Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Los Alamitos Derby

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Los Alamitos Derby
Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

The Los Alamitos Derby (G3) on Saturday is California’s next prep for the postponed 2020 Kentucky Derby.  Five 3-year-olds, two trained by Bob Baffert, will run 1 1/8 miles.

Ashley Tamulonis of Horse Racing Nation's Coast To Coast blog and I debated contenders and pretenders:

ASHLEY

LAURIE

1. COSMO

Maiden Cosmo will try the dirt for the first time, and it’s past time he does, being by Distorted Humor and out of a Grand Slam mare. He has been inconsistent on the lawn, managing to hit the board just two times in five starts. He could be a nice dirt runner, but this is hardly the place to be experimenting. Pass.

After a so-so career on the lawn, where he’s yet to finish in front, Cosmo experiments with dirt. One half sibling preferred dirt to turf and their dam Sky Glow won her maiden on dirt. Sky Glow’s full brother multiple graded winner Fire with Fire won the nine-furlong Bulldog Stakes on dirt. Cosmo has high knee action, but seems to get over the ground well during morning works. Cosmo recorded a pre-race 4 furlongs in a bullet 47.40 at Santa Anita without urging. How he’ll handle kickback is unknown.

 

2. GREAT POWER

Out of the Simon Callaghan barn, Great Power ran on debut and was then a distant third behind eventual grade one winner Charlatan in his second start. Regular jockey Flavien Prat opted for fellow starter Thousand Words instead of keeping the mount on Great Power, giving Drayden Van Dyke the opportunity to hop aboard for the first time. I don’t see a win in this colt’s future, but use underneath.

In his first start of the year, Great Power had the misfortune of meeting the Baffert powerhouse Charlatan and Rushie, who later finished third in the Santa Anita Derby. The Simon Callaghan didn’t disgrace himself; he just wasn’t at their level. A full brother to 2015 Woody Stephens (G2) winner March, who placed at nine furlongs, Great Power has the pedigree to improve with racing. The son of Blame breezed a pre-race five furlongs at Santa Anita in 59.80, the third-best of the day, without being asked. Like Ashley, I don’t see him winning, but a lower exotic placing is possible.

 

3. THOUSAND WORDS

Dual graded stakes winner Thousand Words will be the one to beat despite coming in off a dismal 11th place showing in Hot Springs in April. I’ll forgive him for that effort as he stumbled at the start and had to contend with a sloppy track. Baffert is taking the blinkers off while Flavien Prat hops back in the irons after skipping the trip east. Win contender.

I really liked Thousand Words at the beginning of the year. The Baffert trainee showed he wasn’t up to top competition when he finished fourth to stablemate Authentic in the San Felipe (G2). Like Ashley, I’m tossing his Oaklawn Stakes start. I don’t need to write a thousand words to know that he didn’t progress as hoped as a 3-year-old. Class-wise, Thousand Words should handle these if he runs back to previous form. He captured the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) last year over Anneau d'Or, so we know he likes the track. Win Contender.

4. UNCLE CHUCK

A son of Uncle Mo, Uncle Chuck won a debut, taking the field gate-to-wire. Half-brother Kentuckian was third in the 2015 edition of this race while half-brother Maclean’s Music sired 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing. With Luis Saez in the irons, Uncle Chuck will likely go out for the lead like he did in his only other start. If he gets an easy lead, he could be going … going …gone.

The well-bred Baffert babies just keep coming. How many does he have stashed in the stable? Uncle Chuck bested a short field of maidens by seven lengths. But who did he beat? The field included stablemate Big Mel, who was fifth in his debut, and Big Cheddar, who is still searching for victory after eight starts. Uncle Chuck is a half-brother to Kentuckian, a Grade 3-winning sprinter who was third as the favorite in the 2015 edition of the Los Alamitos Derby, and to Electric Forest, who won last year’s Doubledogdare (G3), and as Ashley noted, Maclean’s Music. Win Contender.

 

5. ANNEAU D'OR

So far Anneau d’Or has been a lot like Storm the Court; he was solid as a juvenile but has not taken that next step forward as a 3-year old. He ran a close second to Thousand Words on this track last year, and back class alone should get him a check. I would not play this colt on top but certainly include underneath to fill out the exotics.

The last time Anneau d'Or hit the board was at this track in the Futurity, finishing a short head behind Thousand Words. He has the pedigree to handle nine furlongs, but he hasn’t shown the physical/mental ability. Still hoping this colt will get a chance to prove what he can do on the lawn. Exotics, maybe.

 

Final Thoughts

Laurie: Bob Baffert’s charges have captured four of the last five editions of the Los Alamitos Derby. In the last 10 years, favorites accounted for half of the wins. Overall, the track was fair, but pace pressers won four times, while pacesetters, mid-pack runners and closer running styles each scored twice. Field size over the last five years averaged 5.8 runners.

On paper, Uncle Chuck looks like lone speed, but it’s impossible to define his running style from only one start. Thousand Words and  Anneau d'Or flashed speed here last year, and Great Power can also stay close to the lead. Cosmo has a stalking style over the lawn, yet Drysdale may have tipped his hand with the pre-race bullet. Grass horses trying dirt for the first time have better success if they stay out of kickback, and having drawn post one, Cosmo may flash early speed. In 2011, five horses contested the Swaps Stakes (later monikered the Los Al Derby). Two of the runners were trained by Bob Baffert, including the overwhelming favorite, Coil. Drysdale’s Dreamy Kid surprised the field and paid $40 for the victory. Déjà vu?


Ashley: 
It really is a shame that this race drew a field of just five, but that’s typical for California. Thousand Words will be the clear favorite, but I can see Uncle Chuck stealing this race on the front end. No need to get cute here as we’re likely looking at a Baffert exacta.


SELECTIONS

Ashley

 

Laurie

 

#3 Thousand Words

#4 Uncle Chuck

#4 Uncle Chuck

#3 Thousand Words

#2 Great Power

#5 Cosmo



Meet Laurie Ross


"  HRN Pedigree Analyst 

"  Handicapper 

"  Published Author

"  Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

"  Pedigree Analyst  Bruno With The Works 

"  ThoroFan Advisory Board Member

"  Member  NTWAB


Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 


I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

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