Kentucky Derby 2018
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Kentucky Derby Daily

Kentucky Derby 2018 Daily: Advantage, California horses?

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 5 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space. We've got 114 days to go!

By Jonathan Lintner

As the East Coast and Midwest thaw out from a week-long deep freeze, it’s times like these — when even Florida wasn’t immune to a significant drop in temperature — that could give the California contingent an advantage heading into the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

“I can’t believe our weather here,” trainer Bob Baffert said recently. “It doesn’t feel like winter yet.”

That statement made this Louisville-based writer a bit jealous. Imagine how horsemen in New York, Maryland and Arkansas, each locale hampered by frozen tracks this month, must feel.

It’s tough enough to get a top 3-year-old to the Derby healthy. At Baffert’s Santa Anita base, the weather is one less variable to consider when putting a horse on the Derby trail.

“Except for last year — we had a lot of rain,” he said. “This year it’s really warm. That’s one thing with Southern California — we don’t deal with a lot of weather. We can map out a training schedule.”

The most adversity faced by California horsemen in the New Year has been some unexpected showers this week. If three days away from the track due to a pulled muscle was enough to push back early Derby favorite Bolt d’Oro’s planned seasonal debut, a week or so away from the track could set back those living through a cold winter elsewhere.

"We still entered but the training hasn't been ideal," said trainer John Servis, who conditions Jerome Stakes favorite Firenze Fire. "He's been doing OK. The weather on Saturday shouldn't really have an impact on him.”

Against other New York horses, yes. Later on the trail, we’ll see if the effects linger.

Resources for the weekend preps

 Jerome Stakes (3:50 p.m. Saturday) — Free PPs | Analysis | Picks

 Lecomte Stakes (6:03 p.m. Saturday) — Free PPs | Analysis | Handicapping

 Smarty Jones Stakes (5:42 p.m. Monday) — Free PPs | Analysis

Other races of interest on the Derby trail Saturday come at Oaklawn Park (split first-level allowance/optional claimers in Races 5 and 7) along with Race 3 at Santa Anita Park featuring the return of Nero, a $950,000 son of Pioneerof the Nile from trainer Bob Baffert’s barn.

Nero’s most-recent drill came in company with $400,000 purchase Show Time Rocket, who’s unraced. Nero was second on Aug. 27 in his only other start.

Good Magic has a starting point

In its initial ranking of Derby contenders, The Thoroughbred Daily News reported per owner Bob Edwards that Good Magic will point to the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes set for March 3 at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Chad Brown has said the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner will run twice before the first Saturday and May, and he’s unlikely to do so twice at Gulfstream.

Stock up/down

HRN’s Derby contenders list saw significant change following the allowance race we covered Thursday at Gulfstream, where well-regarded Noble Indy topped Mississippi — but both horses showed they deserve a shot at the Derby trail.

Meanwhile, the horses who we haven’t seen lately are the ones falling down the rankings. But that could change quickly.

The Works

Avery Island / Enticed — One Kiaran McLaughlin trainee will go to the Grade 3 Withers in New York, while the other will run in the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. Those decisions are pending ahead of the Feb. 3 races. Avery Island breezed five furlongs in 1:01 and Enticed went a half mile in 49.20 seconds Friday at Palm Meadows in Florida.

Catholic Boy — The Grade 2 Remsen winner, considered a leading Derby contender, returned to the work tab for the first time since the Dec. 2 race, going four furlongs in 49.20 seconds at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla. Trainer Jonathan Thomas hasn’t named a definite target race.

Take the One O One — This Brian Koriner trainee was third to Bolt d’Oro last out in the Grade 1 FrontRunner at Santa Anita, earning him Derby qualifying points. He’s a maiden winner back on the work tab going three furlongs in 37.40 seconds (10/22) at Santa Anita.

Vouch — Third behind Catholic Boy in the Remsen, the Arnaud Delacour-trained son of Yes It’s True is also in Ocala at Clasic Mile. He worked on Dec. 17 following the Remsen and on Friday returned to the tab with an easy half mile in 52 seconds.

In case you missed it…

Thursday’s Daily Derby report included an update on Bolt d’Oro’s work schedule to open the year with the early favorite back to galloping toward his return to the races.


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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 5, 2018, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps, all in once place.

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