Three major races involving Kentucky Derby contenders took place last Saturday. The three races where held in different regions of the country and had enough interest that NBC televised all three of the races live. Two out of the three races went as expected with the chalk coming in, but that was not the case in California. Any winning ticket from the Santa Anita Derby would have netted one a substantial profit. The following will recap the stakes races from Santa Anita, Aqueduct, and Hawthorne and give you the current state of some of the Kentucky Derby contenders.
The first of the three took place in New York with the Wood Memorial. The field of eight featured little excitement as the favorite Bellamy Road went wire-to-wire. The only surprise was the performance of Going Wild. Victor Espinoza traveled up from California to ride this horse that finished last due to a tiring stretch run.
Nick Zito trained the winning horse and he appears to be well on his way with yet another Kentucky Derby contender. With this dominating performance, Bellamy Road will likely come in at single digits once post time arrives on May 7. He set the track record at 1 minute and 47 seconds and appears to be the fourth horse out of Zito's powerful barn.
Rounding out the trifecta were Survivalist and Scrappy T. Scrappy T's ability to hit the board along with Going Wild's last place finish gave a little boost to the trifecta as it paid $254.00. Jerry Bailey and Victor Espinoza will certainly be looking for different horses to ride once May approaches.
Moving west, we stop in Chicago for the Illinois Derby. On paper this appeared to be a weak field with the possibility to produce zero Kentucky Derby contenders. But that changed with a dominating performance by the favorite, Greeley's Galaxy. Galaxy went off at under 2-1 and pulled away for an easy victory. Owner B. Wayne Hughes has been quoted as saying that he will pony up the $200,000 to enter the horse in the Derby. This horse will enter the Derby at around 17-1, but I feel that is to low as this horse cannot compete with the strength of the Derby class.
There was very little value on the board as the race pretty much ran as expected. The $2 trifecta paid just under $100 and this race was completely dominated by the inside horses. Numbers 1-2-3-4 finished in exactly that order. Monarch Lane held on for second place and Magna Graduate took the show money. Neither one of these two horses will be in Churchill Downs.
Finishing out the day, we travel to the Pacific to Santa Anita Park for its annual Derby. The favorite in this race was a Philly named Sweet Catomine, who left the starting gate at even money. She ran into all kinds of trouble, was bumped, and could not rally back into contention. The winner was a Jeff Mullins trained horse, Buzzards Bay. The Buzz went off at over 30-1 and that was just the start of a humungous paying board. Coming in second was a 60-1 shot name General John B. The next four finishers were all favorites, but the damage had already been done and any winning ticket on this race meant a smile to one's face.
The exacta paid $751 and the trifecta paid and amazing $6,635. Buzzards Bay should qualify for the Derby with this surprising win and I expect him to enter the race at around 15-1. As for Sweet Catomine, this was a devastating loss and I have to question if she will be able to recover from such a disappointment.
Buzzards Bay will try and carry this momentum into the Kentucky Derby, but I question his style of racing. He had everything go right for him at Santa Anita, with trouble behind him and the hardness of the track. The Kentucky Derby appears to be full of early speedsters like the Buzz and that compition will likely wear them all down and allow the closers to blow past them.
Nick Zito appears to be the hot trainer as the race is now less the one month away. He could have as many as five Kentucky Derby contenders in the field and at this moment three of them appear to be serious contenders for the crown. For Zito, it starts with Sun King, who is far and away the best of his crop. Sun King is scheduled to race this Saturday in the Bluegrass Stakes and a win here would propel him into the morning line favorite for the Derby.
Zito's other two powers are High Fly and Noble Causeway. These two horses finished first and second in a very competitive Florida Derby. The only thing that troubles me about these two is their long layoff between races. If either of them would happen to win the Derby, that would mark the first time in nearly 50 years that the winner of the roses had a layoff of five weeks or more. That is about the only black mark on High Fly, who continues to dominate the three-year old field.
Next up are two more stakes races held in the South. The Bluegrass Stakes will go from Keeland and the Arkansas Derby will draw from Oaklawn. These are two important races that will play a major role in determining the field for the Kentucky Derby.
Be sure to check back for a recap of the stakes races each week. Doc's is your place for finding the winner of the Kentucky Derby. We have grabbed the money five out of the last ten Derby's including the 30-1 shot Charismatic in 1999.