Derby Trail Update – 2/5/22 – By Eric Solomon

While the Derby Points races will grab the headlines this weekend, there were some notable performances this week from a few three year olds that might be ready to throw their hat into the ring. In addition, there’s a pair of seven furlong stakes races in Florida and New York over the weekend that may be worth keeping an eye on as well. 



The Paco Lopez Show

Paco Lopez rode a pair of winners in allowance company this week, both horses running very strong races on Thursday, February 3rd and Friday, February 4th. In Due Time is a son of Not This Time out of an unraced Curlin mare, trained by Kelly Breen. He won his debut this summer at Monmouth Park and then went on the shelf for six months. He returned in a six furlong race here and ran an average third on January 8th. He was sent to post at 10-1 on Friday when facing two highly touted Pletcher runners, American Icon and Iron Works. American Icon took the early lead, while carving out some solid fractions for the one turn mile race. Lopez waited patiently along the rail with In Due Time, who looked loaded every step of the way. He was able to tip him out three wide on the turn, where he passed the heavy favorite, and powered home to win by 5 and ¾ lengths in the stretch, stopping the clock in 1:35:97 and earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in his first race beyond six furlongs. Circa opened his futures odds at 125-1 after that effort and that figure is expected to be falling throughout the weekend. After that performance, I would think they’d be taking a serious look at the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 5th.

The third race on Thursday, February 3rd was a N1X allowance for Florida bred three year olds going seven furlongs. King Cab was making his first start since going wrong following a last place effort in the Florida Stallion Series Affirmed Division back in August. On Thursday, he broke out at the start, bumped his rival, but made the lead easily. He was cruising on the front end and never looked back, winning by over seven lengths and running the seven furlongs in 1:21:79. That race was two seconds faster than the Grade 1 placed four year old filly, Pass The Champagne ran in her seasonal debut at the same distance later on in the card. The Beyer Figure was an 88 for this gelded son of Noble Bird who is trained by Eddie Plesa. He too, may be under consideration for the Fountain of Youth after that kind of effort. 

Debut WInner In New York


Rob Atras sent out Eagle In Love on Thursday, February 3rd in a one mile maiden special weight race for his debut. His works over the Belmont training track going into the race were on the slower side, but he was ready to roll on race day, passing another highly regarded Pletcher runner, Long Term, and drawing off to win by 4+ lengths. He’s modestly bred, sired by Dialed In out of a Panamanian mare. Knowing he beat a few solid runners in that race, and knowing that the Gotham Stakes is also run at the same one turn mile distance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Atras take a shot with him in that race on March 5th. In the past, he’s shown that he’s willing to ambitiously place his horses if they’re doing well. He trained the filly, Maracuja, who upset the like three year old filly champion, Malathaat in CCA Oaks last summer at Saratoga. He ran that filly in the Grade 2 Gazelle in April following her maiden breaking performance in a 6 and ½ furlong sprint last April. She finished second at long odds to Search Results that afternoon.  


Weekend Sprint Stakes


There’s a pair of sprint races at Gulfstream and Aqueduct this weekend, both at seven furlongs, and both have potential to produce a starter for a Derby Prep race next month. The Grade 3 Claiborne Farm Swale Stakes is run as Race 5 on the loaded twelve race card on Saturday, February 5th at Gulfstream. From a pedigree standpoint, many of the six runners that entered seem to be better suited for one turn races. My Prankster (#1, 2-1) might have the most upside in races that are longer. He’s sired by Into Mischief out of a Flower Alley mare, and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He was one of the most impressive two year old debut winners at the Saratoga meet last summer, drawing off to win by 10 lengths in August. He made his next start in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont where he was no match for Jack Christopher that day. He was a decent second in the slop in the Bowman’s Mill Stakes on a very wet afternoon at Keeneland back in October. He would go on to clear the N1X condition in December here at six furlongs, and now stretches out to seven furlongs. His main competition will be In Dreams (#5, 5-2), who is a son of Frosted shipping in from Oaklawn for Brad Cox. He started off with two below average efforts in Kentucky before running a huge race with $150K maiden claimers at Churchill. He followed that effort up with a strong win in optional claiming/allowance company in Arkansas. That race was live as he handily beat next out winners, Chasing Time and Magnolia Midnight. Brad Cox has only run two horses here at this meet, but he won with one and was second with the other, so he’s only bringing horses to Florida that are live.


On Sunday, February 6th, Aqueduct brought back the seven furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for three year olds after it was canceled last weekend due to the weather. It’ll go as the 4th race on the program, and it only drew five runners, but I’m interested in seeing the second start for Morello (#5, 9-5). He was an impressive winner on debut here back at the end of November when going six furlongs over this track. He’s been working well for his return for Asmussen and he’s bred to get longer distances, sired by Preakness winner Classic Empire out of a Congrats mare. I would think that a big effort from here when facing winners for the first time would land him in the starting gate for the Gotham next month. 

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. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.

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