Kentucky Derby Countdown

With no American races awarding points for the Kentucky Derby this weekend, Peter Thomas Fornatale recaps on the best of action over the last week, starting with impressive Risen Star winner War Of Will.

  • Saturday 23 February
  • Blog
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War of Will was impressive in victory once again in the Risen Star for Mark Casse last weekend, attending a hot pace from a tricky outside post and still winning well in the end. Beyer and Associates gave him a 92 figure and the effort should probably be upgraded a couple points for the extra effort.

The journey was easy enough in the end but he did have to run a little fast early. Advised at 5-2 in this space last week, War of Will was smashed on the tote into even money and ended up justifying those odds.

He’s only priced up for the Derby in a couple of places, 20-1 in both. That number isn’t super exciting for a horse who’ll have to run much faster to be a Derby threat, but it’s not bad either.

Country House, the second in the Risen Star, showed some green tendencies, breaking poorly and lugging in the stretch. The race dynamics may have worked out in his favor to some degree, but there should definitely be more to come from this one, especially as he’s in Bill Mott’s patient hands.

The California Cup Derby doesn’t award any points on the road to the Kentucky Derby – its restricted-to-California-breds status assures that – but it is a race with recent Kentucky Derby form thanks to California Chrome. Chrome competed in the Golden State, King Glorious, and Cal Cup Derby, winning the latter two, on route to the garland of roses.

A colt named Galilean has gone one better in 2019, winning all three of those races and stamping himself as a contender after an easy win on Monday. Galilean appears to be bred for distance – he’s by Uncle Mo out of an El Prado dam. He earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure this time for his 1-9 romp, but other figure-makers had that number a bit higher.

He’ll have to continue to be progressive for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer if he’s to make an impact on the Derby trail but he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. They haven’t committed to a target but the Santa Anita Derby in early April would make sense.

If you’re wondering, Chrome’s next move was the San Felipe, but that race comes up too soon in the current racing calendar.

Monday’s race that did award Derby points was the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. It was won by a 62-1 shot in Super Steed. He took advantage of a race that fell apart, coming from far back in a race where the horses that were 1-2 early were bet and finished far back. Super Steed, who earned an 84 on the Beyer scale, will have to prove he belongs next time out, presumably in the Rebel Stakes on 16 March.

Anothertwistafate earned the highest figure on the Beyer scale of the quartet of winners, notching a 94 in the El Camino Real on the synthetic at Golden Gate in wire-to-wire fashion. The son of Scat Daddy is now three-for-three at Golden Gate on the wax. The lone dirt try, his first out, was poor, but we’ll see if connections can resist Derby fever.

One other note from the weekend, Instagrand is back on the worktab, registering a six-furlong breeze at Santa Anitasix-furlong breeze at Santa Anitalast Sunday. This is the horse who was so impressive in two starts last summer before being put away amidst much controversy.

There is still some 20-1 out there on him for the Kentucky Derby, though he’s generally 16-1. That could start to look like good value if he’s improved at all since last seen on the track. We’ll learn more soon, perhaps in the San Felipe on 9 March (possibly facing two-year-old champion Game Winner), but connections are keeping their cards close to the vest.

It’s a rare weekend with no races awarding points for the Kentucky Derby, but there will be plenty more to come as the steady drumbeat to America’s most storied race continues over the next two months.

Peter Thomas Fornatale is the host and creator of the In the Money Players Podcast. He is also the US correspondent for Sky Sports Racing.

Kentucky Derby Countdown
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