The Derby Trail is in full force this weekend with three races doling out 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The Gotham at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and the San Felipe at Santa Anita headline a big weekend of racing that also will feature the Big Cap on the west coast and Super Saturday at Meydan in Dubai.
The race that looks the most competitive of the three races appears to be the San Felipe which will feature Dortmund, son of Derby winner Big Brown, the Delta Jackpot winner Ocho Ocho Ocho, and the top two finishers from the San Vicente. Let’s take a look at the field of 10 colts looking for Derby points at the Great Race Place on Saturday afternoon.
1 – Lord Nelson (Baffert, Bejarano) The San Vicente winner and son of Pulpit draws the rail for Bob Baffert, who will also send out the favorite in Dortmund. He’s won two of three at Santa Anita and nailed BC Juvenile winner Texas Red at the wire in his last effort. He appears to be an improving 3-year-old who sports a solid work on Feb. 27 and has a talented race rider. Win threat.
2 – Ocho Ocho Ocho (Cassidy, Smith) With Mike Smith in the irons you have to take this Street Sense colt seriously off the long layoff since his win in the bullring at Delta Downs in November. Currently sits with 10 points on the Derby leaderboard, so he needs to make some noise in this race or the next one to secure a gate in Louisville. Worried about the layoff, but in Mike we trust. Contender.
3 – Dortmund (Baffert, Garcia) He showed some serious resiliency in coming back in the Robert B. Lewis to rally back against Firing Line. The question is how much did that effort take out of him and should he have waited until the 100-point Santa Anita Derby for his next race? Playing against the short price, thinking he’s a potential bounce candidate.
4 – The Gomper (Ellis, Baze) He comes out of an allowance race, where he lost as the 1-2 favorite, finishing fourth by six lengths, to face tougher in the San Felipe. Has a good workout on his scorecard, but that’s not enough to waver my thinking. Toss.
5 – Kenjisstorm (Papaprodromus, Delgadillo) Longest three names I’ve ever written. Toss.
6 – Prospect Park (Sise, Desormeaux) This horse has had some buzz around it since he destroyed an allowance in late January, even part of the Derby Future Pools No. 2 (35-1) and No. 3 (26-1). He has zero points going into the race and this is a pretty salty crew and a big step up in class. Can’t put him on top, but wouldn’t be surprised if he crashed the exotics.
7 – Bolo (Gaines, Espinoza) Posted a big speed figure on the turf in the Eddie Logan non-graded stake. Son of Temple City tries dirt for the first time. Telling sign is Mike Smith jumping off to ride Ocho, that’s enough for me to discount his chances.
8 – Pulmarack (Hollendorfer, Van Dyke) His sire was last year’s Derby winner’s sire, and he ran a fine Cal Cup Derby, finishing second to Mischief Clem, who disappointed at Golden Gate two weeks ago. Should be a good price, but best shot is completing the super.
9 – Sir Samson (Koriner, Talamo) Smart Strike progeny out of a Malibu Moon mare has the breeding to run all day, but this is his first try going two turns and trainer makes an equipment change taking off the blinkers. He’s my sleeper long shot pick in his second start off the layoff with Smokin’ Joe Talamo in the irons.
10 – Pain and Misery (Mandella, Prat) Interesting son of Bob and John, who finished third in the 2006 San Felipe, returns to dirt after finishing second in a non-graded stake on the grass. First time going two turns, first time at Santa Anita, we’ll wait and see on this one.
Post Time Outlook – 1 – Lord Nelson; 2 – Sir Samson; 3 – Ocho Ocho Ocho; 4 - Dortmund
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.