It’s official. September 5th is the new date of the Kentucky Derby. The first Saturday in September doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it is what it is.
Last week was so crazy I didn’t have time to reflect on the previous weekend’s prep races, which gave us, however briefly, a new ante-post favorite for the Derby in Authentic.
This was the horse who impressed back in the Sham Stakes in January, but his ducking in in the stretch caused me some concern over his full potential. After all, runners from the Baffert barn often emerge close to fully formed, so I wasn’t crazy about the obvious greenness.
Baffert has done a great job with the colt, giving him time, bringing him along in workouts and equipping him with earplugs akin to the ones that turned around Baffert’s American Pharoah. With the new equipment, Authentic took a clear step forward in the San Felipe, notching a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.
His place atop the market at 8-1 before the news of the Derby moving felt over exuberant to me, but he clearly has to be considered among the favorites for the Derby, whenever it’s run.
The Tampa Bay Derby was won in a good time by King Guillermo, a 50-1 shot. King Guillermo cut out the fast pace in the Sam Davis that set up Sole Volante’s win there, and Sole Volante came running late this time for second.
I’m not convinced that either of these is a Classic winner and I want to see more. Before the ante-post market suspended, King G sat at 25-1 and Sole Volante at 16-1. I am very interested in Independence Hallwhenever he makes his return – he’s the one that made the move to break the race apart in the Davis.
I don’t think I’d want to bet him ante-post right now for the Derby, but he figures to be a bet for me when he returns in a prep for the Derby or if connections decide to turn him back in distance. Trainer Michael Trombetta can be trusted to make the right call on where he runs next.
The third Derby prep on March 7 was the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, a race won by Mischevious Alex, a horse trained by John Servis (not to be mistaken for his brother Jason, who was in the news for other reasons last week).
The race came back in a 90 Beyer figure, and given the impressive numbers many other three-year-olds are putting up, it feels unlikely he’ll make an impact in a race like the Derby, whenever it’s run.
This past weekend, two of Bob Baffert’s runners made excellent impressions on the track and one of them – the aforementioned Charlatan – is now your new Derby favorite with the best price available being 7-1.
Charlatan demolished an allowance field in what was a glorified public workout but in addition to showing off his impressive engine going long for the first time, he recorded a wildly high 106 Beyer Speed Figure.
He looks like Justify 2.0, and stands to possibly benefit the most from having the Derby date pushed back as he’ll have that much more time to develop.
And for Baffert, the hits just keep on coming. Nadal was very impressive in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, showing he could handle an off track in the process. His final time was a solid 96 Beyer but it was the way he earned it that wowed – dueling on the front end in a race where the other speeds finished last and second last and still holding off all comers.
This is a very talented horse for whom the sky is the limit. The only thing that gives me pause is that as a bigger framed horse, it’s possible he could be susceptible to a setback at some point this year – I’d have liked him and his 10-1 price a little better if the Derby was going to go ahead as initially scheduled.
I’ll be back later in the week with a look at the Louisiana Derby.