Kentucky Derby 2018 Daily: Welcome Gold Town to the scene

February 15, 2018 04:05pm
Kentucky Derby 2018 Daily: Welcome Gold Town to the scene
Photo: Andrew Watkins/DRC

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Dailywhich 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.

It took Gold Town just one minute, 37 seconds and change Thursday to enter the 2018 Kentucky Derby conversation with a victory that put him on course to contend in the UAE Derby, a final prep that awards 100 points and a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate to the winner.

The Charlie Appleby-trained son of Street Cry romped in Meydan’s UAE 2000 Guineas, moving his record to 2-for-2 since a switch to dirt. A Godolphin charge, Gold Town would figure as one of the Kentucky Derby’s most-experienced runners if he makes it there with eight starts already to his name.

In terms of moving on to bigger races, Appleby told Michael Adolphson of Meydan’s media relations staff that, “At this stage, he’s ticked those boxes to certainly do that. Up in class doesn’t concern me at all, and he’s improved again moving up from seven (furlongs) to a mile like I thought he would. He galloped out well past the wire.”

Granted, the 2000 Guineas ran around a one-turn mile. But Gold Town topped a field of 15 runners after urged to the lead, then stretched out the margin late.

The UAE Derby could possibly include Mendelssohn, the Aidan O’Brien-trained winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Among American runners nominated were Enticed, Marconi and a slew of prospects trained by Steve Asmussen.

They’d all have to compete with Gold Town, who before Thursday’s seven-length win wasn’t on the board at the Wynn Las Vegas or other Kentucky Derby future books. That will change soon. Top jockey William Buick told Appleby he “hasn’t had a horse move on the (dirt) surface as well as he does.”

“He has a great racing brain,” Appleby added. “He brings plenty of experience to the table and he’s well-adapted. It was a dogfight early on, but once he was there in the lead, I was pretty confident. I think he’s coming into himself.”

The UAE Derby runs March 31 on the Dubai World Cup undercard.

Southwest split uncertain

That trainer Bob Baffert had a second runner listed as probable this week to run in Monday’s Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park was not much of a surprise. That the second horse joining Mourinho would be Zulfikhar? Well, that was somewhat unexpected.

Originally considered for last weekend’s Grade 2 San Vicente around one turn, the once-raced Bodemeister colt could announce himself as a Derby prospect over the same track his sire did as the 2012 Arkansas Derby winner. But Baffert seemed hesitant about entering Zulfikhar in the Southwest if it goes as a single division.

“He had one start, and then we had to back off of him,” Baffert said. “He’s coming back, but the reason he was going over there is they were supposed to split that race. But I’m hearing different things now.”

Oaklawn’s racing office as of Wednesday considered 11 horses probable for the Southwest. For a split, 18-20 are likely needed. Both divisions of the race would carry a $500,000 purse and offer full Derby qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

Campaigned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Zulfikhar won his only start going five furlongs July 7 at Los Alamitos. He has worked back consistently since November.

“He’s a nice horse, but he’s stretching out off the long, long layoff," Baffert said. "We’re just trying to get these horses going. Allowance races don’t fill in California. It’s either (the Southwest) or you have to wait and run against Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe.”

In terms of next starts for his top Derby prospects, Solomini and McKinzie, Baffert added that he “won’t know until about a week out” from a race when and where he’ll enter them.

Current Southwest probables:


El Camino Real Derby field set

Just two of nine entrants in Saturday’s $100,000 El Camino Real Derby were nominated to the Triple Crown series. So, we’ll focus on California Derby winner Choo Choo and Calexman in one of just two domestic preps run on a synthetic surface.

HRN’s Matt Shifman offers full-field El Camino Real Derby analysis to go with early odds.

Magnum Moon shows progress

Magnum Moon, from the red-hot Todd Pletcher barn, moved his record to 2-for-2 and did so around two turns Thursday in Tampa Bay Downs' seventh race. His final time for the 1 mile and 40 yards -- 1:39.18 -- was just .11 off the track record. Off at 1-9, the son of Malibu Moon sat patiently off the pace, breezed by the leaders with a four-wide move at the top of the stretch and won under a hand ride.

It was, simply, everything you'd want to see from a horse looking to hit the Derby trail next time out. 
Vouch, who scratched out of the Sam F. Davis to run in this spot, was beaten for second in a photo by Hyndford, who set the early fractions. They were two lengths back of Magnum Moon.

Derby links

• HRN’s Laura Pugh posted a different sort of Kentucky Derby list on Thursday, one that predicts whether those in the top 20 of the official points standings will remain there through the next round of preps. It’s a refreshing look at who’s actually possible to make the race when we spend so much time discussing horses that could earn points in the future.

• Pedigree expert Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis, who covers races nationally for HRN, continued their “Head to Head” handicapping series with analysis of Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes. Get to the bottom of the article for their selections.

• The Daily Racing Form caught up with trainer Mike Pender, who says Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis winner Lombo will remain at Santa Anita for the San Felipe Stakes set for March 10. With that one a front-runner, he could find himself on the early lead with Bolt d’Oro, who’s using the race as a 3-year-old debut.

In case you missed it…

Wednesday’s Derby Daily report featured an interview with Matt Dinerman, race caller and analyst for Golden Gate Fields, with a breakdown of the top El Camino Real Derby contenders.

• Catch up with all the latest Derby news by reading past editions of HRN’s Derby Daily report.


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