While there was one 50 point Derby Prep race over the weekend, The Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, there was still a lot going on as many of the prime contenders have begun to map out their final starts leading up to the big race. Classic Causeway was the headliner going into this contest. He took on nine other three year olds in an attempt to lock up his spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.
Classic Causeway Rolls Again
It seemed like we were watching the replay from the Sam F. Davis this weekend. Classic Causeway was razor sharp when breaking from the gate and established himself as the clear pacesetter. Irad Ortiz kept him in about the three path all the way around the track, which seemed to be what many of the riders were doing on the main track throughout the afternoon. He set moderate fractions, and responded when asked the question at the top of the stretch. The final margin of victory was an easy 2 and ½ lengths, stopping the clock in 1:44:90 for the 1 Mile and 1/16 over a drying out track that was labeled good. The Beyer Speed Figure came back a low 84, but his Timeform figure of 110 suggested his performance was stronger. The debate of how strong an effort that was will likely be settled in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, which is expected to draw Zandon and Smile Happy among others. With the win on Saturday, Classic Causeway has vaulted to the top of the Derby Points Leaderboard with 66 points.
Longshot, Grantham finished second after using the rail to his advantage in the early part of the race. He raced evenly along the rail fighting back while holding off the closers. Shipsational was a wide third in his second race off the layoff. Both horses could be headed for a rematch with Classic Causeway in the Blue Grass next month.
Revisiting The Withers
The Beyer Speed Figure for Early Voting from his Withers win back on February 5th, has been adjusted to an 87 (originally 78). The return performances from both runner up Un Ojo, winning the Rebel Stakes, and 4th place finisher, Grantham, confirmed that the original figures assigned were too low. Early Voting is on track to make his return in the Wood Memorial Stakes on April 9th, where he’ll likely be joined by the winner of the Gotham, Morello, and the winner of last year’s Remsen, Mo Donegal.
Lack of Command
Last year’s runner up in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and 4th place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Commandperformance, made his first start of the year on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard. He was the overwhelming 1-20 favorite in an eight horse maiden special weight field going 1 Mile and 40 yards over the main track. However, when they crossed the wire, he remained a maiden, as he finished a distant second to Fenwick. The winner is a three year old son of Curlin out a Malibu Moon mare, who was making his fifth career start, and his first for trainer David Fisher. He took the lead early, benefitting from his rail draw, and never looked back. He won by 5 and ¼ lengths on the wire, earning an 88 Beyer Speed figure, which is significantly higher than anything he ran in his first four tries.
Arkansas Derby Doings
There were two interesting notes coming out of Arkansas this weekend that will likely have some impact on their signature race. Three year old filly, Secret Oath, is now officially planning to challenge the boys in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 2nd. She is coming off three straight dominating wins against fillies, and is currently sitting with 60 points toward entry in the Kentucky Oaks. As a result, her stablemate and the runner up in the Rebel Stakes, Ethereal Road, is now being pointed to the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 9th.
There was an impressive allowance winner on Saturday at Oaklawn that could very well produce another quality opponent for Secret Oath. We the People, a three year old son of Constitution out of a Tiznow mare, bumped his career record to a perfect two for two when handily defeating five rivals in an optional claiming/allowance race. He was on the early pace before drawing off nicely to win by five, earning an 89 Beyer Speed figure for his second career start. He was a dominating winner in his debut last month when going two turns against a nice maiden special weight field on February 12th. The Arkansas Derby comes up in three weeks, so trainer Roldolphe Brisset may opt to ship to Kentucky, California, or New York to run the following week, in order to give him some extra days of prepartion. However, after those first two starts, he appears to have earned an opportunity to try to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
A Week Off
For this first time since January 15th, there will be no Derby Points earned this weekend. Next weekend starts the 100 Point Derby preps with the Louisiana Derby and the UAE Derby on Saturday, Math 26th. The final Japanese prep race for the Derby, The Fukuryu Stakes, also goes that day, offering 40 points to the winner. Sunland Park then hosts the Sunland Derby, a 50 point prep, on Sunday, March 27th.
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.