Derby Trail Week in Review – 1/4/2022 – By Eric Solomon

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.

The Round-Up

The first three Derby Points races of 2022 were run on New Year’s Day at Aqueduct, Oaklawn, and Santa Anita. Courvoisier and Dash Attack earned ten points each for winning the Jerome and the Smarty Jones. Newgrange finished first in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, but was ineligible to earn the ten points that was offered, as he is trained by Bob Baffert. Of this trio, the one that was most impressive to me was Dash Attack. Visually, I thought he ran a strong race in his second career start for Ken McPeek. He was a step slow out of the gate, but was able to use his inside position to secure a rail spot in the middle of the thirteen horse field. He took a lot of mud to the face, as both Ruggs and Ben Diesel dueled on the front end. As the front runners started to back out, David Cohen was able to shift Dash Attack off the rail and into the clear, where he powered home as much the best in that field. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 84 for that effort in his second career start. He seems to be a horse that will continue to get better as some of the races get longer. He’s eyeing the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at the end of the month for his next start. His pedigree for ten furlongs is a question mark, but he’s really the only horse in that race that struck me as a horse that could improve enough to be a contender for the Kentucky Derby.

While the pedigree is there for Courvoisier, I just don’t think he’s going to be fast enough to compete with the big boys when that time comes. The Beyer figure for his Jerome victory was only a 73, and while that certainly isn’t the end all be all, that is significantly below the top contenders at this point. He’s looking to run back in the Withers for his next start, getting back to 1 Mile and 1/8.

Despite offering 17 points, the Grade 3 Sham only awarded three points, as the Baffert horses ran one two. I do think Newgrange has a lot of potential, in spite of having a very easy trip. What happens with him and the Derby is still up in the air though. If he’s going to be a Derby horse, he’s either going to need to switch barns or Churchill is going to have to change their mind on the ruling to make Baffert trained horses ineligible to earn Derby Points and run in the Derby. I thought going into the race, his stablemate, Rockefeller, was better suited to one turn races, and the result of this race did nothing to change my opinion there. Oviatt Class continues to plod along and pick up minor awards, but hasn’t shown any real improvement to this point. I understand he was pace compromised in this spot, but for him to be a true contender, he’s going to need to run better races.

Turf to Dirt Didn’t Work

Two horses that I thought could be interesting over the weekend when going from turf to dirt were Ohtwoohthreefive in Jerome and Mackinnon in the Sham. Both have pedigrees that suggest they could have some success in two turn dirt races. However, Ohtwohthreefive was never involved and proved he would be best suited to return to the grass. Mackinnon was definitely pace compromised, but I think if he truly relished the main track, he would have been able to outfinish Rockefeller and Oviatt Class for the minor awards.

Other Races of Interest

The Mucho Macho Man Stakes was run at Gulfstream on the main track at a one turn mile on Saturday as well. No Derby points were awarded, and as a result, the six horse field lacked some depth. No one on paper struck me as a legitimate Triple Crown player going into the race. Simplification got the job done, earning at 90 Beyer, higher than any of the Derby Points races. He won in gate to wire fashion, while setting some decent internal fractions. He now has two big races with a very dull effort sandwiched in between in three career tries on traditional dirt. He’ll likely take some money at the windows if he does go to the Holy Bull as expected for his next start, and he does have a pedigree that lends itself to some longer distances. However, I’ll reserve judgement on him until I see him handle two turns against a solid field, because I don’t think the field he beat Saturday was very strong.

What’s On The Horizon?

After four stakes races for three year olds last week, the next few weeks will be fairly quiet on the Derby Trail. The next Derby Points race is the Grade 3 Lecomte at the Fair Grounds, which comes up on January 22nd. As cards are drawn around the country over the next two weeks, we’ll try to key on some maiden and allowance races that for three year olds that might produce some runners for some upcoming stakes races.

 

 

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