Cyberknife put it all together in the Arkansas Derby (Coady Photography)
Long well-regarded Cyberknife thrust himself into the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a breakthrough in Saturday’s $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park, where favored filly Secret Oath was third. Earlier in the $600,000 Fantasy (G3), a gutsy Yuugiri booked her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard both winners.
Gold Square’s Cyberknife had disappointed in his previous appearance on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, fading to sixth in the Lecomte (G3) while trying blinkers. The Brad Cox pupil went back to the drawing board for a Feb. 19 Fair Grounds allowance, without the headgear, and he responded with a dynamic three-length decision.
Sent off as a 5.80-1 shot at Oaklawn, Cyberknife secured a good spot early in a stalking fourth. Secret Oath, the 7-5 favorite, was not in the best tactical place at the rear after a troubled start.
Up front, the speedy Kavod showed the way from Chasing Time, with Doppelganger trying to make his presence felt. An inviting seam opened up between Kavod and Chasing Time down the backstretch, and Geroux sent a game Cyberknife through to improve position.
Rounding the far turn, Secret Oath made a bold move, but Cyberknife capitalized on his stalking trip. The son of hot young sire Gun Runner kicked away in the stretch and prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.42.
Cyberknife assured himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby by taking the winner’s prize of 100 points. The admirably consistent Barber Road closed for second, depositing 40 more points for a total of 58.
Secret Oath flattened out late in third, another three-quarters of a length back, and took home 20 points. She was already in the Kentucky Oaks with 60 points on that leaderboard. Her Derby points can be credited to her on that ledger as well, and she now sits fourth on the Oaks list with a total of 80.
Doppelganger received 10 points for crossing the wire a further 4 1/2 lengths adrift in fourth, followed by Kavod, Ben Diesel, We the People, Un Ojo, and Chasing Time.
Cyberknife’s first stakes victory boosted his bankroll to $860,000 from his 6-3-2-0 line. Bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey in Kentucky, the $400,000 Fasig-Tipton yearling is out of Awesome Flower, a Grade 2-placed multiple stakes scorer by Flower Alley.
Tsunebumi and Sekie Yoshihara’s homebred Yuugiri was all heart on the lead in the Fantasy
. The 4.10-1 chance put away Bubble Rock and desperately held off Beguine to earn 100 Oaks points.
Yuugiri was paying a poignant tribute to her dam, the stakes-winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Yuzuru, who just passed away recently. And Yuugiri did so by emulating the tenacity of her sire, 2011 Preakness (G1) hero Shackleford.
The Rodolphe Brisset trainee had placed in her prior stakes attempts. Second in the Rags to Riches S. and Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs last fall, she was third to Secret Oath in her reappearance in the Honeybee (G3).
Ridden for the first time by Geroux, Yuugiri sped to the front. But Bubble Rock kept close tabs on the outside, and loomed menacingly turning into the stretch. Yuugiri found more to rebuff her, only to have Beguine throw down a serious challenge on the inside. Although Beguine appeared on the verge of shading her, Yuugiri dug down and kept her neck in front at the wire.
After negotiating 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.65, Yuugiri has compiled a mark of 5-2-2-1, $543,610, along with 114 Oaks points in all.
Beguigne’s excellent second would be worth 40 points, but the last-out maiden winner is not yet an Oaks nominee. Bubble Rock checked in a further three lengths back in third, adding 20 points for a total of 30. I Feel the Need, the 40-1 longest shot on the board, snared fourth, a finish good for 10 points if she is added to the Oaks.
Dream Lith, the Golden Rod winner and 17-10 favorite, could get no nearer than fifth. Next came Heartyconstitution, Mariah’s Fortune, and the tailed-off Magic Circle, who didn’t regroup from a troubled start. Eda was scratched.
Kentucky-bred Yuugiri descends from the family of Canadian Hall of Famer and influential broodmare Glorious Song, champion Devil’s Bag, and noted sire Saint Ballado.