BabyTalk #18

by Tom Carley

 


 

This week’s column is being written as we end the third round of KENTUCKY DERBY Futures Pools. What I want to do this week is digress from the usual format and spotlight the 23 horses that were selected to be in the most recently completed Futures Pool. While I might not agree that all 23 can be considered contenders, I opted to use the horses included in Derby Pool #3. Let’s look at how many points each has garnered so far, and when they compete next (if publicly announced by the barns). Remember, it typically takes at least 25 points to earn a slot on Derby day in Kentucky.

American Pharoah    10 points

Next Start: REBEL STAKES

This Baffert star who was thought of as the division’s best horse as a 2-year-old has not raced since September 27. American Pharoah is quickly getting into a now-or-never position as time is running out – not only to earn Derby points, but also to establish a foundation to endure the 10 furlong distance May 3. Everything is going to have to go right for this one to live up to his potential.

Bolo    0 points

Next Start: SAN FELIPE STAKES

Carla Gaines has chosen to run Bolo, who has made all 3 career starts on the turf before running in this weekend’s SAN FELIPE on the dirt. I question why this late in the game the connections are changing the focus from turf to dirt? Remember this is the same trainer who tried to talk an owner out of entering a horse (Dancing in Silks) in the 2009 BREEDER’S CUP SPRINT: and the horse subsequently won. I doubt Wayne Lukas has ever tried to talk an owner out of entering in a big stakes race. So why is Carla Gaines all of a sudden deciding to roll the dice and run her Derby aspirant on dirt against such a high quality field? Bolo has no points because points are not awarded for turf races, and is another contender that will have to do everything right to make his way to Louisville.

Carpe Diem    14 points

Next Start: TAMPA BAY DERBY     

After a nice winter break, Carpe Diem will make his 2015 debut in the TAMPA BAY DERBY. He has a great foundation as the runner up in the BREEDER’S CUP JUVENILE competition after winning the BREEDER’S FUTURITY STAKES. Three straight bullet works show Carpe Diem is capable of winning the division’s biggest prize.

Danzig Moon    0 points   

Danzig Moon broke his maiden in his 3rd career start February 7. He appears to be behind the curve, as he has not yet faced stakes company (why he has no points). This equine may also have distance limitations.

Daredevil    10 points

Next Start: SWALE STAKES 

This Winstar-owned horse spent the winter at the owner’s Lexington farm, and has come back by burning up the worktab. The CHAMPAGNE STAKES winner will make his next start at a 7 furlong distance before trying to pad his point total in his last prep. Dare Devil had a poor trip in his only loss, and will need to elevate his game to compete with the elite of the division. But still, he should be in the gate the first Saturday in May.

Dortmund    20 points

Next Start: SAN FELIPE STAKES     

Dortmund is the one the folks are hoping will be the West Coast contender and California’s best chance to win the Derby. I have not seen this horse demonstrate the killer instinct it takes to defeat 19 foes. However, you can’t criticize an undefeated record. Dortmund should not be tested much in his next effort. I still would want to see a little more before I could back him.

El Kabeir     25 points

Next Start: WOOD MEMORIAL 

El Kabeir was considered a front runner of the division after the JEROME STAKES JUVENILE victory. This Derby hopeful went off as the 1:2 favorite in the WITHERS STAKES, but the pace of the race got to him as he was outrun by the winner. In the JEROME, Far From Over recovered from falling to his knees at the start and spotting the field 12 lengths to outrun El Kabeir. I also doubt El Kabeir can endure a 10-furlong competition.

Far From Over   10 points

Next Start: WOOD MEMORIAL 

Far From Over is undefeated in 2 starts, and made an impressive comeback win in the WITHERS STAKES. He closed victorious after breaking so poorly. His effort was reminiscent of Afleet Alex’s 2005 PREAKNESS performance where he dramatically rallied to win after a near fall in the stretch run https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfFzODoD7YY.



Far From Over showed that same courage and ability to make up distance. We just do not know how good this contender is, as he has only competed twice. It will be very tough for him to win the Derby if it is only his 4th career start – especially going that distance without a strong foundation of long works. We will learn a lot about Far From Over in his next race.

Far Right       22 points

Next Start: ARKANSAS DERBY  

Far Right impressed me despite finishing 3rd in the DELTA JACKPOT STAKES. This contender has won both Arkansas preps, so his reward is to skip the REBEL STAKES and train right into the ARKANSAS DERBY. Far Right shows the most mobility of this year’s group. He can move laterally to find the rail from the 4 path in traffic. This mobility will help as the fields get larger. Many will question what horses Far Right has beaten, but he could be a surprise at high odds on Derby Day.

Firing Line   8 points

Next Start: SUNLAND DERBY   

Firing Line has lost twice to Dortmund, and should have finished off the BOB LEWIS STAKES field. Instead, he let Dortmund make a comeback after it looked like Firing Line had him beaten. Firing Line just is not among the elite of this division. His connections avoid the California major players, and head him to New Mexico’s SUNLAND DERBY seeking points.

International Star   71 points   

International Star has won both Louisiana prep races. His connections have not stated what his next race would be, probably because he already has enough points to assure his spot in the KENTUCKY DERBY. His speed figures and performance have both elevated since he located to the Fairgrounds. I do not know if he is simply “a horse for course” (a horse that runs well at a particular racetrack), or if there are other reasons for the improvement. I’m simply concerned that dirt might not be his best surface. Will like to see how he fares against better competition.

Itsaknockout     50 points   

Itsaknockout won the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH STAKES due to a disqualification. I do not know if Itsaknockout would otherwise have gotten past Upstart, but he did answer questions about his heart and stamina making the grade. This Derby contender has only raced 3 times, so he still remains a bit of a mystery. I will want to see how he performs in his last Derby prep.

Keen Ice     12 points   

Every couple of years there is a horse who does not win a major prep, but just seems to have talent. I think Keen Ice could be one of those horses, as he reminds me of Charismatic, who had shown little in the 1999 prep races before winning the KENTUCKY DERBY and coming a heart breaking 40 yards from winning the Triple Crown. Keen Ice has only won a low level maiden race at Ellis Park, but has faced the best of this division without “embarrassing” himself, despite being plagued by rough trips. Keen Ice could be an upsetter somewhere along the line.

Khozan    0 points   

Khozan was an impressive winner by 12 lengths in his second career outing and is against the clock to garner a Derby slot. While has earned a triple digit Brisnet speed rating in each race, he has faced little real competition, and needs to start earning Derby points. Khozan will most likely get one chance to do this at the FLORIDA DERBY and its 100 points to the winner, for him will be a do-or-die scenario. I could also see him bypassing the KENTUCKY DERBY and running well in the PREAKNESS.

Lord Nelson    1 point   

Lord Nelson is my personal favorite of the Baffert-trained horses, and made a good effort in beating Texas Red in the SAN VICENTE STAKES. This equine will need a strong performance to get enough points to get to make the trip to Louisville in his final prep. The SAN VINCENTE STAKES was not a points race. I could see this horse being a much better miler than a 9-furlong and longer horse.

Mr. Z   14 points

Next Start: LOUISIANA DERBY

Mr Z simply does not know how to win. He vindicated himself in the SOUTHWEST STAKES, but still came up short. Mr Z has run 8 graded races, and 10 races total. Yet, this equine has only won a maiden race. Trainer Lukas is still tinkering with this horse, but how much will he have left in the tank if he gets to Louisville?

Ocean Knight 

This winner of SAM DAVIS STAKES in his second career start simply just has not run enough for anyone to know how good he is. Ocean Knight has yet to run in a race that offered any KENTUCKY DERBY points.

Ocho Ocho Ocho   10 points

Next Start: SAN FELIPE STAKES

Ocho Ocho Ocho was the impressive winner of DELTA JACKPOT STAKES, his first race around 2 turns. He was then “vacationed” from mid November until this Saturday in February. He will be looking for points in the tough California preps. The performance of Far Right (wining his next 2 races) has validated Ocho Ocho Ocho’s DELTA JACKPOT victory. I still would prefer to be in Ocho Ocho Ocho’s shoes rather than Bolo’s as the major contender to Dortmund.

Prospect Park   0 points    

I know very little about Prospect Park, as I have yet to see him run. I do know it took him 4 races to break his maiden. He appears to like dirt much more than polytrack. Just not enough is known about this contender on the trail.

Texas Red   12 points      

Texas Red (winner of the BREEDER’S CUP JUVENILE) was working well in early January, but has missed some time due to an injury later that month. I think the lost training time will hurt this Derby hopeful as the races get longer.

The Great War   0 points

Next Start: SPIRAL STAKES 

I really am anxious to see how The Great War trains and runs coming into the Derby. His history includes a foundation of 7 European races ranging from 5 furlongs on the turf to 6 ½ furlongs on the lawn. This competitor came to USA to run on the dirt in BREEDER’s CUP JUVENILE closing to get 4th. He then went on polytrack to win at 6 ½ furlongs. Major question I see is whether he can handle 10 furlongs. I have to respect Wes Ward as the trainer.

Upstart   36 points

Upstart has done little wrong this year. I am willing to forgive his disqualification in the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH STAKES romp as he was the first horse under the wire. Upstart has a running style that will fit well in a full Derby field, and is still my favorite at this point. I could kick myself for not taking the 53:1 odds in Future Pool #1. I loved the mile works late in his 2-year-old year.

War Story  24 points

Next Start: LOUISIANA DERBY  

War Story has run second twice to International Star in the Louisiana preps, and has gate problems in each of his starts. Why does trainer Amoss not show more gate works for this one? War Story can’t afford a gate problem in Louisville, as a bad start there will force him to wind his way through 19 competitors. Still, I do feel he has as much upside as any horse on this list.

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