Derby Trail Update – 4/5/22 – By Eric Solomon

Three more 100 point prep races went into the books on Saturday and several more horses locked in their spots for the Kentucky Derby. All the Derby Points race winners in the state of Florida met up in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. A flashy filly took on the boys in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. A full field of 12 ran on the Tapeta in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park. At the end of the day, we’re left to wonder if we saw the Derby winner on Saturday or not. 

 

 

Holy Bull Vs. Fountain of Youth

The winners of the two local feeder races for the Grade 1 Florida Derby squared off at Gulfstream. White Abarrio beat Simplification in the Grade 3 Holy Bull in February. He sat out in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Simplification took care of business in that race. The winner of both Derby Points races at Tampa Bay Downs, Classic Causeway joined them, along with a promising young runner from the Pletcher barn, Charge It. This foursome appeared to be the major players in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

Classic Causeway is a tremendous gate horse, and he was again on Saturday, breaking on top with Irad Ortiz. Simplification, who missed the break in the Holy Bull and was a little slow into stride in the Fountain of Youth, was much sharper in the early stages, pressing the frontrunner from second. White Abarrio ended up a little wide in the first turn, but settled nicely off the early leaders. 

Before they hit the far turn, Classic Causeway was backing out of the picture and Simplification hit the front, while engaged with Pappacap. White Abarrio rolled up three wide, and Charge It came with a four wide blitz. White Abarrio pulled away from Simplification, who kept fighting on. Charge It was green, and lugging in a bit late, which appeared to cost him the victory, as White Abarrio crossed the wire first. The final time for the nine furlong race was 1:50:64 and the Beyer Speed Figure was 96.

White Abarrio and Simplification are both nice horses that are Derby bound. White Abarrio has beaten him twice in their two head to head meetings, so obviously he’s got the upper hand leaving Florida. While I’m not sure how high the ceiling is for these two, both horses are proven to be versatile, which is a characteristic that could play well in Louisville. White Abarrio went and Tyler Gaffalione won the Holy Bull when racing near the front end throughout the race. Here, he sat back in 5th, and came with his three wide rally. Simplification won the Mucho Man Man going gate to wire in January. He came from off the pace to win the Fountain of Youth, and was able to run well in the Holy Bull despite a bad start. I’m not sure they’re on the same level as Epicenter, Smile Happy, or Messier, however, I do think they are tough, battle tested horses that wouldn’t be terrible bets at the right price.

I believe the horse with the highest ceiling out of this race is the runner up, Charge It, who has the look of a horse that could be special. He was making his third career start, his first against winners, and his first at two turns. He broke a bit awkwardly, hitting the gate, breaking a bit behind some of the others. He was able to work out a good trip into the first turn despite the trouble. He sat in 4th, just inside of White Abarrio, who was able to get the jump on him going into the final turn. Luis Saez brought him four wide into the stretch. He was definitely green going into the stretch, drifting in and out while surging late. If he was able to run a straight path, I think he was going to win. Regardless, it was a huge effort for a young horse. I’m not sure how I feel about him in a race like the Derby, but his performance was very good and I think he has a big future. 

The Filly Vs. The Boys

The storyline going into the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby was the talented filly, Secret Oath, trained by Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, taking on the boys in an attempt to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. She broke well, but was jostled around in the first 1/16 of the mile, forcing toward the back of the field. The pace was decent on the front end, as Kavod used his rail post to set the early fractions. 

They tried to slow things down along the backstretch, and the rest of the field started to bunch up. Florent Geroux aboard Cyberknife, made a bold middle move to take his horse toward the front when a hole opened up in between Kavod and Chasing Time. Cyberknife took the lead on the turn, while Secret Oath was making an eye-catching, six wide move. Cyberknife continued to find on the front end as Secret Oath was chasing him home. Barber Road, created some of his own trouble in the stretch, but continued to run on to get up for second. 

Cyberknife ran the nine furlongs in 1:50:62 and earned a career top Beyer Speed Figure of 92. He’s an improving Gun Runner colt, who is trained by Brad Cox. He has come a long way since finishing 6th in the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in January. While he is improving, he’s another one that feels a cut below the top tier runners going into the Derby. 

Barber Road has hit the board in all of the Derby points races at Oaklawn this season. He’s a gutsy horse that could sneak into the bottom of the exotics in the Derby with the right trip. He’s a smaller horse, which could prove useful if he isn’t roughed up too badly racing in such a large field. Secret Oath earned 20 points, but she is pointing toward the Kentucky Oaks instead, which is shaping up to be one of the better runnings of that race in recent years. 

 

Tiz the Bomb is the Bomb

The Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks was the third of the 100 point Derby Prep races over the weekend, and Tiz the Bomb is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Animal Kingdom, who won this race in 2011 en route to his Derby victory. 

 

The son of Hit it a Bomb broke well, and settled midpack while going three wide into the first turn. He continued to travel comfortably throughout the backstretch, while racing in the three path. He made his move on the turn and took the lead away from Tawny Port, pulling clear to win by 2 and ¾ lengths on the wire. The final time was a solid 1:48:60, earning the winner a 94 Beyer Speed figure. 

 

The question about whether or not Tiz the Bomb will be as effective on the main track at Churchill will be debated over the next few weeks. He won at Ellis in an off the turf maiden special weight race this summer by a wide margin. However, that race was not very fast and he didn’t beat anyone of substance. His effort in the Holy Bull was not good back in February. He was training well over the Gulfstream Park track prior to that poor effort. This win, however, was a monster effort, and this horse looks like a much better horse now than he did two months ago. He’s one to keep an eye on in the mornings leading up to the Derby.

 

Derby Future Wager, The 5th Edition

Churchill Downs called an audible last week, pushing the 5th and final Derby Future Wager back a week, to this weekend. In addition, they made an interesting change that is worth paying attention to. The wagering for this final pool will close at 4:30 EST on Saturday, April 9th, BEFORE the running of the final three 100 Point Derby Prep Races. The fields for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, the Grade 1 Blue Grass, and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, will all be drawn tomorrow. The future wager opens on Thursday, April 7th, and the runners and morning line odds are listed below. As the wagering gets closer, keep an eye on the live odds to see where the value lies in this wager. 

 

Horse Morning Line Odds
1.Barber Road 30-1
2.Charge It 12-1
3.Crown Pride 50-1
4.Cyberknife 12-1
5.Early Voting 20-1
6.Emmanuel  20-1
7.Epicenter 5-1
8.Ethereal Road 50-1
9.Forbidden Kingdom 8-1
10.In Due Time 50-1
11.Messier 8-1
12.Mo Donegal 20-1
13.Morello 20-1
14.Pioneer of Medina 30-1
15.Simplification 15-1
16.Slow Down Andy 50-1
17.Smile Happy 6-1
18.Summer is Tomorrow 50-1
19.Tawny Port 50-1
20.Tiz the Bomb 12-1
21.White Abarrio 8-1
22.Zandon 20-1
23.Zozos 30-1
24.Field – All Other Three Year Olds 15-1

 

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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