Kentucky Derby Countdown

American racing expert Peter Thomas Fornatale casts his eye back to last weekend’s main Stateside action concerning the American Classics while also putting forward two bets in a pair of races that may have ramifications for the Kentucky Derby.

  • Friday 15 February
  • Blog
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A local horse, Well Defined, won the Sam F. Davis, a key prep for the Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday. He did so in gate-to-wire fashion, earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. He was left alone on the lead and made the best of a favorable situation. It remains to be seen if such circumstances will repeat as the competition gets tougher, but good for local connections to take full advantage of the opportunity at hand.

Kentucky Wildcat ran well in defeat, chasing wide against that loose winner and might have been the one to take out of the race had he not injured himself. He was vanned off and is now off the Derby trail. Heavy favorite Knicks Go was very disappointing without apparent excuse.

Global Campaign made his return to the races last weekend. The brother of 2018 Derby contender Bolt d’Oro initially appeared on various Derby lists after a smashing win last time out in a maiden at Gulfstream on January 5. Figure-makers were generally impressed with his easy romp at even-money.

This time around the effort once again looked stylish, but the clock called it into question to some degree. After earning an 87 Beyer Speed Figure the first time out, he registered a 77 this time. Still, the effort looked strong, and it didn’t hurt that the second horse from his debut, Growth Engine, came back to win well over the weekend.

Global Campaign has a “push button” style that could serve him well as the tests get more strenuous. The Fountain of Youth was mentioned as his next potential start by trainer Stanley Hough.

In Oaks news, ante-post favorite Bellafina returned in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita. It was not the cakewalk many expected, with the talented Simon Callaghan trainee having to fight tooth and nail for victory.

She broke half a step slow but got involved quickly and showed some real toughness in the lane to just hold off second choice Enaya Alrabb by less than a length. Bellafina earned a 90 figure – not bad – and it’s possible she’ll benefit going forward from having been in a battle.

She deserves her position as ante-post favorite but I’m also not in a hurry to take the 4-1.


The main prep race of the weekend is the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. It features a horse who has already received some Derby hype in WAR OF WILL, and he looks very dangerous in this spot despite a poor draw.

He’s looked imperious in victory in his two dirt starts – winning by 5 in the slop and then 4 in his Stakes debut. On numbers, he’s among the fastest of these early and late and could prove too tough for a field who must step up to beat him. The 5-2 on offer is square and I’ll bet him to win.

The El Camino Real is a Kentucky Derby prep in name only. Held on a synthetic surface at a second-tier oval (Golden Gate Fields), it’s unlikely that any of these will make an impact in the Derby.

That said, EAGLE SONG looks like a potentially interesting each way bet at 10-1 for trainer Mark Glatt. He won twice on the synth at Dundalk and his USA form is solid enough. He has among the best closing kick in the field and there could be value on offer as the favorite, Kingly for Bob Baffert, doesn’t look that strong to me and could have trouble seeing out the nine furlongs.

Kentucky Derby Countdown
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