Apr 18, 2014
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
We are almost there, the Kentucky Derby is only two weeks away and there is just one more prep left, the Lexington at Keeneland on April 19th, but that race is not considered a major prep as it only offers 10, 4, 2 and 1 points to the top 4 finishers. On April 12th there were the last two Derby Preps, the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Blue Grass at Keeneland.
In theArkansas Derby, a Grade I for three year olds run over 1 and 1/8thmiles with a purse of $1 million dollars there was a field of eight that wentpostward. The favorite in the race was a Bob Baffert trainee by the name ofBayern, who was undefeated in two starts, both at Santa Anita and both in impressive fashion. The second choice in the race was Tapiture, a Steve Asmussen trainee who was second as the favorite in the Rebel over this courseand was an easy winner in the Southwest back in mid-February. When the gatesopened, Bayern showed his natural speed to make the lead from post 7 whilebeing tracked by the longest shot in the race in Thudergram. Strong Mandate,who is trained by D. Wayne Lukas and was highly touted coming into this yearoff a solid two year old campaign was in third while Danza tracked from fourth.As they moved around the clubhouse turn and ran down the backstretch, Bayernand Thudergram stay together through fractions of 23:3, 47:3, 1:12:1. Movinginto the far turn Thundergram started to tire and Strong Mandate didn’t go onwhile Tapiture was moving wide to try and get into contention. Bayern dug inand still held the lead but a quick move by jockey Joe Bravo and Danza throughthe rail put him in front into the lane. As they continued down the lane, Danzawas getting stronger drawing away in deep stretch to score a huge upset byalmost five lengths at 41-1. Ride On Curlin, who was third in the Rebel, closedfrom sixth early on and finished well for second at 7-1 by a half-length overthird place finisher Bayern. Tapiture never really fired and checked in an evenfourth. Todd Pletcher trained Commissoner was a disappointing sixth and StrongMandate checked in 8th and last. Danza on the other hand was makingjust his fourth career start, coming off a well beaten third in a first levelallowance race. However, this Todd Pletcher trainee put it altogether in theArkansas Derby and must be considered a top contender in the Kentucky Derby.Ride On Curlin and Bayern (if he gets in) should be considered contenders aswell as Tapiture who likes the Churchill Downs racetrack. The top fourfinishers in that race received 100, 40, 20 and 10 respectively.
In theBlue Grass at Keeneland, a Grade I for three year olds run over 1 and 1/8thmiles with a purse of $750,000 run over the polytrack had a full field of 14with Bobby’s Kitten, a horse who ran all five starts over the turf going off asthe slight 7-2 favorite. When the gates opened, Pablo Del Monte was sent rightto the lead with the favorite Bobby’s Kitten sitting in second and Coastlinewas caught wide in third. Moving around the clubhouse turn and into thebackstretch, the positions remained unchanged through fractions of 23:2, 47:2,1:12:3. Moving around the far turn, Pablo Del Monte was still there while theother early stalkers started to tire. Medal Count was coming with a five widemove while Dance With Fate was following that move. Into the lane Pablo DelMonte still held the advantage but with a quick move, Dance With Fate was rightup on the leaders, challenging the frontrunner and taking over to edge away toscore under jockey Corey Nakatani by almost two lengths. Medal Count whose movestalled a bit ran on for second over pacesetter Pablo Del Monte by 1 and ¾lengths, Pablo Del Monte finished third by a little more than five lengths overBig Bazinga who finished fourth. Bobby’s Kitten who is a turf horse tired tofinish 12th. The top four finishers in this race received 100, 40,20, and 10 points. The winner Dance With Fate is 0 for 2 over conventional dirtand his three wins have either come over a synthetic surface or the turf.However the Kentucky Derby only comes along once a year so the connections willhave to think long and hard about sending their three year old colt to theDerby. He does have a solid kick which is very important in the Derby and theChurchill Downs surface is a bit tricky, some horses love it and some justcan’t get over it, if he handles the track he definitely would be considered atop contender. Medal Count who finished second would probably be the only otherhorse we may see in the Derby and he looks like another horse that is syntheticor turf and would need a big improvement to be considered a top contender.
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