©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
This Saturday, with three marquee races on tap, the Road to the Kentucky Derby enters the stretch drive taking us to Kentucky, New York and California where winners of those races will each receive 100 qualifying points and a guaranteed spot in Derby starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
At Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky, Zulu has been tabbed the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the 92nd running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1). Post Time is 6 p.m. ET. Television coverage of the race will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network from 5-7 p.m. ET.
This is a must win race for Zulu, who’s currently ranked 20th in the Kentucky Derby Point Standing, and he comes into this race with a 2-1-0 record in three starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. Zulu has yet to win a stakes race and in his last start he finished second to Mohaymen in the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
ZULU stalked the pace of AWESOME BANNER while racing three-wide, moved up to take command nearing the half, was quickly taken on by the winner, vied with that rival through seven furlongs but could not match strides in the drive.
Zulu is a young colt I’ve liked since last fall and I wrote about him in my 2016 Kentucky Derby Outlook. With an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Zulu is one of the best bred horses in this race. However, I’m hoping that he’ll rebound from his second-place finish in his last start and run a good race in the Bluegrass State.
Bernardini, the sire of Zulu, did not race as a 2-year-old but at the age of three, he was a fast colt that won races from a mile to 10-furlongs.
He broke his maiden on his second start running a mile at Gulfstream Park in 1:35.57. That’s the kind of time I like to see a young colt run in a mile. Bernardini went on to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred, compiling a 6-1-0 record in eight starts with $3,060,480 in career earnings.
Notable races won by Bernardini in route to becoming the 2006 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male include: Withers Stakes (G3, 8-furlongs), Preakness Stakes (G1, 9½-furlongs), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2, 8½ furlongs), Travers Stakes (G1, 10 furlongs), Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1, 10 furlongs) and he finished second, a length behind Invasor, winner of the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1, 10 furlongs).
It remains to be seen if Zulu can step up to be successful in stakes competition. But, if he lives up to his breeding, he’ll be tough in this race.
Brody’s Cause (4-1), ranked 18th in point standings, is another colt I wrote about in my 2016 Kentucky Derby Outlook and he comes into this race off of a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
BRODY'S CAUSE was bumped at the start, raced off the pace inside, dropped back on the far turn, came wide and gained mildly late.
Brody’s Cause also has an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® but, as a three year old, he’s yet to live up to that breeding. One never knows if a young Thoroughbred like Brody’s Cause will live up to his breeding and there can be many factors that contribute to a horse not running to his Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® – Effinex is a good example of that.
Brody’s Cause is a sire-line descendant of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd. His sire, Giant’s Causeway, was undefeated in three starts as a 2-year-old, including wins in the Group 3 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre Stakes, all at 7-furlongs.
As a three year old, Giant’s Causeway raced 10 times and won five Group One races including the Irish Champion Stakes, International Stakes, Sussex Stakes, St. James’s Palace Stakes, Eclipse Stakes and he won the Group 3 Gladness Stakes. He also finished second in four races: Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, 2,000 Guineas Stakes, Irish 2,000 Guineas and he finished second by a narrow neck to Tiznow in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Overall, Giant’s Causeway compiled a 9-4-0 record in 13 starts, winning from 7- to 10-furlongs, and he was the 2000 Cartier Racing Awards European Horse of the Year.
Brody’s Cause has room to improve in his second start of the season and it remains to be seen if trainer Dale Romans will have Brody’s Cause ready for this race.
Donegal Moon (5-1) comes into this race with a 2-1-1 record in eight starts for trainer Todd Pletcher including a romping win in his last race by 13 lengths. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
DONEGAL MOON, outside under light rating, took the lead without need of coaxing near the stretch, opened a long lead in mid-stretch and extended while fully extended.
Donegal Moon looked good in this race and, perhaps, he’s a young colt that’s improving at just the right time of year. With an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, he has the breeding to be competitive. However, he’s yet to live up to that breeding.
Malibu Moon, the sire of Donegal Moon, made only two starts as a two year old, compiling a 1-1-0 record, before a slab fracture ended his racing career.
At stud, Malibu Moon sired the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. In addition, he’s sired several horses that have been competitive on the Derby trail such as Danzig Moon, Mr. Z and Stanford. Other nice runners sired by Malibu Moon include Life At Ten, Devil May Care, Declan’s Moon, Ask the Moon, Prospective, Kauai Katie, Moon Catcher and Malibu Mint.
As I noted earlier, there are many reasons why a young horse may not live up to his breeding and Donegal Moon will have to improve his game considerably in order to secure the win in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
The Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner will receive 100 points, second-place finishers will receive 40 points, third-place finishers will get 20 points and fourth-place finishers will get 10 points. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2016 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Rank, Horse, Points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Gun Runner, 51, Steve Asmussen, $849,200
2. Nyquist, 130, Doug O’Neill, $2,289,000
3. Lani, 100, Mikio Matsunaga, $1,300,119
4. Mohaymen, 80, Kiaran McLaughlin, $807,850
5. Destin, 51, Todd Pletcher, $338,000
6. Cupid, 50, Bob Baffert, $540,000
*. Oscar Nominated, 50, Mike Maker, $321,360
7. Danzing Candy, 50, Cliff Sise, Jr., $240,000
8. Shagaf, 50, Chad Brown, $240,000
9. Mor Spirit, 44, Bob Baffert, $416,800
10. Tom’s Ready, 44, Dallas Stewart, $270,670
**. f-Polar River, 40, Doug Watson, $700,000
11. Majesto, 40, Gustavo Delgado, $190,000
12. Mo Tom, 32, Tom Amoss $328,326
13. Fellowship, 32, Stanley Gold, $210,590
14. Exaggerator, 26, Keith Desormeaux, $1,028,000
15. Whitmore, 24, Ron Moquett, $300,000
16. Laoban, 22, Eric Guillot, $92,000
17. Azar, 20, Todd Pletcher, $273,800
18. Forevamo, 20, All Stall, Jr., $210,000
19. Dazzling Gem, 20, Brad Cox, $100,000
20. Zulu, 20, Todd Pletcher, $79,200
*Will be supplemented to Derby. **Not nominated to Derby