With the first graded stake at Santa Anita for the Derby group run, now would be a good time to give a brief look at many of the possible horses who could carry the mantle of the "Drought Breaker" to Kentucky the first Saturday in May. This list comprises a mix of grade one winners, other stakes winners, flashy maiden winners and a maiden. The colts are a diverse group of pedigrees, from sprint-leaning to run-all-day types. Some will be pointing to the sprint (San Vicente), while others will be headed toward the Lewis for their next start, with a few hoping to get that elusive allowance race to fill. Let us take a look.
Note: This post was intended to run before the Sham, as a way to introduce everyone to this group of 3yos, but due to "blog operator failure" it is coming out now instead.
Sky Kingdom gets the first nod solely because he will be the first to race among this group, as the ever elusive first level allowance race was used as the 2nd race on 1/12, even though it only had five entrants (two of them being Baffert trainees). This son of Empire Maker broke his maiden when he stretched out to two turns two starts back across town at Hollywood Park. He followed that up with a solid 4th in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. He will be making his first start on dirt today, even though he has been working over the surface since October. His connections are hoping to take advantage of this rarely run condition to get this charge some more experience before tackling stakes once again. With his pedigree, the Derby distance will not be a problem, as his sire is a Belmont winner and his damsire is a well-known provider of stamina. His works haven't been the lightning quick spins his trainer is known for, but they are still solid works.
Brother Francis gets the next nod because he is entered in a maiden special weight on the grass for this Saturday (1/14). He closed strongly in a MSW and in the G3 Hollywood Prevue to finish 2nd in both races. He then followed it up with a fast-closing third in the G1 Hollywood Futurity. This son of Lion Heart is out of a mare who has plenty of distance in her pedigree, and the sire has produced a 12f winner in BC Turf winner Dangerous Midge. His connections obviously want to get a win while keeping him around two turns, and with the track playing with the way it has (favoring on or near the lead types), they have chosen to go the turf in order to get a win. He has worked in trainer's preferred steady manner since the Futurity.
Liaison won the aforementioned G1 Hollywood Futurity over Rousing Sermon. These two made up the exacta in the Real Quiet Stakes as well. Liaison has three solid 5 furlongs workouts since the race, and is most likely pointing to the G2 Robert Lewis stakes in February. Rousing Sermon has worked four times since the race and could be pointing to the same race, though it is possible that either could ship out of town for their next race. Here is a replay of the Hollywood Futurity:
Creative Cause is coming off a third in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile last time out. He took some time off the work tab after the race to freshen up for the Derby trail, and did not work until New Year's Eve. He is building towards his first start later in the meet, either the Lewis or the San Felipe. He should have little problem stretching out going forward, being by Giant's Causeway out of a mare who hit the board multiple times going nine furlongs. His stable and owner-mate Empire Way is a full brother to the multiple Grade 1 winning filly ROYAL DELTA, who will most likely wins this year's Eclipse award for 3yo fillies. With her successes going very long, he should not have any trouble with this distance, though he does need to improve to contend with the better runners out here, as he missed the board in both his stakes attempts after his win. He has 3 solid works since the last race. His sister improved as the year went on, so maybe he will as well.
Trainer Steve Asmussen has a few Derby hopefuls as well. Even though his only trainee who is guaranteed a spot in the gate for the Kentucky Derby Sabercat didn't make the trip, he still has such up and comers as Wharton, Unbridled's Note, along with stakes placed Daddy Nose Best. The first two are coming off of maiden special weight wins on the first Stars of Tomorrow card at Churchill Downs. They both are training steadily here and will be looking to make their next start at some point towards the middle of the meet. Daddy Nose Best flopped as the chalk in the Eddie Logan Stakes, but his pedigree says that he should be fine routing on the dirt, something he has never done before. With a dearth of turf stakes in SoCal on the schedule, the connections will most likely find out whether he can truly dirt or not very soon,
Out of Bounds is the last one we will talk about, as he just won the G3 Sham Stakes going a mile at 10-1. He came out of the race very well according to his connections, with plenty of energy. His connections have stated that he will be pointed to the Grade 2 San
Felipe in March for his next start. As discussed in the last post, his
chances to get 9 furlongs are strong, but that 10f in May will be a bit
of challenge. We wish him and all of those on this list good luck and to stay healthy.
These are just a few of the possible horses who could be the one to earn the "Drought Breaker" mantle come the first Saturday in April. It could even be a horse who has not even made a single start yet, like last year's winner Midnight Interlude, who would not make his debut until the end of January. Whomever wins the Santa Anita Derby will earn the right to end the 23 year long streak. Good luck out there.