Battle of the KY Derby Sires

by Justin Dew

In the red corner, standing 16.1 hands, a son of Johannesburg and the winner of the 2007 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, the now deceased Scat Daddy.

In the blue corner, standing a number of hands that I wasn’t able to confirm on Wikipedia, a son of Smart Strike, the winner of lots of huge races and two-time Horse of the Year, the amazing Curlin.

Scat Daddy via Coolmore

At Churchill Downs next month, the ‘Battle of the Sires’ will captivate horse racing fans around the world as the main event on a day that also includes an undercard event known at the Kentucky Derby.

Punching it out for Scat Daddy:

Justify– The Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated in three lifetime starts. Has run faster than any of his prospective Derby opponents.

Mendelssohn– The UAE Derby winner. A half-brother to the great Beholder. Expected to be among the top three favorites in the Derby wagering.

Flameaway– Your Sam F. Davis Stakes winner and Blue Grass Stakes runner-up. A hard-trier who fires every time.

Combatant- Consistent runner for Steve Asmussen picked up minor checks in both Arkansas Derby and Rebel Stakes.

Curlin via Lanes End

Representing Curlin:

Good Magic– Your 2017 Champion Two-Year Old. Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes.

Vino Rosso– Trained and ridden by last year’s Derby winning team of Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez. Winner of the Wood Memorial.

Solomini– From the owner and trainer who brought us American Pharaoh, he is a recent bridesmaid on the Derby Trail.

Am I a pedigree expert? No, I am not. Thank you for asking. But in a battle of attrition like the Kentucky Derby, which sire do YOU think has the best chance of seeing his offspring, either from the farm or from Horsey Heaven, win the roses?

My money is on Curlin. And in the Kentucky Derby, my money will be on his kids. In one form or another.

Pletcher Derby Prospects Work Well

“To me it’s always really key who handles the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said

Florida Derby (G1) and Holy Bull (G2) winner Audible continued preparation for the May 5 Kentucky Derby Friday morning (April 13) when he worked a half-mile in :48.74 at Palm Beach Downs.

Owned by China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, Head of Plains Partners and WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, Audible galloped out in 1:02.22 while working alongside the 4-year-old stakes winner You’re To Blame. It was Audible’s first work since winning the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby March 31.

Churchill winner's circle“For him I thought it was outstanding,” Pletcher said. “He’s not always an overzealous work horse, but today he seemed on his game and focused. I thought he did very well. He’s coming back in five weeks off a 1 1/8 mile race so I think we’re just trying to have him peak on the day and keep him fit without overdoing it. I thought this morning was an important step in that direction. I know sometimes he doesn’t work as well as others but leading up to this race you’d like all three of his works to be good and the first one was excellent.”

Approximately 30 minutes before Audible hit the track Pletcher watched his Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Noble Indy work five furlongs in 1:01.19 with blinkers. Noble Indy, owned by WinStar Farm and Repole Stable, broke his maiden at Gulfstream Dec. 3 before winning an optional allowance over the track on Jan. 11.

“It was a good, solid five-eighths,” Pletcher said. “He’s never been a horse that’s a fantastic gallop-out horse, but I think today was solid.”

Pletcher added the blinkers to “keep him a little more in tune, a little more focused.”

Pletcher has four horses preparing for the Kentucky Derby. Along with Audible and Noble Indy, Pletcher has Vino Rosso, who won the Wood Memorial (G2) last weekend, and undefeated Rebel (G2) winner Magnum Moon, who won Saturday in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Pletcher said his current plan is to work Audible, Noble Indy and Vino Rosso next weekend before shipping to Kentucky on April 23.

“To me it’s always really key who handles the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said “It can be pretty quirky, so I think that final breeze at Churchill will give us a big clue as to who likes it. Hopefully they all do. That’s always one of my concerns because you see some horses who get there and don’t get a grip of that track. So I think the final work there will be something we’re looking forward to seeing.

“The good thing about the group of horses we have going is they have run over all kinds of dirt surfaces….none of them appear to be horses that need a certain surface in order to be successful.”

Source: Press Release

Recap of the Big Derby-prep Stakes Action

“and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start [off the layoff] was his best.”

by Justin Dew

As a fan of Good Magic, I was happy to see him win and win nicely. He was wide around both turns and outran two horses (Flameaway and Sporting Chance) who I feel had better trips. And while it didn’t appear that Good Magic was getting stronger as the race went on, keep in mind that this was just his second start off a layoff, and if you refer back to his juvenile form cycle, his third start was his best. From a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, the 95 he earned in the Blue Grass was six points better than he earned in the corresponding race from his juvenile campaign, the Champagne. Additionally, if you compare his career debut and his 2018 debut, he ran seven points better as a three-year-old. So, he ran 82-89-100 to start his career, and 89-95 this year. Might another 11-point Beyer jump be in the cards for his third start of the form cycle? It’s something to think about.

Nyquist KY Derby 2016I also happen to think Jose Ortiz may have moved a few seconds too soon, and perhaps could have given Good Magic a chance to finish a little stronger with better timing. It’s not going to surprise me at all if we ultimately see Good Magic make a nice life for himself at a mile, but for now, we can still give him the benefit of the doubt based on what he’s done in his five-race career.

Flameaway is just a hard-knocking fighter and he’ll get nothing but respect from me. I don’t think 10 furlongs is in his wheelhouse, but if More Than Ready can run 4th in the Kentucky Derby, so can this guy. As for Free Drop Billy, let’s see how he trains at Churchill Downs. I suppose one can make a case that he could clunk up in the Derby.

It looks like Justify is headed for something around 3-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Maybe even lower. I don’t really have anything meaningful to add about the Santa Anita Derby. Justify is good. If you want to take low odds on a son of Scat Daddy going 10 furlongs, be my guest. I may even join you to some degree.

Without going back and looking at the charts for every New York Derby prep to be run over the last decade, my general sense is that winter/spring racing in New York attracts the horses that aren’t good enough to compete elsewhere. Enticed lost at Gulfstream, then won at Aqueduct and was favored in the Wood. Vino Rosso lost twice in Florida, and then came to New York and won. And a maiden winner from California, Restoring Hope, came to the Wood and ran 3rd. So, I’m just not impressed by anything out of the Wood. I highly doubt I’ll use any of them in the Kentucky Derby.

With the Arkansas Derby still to be run, I’m feeling like the list of horses who can be labeled as prime Kentucky Derby win candidates is taking a more firm shape. Same for the longshots to watch:

Prime Win Candidates: Justify, Bolt d’Oro, Audible, Good Magic

Top Longshots: Hofburg, Runaway Ghost

Logical horses that I don’t particularly like: Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, Enticed, Vino Rosso