Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Alex Evers
Kentucky – The Men’s NCAA Basketball team is on fire. The
Blue Grass Stakes is coming up on Saturday and the 2014 Kentucky Derby is right around the corner. Other than the obvious there’s something else
about the Bluegrass State that got my attention in the Wood Memorial.
Wicked Strong – Coming into the G1 Wood Memorial there was a
lot of talk about the recent success and duels between the most well known NY
breds. While Samraat will likely start in the Kentucky Derby, his win
streak at the Big A came to end. Wicked Strong was back at Aqueduct for the
first time since he finished 3rd behind Honor Code and Cairo Prince
in the G3 Remsen. Although he is not as regular at Aqueduct compared to the NY Breds he was ready over the weekend. And why not, he was bred in the state that's trending right now.
That’s what leads to me another discovery; KY breds own the Kentucky Derby. I figured as much but the stats were surprising. In last 40 years only 10 Champions were bred outside of Kentucky. In the last
20 years it’s only happened 3 times.
||Smarty Jones (PA)
||Funny Cide (NY)
||Sunny’s Halo (ON)
||Silver Charm (FL)
||Pleasant Colony (VA)
||Sea Hero (VA)
||Lil E Tee (PA)
||Foolish Pleasure (FL)|
California Chrome – No doubt about it with this colt, his
performance in the G1 Santa Anita Derby was top notch. The way he eased to the
front of pack after getting squeezed out of the starting gate was impressive. The
way he jumped from a high cruising speed to another gear around the final turn
was something else. Much the best by 5 lengths but that stat is not an accurate depiction of the win. If you saw the race you should recall that it was hand ride by Victor Espinoza down the stretch and he began galloping him out before the
wire. By all accounts California Chrome is trending big time and will likely be
your Kentucky Derby favorite.
But, here is something interesting about California Chrome,
bred in CA. Can he shut down the KY breds in the Derby? It has been a long,
long time but is he the one that will become the first CA bred to win since
Decidedly in 1952 and only the fourth all time? (Swaps ’55, Morvich ’22).
Candy Boy - The biggest sigh of relief had to come from the
connections of Candy Boy. Prior to the Santa Anita Derby he only had 10 points
and thus was in a very similar situation to what we saw with Cairo Prince in the
Florida Derby; one big win in the early part of the season then switching to training in preparation for a major prep race.
So, fourth place or worse was not an option. Gary Stevens
had him settled nicely through the first turn in 3rd, a position he
would hold into the stretch. By then Hoppertunity had got by him on the inside and Candy Boy
was faced with the possibility of missing the top three. But, he rallied gamely
down the stretch to get by Dublin Up to finish 3rd. That effort was
awarded with 20 points. Add it to the 10 he scored with a win in the Robert B.
Lewis and his spot in the Kentucky Derby should be safe.
Now to the horses that are descending after the weekend. To be falling at
this stage of the trail means one of two things; you won’t qualify or, in my
opinion, you won’t win if do you start.
Toast of New York – According to Michael Buckley, owner of the UAE Derby
winner, the idea of shipping him across the Atlantic to race on
dirt is not very ideal. No decision has been made but it’s safe to assume that
Toast of New York is off the derby trail.
Social Inclusion – Points are precious and that is especially
true for any 3-yr-old that had 0 coming into the final leg of the Championship
Series. His 3rd place effort in the Wood Memorial put things in
perspective for this colt who grabbed our attention after he dominated Honor
Code in only his second career race last time out. For now, his derby
hopes have him on the outside looking in. 20 points secures the final spot but graded stakes earnings are the tie breaker.
Given that Social Inclusion has only raced in one is why he is listed behind
other horses with 20 points (Vinceremos, Harry’s Holiday, Commanding Curve) and
his currently ranked at #22.
Uncle Sigh – Right now Uncle Sigh is in with 24 points (Rank
#18). After a disappointing 5th place finish in the Wood Memorial
trainer Gary Contessa confirmed that he intends to enter him in the Kentucky
Derby with blinkers should he still have enough points. However, I’m listing him as descending
because even if 24 points does get him in I don’t think he has any shot at
winning. Uncle Sigh is the type of horse I recognize as good but not good enough to contend for the Kentucky Derby.
Kristo – After respectable finishes in the G3 Sham (2nd)
and G2 San Felipe (3rd) Kristo was considered a potential qualifier.
However, his lack luster performance in the Wood ended his chances of making it
to the Kentucky Derby. 14 points will not be enough so you can rule Kristo out
or off the derby trail.