favorite in the Lewis, which means that he should win.

 

If he does, then he was supposed to.

 

If he doesn’t, it’s unlikely whoever beats him automatically jumps into Derby contention. That’s because only one other horse in the race is currently a stakes winner, and that’s Thirtyfirstsreet, who won going seven furlongs in an ungraded stake restricted to Cal-breds.

 

Another Asmussen runner with big potential is likely to break his maiden on the Lewis under card, as Ablergatti (#272) will be heavily favored against seven other runners, only one of which has racing experience. The son of Unbridled's Song may be the best looking horse on the grounds and his big frame indicates he'll get better as the races get longer.

 

The only other horse running tomorrow with worthy credentials to this point is Comma to the Top (#11), who has won five in a row including the Grade I Cash Call Futurity.

 

However, his connections have opted to run him in the Grade III $200,000 El Camino Real Derby over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields. The son of Bwana Charlie has yet to set foot on a dirt surface, so even if he wins as a heavy favorite does that really prove he’s capable of making it to the Derby?

 

I thought the installation of dirt at Santa Anita was supposed to pave the road to the Derby for Southern California horses?

 

Next Sunday’s Grade II San Vicente $150,000 going seven furlongs will mark the return of Jaycito (#9) and potentially Premier Pegasus (#7).

 

Watch video below of Jaycito looking like a good thing on Friday morning at Santa Anita. Now in Bob Baffert’s barn, the winner of last year’s Grade I Norfolk may turn out to be the top contender coming from this circuit when it’s all said and done.

 

Premier Pegasus, a.k.a Pre Peg, is a perfect 3-for-3 for Myung Kwon Cho, but hasn’t been seen since winning the Grade III Hollywood Prevue going seven furlongs in November.

 

He does show a pair of works on January 28 and February 4, but missed what appears to have been a scheduled work today. Hopefully, he hasn’t suffered another set back and can fulfill on more of his promise than his brother, Street Hero, did.

 

After a 2008 season that saw him win the Norfolk and finish third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Street Hero never raced again.

 

Cho also starts Riveting Reason (#30) in tomorrow’s Lewis, but the son of Fusaichi Pegasus has only a maiden win to his credit. He did run third in both the Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk, but finished second in a first-level allowance against just two other rivals in his last.

 

Enjoy the races this weekend, but don’t expect many answers. After all, we’re still two and a half months from the first Saturday in May.

 

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @mdoche for much more!

 

To view my horse racing channel on YouTube click here!

 

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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.