There were some mighty interesting prep races for the Kentucky Derby, which is now just slightly more than a month away, this past weekend. Mission Impazible won the Louisiana Derby, Dean's Kitten won the Lane's End, and Endorsement won the Sunland Derby. I am not sure anyone would have been able to pick all three of those winners entering the weekend. April 3 stands as the next big gauntlet for a set of Derby contenders with the Wood Memorial featuring Eskendereya, Awesome Act, and Schoolyard Dreams, the Santa Anita Derby featuring Lookin At Lucky, Sidney's Candy, and Caracortado, and finally, the Illinois Derby all being run on Saturday. So, who is in the Super Six Derby Pix with precious little time left until the First Saturday In May:
#1 Lookin At Lucky- I am a little disappointed that Bob Baffert elected to remain in Southern California and run on the dreaded synthetic for the #1 horse's final prep, but the horse has proven he can run on conventional dirt and by staying close to home, it gives Lookin At Lucky a full four weeks to get ready for Kentucky. I am a little hopeful that he will get a better trip here than he did in Arkansas, so he will be rolling into Churchill Downs as a deserving favorite or will it be...?
#2 Eskendereya- The Wood Memorial was chosen over the Florida Derby to give this horse a little less of a break than the six weeks that Ice Box will have before the Kentucky Derby. This is trainer Todd Pletcher's big shot to finally get that elusive Kentucky Derby title he lacks on his resume'. The field Eskendereya will face on Saturday will certainly be daunting, but then again, so will the field he will face in the Kentucky Derby.
#3 Noble's Promise- I know I have said at one time or another this spring that I am leaning toward Dublin or Radiohead if the Derby were run today, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I am going to say it again with this horse. I just get the feeling that he will finally stop playing Alydar to Lookin At Lucky's Affirmed at some point soon, why not on the biggest stage possible. His next effort will be as the likely favorite in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 10.
#4 Awesome Act- He will likely be the major challenger to Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial on Saturday and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that saw his eye-catching win in the Gotham, also at Aqueduct. The Sire is Awesome Again, who could clearly get the required 1 1/4 mile distance. This could be the most interesting horse to keep an eye on coming out of this weekend.
#5 Ice Box- Not a fan of the tremendous gap between races he will experience after his win in the Florida Derby, but trainer Nick Zito certainly knows a thing or two about winning the Derby. I certainly admire his running style for the big day, especially given the amount of pace that will be present in Kentucky with Rule, Discreetly Mine, and Conveyance fighting it out for the early advantage. Ice Box will be coming from the clouds on Derby Day and that has been a winning formula in the past.
#6 Odysseus- Even today, I STILL don't have any idea how he got there to win the Tampa Bay Derby over Schoolyard Dreams. The connections have apparently decided that seven weeks will be too much for him between races and will be entering him in another prep race to stay sharp, likely the Blue Grass at Keeneland or the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. I know he won that race in Tampa, but it required a miracle. Will he have another miracle in the cards come Kentucky? We'll have to see.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!