Has anyone else noticed how the Oaklawn sophomores are blazing their way through the major Derby preps? In addition to the big 3 from the Rebel Stakes (Lookin At Lucky, Noble’s Promise and Dublin) other Oaklawn horses are shipping out of town to much success. Mission Impazzible, 4th in the Southwest Stakes, was good enough to take the top prize in the LA Derby on Saturday. Endorsement, who broke his maiden at OP just over a month ago shipped to New Mexico and captured the $800,000 Sunland Derby over the weekend, beating Southwest Stakes winner Conveyance in the process (and boosting me up the WinStar leader board in the process!) Northern Giant, owned by the father-son Ford family team operating under Westrock Stable (spending some of their Verizon buy-out money from Alltel sale!) also broke his maiden and Oaklawn and has since hit the board twice in Graded Stakes, most recently second to Dean’s Kitten in the Lane’s End. Lookin At Lucky will have a chance to keep the streak going in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby.
I have three new additions to this week's Top 10 list - #7-9. Good luck with all your Saturday bets and Happy Easter to all!1) Eskendereya - Now pointing to Wood Memorial on April 3 for better spacing leading into Louisville. Expect to see him sitting just off pace and closing well for the win or place.
2) Lookin At Lucky - Baffert is sitting pretty and can run this one anywhere now that he won the Rebel on dirt. 90% probable for SA Derby on Saturday per Baffert.
3) Awesome Act - Gotham Stakes winner at Aqueduct is a striking son of Awesome Again who may be peaking at the right time. Will have to tackle Big E in the Wood Memorial but doesn't have to win to get to Louisville. If lively pace develops and Big E is in the fray, his closing kick could prove the difference.
4) Noble's Promise - Game effort at Oaklawn, but again came up short to Lucky. Should be the best in $1 million Arkansas Derby April 10 if Lucky stays home.
5) Super Saver - Pletcher charge had terrible tactics in Tampa Derby. Will give him one more try, likely to run in Arkansas which will give us a good litmus test to his quality.
6) Jackson Bend - He stepped up in class nicely with a game place to Big E in the FOY. But my gut is telling me that his best races are behind him with the shorter distances. Has a tall task in the Wood.
7) Aikenite - I hate his breeding but love his gutsy races where he never gives up. Obviously, I'm putting a lot of stock in the Fountain of Youth as a "key" race and see no reason why this one won't improve as well in his third race off layoff. It's been a while since Dogwood Stable had a "big horse," but this one is aptly named.8) Northern Giant - Oaklawn graduate with dramatic maiden score. Followed that with a third (by nose) in LA Derby and place effort in Lane's End. Stalking running style may be sitting on a breakout race for Ford family of Arkansas (Alltel fame). Son of "it" sire Giant's Causeway, along with Big E - Eskendereya.
9) Mission Impazible - Of all the past weekend's preps, I liked his win in the LA Derby the most. In the chaotic Derby field, it's nice to have a horse who can break well, but then settle and let the jockey place the horse. By reading the LA Derby race chart, that's exactly what happened in the big field when he broke 2nd but was taken back to 5th, then 7th before commencing his rally after true race fractions. Yet another Pletcher charge who was coming out of a 4th place effort at Oaklawn Park in Southwest Stakes. Could be my live longshot in exotics in this year's Derby!
10) Connemara - Grinding effort while 7 wide into stretch in Lane's End on polytrack, where it's harder to draw away from field. Still like his race pattern and closing kick; hopefully it will re-emerge on Churchill Downs strip, assuming his earnings put him in.