©2017 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, Iliad has been tagged the lukewarm 7-2 morning-line favorite in the 80th running of the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1). Post Time is 6:30 p.m. ET. Live television coverage of the race will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET.
Iliad is trained by Doug O’Neill, who also has four horses entered in this race, and he previously won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) with Goldencents (2013) and I’ll Have Another (2012). To date, Iliad is 2-1-0 record in four starts, including a second-place finish to Mastery in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
ILIAD stalked three deep then bid three wide on the backstretch and second turn, angled in outside of a rival and held second.
Iliad was no match for Mastery who won by an impressive 6¾ lengths. Track announcer Michael Wrona noted “Iliad is floundering in the final furlong of this mile and one sixteenth test” and, indeed, he looked uncomfortable, often swishing his tail in the final run to the wire.
Ghostzapper, a 2012 Hall of Fame inductee and the sire of Iliad, and McCraken, was an incredibly talented, multiple graded stakes winner that compiled a 9-0-1 record in 11 starts with $3,466,120 in career earnings.
As a two year old, Ghostzapper won his maiden special weight debut by nine lengths and was 1-0-0 in two starts. At the age of three, Ghostzapper won the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) and finished third in the King’s Bishop (G1), compiling a 3-0-1 record in four starts.
As a four year old, Ghostzapper was undefeated in four starts winning the Tom Fool Handicap (G2), Philip H. Iselin Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (G1). In addition, Ghostzapper was selected as the 2004 Eclipse Horse of the Year and Eclipse Champion Older Horse.
In his only start as a five year old, Ghostzapper was a 6¼ length winner of the one mile Metropolitan Handicap (G1).
Iliad has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking but so far on the trail his Behavior Index has made him competitive. How far that will take him remains to be seen and Iliad will need to improve his game in order to secure the win in the nine-furlong Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Reach the World (5-1) is the colt that intrigues me most in this race. He was on my auction shortlist at the September 2015 Keeneland Yearling Sale where he went through the sales ring as an RNA for $975,000. I also made him an honorable mention in my 2017 Kentucky Derby Outlook because he was only in training and had not raced when I wrote that blog.
Reach the World is trained by Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert who’s won the Santa Anita Derby 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).
To date, Reach the World has yet to win a stakes race and he’s 1-1-1 in three starts including a second-place finish in an allowance optional claiming race at Santa Anita on March 9. Here’s the video and chart call of his last race:
REACH THE WORLD broke slightly in the air and was bumped, settled inside then inched up between horses on the backstretch, waited off heels between foes on the second turn, came out into the stretch and continued willingly outside the winner late but could not get by.
For a while it looked like Reach the World might be stuck behind a wall of horses but a hole finally opened and he only lost by a neck to Battle of Midway who’s also entered in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Tapit, the sire of Reach the World, was a multiple graded stakes winner that compiled a 3-0-0 record in six starts with $557,300 in career earnings.
As a two year old, Tapit was undefeated in two starts including a win in the Laurel Futurity (G3). Tapit was troubled by a lung infection for much of his three year old season but he did win the nine-furlong Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to a ninth-place finish in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
At stud, Tapit has been America’s leading sire for the past three years and he’s the sire of the Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Tonalist and Creator.
With an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking Reach the World is the best bred colt in this race and he has the potential to be very competitive in route, and, perhaps, classic races.
It remains to be seen if Reach the World step up in class to earn graded-stakes honors and a recent bullet work out could have him ready to his best race yet.
A long shot I like is Comma Sister (50-1) who comes into this race for trainer George Papaprodromou with a 1-0-1 record in three starts including a maiden win on the turf at Santa Anita on February 20. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
COMMA SISTER angled in and stalked inside, went up the rail in the stretch, bid inside past mid-stretch under left handed urging, gained the lead late and held on gamely.
Comma Sister struggled as a two year old, but looked good finally breaking his maiden in his debut as three year old. The split for the mile of 1:36.53 and final time of 1:48.64 was pretty good and if Comma Sister can run close to that time this Saturday he could be very competitive in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Tale of the Cat, the sire of Comma Sister, was a graded stakes winner that compiled a 5-1-2 record in nine starts with $360,900 in career earnings.
As a three year old, Tale of the Cat won the seven-furlong Kings Bishop Stakes (G2) and finished third in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1). At the age of four, Tale of Silence finished second in the nine-furlong Whitney Handicap (G1) and he was third in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1).
Comma Sister has a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking but his Behavior Index can potentially move him up and he could be improving at the right time of year. I like it that after a four month layoff he came back and won first time out as a three year old and he has room to improve in his second start of the season.
With an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® ranking, both Gormley (9-2) and American Anthem (5-1) have yet to fully live up to their breeding. But if they run their race, they could be competitive in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
When horses fail to run close to their profile score, then the issue[s] preventing them from reaching their full potential needs to be investigated. And there can be many contributing factors for a horse not running to his profile score – Effinex is a good example of that.
Gormley is a young colt I liked early on and he was my upset pick in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1). He comes into the Santa Anita Derby (G1) for trainer John Sherriffs with a 3-0-0 record in five starts, including wins in the FrontRunner and Sham Stakes (G3) and a fourth-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
GORMLEY stalked just off the rail on the first turn then bid between horses to press the pace on the backstretch and second turn, drifted in entering the stretch, drifted out some from the whip in mid-stretch and weakened.
Gormley has the breeding to competitive in these races. But he may have behavior issues that prevent him from living up to his full potential and it remains to be seen if he can recover from his fourth-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes (G2).
Malibu Moon, the sire of Gormley, 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.
For more information about Gormley’s potential in this race, check out this John Shirreffs interview with Zoe Cadman (go to 7:30 minute mark). I’ll be interested to see if Gormley can improve his record in his third start of the season and stretch out to nine furlongs.
American Anthem has yet to earn graded stakes honors and he comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in three starts for trainer Bob Baffert including a second-place finish in the one mile Sham Stakes (G3) and a 10th place finish in the Rebel Stakes (G2). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
AMERICAN ANTHEM five down to four wide in the first turn, faded down the lane in a dull effort.
In an interview with Zoe Cadman (go to 13:34 minute mark), Baffert said that American Anthem’s poor performance in the Rebel could be because he broke “flat footed” out of the gate and lost a shoe.
Bodemeister, the sire of American Anthem, did not race until the age of three when he made six starts for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert, compiling a 2-4-0 record in six starts with $1,304,800 in career earnings.
He raced twice in the maiden ranks before finishing second in his third start, the San Felipe Stakes (G2). In his fourth start, Baffert shipped Bodemeister to Oaklawn Park where he was my pick to win the Arkansas Derby (G1). Bodemeister trounced the field, winning by an outstanding 9½ lengths. He then went on to finish second in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).
American Anthem has room to improve in his third start of the season and I’ll be watching to see how well he handles the stretch out in distance to nine furlongs in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Let’s take a look at the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile® for the horses entered in this race:
1. Reach the World A+
2. Gormley A
3. American Anthem A
4. Irish Freedom B
5. Battle of Midway C
6. Kimbear C
7. Comma Sister D
7. Term of Art D
8. Milton Freewater D
9. So Conflated D
10. Midnight Pleasure E
11. Iliad G
13. Royal Mo G
As you can see in the model above, horses like Iliad and Royal Mo have low profile ranking. However, the Behavior Index can move some horses up or down and here’s a look at the ranking of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) entries when you factor in the behavior variable.
Classic Champion Thoroughbred
Profile® & Behavior Index
1. Reach the World
3. American Anthem
4. Comma Sister
6. Irish Freedom
7. Royal Mo
8. Battle of Midway
10. Term of Art
11. Milton Freewater
12. So Conflated
13. Midnight Pleasure
As you can see in the Behavior Index Model, Comma Sister, Iliad and Royal Mo can potentially move up in the ranking. If Gormley and American Anthem do not run well they could move down in the ranking.
Time will tell if it was justifiable applying the Behavior Index to those horses.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) will receive 100 points, the second-place finisher will receive 40 points, the third-place finisher will receive 20 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 10 points.
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2017 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Girvin, 150, Joe Sharp, $849,800
2. Thunder Snow, 100, Saeed bin Suroor, $1,621,063
3. Always Dreaming, 100, Todd Pletcher, $$589,000
4. Gunnevera, 84, Antonio Sano, $1,137,800
5. State of Honor, 62, Mark Casse, $309,564
6. Tapwrit, 54, Todd Pletcher, $295,570
7. J Boys Echo, 53, Dale Romans, $255,000
8. Malagacy, 50, Todd Pletcher, $540,000
9. Hence, 50, Steve Asmussen, $$481,129
10. **Fast and Accurate, 50, $320,712
11. Patch, 40, Todd Pletcher, $200,000
12. Practical Joke, 34, Chad Brown, $766,000
13. Untrapped, 34, Steve Asmussen, $210,000
14. Classic Empire, 32, Mark Casse, $1,493,820
15. Local Hero, 30, Steve Asmussen, $140,000
16. Gormley, 20, John Sherriffs, $284,000
17. McCraken, 20, Ian Wilkes, $285,048
18. Master Plan, 20, Todd Pletcher, $214,700
19. Iliad, 20, Doug O’Neill, $200,000
20. Sonneteer, 20, Keith Desormeaux, $186,000
**Owner Kendall Hansen has indicated that the late supplemental nomination fee of $200,000 will be paid. Not This Time, retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm. Mastery is off the trail with a condylar fracture. El Areeb is off the trail with an injury to his right knee.
In addition to the current top 20, Churchill Downs has partnered with the Japan Racing Association to feature the Cattleya Sho Stakes and Hayacinth Stakes as two qualifying races in the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. The horse with the most points from those races will receive an invitation to compete in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Here’s the video of the Cattleya Sho Stakes. Here’s the video of the Hayacinth Stakes.
2017 JAPAN ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Epicharis (JPN), 50, Kiyoshi Hagiwara, $450,374
2. Mont Saint Legame (JPN), 40, Koji Maki, $90,154
3. Adirato (JPN), 20, Naosuke Sugai, $154,951
4. Caucus (JPN), 16, Hideaki Fujiwara, $35,850
5. Foggy Night (JPN), 5, Noriyuki Hori, $23,801
The connections of Epicharis have stated that they will skip the Kentucky Derby (G1) and may go to the Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1).