HOW HE GOT HERE
As the prep races for this year’s Kentucky Derby unfolded, one of the runners who was easy to forget was Two Phil’s. All he had done up to that point was earn in the money finishes in the Lecomte and Risen Star before walloping his competition in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park. For years punters have been dismissive of runners who ran their final prep on a synthetic surface. Rich Strike joined Animal Kingdom as Kentucky Derby winners that made their final prep on a synthetic strip.
In reality, Two Phil’s has been on the scene for some time. He earned a smashing win in the Grade III Street Sense at Churchill Downs last fall before starting 2023 in New Orleans. His spot in the starting gate is well deserved.
HOW HE FITS HERE
When the field lines up in the gate for the 2023 Kentucky Derby, there will be only one participant who has earned a Beyer Speed Figure over 100 – Two Phil’s. He earned that figure in the aforementioned Jeff Ruby Steaks, posting a figure of 101. That followed up two improved runs at Fair Grounds. In both of his starts in the Big Easy, this son of Hard Spun raced close to the pace before putting in a bid around the quarter pole. While he was ultimately outfinished both times, you can’t deny the quality of both efforts. In the Risen Star, the pace completely fell apart, and he was the only horse who stuck around for a share. That was the kind of performance that has been seriously missing on this lead up to the Derby.
The combination of speed and stamina that Two Phil’s possesses adds to his appeal. At Turfway he was in his customary position a few lengths off the lead, but his bold move to the front at the quarter pole led to him widening the margin. Was it him showing affinity for the synthetic surface? Or perhaps he is developing the way you would like a Derby aspirant to do so before their big opportunity.
HOW IT FIGURES TO GO HERE
In a slow paced race with favorites that offer up more question marks than certainty, Two Phil’s is a major threat. He should be in a good spot stalking the pace and getting himself into position turning for home. If he has that turn of foot we saw at Turfway, he is very likely to hang on for a major piece of the pie. Few runners in this field have what he has – an improving pattern, a fast recent speed figure, and high percentage connections.
Trainer Larry Rivelli has a 21% strike rate with routers going from synthetics to dirt over the last five years, good for nearly a break-even ROI. He has amassed gaudy statistics overall, most of which have been earned with low level runners in the Midwest. That says nothing about whether he can have this colt ready on May 6. He is a major player in this field and should be taken very seriously as a win candidate. He will be an ‘A’ on my multi-race tickets and I’ll have a win bet at 15-1 or more.