©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 Santa Anita Park in California, Mor Spirit has been tagged the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the 80th running of the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (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.
Compared to the small fields in the previous California prep races, the Derby field has grown to 10 entrants, but it’s difficult to imagine any of the new runners being much of a factor.
Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert trains Mor Spirit and he’s had good fortune in this race, previously winning it a record seven times with Dortmund (2015), Midnight Interlude (2011), Pioneerof the Nile (2009), Point Given (2001), General Challenge (1999), Indian Charlie (1998) and Cavonnier (1996).
Whether Mor Spirit can bring Baffert more good fortune remains to be seen. He comes into this race with a 3-3-0 record in six starts, including a win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) and a second-place in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of his last race:
MOR SPIRIT pulled his way along a bit off the rail and steadied off heels on the first turn, chased just off the inside then angled to the fence into the stretch, came out under left handed urging past mid-stretch and out-finished a rival for the place.
Mor Spirit only lost by two lengths. But he made a nice move from fifth-place to get up for second and with a few more strides, probably would have closed the gap to score the win.
With a C Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, Mor Spirit is one of the better-bred horses in this herd. But, he’s yet to show the same “spirit” on the racetrack as that of his sire, Eskendereya, who has an A profile rating.
Eskendereya was a competitive colt and my favorite on the 2010 Kentucky Derby Trail until he was sidelined with an injury. During his career, Eskendereya compiled a 4-1-0 record in six starts which culminated in a 9¾ length romp in the 2010 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1).
Other key stakes wins include a runaway win by 8½ lengths in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and an impressive 7¼ length victory Pilgrim Stakes.
Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens has ridden Mor Spirit in five of his previous six starts and he returns to the irons. A recent bullet work out could have Mor Spirit ready to run a good race and score a win leading up to the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Danzing Candy, winner of the San Felipe Stakes (G2), has been tabbed as the 9-5 morning-line second choice and he comes into this race with a 3-0-0 record in four starts for trainer Clifford Sise. Here’s the chart call of his last race:
DANZING CANDY had speed outside a rival then inched away on the first turn, set the pace a bit off the rail then inside on the second turn, continued along the fence in the stretch and held on gamely under left handed urging.
Danzing Candy is a fast colt and he showed his speed in this race, leading from start to finish.
Like many horses on this year’s trail, Danzing Candy has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® score. However, his Behavior Index makes him competitive, and, sometimes, horses with a low profile score can win races that are shorter than the classic 10 furlong distance.
Twirling Candy, the sire of Danzing Candy, was a multiple graded stakes winner that was competitive in sprint and route races up to nine furlongs. During his racing career, he compiled a 7-1-1 record in 11 starts with $944,900 in career earnings.
On November 29, 2009, Twirling Candy won his first and only start as a two year old in a seven furlong sprint at Hollywood Park. As a three year old, he returned to racing in May and during that year he compiled a 4-0-0 record in five starts including wins in the Oceanside Stakes, Del Mar Derby (G2) and Malibu Stakes (G1).
At the age of four, Twirling Candy was 2-1-1 in five starts including wins in the Strub Stakes (G2) and Californian Stakes (G2).
Jockey Mike Smith has ridden Danzing Candy in three of his four starts and he returns to the irons.
A recent bullet work out could have Danzing Candy ready to run a good race, and it remains to be seen if he can carry his speed to nine furlongs to score a win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Exaggerator (4-1) is the morning-line third choice and he comes into this race for trainer Kent Desormeaux with a 3-2-1 record in eight starts including a third-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). Here’s the chart call of that race:
EXAGGERATOR forced out some at the start, angled in and saved ground off the pace, moved up inside on the second turn, came out and bumped a rival nearing the quarter pole, angled out into the stretch, loomed behind the winner in mid-stretch, drifted in late and was edged for second.
In eight starts, Exaggerator has only been out of the money twice and if he runs to his previous form he should be competitive in this race.
Curlin, the sire of Exaggerator, was an outstanding racehorse that compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts with $10,501,800 in earnings. Curlin won the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1), finished second in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and third in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In addition, Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), twice, Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1), and the UAE Jaguar Trophy Handicap.
Regular jockey Kent Desormeaux returns to the irons and I look for them to run a good race.
Honorable mention goes to Denman’s Call (15-1) and Dressed in Hermes (15-1) who could, perhaps, be a factor in the exotics.
The winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) 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