Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: California crew leads ‘wide-open’ race

April 14, 2019 04:52pm

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.

With a California Horse Racing Board meeting scheduled for Thursday, the debate over safety issues at Santa Anita Park isn’t over. And who knows — maybe it never will be.

But as each of Omaha Beach, Improbable, Game Winner and Roadster head off to the 2019 Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert says Santa Anita horsemen can rest their case.

“Here’s what I’m proud about,” Baffert said Sunday. “At Santa Anita, we’ve gotten all this bad publicity, and these horses have been training on this surface, and look at them.

“They’re going into the Derby as the top four favorites, so I don’t want to hear any more about how bad it is in California.”


Baffert called this a “wide-open” race as he attempts to win a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby. Certainly, the above foursome are the horses to beat.

Omaha Beach has won three straight races, making two trips out of town already to take both the Rebel (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). He’s trained by Richard Mandella, who will end a 15-year absence from the Kentucky Derby.

“This horse is a fighter and has shown a new dimension,” Mandella said. “He just gets better and better,

That son of War Front could be the favorite. Or, morning line maker Mike Battaglia told the Courier-Journal on Sunday, that nod could go to Roadster. Battaglia believes public opinion will sway with whichever horse jockey Mike Smith elects to remain aboard.

“It’s a lovely decision to have,” Smith said. “We’re going to go back and see how everyone comes back and go from there. Evaluate the situation. Then my agent will make the decision. That’s why I pay him.”

Game Winner could vie for top billing as well on the first Saturday in May if bettors forgive a pair of narrow losses, his only career defeats, to open his 3-year-old season. Keep in mind: Baffert has figured since November he’d have this one in the Kentucky Derby. Patient handling followed.


Improbable isn’t likely to surpass those runners in the wagering but should still garner plenty of support. It appears he’s the best available mount after the Daily Racing Form’s David Grening reported Sunday that Jose Ortiz will return to Wood Memorial (G2) winner Tacitus in the Derby.

“He was fresh, because I’ve just been running him into shape,” Baffert said of Improbable. “I haven’t really tightened the screws. I wanted the races to do that, and he got beat by a very good horse.”

California-based colts have won four of six Derbys run in the points era, with this bunch looking to improve on that mark.

Derby links

 With the final preps over, HRN’s Bryan Brinkmeyer writes on who’s in, out and on the Kentucky Derby points bubble.

 Two of those bubble horses, Anothertwistafate and Sueno, are headed to Churchill Downs with a wait-and-see approach.

 HRN blogger Casey Laughter assembled her Top 10 list of Kentucky Derby contenders with the preps done, and it includes a few likely longshots.

In case you missed it…

Saturday’s Derby Daily report featured comments from trainer George Weaver on the unconventional stride of his Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner, Vekoma.


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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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