Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: It was a bad day to be the favorite

January 06, 2019 05:23pm

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.

Earlier this week, the first Derby Daily report identified seven horses that already looked talented enough to contend in this year's race.

On Saturday, two of them ran. Both lost. Such is the nature of this sport, and of newly turned 3-year-olds.

But is it too soon to give up on Coliseum and Code of Honor?

Plans called for the gates to open and the former to go to the front. Instead, Coliseum was last of seven going in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Despite jockey Joe Talamo’s best efforts, the flashy gray never got comfortable.

The second choice, Gunmetal Gray, flew late to win it.

Code of Honor was stymied by a stumble of his own back in October's Champagne Stakes (G1). He didn’t have trouble leaving the gate in Saturday’s $100,000 Mucho Macho Man but still got away slow. Then, said jockey 
John Velazquez, "
He was going easy, but at the quarter-pole he took a deep breath and let the bridle go."

The second choice, Mihos, also ran late to win it.

At first glance, Coliseum offers the far better excuse. He's probably a need-the-lead — or at least avoid-the-kickback — type of runner. The talent, though, is there.

Code of Honor, meanwhile, hadn’t raced in three months, dealing with setbacks along the way. But he lost in a manner that leaves a little less hope moving forward he can live up to original hopes by May.

That could mean value for horseplayers next time these two run. These are still early days yet on the Derby trail.

Eclipse finalists

Game Winner and Improbable were both common sense finalists announced Saturday for the 2-year-old Eclipse Award. The former is almost sure to win it.

What about the third spot? It could have gone a number of different ways, and the voters honed in on Knicks Go, winner of the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But he also missed the board in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2).

The Kentucky Jockey Club winner, Signalman, appeared on my ballot. His worst finish in five starts is a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and that day he had to run from the outside post position. To win next out at Churchill Downs, it took a brave move splitting horses in the stretch.

Did I make the right call?

The works

Bankit — The Springboard Mile runner-up has worked twice now since December’s race, on Saturday morning drilling a bullet 5/8 of a mile in 1:01 at Oaklawn Park. The Arkansas track’s Derby prep series begins with the Jan. 25 Smarty Jones Stakes.

Big Scott Daddy — A rare West Coast maiden winner not trained by Bob Baffert, this Scat Daddy colt is already back on the work tab with a half mile in 50 seconds Saturday. Mike Smith rode for Mike Puype, drawing attention to him on Dec. 26. One to watch moving forward.

Instagrand — Continuing a slow gear up to his 3-year-old debut, the unbeaten Jerry Hollendorfer trainee put in another three-furlong drill Saturday in 37.20 seconds. The breezed ranked 10th-fastest of 22 at the distance.

Long Range Toddy — The narrow Springboard Mile winner worked the same time as stablemate Bankit, also at Oaklawn. If both don’t go in the Smarty Jones, the Lecomte could be an option.

Tackett — The West Virginia-bred has won his last two at Fair Grounds, most recently beating winners on Dec. 22. A son of Limehouse, the Mike Stidham trainee put in his first drill toward the Lecomte on Saturday, clocking four furlongs in 48.20 seconds (8/157).

War of Will — The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf contender broke his maiden next out in an off-the-grass race at Churchill Downs. Mark Casse will try him in the Lecomte, too, with Saturday’s 5/8-mile breeze in 59.60 seconds (2/71) at Fair Grounds.

In case you missed it…

Friday’s Derby Daily Report included extra insights about Coliseum from Jimmy Bell, the U.S. president of Godolphin who explains the operation’s patience in finally winning on the first Saturday in May.


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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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