Each week, we’ll have an update on horses and races from the previous week that may produce starters for the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7th, 2022. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.
What to Watch For
The lone open stakes race in the country for three year olds this weekend is at Tampa Bay Downs. The Pasco Stakes at 7 Furlongs will go off as Race 5 on Saturday, January 15th. There’s definitely some one turn pedigrees in this race, but I’m interested to see what kind of effort we’ll see from the favorite, Cattin (#5, 250-1 Circa). He returns to Tampa after winning the Inaugural Stakes here last month. He’s proven at one turn and I think the seven furlong distance will suit him just fine in this race. His lone two turn start wasn’t bad back in September, finishing third behind Octane, who ran a monster race that day. I do think he’s the most likely winner here and a logical horse to go on to take a shot in the Sam F. Davis next month if all goes well. Provocateur (#1) improved in his local debut to break his maiden. He was a $600K purchase, so the expectations are there. He’s sired by Into Mischief, who sired the 2020 Kentucky Derby winner, Authentic. His dam, Cayala, did her best work sprinting on the grass, however, she has produced One Liner, who won the Southwest Stakes in 2017 and finished second in the 2018 Pimlico Special at 1 Mile and 3/16. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try two turns with a solid performance here. Cyberviking (#2) is another reasonable alternative for this race, but he is one whose pedigree suggests he’ll have some distance limitations beyond this race.
California bred three year olds take the stage at Santa Anita in the California Cup Derby. California Chrome used this race to earn a shot to face open company en route to winning the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Straight Up G (#5, 100-1, Circa, 135-1 C-WH) is following the same trajectory, winning the King Glorious Stakes last month at Los Alamitos. He’s won his last two races by open distances, including his first try at two turns. He’s a standout in this field, but he’d have to take a decent step forward to be a factor in a race like the Robert B. Lewis on February 6th. From a futures wager standpoint, these numbers feel a little light to me, but an open lengths win in a two turn stakes race, even against state bred rivals, will typically have that effect.
Race 7 is a maiden special weight race at Oaklawn on Saturday, January 15th. There’s a large field that is lacking in depth, but I do think we’ll see a solid performance from Kupuna (#2, 200-1, Circa) for Bret Calhoun. He ran well in defeat at Churchill last time out and now makes his first start at two turns after a pair of sprints. He’s drawn well and has a pedigree that suggests the added distance will not be an issue. This race is probably too close in spacing to the Southwest Stakes on January 29th, but a solid effort here could earn him a spot in a race like the Risen Star on February 19th or the Rebel a week later.
Weekday Horses of Note
Fromanothamutha was the easiest of winners on Thursday, January 13th, breaking his maiden by over four lengths, in a respectable 1:22:65 for seven furlongs. The preliminary Beyer came back as an 87 under ideal circumstances. He’s already tried 1 Mile and ⅛ when running in the Remsen last month as a maiden. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his connections take a shot with him in the Withers Stakes at that same distance on February 5th. If that race comes up too soon, the Gotham is scheduled for March 5th. From a handicapping perspective, there might be some value next out on Keeping the Edge. He was widest of all on a track where it looked like you wanted to be closer to the rail. Mike Trombetta’s horses tend to improve with some racing under their belts, so I’d consider him coming back in a maiden special weight race next time.
Chasing Time could not have been more impressive clearing the first level allowance on Friday, January 14th, at Oaklawn. He broke very sharp under Joel Rosario, and looked like Rosario was going to be allowed to set some easy fractions. However, longshot, Speak Unity, rocketed to the front at the top of the backstretch to assume command. Rosario was patient as Chasing Time rated off the new front runner. Vodka N Water shot through a hole along the rail with an aggressive move at the start of the final turn, but Chasing Time came three wide and powered home like a horse that would have no problem going longer distances. The final margin of victory was 7 and ¾ lengths. The Southwest Stakes on 1/29 comes up pretty quick for him, but I think he’s definitely earned a spot in the starting gate in a race like the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds or the Rebel here a week later. Going into the race, I thought Fort Defiance might have been an interesting runner in that race after a strong victory over the Tapeta at Turfway last month, however, he was unable to transfer that form to the main track, finishing a no excuse 8th, far behind the others.
A pair of expensive Quality Road colts debuted at Tampa Bay on Friday, both from the Pletcher barn. Shinnecock Hills just held off Macallan by a nose in the final strides to break his maiden. I haven’t seen a figure from that race yet, but the final clocking of 1:25:70 for the seven furlongs felt a little slow to me.
On The Horizon
The next Derby Prep race is the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds, which will be drawn tomorrow. That will start a streak of eight straight weeks with at least one North American Derby Points race, all of which will be covered here.