Kona Gold (GII) & The American (GIII)
Santa Anita Races 5 and 8
Analysis by Michael Patricks
2018 has been a year of great loss with respect to many individuals associated with this great game of racing. The world lost a tremendous ambassador for horse racing this past week when journalist and author William Nack passed away at the age of 77. Nack was the author of Secretariat: The Making of a Champion and Ruffian: A Racetrack Romance. Anyone that heard Nack speak about horse racing knew that his passion for this great sport was unimpeachable. William Nack may be gone but the indelible imprint he made on thoroughbred horse racing will long be remembered.
We are down to just two weeks before the 144th Kentucky Derby and the field is set in large part. Here’s some primer on a quartet of the key players who will be on display beneath the Twin Spires.
Owned by China Horse Club and Head of Plain Partners
Trained by Bob Baffert
Ridden by Mike Smith
Justify is an undefeated 3-for-3 and winner of the Santa Anita Derby. He hails from Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert’s barn and will be ridden by Hall-of-Famer Mike Smith. Justify will be sent off as the favorite in the 144th renewal of the Run for the Roses and will try to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at least once as a two-year-old.
Owned by China Horse Club and Head of Plains Partner
Trained by Todd Pletcher
Ridden by Javier Castellano
He’s a winner of four straight races, including the Florida Derby in his most recent start where he came home with authority to win by open three lengths. Audible gives his ownership group a strong hand in the Derby, given that they own the morning line favorite Justify as well. Expect Audible to be heard from in the stretch drive. Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher has three horses who will be supported at the betting windows in this year’s installment.
Owned by Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier
Trained by Aidan O’Brien
Ridden by Ryan Moore
A $3,000,000 purchase at auction, Mendelssohn began his career performing overseas at the Curragh in Ireland on grass. At two, he finished second in the Darley Dewhurst Group 1 at Newmarket. Mendelssohn was then transported to the U.S. for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall at Del Mar where he prevailed as the 9/2 favorite. Most recently, Mendelssohn switched over to dirt from synthetic in the UAE Derby from Dubai where he dominated his rivals by better than 18 lengths. Historically, the UAE Derby has come up as a bit of an inferior race to that of the United States prep races, however, since Mendelssohn has already been able to ship to the U.S. and beat some of the best two-year-olds on turf, there’s no reason to think he can’t do the same on Saturday, May 5th under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.
Owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables
Trained by Chad Brown
Ridden by Jose Ortiz
By Curlin, Good Magic has five starts on his resume, three as a two-year-old and the other pair as a three-year-old. Good Magic broke his maiden in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, stealing the spotlight from Bolt d’Oro at Del Mar in what was supposed to be a championship coronation for the latter. Good Magic performed with vim and vigor in the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass from Keeneland in his last start. His trainer knows how to get them ready for a big race and he’s overdue to break through in Louisville on Derby Day.
It was a strong performance in the complimentary selection department last week with My Boy Jack grinding down Telekinesis and the rest of the junior varsity runners in the Stonestreet Lexington and with Magnum Moon pulling away by daylight in the Arkansas Derby over Quip and friends. Both of my selections were bridesmaids in the charts, but each ran well and delivered a decent exacta mutuel with the favorites attached (as handed out by yours truly if you boxed them). My Joy Jack over Telekinesis 10.9 to 1 and Magnum Moon over Quip a 9.4 to 1 return on a $1 exacta ticket. For those of you scoring at home, ‘Jack earned a 90 Beyer at Keeneland whereas Magnum Moon returned to the barn with a 98.
Expect Magnum Moon to be sent off between 5/1 and 8/1 on Derby Day. He was getting out through the lane of the Arkansas Derby. With a shortened rest of just three weeks until May 5th, along with an added furlong of real estate he will encounter at Churchill Downs, it should be a tough assignment for him to negotiate.
My Boy Jack wore down a talented but relatively inexperienced runner in Telekinesis. Even with a blistering set of fractions, I seriously doubt if he’s good enough to out kick Audible, Good Magic or Bolt d’Oro should the race apart to his liking, all of which appear to be more precocious than he is at this stage in proceedings. Demand a very square price in two weeks before embracing him.
Let’s delve into the Saturday Stakes races from Santa Anita:
Race 5. Post Time: 2:00 PST
The Kona Gold
6 & ½ Furlongs on Dirt for 3 Y/O and Up
1-Blameitonthelaw –It took this steady check earner quite some time before he was able to break through at the second allowance condition. His first foray into graded-stakes competition resulted in him getting pasted by almost seven lengths in the Grade 3 Pat O’Brien at Del Mar, well beaten by Calculator. His first start in 2018 was in a small stakes race at Sunland Park where he closed well as the 8/5 favorite to narrowly miss in that contest. Several of these have had his measure in the past, and so a minor award is most likely the ceiling for this lunch pail-carrying type once again.
2-Bobby Abu Dhabi- Feel good story right here. ‘Bobby was one of many horses who were affected at San Luis Rey Downs by the fires that devastatingly ran through the barns and forced the fleeing horses and horsemen alike. 43 horses perished in the fires, however, ‘Bobby was one who was able to get out safely. Appropriately, ‘Bobby returned to the races on New Year’s Eve with a strong performance in an allowance score and came back to run his eyeballs out in his last start, the Grade 1 Triple Bend at Santa Anita while finishing second. City of Light captured the Triple Bend and came back to take the Oaklawn Handicap last weekend in Arkansas. He’s part of a two-headed entry for trainer Peter Miller and rest assured ‘Bobby will be one tough hombre to deal with on Saturday.
3-Ten Blessings- Talented son of Smart Strike has had his career besieged by injuries. He’s a handful to deal with on his best day though and seems to be rounding into form for his trainer, Bob Baffert. The Kona Gold will be just the second time in his career he’s had more than two races without a layoff and it’s possible he’s alas finding his form and thus realizing his potential. But Bobby Abu Dhabi came home almost a full second faster behind City of Light than Ten Blessings ran in his allowance score March 30th at the same distance. He’s part of the picture but don’t settle on too short of a price (note he’s 1-for-4 in his lifetime when going favored).
4-Calculator- He’s a decent competitor on this circuit but kind of gives the impression of a race-filler and guarantor so that Bobby Abu Dhabi can run. He possesses a versatile style and most recently has been showing some early lick in hillside turf contests. On most occasions he has had his head handed to him when he ventures into graded races, whereas he’s had the quality to handle his business with lesser runners in his other starts—so where does he belong? I get the feeling he’s a bit of a “tweener” who is stepping up the ladder once again and it may not go well for him. Plus, his normal jockey bails for Ransom the Moon; a difficult ask on Saturday.
5-Ransom the Moon– Highweight is the only Grade 1 winner in the cast and that came in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar last summer. Make no mistake about it though, Ransom the Moon tailed off at the end of last year and was really no match for Roy H in either start, including the Santa Anita Sprint Championship when he returned off a similar absence from racing. He draws well to the outside and as mentioned above, Prat sticks with him over Calculator. Will be a handful if D’Amato has him ready and the works are inspiring to say the least; possesses powerful punch.
The American (Grade III)
1 Mile on Turf for 3 Y/O and Upward
There is a ton of speed signed on for this Grade 3 event. What a View, Sawyer’s Hill, Free Rose, Mr. Roary and Kenjistorm all have shown speed from the gate and should ensure a solid tempo leaving the ½-mile pole. I want a horse who is going to be midfield and able to capitalize on the embattled leaders without having too much to do in the lane. #5 Blackjackcat will be my selection.
“The Cat” had a real nice campaign in his four-year-old season of 2017 but came back to the races with a disappointing effort at even money in February’s Thunder Road. He’s been freshened up, has drilled steadily for the American and with a few more credentialed runners signed on to face the starter, his price should be more appetizing for those willing to forgive his last start. Consider me to happily be one of his apologists.
Flavien Prat opts for #9 Kenjistorm in The American. He’s got speed but is widest of all and may be forced to take a seat while losing ground from the outside. Nevertheless, he’s a legitimate race horse and could take some collaring in the lane. #3 Colonist is third elect and will be a healthy price. Prat bails for Kenjistorm as discussed, but he gets away from Itsinthepost on Saturday and should appreciate the turn back from 12 to eight furlongs. He’ll be coming late for a minor share and to spruce up your vertical sequences.
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