Brian Nadeau is back this year to offer insight and analysis on this year’s road to the Kentucky Derby. A handicapper at Horseplayer Now and Capital OTB, he’ll analyze every official Derby points race and the three Triple Crown races, back at Brooklyn Backstretch for the sixth year.
Oaklawn Park: The Grade III, $500,000 Southwest at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 10-4-2-1)
#1 Cool Arrow (12-1): Potential pace player looked good stretching out to two turns and winning the Springboard Mile at Remington Park when last seen in December but steps way up today and meets a talent-rich field while tackling graded stakes foes for the first time. It’s also a bit interesting to see Sharp ship this son of Into Mischief here, as he’s based at Fair Grounds and was training well there, too. On the face of it, this is much too tough a test, but he could hold the key to the race in that he seems to have enough early zip to keep the favorite a few stalls down honest early; pop and stop seems likely.
#2 Silver Dust (10-1): Lightly raced son of Tapit has a world of talent and showed it in his last, when he demolished maidens with a sharp turn of foot at Churchill Downs in November for Morse. And while this is obviously a serious step up in class, anyone who saw that win knows that there’s a world of untapped potential in this corner, and his AM drills say he’s sitting on ready for this, too. And sure, he’s spotting some experience and recency to his main rivals, but talent has a way of overcoming all of that, and he’s giving every indication that he’s grown up into a bigger, stronger version of the colt who looked like a real comer last fall; mows them all down in the lane.
#3 Uncontested (5-2): The obvious horse to beat freaked on the lead when wining last month’s local prep, the Smarty Jones, in the slop and figures as the one to catch again today. Son of Tiz Wonderful has never been behind a horse at the pace call in any of his three races, so you know he’s going again, but there is the aforementioned speed to his inside, and a bit of zip to his outside as well, so even though he ran really fast early last time, it looks like he’s really going to have to earn it today. The good news for Catalano is that he has done it on dry land, too, so it’s not like his last was an anomaly, but even so, regression today seems a bit more likely than another move forward; second-best.
#4 Lookin At Lee (8-1): Deep closer had the misfortune of chasing 2-year-old champion Classic Empire in his last two, when second in the GI Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in November, though it’s not like he was scaring anyone in the lane in either. Lookin At Lucky colt shows some modest AM drills for Asmussen and figures to have trouble getting up today, regardless of how fast the pace is, especially since this is simply the start of what they hope is a big campaign; minor award appears his ceiling.
#5 Rowdy the Warrior (20-1): Decided longshot was a well-beaten third n the Southwest and seems like a poor man’s Lookin At Lee, in that he has no speed and is at the mercy of the pace. Son of Warrior’s Reward seems to be progressing for Von Hemel, who does know what to do with a nice 3-year-old, but this isn’t the spot to pad the resume; can’t see it.
#6 Cu Rahy (50-1): Huge bomber was not only a distant fifth in the Smarty Jones, but then came back and was eighth to a few of these in a local optional-claimer 11 days later, so it’s obvious that he’s way out of his element in here. If nothing else, as a son of Curlin he’s very well-bred, but he’s been non-competitive against several of these already, and you get the impression the low-percentage Durham barn just wants to be part of the party; easy toss.
#7 Warrior’s Club (12-1): The first of two from Lukas rated in the Smarty Jones and passed a few late, though was some 12 lengths behind Uncontested, so you know he’s in a tough spot today. Son of Warrior’s Reward has some sharp sprint form, but his two one-turn races seem to lack the acceleration he showed sprinting, so even though the Coach has made a career winning bigger races with lesser horses, this one probably won’t be adding to the legend; tough to tout.
#8 Petrov (5-1): Rapidly improving son of Flatter was a solid second in the Smarty Jones and takes the next logical step for Moquett, while trying to find 5 1/4 lengths on the winner in the process. Stalker should sit the right kind of trip, and it’s worth noting that he had to do the dirty work of chasing Uncontested last time, which likely warped some of his stretch run, and that won’t be the case today, which should help him bridge the gap. You can also surmise that the winner handled the track better than he did, too, so on a fast track, with that local tightener behind him, he’s got every reason to turn the tables; huge threat.
#9 Dilettante (15-1): Lukas’ second entry here woke up in a big, big way when posting a very fast and visually impressive maiden win over the track last month to finally break through after seven misses to kick off his career. And before you dismiss this son of Unbridled’s Song, don’t forget that these 3yos can improve dramatically overnight, and just maybe he’s finally starting to grow up into a serious horse, especially for a barn that usually keeps them going when they get good. So, if that’s the case, then you’re getting a nice price on a colt who just ran a career-best and could have another forward move in him as well; do not ignore.
#10 Hence (20-1): Asmussen’s less heralded runner was all-out to break his maiden in slow time in the slop here in January and faces a tough task while tackling winners for the first time, too. Son of Street Boss gives Calumet, which also owns Dilettante, another improving colt, and he should trip out nicely from close range, but this just seems way too much, too soon; needs softer to threaten.
#11 One Liner (7-2): Dangerous Pletcher invader was a sharp return winner at Gulfstream Park last month in what was his first start since his debut win at Saratoga in July and now ships out to see where he stands on the national scene. Son of Into Mischief is out of a Cherokee Run mare, so he’s not exactly bred to relish a two-turn route, and as potent as this barn is, don’t overlook the fact that the majority of these romping GP winners don’t duplicate that effort anywhere else. Plus, this wide draw is a worry, he’s never been past 6 furlongs, and will have to press the chalk the entire way, kick clear and then hold off the rest in the stretch, which seems like a lot to ask; comfortable making him prove it.
#12 P C Cowboy (30-1): Another longshot to exit the 1/27 optional-claimer will make his first start for Ortiz after being trained by Villafranco for the first three starts of his career and picks one heck of a spot to start for his new barn. Son of Archarcharch, who loved it here a few years back, was a decent third last time, though it’s not the type of effort that will scare any of the big guns, especially since he’s going to be wide and chasing the entire way; know him early, but not late.
#13 Chief Know It All (12-1): Son of Flashy Bull pressed the issue early before pulling away late in the optional-claimer and is easily the best of the group exiting that race, though this extreme outside draw did him no favors. Cox is as good as they come, though a relative unknown on the national scene, and it does appear he has something to work with here, though his charge’s last was by far a career-best run and that, coupled with this terrible post, says it will be mighty hard to duplicate, let alone move forward off it; playing against.
#2 Silver Dust