The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” rolls west Saturday to Santa Anita Park where 11 young Thoroughbreds have been entered in the $250,000 Frontrunner Stakes (G1). The Frontrunner is the first Grade One race on the Kentucky Derby Trail and the second of 34 qualifying races that will determine Derby eligibility.
Under the new tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs last year, the winner of the Frontrunner will receive 10 points while the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and 1 point will be awarded to the fourth-place finisher.
Dance With Fate, a half-length runner up in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), has been tabbed as the lukewarm 7-2 morning-line favorite while Futurity winner Tamarando has been installed at 4-1 odds. Of those two, I like Dance With Fate better.
Bumped at the start of the Futurity and shuffled to 10th-place in the 11-horse field, Dance With Fate, showed a lot of professionalism to finish with a strong rally in the stretch to finish just a half-length shy of victory. A repeat of that performance will make him competitive in the Frontrunner and he has the breeding to handle the stretch out to 8½-furlongs.
His sire, Two Step Salsa, was a pretty decent sprinter and middle-distance horse with over $1.1 million in earnings and a 6-2-1 record in 12 starts. His most notable route races were a win in the 8½-furlong Affirmed Handicap (G3) and a second-place finish in the 9-furlong Swaps Stakes (G2).
Saint Ballado, the damsire of Dance With Fate, compiled a 4-2-0 record in nine starts and his most notable stakes wins were in the one mile Sheridan Stakes (G3) and the 9-furlong Arlington Classic Stakes (G2) which he won by 4½-lengths in the blistering time of 1:46.82.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano has ridden Dance With Fate in his three previous starts and retains the mount for this race. I look for the pair to be competitive, but look for others to be in the stretch stampede, too.
Roundupthelute is trained by Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert who holds the record of most wins by a trainer with five wins in the Frontrunner Stakes which was formerly known as the Norfolk Stakes. Baffert also has Can The Man (4-1) entered in the race but he does have a history of sometimes winning a race with a higher odds horse like Roundupthelute.
Roundupthelute comes into the race with a two-length maiden win in the C. B. Afflerbaugh Stakes at the Barretts Race Meet at the Fairplex. The track at Fairplex is only five eighths of a mile long with sharp turns and to be competitive, horses have to be close to the pace.
So, I’m looking forward to see how Roundupthelute fares in the Frontrunner. If he lives up to his breeding, Roundupthelute should be competitive.
His sire, Midnight Lute, was an Eclipse champion male sprinter and two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Midnight Lute had breathing problems, so he was raced mostly in sprint races and it is unknown if he could have had any classic potential. However, his grandsire, Real Quiet, was an outstanding Classic Champion Thoroughbred who won the 1998 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) and lost by a nose to Victory Gallop in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
His damsire, A.P. Indy, won the Belmont stakes and the tail-female line is reinforced by the outstanding champions Deputy Minister, Alydar and Tom Fool.
Bond Holder has yet to break his maiden. But I like how he ran and rallied for a second-place finish in his last race just 1¾-lengths shy of victory. The time of 1:36.93 was decent and I think that the stretch out to 8½-furlongs will be more to his liking.
Mineshaft, the sire of Bond Holder, was an outstanding route racer who won races such as New Orleans Handicap (G2), Ben Ali Stakes (G3), Pimlico Special Handicap (G1), Suburban Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Club Stakes (G1).
Conquistador Cielo, the damsire of Bond Holder, was a Belmont Stakes (G1) winner and the 1982 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year.
Schoolofhardrocks (4-1), though green in the stretch, looked pretty good winning his maiden debut by 1½-lengths last month at Del Mar racetrack. He covered the one mile distance in a decent time of 1:36.85. His sire, Rock Hard Ten, also won his maiden debut and went on to compile a 7-1-1 record in 11 starts with over $1.8 million in career earnings.
Not sure how he’ll fare Saturday, but Schoolofhardrocks bears watching.