One of the larger preps of the Kentucky Derby prep season took place this past weekend, the Grade 1 Florida Derby won by 20-1 longshot Ice Box. Was this enough to place him in the coveted Super Six Derby Pix this week? Let's find out:
#1 Lookin At Lucky- He overcame so much last weekend to win the Rebel at Oaklawn Park and trainer Bob Baffert now says he is looking at the horse's final prep race being the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby over the synthetic surface in Southern California. I don't know how I quite feel about that, but the horse did acquit himself nicely on the Oaklawn dirt. Shifting surfaces (and then back again) before the Derby might be a mistake, but for now, he stays in the top spot.
#2 Eskendereya- One wonders how he would have done the way the Florida Derby ended up playing out this weekend. He was slated for the race until his owner decided he didn't want to have the horse's final prep be so far out from the First Saturday In May. Now, he will go in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3. Would he have dusted the field the way he did in the Fountain Of Youth? We'll never know, but the way it looked to me, he would have won again.
#3 Noble's Promise- While he just cannot get past the #1 horse on this list, we must take heart with him since only one horse has been able to do it at any point and that was by a mere nose. Unlike his rival, Noble's Promise will remain in Arkansas and run in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. He will likely be the favorite in there and as previously documented, the Arkansas Derby has lately been a playground for Kentucky Derby success.
#4 Awesome Act- The winner of the Gotham with an explosive move through the stretch will try to repeat the feat in the Wood Memorial. Of course, he will be facing much tougher in that race, especially in the form of #2 on this list. Don't forget, the distance shouldn't be formidable for him since the Sire is 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Awesome Again. Julien Leparoux is a jockey who is really coming into his own.
#5 Conveyance- The winner of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park elected to pass by the remainder of the Arkansas route to the Derby and instead head west to New Mexico to try and replicate the Mine That Bird story of last year. The big problem this one will face in Louisville will be the pace scenario. He won the Southwest on the lead and it appears that there will be plenty of speed on hand in the Kentucky Derby (with him, Discreetly Mine, and Rule still headed that way). The race will likely set up for a closer, which he is not.
#6 Ice Box- Yes, I know, he was totally off the radar until Saturday, but that ping you heard was him rolling past the entire field at Gulfstream to put him front and center in the picture. The Florida Derby is never a prep for slouches and he is not a slouch, not even a tremendous one. His trainer, Nick Zito, has won the Derby twice previously. It appeared that he never switched leads in the stretch on Saturday, but he still managed just fine. If Zito can get him to do that and the pace play that I described in the Conveyance comment comes to pass, watch out for this one.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!