HOW HE GOT HERE
Practical Move has emerged as California’s top contender for the 2023 Kentucky Derby on the heels of three straight graded stakes scores.
It technically took him five tries to break his maiden. After running well in behind some Bob Baffert trainees at Del Mar during the summer, he moved up to Santa Anita and stretched out to a mile. In that mid-October event he crossed the wire second, but was moved up to the top slot after being interfered with down the lane. He then leaped straight into stakes company when contending the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar, but he was unable to keep up with the sprinter speed of his rivals and ran a distant third. From that point on, however, he’s been one tough customer.
He pulled of a 10-1 upset when winning the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), which to many appeared to be a cheaper win over a light field. Practical Move put those doubts to rest with an impressive victory over a tough field in the San Felipe Stakes (G2), his three year old debut. He sat a perfect trip inside and behind a quick early tempo before finding a seam down the lane and drawing off through the stretch. This colt backed up that effort to a lesser effect with a Grade 1 score in the Santa Anita Derby, where he sat a very similar trip as his win prior. There are a few knocks to that performance: he failed to improve his speed figures by some metrics (and actually decreased by others) and he also had to work hard to beat a pair of runners who may not even get into the Derby.
HOW HE FITS HERE
The best quality in horse racing is a strong will to win, and Practical Move has that. He was dominant in his second and thirds starts back, and even though it was a short margin of victory last time out he really had every reason to give up late. Practical Move is technically 4-for-4 around two turns, and more importantly is firmly unbeaten in graded stakes at the configuration. He’ll figure to sit a second flight trip in the Derby, within 3-5 lengths of the early lead and certainly in the top half of the field early on.
From a figures perspective, he absolutely fits the profile of a Derby winner on some metrics, while others paint him as just another contender. A pair of 100’s on Beyer is tied for the second highest number amongst this crop, and he is the only runner in this year’s Derby to have fired multiple triple digit figures in 2023. TimeForm US also backs up the strength of these races, including a Derby field high of 121 last time out. Brisnet’s speed figures stand out as the biggest antithesis to those theories, as this colt’s numbers have dropped in three consecutive outings.
The biggest aspect of Practical Move that may act as a deterrent is that he has no overlapping form with another Kentucky Derby contender. Unless Skinner or Mandarin Hero draw into the race due to defections currently in the body, Practical Move will have faced zero Kentucky Derby starters in his 2023 leadup to the big race. That statistic certainly raises questions about his true class and what he’s really beaten leading into the Derby.
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
Unlike last year’s race, Tim Yakteen comes in here with a pupil entirely formed on his own. Many will remember the 2022 edition where Yakteen acted as proxy for Baffert’s two highly regarded runners, but here he brings a horse he has brought along beautifully on his lonesome. Yakteen enjoyed a career year in 2022 and is on track to set new marks across the board for himself in 2023, and a large part of that is with his own horses.
Ramon Vazquez got the mount for the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and has done everything he can to keep it. He is, of course, 3-for-3 with this colt and his two confident rides with him this year have been a big key in keeping Practical Move in the winners circle. Vazquez has one prior Derby mount, finishing a troubled 13th in 2015 on the notorious longshot, Mr. Z.
This colt is by the young stallion Practical Joke, who was 5th in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. He has so far made his mark as a sire with sprinters, including the recent 1st/3rd finishers of the Count Fleet Handicap (G3) and the winner of the Tom Fool Handicap (G3). However, he was a very capable runner around two turns and wasn’t stopping when he ran well enough in the Kentucky Derby, his only 10 furlong start. The bottom side of Practical Move’s pedigree offers a little bit more two turn ability. His dam, Ack Naughty, was multiple stakes placed around a mile on the turf and she is by Afleet Alex, a Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner. I would wager that 1 1/4 Miles is his upper limit from a distance perspective, but that’s as far as he needs to go in the Kentucky Derby.
Also worth mentioning this colt was bred in part by Chad Brown. Yes, THAT Chad Brown.
Practical Move hasn’t turned a hair wrong going a route of ground at the graded stakes level and is certainly the most proven commodity by some speed ratings. His ability to sit a cozy second flight trip will be an asset well used in the Derby and it’s hard to envision a bad trip being his undoing. While there could be some distance questions from a pedigree perspective, he is yet to show a sign of stopping and I personally believe he can last 10 furlongs. The most major flaw is that he lacks a lot of back class, but if that’s his weakest link then he definitely poses a legitimate threat on Derby day.