HOW HE GOT HERE
Rocket Can opened his career by making two starts last summer at Saratoga. Both runs at 7 Furlongs, this colt failed to be involved in both events while also finishing behind talented runners in Instant Coffee and Disarm. He then shipped south to Kentucky where Bill Mott stretched him out in distance to see if that would be his forte (no pun intended). It clearly woke this colt up, as he sat a forward trip before drawing off to a two length score, posting career high figures across the board. He was wheeled back on the Stars of Tomorrow II Card on Thanksgiving weekend for a first level allowance, where he sat a stalking trip before being unable to grind down Confidence Game. That allowance race ultimately produced three Derby starters in the two aforementioned runners, plus Hit Show who was fourth.
As a three year old, Rocket Can shipped down to Florida for a shot at the Holy Bull Stakes [G3], where once again he sat in touch of the lead before making the lead at the top of the stretch and drawing off. However, in that win he failed to show much, if any, improvement from a figure perspective compared to that allowance start in November. He then ran into Forte when running a credible 2nd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes [G3], sitting the perfect trip but unable to outgun the future Derby favorite. Last time out, he was shipped to Hot Springs on the request of Arkansas-based owner, Frank Fletcher, and ran an even 4th as the Arkansas Derby [G1] favorite. In that spot, he was caught a little wide but all in all was unable to be a threat in that race, fighting it out for minors throughout the stretch.
HOW HE FITS HERE
Rocket Can has flashed plenty of ability throughout his career, but is yet to have a wow performance. He’s finished behind four different Derby starters throughout his career without many excuses in those losses. His lone graded stakes win in the Holy Bull Stakes [G3] was against an extremely weak field that yielded no other Derby starters. While he’s remained competitive when tough competition arrived, it feels like he doesn’t know how to put rivals away when the serious running gets going. His career best Beyers also fall well below par comparatively.
That being said, there are some strong positives to counteract the negatives. Other figure makers like TimeformUS and Brisnet both view this colt a little more favorably. While he may not be a win contender based off their numbers, he could still be a potential exotic player. The biggest thing to glean off Rocket Can, however, will be the addition of blinkers in the Derby. As previously mentioned, he seems to lack a strong final punch, but trainer Bill Mott has said he feels adding this key equipment change could be the necessary remedy. He’s already posted two workouts with them on and he looks like a new horse, showing much more power than he had in races or even previous works.
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
This colt is trained by Bill Mott, who was the official winning conditioner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby when Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House was moved up to first. For a Hall of Famer and one of the best trainers in the country over the past forty years, his Derby record leaves a lot to be desired. From 11 starters, he only has the win via DQ, plus a third place finish with Tacitus that happened to come in the same year. He best finisher otherwise was a 7th in 2018 with Hofburg.
Junior Alvarado will be in the saddle on Derby day, as has been the case for every one of Rocket Can’s 2023 starts. Alvarado enjoyed a rejuvenated 2022 season when winning his first Breeders’ Cup race, one of many high profile graded stakes wins that year. He started 2023 off the right way as well when winning the Pegasus World Cup [G1] on Art Collector, also trained by Bill Mott. This jock is 0-for-3 in the Kentucky Derby, with his best finish coming on the well regarded Mohaymen when 4th in 2015.
Rocket Can possesses an excellent pedigree to get the 1 1/4 Miles distance of the Derby. He is by Into Mischief, the sire of back-to-back Derby winners in Authentic (2020) and Mandaloun (2021). His dam, Tension, wasn’t much of a runner and doesn’t have a strong production record outside of Rocket Can, but she has a solid pedigree herself. She’s by Tapit, well known for siring runners with an affinity for the class distances, and out of Tough Tiz’s Sis, a very talented race mare going a route of ground.
Rocket Can feels like a cut below on paper. Win or lose, he had ample opportunity to stamp himself as a contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby as the Arkansas Derby favorite [G1] but left most viewers wanting much more. However, it isn’t like this colt will be trying to formulate the necessary improvement without any changes. The addition of blinkers could be what is needed for this colt to finally learn how to put his competition away. If that is the case, he will be an exotic look at minimum come Derby time.