Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
On New Year’s Day, racing fans get their first glimpse of the
newly minted 3-year olds. Though still a relatively new race, the Gulfstream Park Derby is beginning to
gain a reputation for getting 3-year olds started on their way to the Kentucky
Derby. Though the inaugural running did not produce a Kentucky Derby starter,
the winner of the 2013 edition of the race, Itsmyluckyday, went on the run 15th in the Big Dance and
then bounced back to run a solid second in the Preakness Stakes. The 2014
edition of the race drew an interesting cast, but whether any of them are truly
Kentucky Derby material remains to be seen.
The winner of two of three starts, Wildcat Red is the younger brother of the
millionaire Japan runner Racing Machine.
Both of Wildcat Red’s wins have come over the Gulfstream main track, and he in
fact crossed the wire first in all three starts but was disqualified for
interference in the Juvenile Sprint Stakes. He has yet to race beyond 6 ½ furlongs.
He has great early speed, but whether or not he can sustain that for a mile is
the question here.
Gone as Wind—(12-1)
By Smart Strike and out of the Pulpit mare Super Natascha, Gone as Wind sports
an intriguing record. He broke his maiden at first asking, and the runner-up,
Early Entry, went on to win next out and is stakes placed. In his second start,
Gone as Wind finished third behind the highly regarded Coup de Grace. His breeding cross, Mr. Prospector and his sons/grandsons
over Pulpit, has not been particularly useful, but Gone as Wind’s performances
to date are worth taking note of.
This 2-year old son of Northern Afleet has pretty much tried it all in terms of
surfaces in his short career, and the only surface he found to his liking was a
sloppy one. Aside from that, his best finishes have come on the lawn, which is
hardly surprising as his damsire is none other than Giant’s Causeway. Unless the track comes up sloppy again, this is
one I would rather pass on.
A stakes winner, Aarons Orient had his coming out party this summer at
Saratoga. The runner-up that day, Pure Sensation, went on to win next out and
then finish second and third in two listed stakes. In Aarons Orient’s most
recent start, he had problems early, stumbling at the start and bumping with a
rival. He tried to recover himself but just could not overcome the poor start.
As Pletcher’s representative in what is becoming known as a stepping stone to
Derby point races, you have to give some consideration to the colt, especially
if you draw a line through his last start.
Trained by William Kaplan, East Hall has two wins from four starts at
Gulfstream Park, albeit one by disqualification of the winner. The 2-year old
gelding has so far done well at the GP Derby distance of one mile, but I think
he may be overmatched here.
Pablo Del Monte—(6-1)
By Giant’s Causeway, the GP Derby will be Pablo Del Monte’s dirt debut. In
three career starts, the chestnut colt is 2-for-2 over Keeneland’s synthetic
surface. His third career start, the G3 Generous Stakes on turf, resulted in a
close 5th place finish as the even money favorite. One Hot Wish, the
colt’s dam, was a synthetics and turf runner, and Pablo Del Monte is her first
starter. Breeding indicates a preference for synthetics and turf, but Pable Del
Monte’s most recent work was a 4 furlong move over the main track at Gulfstream
in 47.2 (7/30). He enters this race well regarded, but how he truly takes to
dirt remains to be seen. He will race with blinkers off for the GP Derby.
Best Plan Yet—(5-2)
Out of the super broodmare Bayou Plans,
Best Plan Yet counts multiple stakes winner Awesome Belle, multiple graded stakes winner on turf and dirt Bayous Lassie, and Grade 1 winner Midas Eyes among his siblings. Out of
Hear No Evil, Best Plan Yet has done nothing but boost his distaff family’s
reputation. He enters the GP Derby on a two stakes races win streak and has
another two runner-up efforts in stakes races on his résumé. The downside here is that
this will be his first start at a track other than Calder, and I have learned
to be wary of very successful Calder runners transferring to different tracks.
Trained by Nick Zito, Grand Arrival enters this spot off two dull efforts in
graded stakes company. He finished 8th, beaten 21 lengths, in the G1
Champagne, and 7th, beaten by 12 ½ lengths, in the G2 Nashua. After
facing some of the nation’s top 2-year olds, the step down in class may help,
but I am not convinced. Like Enthrone, the only surface this colt has won on
was a sloppy one.
General a Rod—(6-1)
One of the more lightly raced prospects in the field, General a Rod is also one
of the more interesting. In just two career starts, he has recorded a strong
win over Keeneland’s synthetic surface and a strong second in his dirt debut to
stakes winner Conquest Titan. He has
been working over the Gulfstream track for trainer Mike Maker, and though his
works don’t necessarily stand out on paper, they are solid works nonetheless.
Though not an all-star field by any means, it is still early
in the careers of these 9 colts and geldings. At this point in 2013, we had no
idea who Orb was, let alone that he
would go on to win the Kentucky Derby. The same can certainly be said about any
of these contenders.
Top Selections: Best Plan Yet, Wildcat
Red, Aarons Orient
Contenders: Pablo Del Monte, General a
Rod, Gone as Wind
Tosses: Enthrone, East Hall, Grand