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Kentucky Derby Daily

Kentucky Derby 2018: Lone Sailor a sentimental favorite

Kentucky Derby 2018: Lone Sailor a sentimental favorite
Photo: Coady Photography

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.

Winning the Louisiana Derby would be special for trainer Tom Amoss regardless of the circumstances. But after what Lone Sailor’s connections went through the last week, he’s hoping especially for a win this Saturday in the Grade 2, $1 million race.

Lone Sailor runs in the powder blue and white colors of G M B Racing, stable name for Gayle Marie Benson, the wife of the late New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson. He died just last Thursday at age 90.

So while the horse is a 20-1 longshot in the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep, he’ll be a sentimental favorite walking to the gate at Fair Grounds.

“Even if patrons were to bet on a different horse," Amoss said, "I think, to a person, they’d like to see him perform well.”

Tom Benson’s funeral is set for Friday in New Orleans, where Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Pelicans standout Anthony Davis will be among his pallbearers. Also in the crew is Greg Bensel, the Saints’ vice president of communications who serves as racing manager of sorts for G M B.

The Bensons qualified Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready for the 2016 Kentucky Derby with their first crop of horses. Now, in Lone Sailor, they have a $120,000 purchase who’s Grade 1 placed and ran fifth in what’s proven to be a key race on the Derby trail, Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Making his 3-year-old debut, the son of Majestic Warrior put in his worst performance to date in January’s Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes when pushed to be involved in the early going.

That, Amoss admitted, was “a failed experiment.”

But, “This is a horse that has shown tremendous talent in the mornings. I just didn’t feel like we were getting it in the afternoon.”

Lone Sailor returned to run second Feb. 19 in allowance optional claiming company at Fair Grounds, able to use his favorite style again: lay back and make a late run.

Look closely at that race, Amoss noted, and you’ll notice “none of the horses really changed positions or made up much ground except for him, so it’s a more attractive race than to say, ‘He was second in an allowance race.’”

Lone Sailor drew post No. 8 in a Louisiana Derby field of 10 that includes the front-running Grade 2 Risen Star finishers Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair. With the race paying out Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale, a win or runner-up finish would bring G M B back to Churchill Downs, with some much-needed good vibes in New Orleans along the way.

“We’re going to get the right setup on Saturday,” Amoss said, “and that makes him an attractive horse at a price — a longshot at a real chance.”

Sunland Derby field set

Sunland Park received 18 entries for Sunday’s Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby, which offers connections a shot at Derby points to the Top 4 on a 50-20-10-5 basis and typically means dodging the big horses, too.

Only 12 could make the gate, and there were no also-eligible horses named at the draw.

That’s a bit of a bad break for Bob Baffert-trained Restoring Hope, the biggest name left out of the race, with priority given first to horses with graded stakes earnings, and then overall earnings. The Gary and Mary West homebred broke his maiden impressively in January, and this was to be his first start since. Straight to the Santa Anita Derby now?

Hyndford, who’s also entered in the Louisiana Derby, also may have shipped for trainer Todd Pletcher. He’s up against it at Fair Grounds and would have found an easier spot in New Mexico. Pletcher is still represented in the Sunland Derby by Prince Lucky, who transferred from the Larry Jones barn starting with this race.

 Get HRN's full-field Sunland Derby analysis.


More Rebel Stakes reflection

Horse Racing Nation’s Super Screener handicapping system, authored by Mike Shutty, rated the Rebel Stakes won by Magnum Moon as a respectable A- prep.

He laid out energy in a very balanced way indicating that added distance in his next start will not be a problem,” Shutty said of Magnum Moon, Pletcher’s unbeaten charge. “This lightly raced colt is doing everything right and like Justify, just has a great mental maturity for a 3 year-old.  This is a very legit Kentucky Derby contender despite having not run a race in 2017.”

Runner-up Solomini’s result sparked some debate this week, given he didn’t find the front early and was guided into too tight of a spot leaving the turn. The horse moved out in the stretch and held on for second.

“Solomini got what he needed having not raced in over 100 days,” Shutty said. “This should set him up well for his final prep race in a month, a race in which just a a solid second or third place will do. Keep in mind, when it comes to the Kentucky Derby’s 1 1/4-mile distance, this is the kind of horse that is still coming on at the end. He lays out energy very evenly and can run all day long, but he cannot have his momentum broken, as he is not quick-footed. But that is his only fault.

“Otherwise, he’s basically a big freight train that has no stop, and he’ll relish the longer distances of the Triple Crown races.”

Derby links

 Ten horses, including All Out Blitz and multiple stakes winner Flameaway, were on Wednesday announced as late nominations to the Triple Crown series. Connections paid $6,000 recently, as opposed to $600 by the early deadline in January.

 With so much conversation about Justify, Magnum Moon and the so-called curse of Apollo, we looked into just what kind of horse the 1882 Kentucky Derby winner was — plus how he managed to overcome having not raced at age 2.

 This week’s edition of the HorseCenter video show, hosted by HRN’s Brian Zipse and Matt Shifman, includes both a review of the Rebel Stakes and some Louisiana Derby preview. Give it a watch before you finish your handicapping for Saturday.

In case you missed it…

Get the scoop with recent editions of the Derby Daily Report!

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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, 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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