Apr 16, 2004
By: Joe Girardi
Saturday April 10th marked the final major preps for the Kentucky Derby. There are a
few smaller preps still to be run but their impact will be minimal. The Wood Memorial, the Blue
Grass, and the Arkansas Derby were all run on Saturday April 10th and all of these races should
impact the Derby in a big way.
In the Wood Memorial, which is run at Aqueduct, the Derby picture was still not clear but
we have seen one of the best performances of this prep season. The winner of the race was
TAPIT, who trailed the field early on before coming with a strong wide run to get up for the win.
After a poor performance in the Florida Derby where he finished a bad sixth he got back to his
winning ways in the Wood. It was found that he had some mucous in his lungs and that he would
need a top effort to make it to the Derby. His trainer Michael Dickinson said he would have been
happy with a third place finish, it looks like he is ahead of schedule.
Second place finisher MASTER DAVID had not run since February 8th so his effort was
solid and puts him in the mix as they head to Kentucky. The favorite VALUE PLUS contested the
pace but had no horse when it counted, tiring to sixth. SINISTER G coming off the Lane’s End win
also came up empty after contesting the early pace. Other than the third place finisher EDDINGTON
no one else has the look of a Derby horse coming out of the Wood.
In the Blue Grass the heavy favorite was LION HEART who was coming off his first defeat,
was sent off at 4-5. After leading early on he spurted away on the turn to lead by almost three lengths
heading into the stretch but was still caught at the wire by THE CLIFF’S EDGE. LION HEART
was six lengths clear of the third place finisher LIMEHOUSE who had also contested the early pace
but could not go on with it. Looks like the top two finishers will go on to the Derby with
LION HEART questionable at the 1 and ¼ mile distance. The rest of the field which included
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero ACTION THIS DAY and San Felipe victor PREACHINATTHEBAR
would have to improve leaps and bounds to even be considered a contender. Both horses however
are being pointed to the Derby.
In the Arkansas Derby, the final leg of the Big Three Pick Three featured undefeated
SMARTY JONES who was five for five coming into the race and had already won the two
Oaklawn had to offer, the Southwest and the Rebel Stakes. Despite breaking from post 11, jockey
Stewart Elliot was able to have him well placed right behind the leader PURGE and took over when
ready scoring by a driving 1 and ½ lengths. He is now six for six and is eligible for the $5 million bonus
that Oaklawn offered to any horse that could win the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby and then the
Kentucky Derby. At this point it looks like he will be the favorite heading into the Derby, albeit a slight
favorite at that. The fact still remains that his breeding is not that of a 1 and ¼ miles horse, being by
ELUSIVE QUALITY out of a SMILE mare he has definitely outran his pedigree and all he does is
win. His stalking style should suit him well in the Derby and the added excitement of the bonus will make
him the talk of the town during Derby week.
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