The Hollywood Derby-Grade I
1 & 1/8 Miles (Turf) Purse $300,000
Post Time: 3:30 PT
Analysis by Michael Patricks
Saturday is the 75th running of the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar and it features a competitive field of 12 runners to contest the nine furlongs over the Jimmy Durante turf course. Given that five horses are separated by two and a half points from the morning line favorite, this figures to be a real spirited contest that should yield a nice dividend for those fortunate enough to come away with winning tickets in their hands. Past winners of the Hollywood Derby are: Swaps (1955), Round Table (1957), Riva Ridge (1972), Affirmed (1978), Paradise Creek (1992), and California Chrome (2014).
1-Beach Patrol 9/2 ML- Fitting that this one leads them into the starting gate at the beach while making his Del Mar debut. Got clipped in the Hill Prince after covering extra ground and before that was a tenacious victor while favored in the Grade I Secretariat at Arlington. Hailing from the Chad Brown outfit, you know that he will arrive ready to go and bonus points that Florent Geroux sticks with him instead of riding the winning import Hayabusa One, after dominating in a Keeneland allowance score. Expect Beach Patrol to be prominent early and patrolling the pace setters from the one-one, with Free Rose on the lead and Blackjackcat right to his outside, as they skirt a couple lengths clear of the group. Geroux is a patient rider who will try to spy an opening and let his heady tactics be the decider in upper stretch; big factor if he finds a way through when the field inevitably compresses.
2-Camelot Kitten 7/2 ML- Rates the morning line favorite based on his consistency each time out. Chad Brown’s second of three bullets in the race, ‘Kitten arrives at Del Mar after having hung it on his aforementioned stable mate last time in the Hill Prince at Belmont, second choice to Beach Patrol that day. This Kitten’s Joy son displays a strong turn of foot and should find himself running with plenty of cover up the backstretch and without a doubt has the strongest turn of foot in the Hollywood Derby cast; minor concerns in backing the favorite are that he will have to find room to motor home and that this is his first race out west, having campaigned in the Midwest and east coast his entire career. Think it’s reasonable to believe that Jose Ortiz will get this guy in gear late and he’s a major threat to take down the top prize, even though he rates a bit short in the value department; must respect.
3-Frank Conversation 8/1 ML- Closed down the Friday Breeders’ Cup program with a bit of a stunner in firing his lifetime effort at odds of 36/1 and taking the Grade II Twilight Derby. Odds are obviously slashed dramatically from last time out and subsequently he’ll be asked to back up his lifetime effort with an even better effort than that in order to take home his first Grade I. Frank got his head handed to him in the American at Churchill on Derby Day when beaten better than 20 lengths at 17/1 by Camelot Kitten and Beach Patrol, so no doubt he has his work cut out here. Having said that, it’s entirely possible that this colt is just now finding his stride and that his best racing is yet to come. Given that he’s in capable hands and hails from such a potent outfit, you’d be a fool to summarily dispatch him from consideration. Yet, given that last time’s effort truly came out of nowhere and that numerous horses in here can make their case for top billing, he’s a difficult pony to back at a fraction of the price you could have had last time. Given that this race is shaping up twice as tough as the Twilight Derby, you’re advised to get at least 10 or 12/1 before backing him with both fists to ring the bell right back; mixed signals.
4-Diplodocus 20/1 ML- Son of Sky Mesa who enters the gate with just the maiden win to his credit, this chestnut is capable of running with the best of his division on any given day, depending on just how the race sets up in front of him. 20/1 in the Twilight Derby last time, Diplodocus was away slowly and closed like a freight train, just missing by a length in a driving finish. Keep in mind that he was beaten only four lengths in the Del Mar Derby after breaking from the cheap seats, and had plenty of trouble in that race or he could have found himself hitting the ticket that day as well. Diplodocus definitely has a chance at lighting the board if the pace ends up being a little bit ballistic for a Grade I. As an aside, it’s worth noting that long-time, local house handicapper Post Time Bob has given this fella his endorsement for all the marbles at a big price so you may want to include this one in your vertical sequences, or risk resigning yourself to that melancholic feeling of bereft despair when Trevor Denman announces the exotics payouts with Diplodocus included, and yourself excluded. Make plans to be at the cashier’s cage with Post Time Bob if and when this one’s number cycles up; intriguing conveyance for the Grade I black type, especially underneath given his extremely long neck.
5-Free Rose 5/1 ML- Went over the Keeneland main track like a square wheel in April of this year when returning from the sidelines in a $20,000 restricted claiming race, finding things quite thorny when running 11th out of 12, and beaten better than 20 lengths. Amazingly, on Saturday he will show up at 5/1 in a Grade I race and he will be my selection. Ever since his importation to the Richard Baltas stable this horse has gotten better and better. Sometimes horses just get good seemingly out of nowhere and this guy has gotten real good suddenly. He seems to be at a tactical advantage in this race as well, given that he and Blackjackcat are the only proven front runners signed on and the latter is taking the blinkers off in an effort to most likely get him to settle for Mike Smith. That could leave Free Rose free running on the front end and he’s already demonstrated a fondness for the Jimmy Durante turf course with his lifetime effort over the course and having banked about 70% of his earnings on this sod. Underrated rider atop knows him well and will keep his price square; expect him to run his eyeballs out yet again after running his guts out from the rail last time in the Twilight at twilight; gets the call.
6-Isotherm 12/1 ML- Winless since his two year-old season, Isotherm arrives in the Hollywood Derby off a relatively lethargic effort in the English Channel at Belmont over soft ground where he encountered traffic trouble and floundered as the post time favorite. Morning line favorite Camelot Kitten has had his number both times they’ve faced each other and he will have to pick up his feet to make an imprint on this field at large. The cruel truth is that his form is just not very sexy and he seems to lack tenacity and grit that his competitors certainly possess. If you’re backing him, you really need to dig for reasons why–and given his win shy nature–I’ll be straying away from this one based on his recent efforts and mid-pack nibbling performances of late; needs wake up call for breakthrough as he appears far more suspect than prospect.
7-Blackjackcat 8/1 ML- Sheds the blinkers after racing with them in all six prior starts and that should get him to settle down a bit and save a little extra for the stretch run. He figures to play a prominent role near the front end once again but it’s more than likely Mike Smith will try and get this guy to settle down and sit off Free Rose instead of tangling with that one too early. The question with him is whether he can ultimately stalk and pounce when the moment to do is upon him. His running lines show a horse who doesn’t tend to make up much ground or pass horses and he will most likely be in a situation where he needs to do that to emerge victorious. Trainer Mark Glatt has had success removing the blinkers from his runners and no reasonable horse player would try to talk you down from Mike Smith at 8/1 in a Grade I race. However, I won’t be taking insurance out against this guy even if he does show me an Ace before I go to the window; fringe player must time his run just right and prefer other “kittens” in this race for higher placings.
8-Hayabusa One (Fr) 6/1 ML- Team Valor hopeful shows up in his first Grade I seeking three straight wins that span two countries. His allowance score at Keeneland last time was visually quite impressive and he certainly left them in his wake that day at odds of 6/1 when he closed with great compunction. A whole new kettle of fish is upon him today in his first start against these types of horses and he will have to at the very least duplicate his race from last time to make an impact on the Richter scale against this lot. I’ve always had immense respect and appreciation for Graham Motion and the work he does and believe he’s a terrific horseman who sends them ready. What cools my jets on Hayabusa One however, is the fact his rider opts for a more proven horse at the level (Beach Patrol) and the stark reality that he will have to pass a lot more battle tested horses to get to the winners’ circle in the Hollywood Derby than he did in a first-level allowance like last time. While it’s possible the best is yet to come from this horse, I’m left to take a stand against based on the reasons mentioned above and will look to catch up with him down the road.
9-Revved Up 20/1 ML- Not too excited about this son of Candy Ride. On the upside, it appears that he will likely be in the forward group and able to keep himself out of trouble, allowing him to make his approach to the leaders when the time comes but he seems to lack explosiveness and the quality necessary to win this race. He’s had some trouble in his races and he has been taking on older, so the move back in with straight three year-olds does make sense. However, last time he was in a Grade II he was pretty disappointing at 3/1 and was handled with relative ease by Isotherm, who I’m not very high on in this spot today (see above). He is trained by veteran Shug Mcgaughey, and was bred to be a nice horse out of Storm Flag Flying, but grinding out $144,000 in nine starts strikes me as much more blue-collar than white-collar. When it comes to horses, the proof is usually in the proverbial pudding, and based on the winning ingredients that he lacks, it’s possible he will end up wearing the collar in this one; pass.
10-Defiantly 30/1 ML- Defied chalk players while sticking his neck out and prevailing in a big finish while taking down the Let it Ride Stakes here at Del Mar on November 12th. It’s obviously worth mentioning that both of his wins have come over the local course and Gary Stevens sticks around to ride, which cannot hurt in a Grade I race. It’s difficult to know if there is more to go to in the well or if the 89 Beyer is the ceiling for this guy. Furthermore, it’s a huge jump from restricted stakes races into Grade I company, but at least you know that this one is a trier and he likes it at the beach. His connections probably feel like he deserves a chance to strut his stuff over a course he likes with a good opportunity to earn a little black type in the process. He will have to run considerably faster than he ever has before but admittedly there is something to be said about backing a course specialist at a fat price. He’s not my cup of tea but I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking a home run cut on a horse like this; leaning elsewhere.
11-Annals of Time 6/1 ML- Chad Brown’s third and final charge draws wide and will most likely have to get himself into the race earlier than usual to avoid losing too much ground off the elbow and onto the main turf course. With only three starts to his credit, there is a huge amount of potential upside in backing a horse like this. What’s more, he just missed behind Camelot Kitten and Beach Patrol last time at 5/1 in the Hill Prince, so you know he belongs with these. In lots of ways, he’s much more intriguing than those two in that his upside looks to be largely untapped and with another step forward in the Hollywood Derby he could easily find himself in the winners’ circle after the race. You also are getting about twice the price with him as you are with the two he faced last time on the morning line. He should be in the middle flight heading into the backstretch and spying the leaders with Beach Patrol somewhere nearby. He’s another wild card chance who represents value in a very competitive field and has been working in company with Beach Patrol; rates a long look.
12-Path of David 30/1 ML- 13/1 in the Twilight Derby and 30/1 in the program today, this guy seems to be tailing off a bit and the storyline of musical jockeys atop his back continues yet again. Things looked up after his Eddie Logan win but ever since the Oceanside effort he’s been steadily getting outpaced to the wire. He suffers a terrible barrier to break from on Saturday and will have to be of tremendous valor to make any real headway given this assignment. Covering more ground than his competition is not something that he will be able to absorb very easily and if he’s hung out on a limb, he will likely be the first one to surrender. Path of David looks to be up against it here and likely needs easier to make an impression; not for me in a Grade I, that’s for sure.