The Brock Talk

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eskenderya Perfect. Lookin at Lucky Not

If one could envision a perfect preparation for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1), it might look a lot like Eskendereya's Wood Memorial (gr. 1). Jockey John Velazquez spent more energy looking for challengers in the final quarter mile of the Wood than urging Eskendereya. And Eskendereya apparently knew it. Down the stretch his ears were pricked as if asking the jockey for instructions or perhaps permission - permission to run faster.

Instead, Velazquez only rode, relaxed and probably relished in the machine beneath him. All while galloping past the wire 8-1/2 lengths ahead of Jackson Bend, Awesome Act and Schoolyard Dreams.

The picture perfect Wood Memorial by Eskendereya will make him the favorite - or maybe heavy favorite - for the Kentucky Derby to be run May 1.

Bob Baffert, the trainer of west coast favorite Lookin at Lucky in the grade 1 Santa Anita Derby Saturday, perhaps could not have envisioned a more unpleasant preparation for Kentucky. He saw Lookin at Lucky crowded shortly after the break by Cardiff Giant and almost dropped around the turn by Who's Up only to see his horse valiantly rebound for third when many horses would have quit.

After the Santa Anita Derby, Baffert criticized jockey Garrett Gomez. Gomez punched Victor Espinoza (jockey of Who's Up), who then got punched again by the Santa Anita board of stewards with a 3-day suspension for careless riding. Gomez also got slapped with a fine for punching.

Meanwhile, Sidney's Candy had just won the Santa Anita Derby by 4-1/2 lengths ahead of the late charging Setsuko and the rebounding Looking at Lucky in third. Although he drew away from the field down the stretch, he was coming off of slow fractions of :24.00 seconds for the first quarter and :48.50 for the half. He won't get away with a waltz like that on the lead in the Derby, which is why I don't have any higher than eighth on my Elite Eight this week.

American Lion won the Illinois Derby (gr. 2) Saturday and looked good while pulling away from second-place finisher Yuwanna Twist. American Lion also got away with easy fractions with the first half-mile in a 49.32 seconds. But American Lion had 8-5 favorite Yuwanna Twist on his flanks almost the entire trip around the track. But it is the first good race of the year for American Lion and additional improvement will be needed in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Derby Elite Eight
1-Eskendereya: He improved on his Fountain of Youth in the Wood with a 109 Beyer Speed Figure with a stretch run that more resembled a stroll.
2-Lookin at Lucky: The trip handicapper in me keeps this horse among the top contenders still. Although after two terrible trips and the Rebel and Santa Anita Derby, hoping for the first clear trip in three races among the Kentucky Derby field of 20, may be a little naive.
3-Noble's Promise: Ran a big race in the Rebel to almost take down Lookin at Lucky and may well be among the favorites in the Arkansas Derby Saturday.
4-Odysseus: His very late move in the last 100 yards of the Tampa Bay Derby was unusual, but impressive. He runs in the Bluegrass Stakes Saturday at Keeneland in his final prep.
5-Setsuko: The pedestrian pace in the Santa Anita Derby compromised his chances of improving on a second-place finish. He will have a much more honest pace to target in Kentucky.
6-Sidney's Candy: The benefactor and horse responsible for the tepid pace on his way to winning the Santa Anita Derby. He won't get that easy lead in Louisville.
7-Dublin: Has the stalking running style I like and I'm counting on the experience of four-time Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas to manage the needed improvement. He will likely meet Noble's Promise again at home in Arkansas.
8-American Lion: Finally lived up to some of his expectations with a clear trip in the Illinois Derby. He'll have to improve further to get to the winner's circle in the Derby.


railrunner said...

Excellent top three selections, it's refreshing to see Noble's Promise so high up on your list. I think he's the class of the Arkansas Derby this weekend. If you respect Lookin At Lucky (which everyone does) then you have to respect Noble's Promise.

Brock Sheridan said...

Noble still has something to prove, but his race in the Rebel does seem to show he's worthy of consideration.

Maddie4361 said...

Eskendereya looks unbeatable. Lookin at Lucky doesn't have a chance.

John said...

Sidney's Candy can carry his front running speed over nine furlongs on ProRide, and although his early fractions in the Santa Anita Derbywere soft, he went on a tear in the last quarter, going :23 and change. Yes, he won't get away with easy splits in the Big Dance, but Sidney's Candy should be even better on dirt, and should be able to adjust to different scenarios. If somebody tries to get cute with him, I'm thinking Sidney's Candy will be rateable and sit off of it, then when the time is right, he'll kick it in late. Having said this, I'd still have Eskendereya ahead of him, but Sidney's Candy is number 2, IMO, and deservedly so.