Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the latest round of Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prep races that were run on Saturday:
BUILDING PROCESS: Bolt d’Oro’s strong performance and his victory through disqualification in the $400,000 Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park was all the more impressive because trainer Mick Ruis was using the race to build toward bigger days. “This wasn’t the race we were looking forward to,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the Santa Anita Derby (on April 7) and that next race that I won’t mention yet.” The race the superstitious Ruis won’t mention yet is, of course, the May 5 Kentucky Derby. Ruis added, “Hopefully, we’re moving forward and he’ll be at his best in a couple of months.”
JURY IS OUT: As thrilling as the San Felipe was, as much as it lived up to the hype with a pulsating stretch duel between Bolt d’Oro and the previously undefeated McKinzie, no one wants to see a race decided by the stewards after the star 3-year-olds bumped more than once. Even jockey Javier Castellano, a winner the first time he rode Bolt d’Oro, was less than satisfied. “I wish it would have just been the two horses running straight in the race. We were the best two horses in the race. I just want to see who the better horse is,” he said.
ENTICING ENTICED: Enticed is enticing again after he rebounded from a fourth-place finish in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut to win the $300,000 Grade 3 Gotham Stakes. The Holy Bull represented the only time in his career that he failed to crack the top three. His impressive rally in the Gotham on a speed-favoring Aqueduct surface makes it easy now to simply dismiss the Holy Bull as a bad day. Up next for Enticed: the April 7 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
WHO KNEW? Who knew that the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes would turn out to be such a significant race when it was run last Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs? It has now produced the winners of four prep races offering qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby over the past month. Enticed, who won the Kentucky Jockey Club, parlayed that into success in the Gotham. Promises Fulfilled, third at Churchill Downs, went on to take the March 3 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes. Bravazo, a punchless tenth in the Jockey Club, was full of fight when he captured the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford on Feb. 17. And Quip, seventh under the twin spires last November, scored a 19.10-1 upset in Saturday’s $400,000 Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby to mark his 3-year-old debut for trainer Rodolphe Brisset, a former assistant to Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Trainer Dale Romans appeared to regret the decision to scratch Free Drop Billy from the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth in order to run him in the one-mile Gotham a week later. Free Drop Billy did not find his best stride until late in the Gotham for jockey Dylan Davis on an afternoon at Aqueduct when speed was particularly dangerous. “Two turns would probably be better,” said Romans, looking ahead to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 7 at Keeneland. Davis said of the upcoming added distance, “He’s going to be much tougher.”