©2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” rolls west Saturday to Santa Anita Park where 10 young Thoroughbreds have been entered in the $300,000 Frontrunner Stakes (G1). The Frontrunner is the first Grade One race on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
Under the tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine Kentucky Derby eligibility, 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.
Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Frontrunner Stakes (G1) a record five times and he will send the morning-line 8-5 favorite American Pharaoh and Lord Nelson (8-1) to the starting gate.
American Pharaoh comes into the Frontrunner with a gate-to-wire, 4¾-length win in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and this is his first race at a route of ground.
Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of American Pharaoh, was a pretty good middle-distance horse and multiple graded-stakes winner of the CashCall Futurity (G1), Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2), San Felipe Stakes (G2) and Santa Anita Derby en route to a second-place finish in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Lord Nelson is stepping up in class and comes into this race off of a half-length maiden win at Del Mar on July 19.
Pulpit, the sire of Lord Nelson, was a multiple graded-stakes winner who won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), and finished second in the Florida Derby (G1) en route to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
If American Pharaoh and Lord Nelson improve off of their last outing, I think both will be competitive but, of the two, I’m looking to see how well Lord Nelson handles the step up in class and the stretch out to 8½-furlongs.
A long shot I like at10-1 morning-line odds is Sky Preacher who comes into the Frontrunner for trainer Doug O’Neill with a 1-2-0 record in four starts.
Sky Preacher appears to be an improving young colt by Sky Mesa. On June 27 Sky Preacher won easily breaking his maiden by 7½-lengths in a final time of 1:37.55. He followed that win two months later with a second-place finish in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf Stakes in time of 1:36.35, which is what I like to see in a young colt.
Sky Mesa, the sire of Sky Preacher, was a multiple graded-stake winner of the Hopeful Stakes (G1) and Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G2). He also finished second in the Haskell Invitational Handicap (G2) and third in the Dwyer Stakes (G2).
Another move forward by Sky Preacher could make him competitive in the Frontrunner Stakes (G1).
Daddy D T (6-1) finished in sixth-place in his maiden debut at Del Mar in August. A month later, trainer John Sadler moved Daddy D T into stakes competition where he was a half-length winner over Sky Preacher in the Oak Tree Juvenile Stakes.
Scat Daddy, the sire of Daddy D T, was a multiple graded-stakes winner of the Sanford Stakes (G2), Champagne Stakes (G1), Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) en route to and eighteenth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
A bullet work out on September 20 could have Daddy D T ready to run a good race.