By Gary West, special to KentuckyDerby.com
Unless Pegasus suddenly appears out of nowhere, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands has its favorite. A flashy Californian with a modest provenance and a venerable trainer will be the center of attention when he arrives in Kentucky.
Jamie Osborne, trainer of U.A.E. Derby winner Toast of New York, has revealed the colt will be bypassing the May 3 Kentucky Derby and instead point for the June 7 Epsom Derby, for which he was supplemented for £8,000 on Tuesday.
About 12 hours before the University of Kentucky plays for the NCAA championship in men's basketball Monday night, a Thoroughbred at Keeneland with UK connections turned in his final work for Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass. All American Horses' Casiguapo, a Sightseeing colt who was bred by UK, worked three furlongs on the Polytrack in a bullet :34 4/5 with Hector Salazar up for Calder-based trainer Mario Morales. (Click here to watch a video of the work.)
Racing has itself a Rock Star. He's California Chrome, who on Saturday started on the path of legends, winning the Santa Anita Derby in breathtaking fashion, overpowering seven rivals, including well-regarded stakes winners Hoppertunity and Candy Boy. He was all but eased up at the end of a mile and an eighth, floating home by 5 1/4 lengths under a nonchalant Victor Espinoza.
Call it Superman compared to Clark Kent.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens was still basking this morning in the glow of Wicked Strong's emphatic victory over previously undefeated Samraat and Social Inclusion in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial.
Samraat, who suffered his first career defeat when second by 3 1/2 lengths to Wicked Strong in Saturday's Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, will breeze twice at Aqueduct before he departs for Louisville, Kentucky, to compete May 3 in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Rick Violette said Sunday morning.
Owner Ron Sanchez looked anything but dismayed that his beaten 8-5 favorite Social Inclusion didn't win the 90th running of the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial on Saturday. On the contrary, he was delighted with his colt's third-place finish behind Wicked Strong and Samraat after clearing off by 1 1/2 lengths at the top of the stretch.
Ride On Curlin had his last major drill Sunday in preparation for his expected start in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) this coming Saturday. The son of 2007 Arkansas Derby winner Curlin breezed seven furlongs in 1:26 4/5 over the fast track with exercise rider Brian Beccia on board.
At 9 a.m. (EDT) Sunday at Keeneland, Big Bazinga worked four furlongs in :47 3/5 over the Polytrack with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard as he continues to prepare for Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass.
Click here to watch a video of the work.
Steven Coburn and Perry Martin's homebred California Chrome clinched his status as the probable favorite for the Kentucky Derby with another dazzling display in Saturday's Grade 1, $1,000,750 Santa Anita Derby. Sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the wake of three straight romps, the Art Sherman trainee left his rivals toiling turning into the stretch and won in hand by 5 1/4 lengths.
Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong uncorked a terrific late kick in Saturday's $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, blowing past favorites Social Inclusion and Samraat to win by a widening 3 1/2 lengths. He stamped his ticket for the Kentucky Derby, earning 100 points for his first stakes victory, and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 1/5 on the fast Aqueduct track.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Bobby's Kitten, the possible favorite for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass on April 12 at Keeneland, worked five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 over that venue's Polytrack Saturday morning with Marino Garcia aboard for trainer Chad Brown.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens hopes to add to his record of nine Santa Anita Derby victories when he rides 9-5 morning-line second choice Candy Boy in Saturday's much-anticipated Grade 1, $1 million race that awards 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner.
English-based Toast of New York, winner of last Saturday's Group 2 U.A.E. Derby, is becoming ever less likely to line up at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Owner Michael Buckley told Racing UK Friday that it would be "unfair" to send the still-progressing colt off on further international travels to the Kentucky Derby.
With the two principal speed horses lined up on the far outside of the Aqueduct starting gate, trainer Richard Violette likes his draw for Saturday's $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Coastline put in his final major work for next Saturday's $750,000 Blue Grass by working five furlongs in company in 1:00 2/5 at Keeneland on Friday. With jockey Stewart Elliott aboard, the gray Speightstown colt posted fractions of :12 2/5, :23 4/5 and :35 1/5 while racing on even terms with Noble Bird, a three-year-old maiden.
On the strength of his outstanding breeze March 29, Conquest Stables' Conquest Titan remains on target for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn April 12. The colt is currently one of seven horses leaning toward the 1 1/8-mile race. The other likely starters are Tapiture, Strong Mandate, Ride On Curlin, Bayern, Commissioner and Danza.
It's the Golden State vs. the Bluegrass State Saturday.
California Chrome, bred in California, takes on seven rivals, all bred in Kentucky, in the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby, the West's major steppingstone to the 140th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 3.
The first round of major prep races is in the books, with Constitution proving to be a gutsy winner in the Florida Derby and Vicar's in Trouble leading wire to wire in the Louisiana Derby.
By Gary West, special to KentuckyDerby.com
Is this the year that the oldest Derby shibboleth goes down? To win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, a horse must have raced as a 2-year-old, the conditioning and foundation of that juvenile campaign being essential to spring-time success. Right?