Derby Prep Alert
Derby Prep Alert

April 8, 2016Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Sponsored by BRIS, our Preferred Past Performance Provider

Last week the Derby picture started to come into focus when Nyquist secured his favoritism by soundly defeating Mohaymen in the Florida Derby. To catch up on this and all the action, check out last week’s edition for replays, links to recaps and Brisnet charts.

This week features a whopping seven races that offer Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, including the Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial. You can catch much of the action on NBC Sports Network from 5-7 pm ET.

Catch up with prior Kentucky Derby and Oaks preps…
2016 Kentucky Derby Prep Schedule
2016 Kentucky Oaks Prep Schedule

Download Free Past Performances

News About the Contenders

Blood-Horse: Nyquist’s April 10 Jog ‘Fantastic’
Blood-Horse: Wood Winner Outlook in Good Order, Derby Next
Blood-Horse: Dazzling Gem Probable for Arkansas Derby
Blood-Horse: Eight Belles, Not KY Oaks, for Cathryn Sophia
Courier-Journal: Report: Cathryn Sophia to bypass Ky. Oaks
Herald-Leader: Blue Grass Stakes winner Brody’s Cause ready for Kentucky Derby challenge
Twinspires: Whitmore, Suddenbreakingnews & Discreetness work for Arkansas Derby
Twinspires: Derby prep aftermath: Zulu, Flexibility off the trail

Blood-Horse: Nyquist Hits the Track at Keeneland

Blood-Horse: Nyquist’s Return to Track Possible April 9
Blood-Horse: Return to Track Delayed for Nyquist
Blood-Horse: Making the Grade: Danzing Candy
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s Derby Dozen
Blood-Horse: Gun Runner Gets to Work at Churchill Downs
DRF: Elevated white blood cell count keeps Nyquist in barn
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for April 6
DRF: Sparkman: How far will Nyquist go?
DRF: Mor Spirit, Songbird impress in works
TDN: Dirt Future for Oscar Nominated?
Twinspires: Gun Runner tours half-mile at Churchill

Ashland Stakes Kentucky Oaks prep race

Keeneland, Saturday April 9, post time: 3:28 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

2016 Ashland Replay

Download the 2016 Ashland Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Ashland News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Weep No More Stuns Ashland at 30-1
DRF: Weep No More springs 30-1 upset in Ashland Stakes
Herald-Leader: Weep No More pulls the upset in Grade I Ashland Stakes
TDN: Tears of Joy in the Ashland

2016 Ashland Preview
It’s a short field for Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, but it’s not lacking in talent.
The winner nabs 100 points on the road to the Kentucky Oaks and will likely be crowned the top challenger to champion and division leader Songbird, who will compete in Saturday’s Santa Anita Oaks.
The 1 1/16-miles test features four stakes winners, led by morning line favorite Cathryn Sophia (1-1). The undefeated Maryland-bred dominated competition at Gulfstream, winning two Grade 2 races – the Forward Gal and the Davona Dale – with ease. She’s defeated rivals by a combined 41 1/2-lengths in her four career wins.
Cathryn Sophia boasts a versatile running style that should help her adjust in her first attempt at going two turns. She can hold her speed on the lead or come from off the pace. She also posted a sharp 4-furlong workout over the track on April 3.
Although Cathryn Sophia looks tops on paper, her competition is venerable.
Rachel’s Valentina (3-1), daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, returns to race for the first time since she finished a distant second to Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies over this surface.
Prior to that, she flashed talent with a stalking win in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga. The Todd Pletcher trainee has been working steadily at Palm Beach Downs and will have Florent Geroux aboard for the first time. She appears to be the top threat to Cathryn Sophia.
Also making her debut as a 3-year-old is Carina Mia (7-5). There’s no doubt this Bill Mott trainee appreciates this surface; she followed up a second-place debut with an eye-catching romp at Keeneland in October that set a track record for 6 1/2-furlongs (1:15.18). In November, she tallied a wire-to-wire victory over a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs, proving she can handle the 1 1/16-miles distance with aplomb.
Carina Mia posted a sharp 3-furlong work at Keeneland on April 5. The only question for her will be readiness off the layoff.
Longshot Weep No More, 20-1, rebounded from her disappointing debut over a sloppy track to win two straight at Tampa Bay Downs. In her most recent start, she strolled to an easy win in the Suncoast Stakes while overlooked at 13-1 in her first try over a fast track. Jockey Corey Lanerie will be aboard the George Arnold trainee for the first time.
Although graded stakes-placed Banree, 20-1, is an outsider with two wins from seven starts, she is a proven horse-for-course with both victories at Keeneland.

J.J. Hysell

Gazelle Stakes Kentucky Oaks prep race

Aqueduct, Saturday April 9, post time: 4:16 pm ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)

2016 Gazelle Replay

Download the 2016 Gazelle Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Gazelle News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Lewis Bay Victorious in Sloppy Gazelle
DRF: Lewis Bay stamps ticket to Kentucky Oaks by winning Gazelle

2016 Gazelle Preview
The last time Behrnik’s Bank (SCRATCHED) came to Aqueduct, she was a buzz horse, hot off two wins at Penn National by double-digit lengths, a speedster that left her competitors gasping in her wake.

The buzz was quieted by her slim loss in a restricted race that day in December, and in the Grade 2 Gazelle, she’s facing challenges—like a layoff, distance and caliber of opponents—that she hasn’t taken on before, but Brisnet nonetheless rates her top in the field. Tested for the first time last out, Behrnik’s Bank exhibited grit in a stirring stretch duel with eventual winner Frosty Margarita, refusing to yield until the final steps.

Will her grit and speed be enough to carry her to the wire first? There’s no doubting her talent, but she’s never run beyond 6 furlongs; she’s making her first start in nearly four months; and she’s unlikely to get loose on the lead. She’d never been headed until her loss in December, but questions remain: can a pedigree light on stamina take the 9-furlong Gazelle? And even if it can–after so much time away with only three races to her credit, is she ready for this?

Likely to be joining Behrnik’s Bank on the early lead is Claire de Lune, stepping into stakes company for the first time after a handy victory in an optional claimer last month. A $230,000 yearling purchase by Tracy Farmer, a man with a string of graded stakes winners to his credit, she’s one of two here trained by Chad Brown and comes to the race with two easy wins at a mile, suggesting that she’ll handle the extra furlong of the Gazelle. While this is a big jump in class for her, the field is light on stakes winners and should she duel early with Behrnik’s Bank—and given her speed and inside post position, you have to think she’ll go–it’s not hard to imagine her prevailing over that rival, given her success at longer distances.

The winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle over this track last November and the second Chad Brown starter, Lewis Bay returned to the races at Gulfstream Park in February and had the bad fortune to run into Cathryn Sophia, who won by a mere seven lengths in the Grade 2 Davona Dale. There’s no shame in losing to an undefeated horse that is ranked second only to juvenile champion Songbird among 3-year-old fillies, and this daughter of Preakness winner Bernardini seems to have inherited his penchant for distance, having won the Demoiselle at the same 9-furlong distance of the Gazelle. She likes the distance and the track; she’s got a stamina pedigree; she’s done little wrong in four starts; and she’s got Brown and hot jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Add in a possibly wet forecast for Saturday and her half-length loss over a muddy track in her debut, and there’s very little here not to like.

Mo d’Amour earned 50 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points in her last start, the listed Busher Stakes over Aqueduct’s inner track in late February. From the connections of 2013 upset Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar, this filly is taking a similar road to the Oaks, running in the Busher and then the Gazelle, in which Princess of Sylmar finished second to the impressive Close Hatches before taking the Oaks. Something of a surprise winner last out even to some of her owners, Mo d’Amour broke roughly before steadily gaining ground in the stretch to win by two lengths. She’s running against much better here than she did there, but she could be the beneficiary of a hot early pace that wearies the frontrunners.

In Royal Obsession, Stonestreet Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen once again team up with a 3-year-old filly; you might remember them in the winner’s circle a few times back in 2009 with a champion sophomore named Rachel Alexandra—in whose eponymous race this filly finished fourth last out at Fair Grounds, a contest that saw her racing wide throughout with less than two lengths between her and the winner at the wire. Stonestreet paid $1.15 million last March for this filly whose name might well be a reference to her regal breeding: she’s by leading sire Tapit (who won the 2004 Wood Memorial) out of a mare by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow. She’s yet to live up to the potential that Stonestreet saw in her, but we’ve also likely not seen her best yet. Worth noting, given the forecast, is that she won her debut on a wet-fast track.

Breaking from the far outside, Flora Dora won the Busanda at Aqueduct in January, the first in the series of 3-year-old filly races in New York, only to falter in the Busher, finishing a well-beaten fourth. Second to Mo d’Amour in the Busher, Dreams to Reality has only a maiden-claiming win to her credit, a 7 3/4-length romp in the mud in December—perhaps not insignificant if the predicted moisture shows up this weekend.

Teresa Genaro

Wood Memorial Kentucky Derby prep race

Aqueduct, Saturday April 9, post time: 5:30 pm ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)

2016 Wood Replay

Download the 2016 Wood Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Wood News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Outwork Outlasts Longshot in Wood Memorial
DRF: Outwork game, hangs on for Wood Memorial victory
TDN: Outworking the Competition

2016 Wood Preview
A week after Mohaymen lost the Florida Derby, and along with it his undefeated record and shot at Kentucky Derby favoritism, owner Shadwell Stable takes another Derby shot, one much farther north, with an undefeated horse in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York City.

Shagaf solidified his status as a Derby contender with a win in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct a month ago, his third race after getting a late start as a 2-year-old, breaking his maiden by six lengths on debut in November. He’s won from both on and off the lead, stalking the pace last out after wiring the field at Gulfstream in January; this inside post, along with plenty of other speed in the race, might suggest that he’ll take back again on Saturday. Like most of the other contenders here, he has no experience over an off track, and there’s both rain and snow in the forecast for race day.

That might be good news for the connections of Matt King Coal, who finished second by a nose over a sloppy Belmont strip last fall. Owner Sheila Rosenblum of Lady Sheila Stable and trainer Linda Rice can seemingly do no wrong these days, picking up an Eclipse Award for La Verdad last fall and a slew of New York-bred awards earlier this week, and after a layoff following his first win in October, this $250,000 purchase won off the bench a month ago. This is his first foray into stakes company, and there’s little doubt that he’ll go to the front, but he’s shown that distance isn’t a problem and his Brisnet speed figure of 101 last out tops any effort of his rivals here. He’s a buzz horse heading into the race and could take relative newcomer Rosenblum to Churchill Downs with a first- or second-place (and possibly third- as well) place finish.

The second Chad Brown runner in the race—he also trains Shagaf—is Flexibility, hoping to put the shine back on his Derby hopes after a disappointing fourth-place effort in the Grade 3 Withers in late January, that coming after an impressive off-the-pace win in the Grade 3 Jerome earlier that month. Though he has tended to race close to the pace, his two wins have come when he sits back, and the presence of speed may make the latter choice the prudent one.

The runner-up in the Todd Pletcher Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby exacta, Outwork fell a length short of stablemate Destin—who set a track record–three weeks ago and hopes to solidify his Derby hopes in his first race in New York. A homebred son of Uncle Mo, Outwork debuted with a win a year ago at Keeneland, then missed 10 months before coming back with a win at Tampa in mid-February at 6 furlongs, then easily stretching out to the 8.5-furlong Tampa Bay Derby. Jockey John Velazquez acknowledged in a NYRA television interview this week that the far outside post #8 is less than ideal for the horse who likes to go to the front, and with Matt King Coal and possibly Shagaf ready to set the pace, might the Hall of Fame rider decide to sit back this time, or will he engage early and hope that the others can’t keep up? Seven years ago, Mike Repole hoped that his Uncle Mo would bring him Kentucky Derby glory, only to scratch the horse because of illness the day before the race; now, he hopes that he’ll go back to Louisville with his son.

Attracting attention after a good third-place finish in only his second start in the Withers, Adventist came back to finish third again in the Gotham, beaten two lengths for trainer Leah Gyarmati, yet still getting good notices from paddock observers. He’s lightly raced and can run greenly, and he’s in a lot deeper today than he was in those other stakes races, so it’s hard to see him doing today what he couldn’t earlier this year. If the frontrunners knock each other out, he may be around to pick up at least some of the pieces.

Fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby, Tale of S’avall attracted some early buzz with a maiden win at Saratoga, then finished fifth in the Grade 1 Champagne before heading south for the winter and five months off. He couldn’t get a nibble on Outwork in Florida, but perhaps the second start off the layoff and a late-running style will move him up here, though it seems unlikely that he’ll duplicate sire Tale of Ekati’s 2008 success in this race. Note, too, that the Champagne was run over a sloppy track, which he might well encounter again here.

A pair of perplexing California shippers rounds out the field. Trojan Nation is winless in five starts on the West Coast, never finishing better than third. Dalmore broke his maiden two weeks ago at Santa Anita in his seventh attempt.

Teresa Genaro

Blue Grass Stakes Kentucky Derby prep race

Keeneland, Saturday April 9, post time: 6:00 pm ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)

2016 Blue Grass Replay

Download the 2016 Blue Grass Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Blue Grass News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Brody’s Cause Comes Home in Blue Grass
DRF: Brody’s Cause rebounds strongly in Blue Grass Stakes
Keeneland: Quotes from the Blue Grass
TDN: ‘Brody’ Bounces Back in Blue Grass

2016 Blue Grass Preview
The Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes is run at 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. Since 2000, only one runner from the Blue Grass has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. The 2-year-old champion Street Sense finished second in the 2007 Blue Grass before winning the big race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May.

Unlike last week’s Florida Derby that had two multiple graded stakes winners in Mohaymen and Nyquist, the Blue Grass Stakes lacks a standout in the overflow field of 14 that includes two entered as also-eligibles.

The tepid 5-2 morning line favorite for the Blue Grass is the Todd Pletcher-trained Zulu, who was last seen finishing second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall and followed that up with a solid third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He ran terribly in his 3-year-old debut as the post-time favorite in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, where he managed to finish ahead of only two horses in a field of nine. He is a stretch-runner and should get a decent pace to set up his closing kick. A win on Saturday would prove his Tampa performance an anomaly and make him a legitimate contender in the Kentucky Derby.

In addition to Zulu, trainer Todd Pletcher has two other entries in Donegal Moon and Cards of Stone. Donegal Moon has raced eight times with two wins. He ran in three straight graded stakes races in New York, never finishing better than fifth. In his last appearance, he won by a resounding 13 lengths in an allowance race at Philadelphia Park. Cards of Stone has done all his racing against New York State-breds at Aqueduct where he has two wins in four starts. He will be making a significant jump in class in his graded stakes debut on Saturday.

Another colt shipping in from New York, My Man Sam, is almost certain to go off at odds shorter than his 10-1 morning line. He exits an allowance race last month at Aqueduct where he finished a fast-closing second to Matt King Coal. Both colts have attracted a fair share of buzz since that race. A headline in the Louisville Courier-Journal called My Man Sam a “wiseguy pick” in reporting his entry into the Blue Grass. Matt King Coal will race in the Wood Memorial on Saturday, a race likely to conclude prior to post time of the Blue Grass. Should Matt King Coal win the Wood, My Man Sam could be among the post-time favorites when he enters the gate at Keeneland.

Laoban has raced in California, Maryland, and New York in his four-race career. He has yet to record a victory but he does have two top-three finishes in graded stakes. In his most recent start, he set the pace in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct and led deep into the stretch before settling for second.

Cherry Wine finished fourth in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park in March. Prior to the Rebel, he scored a solid six-length win in a 1 1/16-miles allowance race at Gulfstream Park. His sire, Paddy O’ Prado, finished second in the 2010 Blue Grass before a third-place effort in the Kentucky Derby. Paddy O’ Prado’s trainer, Dale Romans, also trains Cherry Wine.

Star Hill and American Dubai have experience running in graded stakes races. Star Hill finished a well-beaten third in the Tampa Bay Derby. American Dubai ran a solid third in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn in Arkansas before being trounced by 20 lengths in the Grade 2 Rebel over the same track.

Crescent Drive will be running for the first time on dirt and making his graded stakes debut in the Blue Grass Stakes. He has done all of his running on turf and synthetic in his four-race career. His sire Flower Alley won the 1 1/4-miles Travers Stakes over the dirt.

Twizz has a single maiden win in his four-race career but did receive some respect from the oddsmaker with his 12-1 morning line. His likely role as the pacesetter in a field that lacks significant speed seems the reason for the relatively short odds. He has recorded fast early fractions but has never raced beyond 6 furlongs.

Rounding out the field are longshots Lookin for a Kiss, Goats Town, and Zapperini. Pinson and Hint of Roses are entered as also-eligible and will start should a horse scratch from the main field of 14.

Kevin Martin

Santa Anita Oaks Kentucky Oaks prep race

Santa Anita, Saturday April 9, post time: 6:10 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

2016 Santa Anita Oaks Replay

Download the 2016 Santa Anita Oaks Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Santa Anita Oaks News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Songbird Easy Winner of Santa Anita Oaks
DRF: After slightly slow start, Songbird sails in Oaks
TDN: Songbird Sensational Yet Again in SA Oaks

2016 Santa Anita Oaks Preview
The Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks is scheduled for about 2 1/2 hours after the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, and if there is any such thing as a “statement race” in horse racing, then this could be it for undefeated champion Songbird.

In technical terms, Songbird is facing six other 3-year-old fillies in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks going 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Santa Anita Park, but the racing world will no doubt be comparing her performance to that of Cathryn Sophia’s in the Ashland Stakes earlier at Keeneland Race Course.

Songbird is the favorite to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs, and her top competition, theundefeated multiple graded stakes winner Cathryn Sophia, is expected to win the Ashland to set up a showdown between undefeated Grade 1 winners on the first Friday in May.

Neither horse has really been tested yet. Songbird has won her six starts by a combined 32 1/4 lengths, including a 5 3/4-length score in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year, and in her two wins this year she beat Land Over Sea by a combined 10 1/4 lengths, and that filly shipped East already to win the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.

Cathryn Sophia, meanwhile, has won her four starts by a combined 40 1/2 lengths, and while those wins have not come at the level of competition that Songbird’s wins have, the Grade 1 Ashland would change that, and maybe change the thought that Songbird is invincible in the Kentucky Oaks.

No horse is invincible in any race, of course, but if anyone beats Songbird in the Santa Oaks it will likely be the filly herself, as her competition boasts only one stakes win among them and no lifetime-best Speed Rating higher than 95. Songbird, meanwhile, has run a 95 or better in each of her past five starts, including a pair of 102s to closer out her 2-year-old season.

The aforementioned lone other stakes winner in the field is Forever Darling, who won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez going 6 1/2 furlongs but who has performed poorly around two turns, finishing 17 lengths behind Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and last of nine, beaten 18 lengths, in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra. Still, with two 90+ Speed Ratings, she is fastest of the rest here, and maybe it’s less distance issues in those two poor performances and more that she just likes Santa Anita where she won both her races.

Songbird has earned $1,742,000, Forever Darling $157,400, and no other Oaks entrant more than $100,000, but Jade Princess (SCRATCHED) has come closest, winning two of three races that haven’t been against Songbird. The three against Songbird, however, have resulted in two fifth-place finishes and a fourth-place score beaten by a combined 44 lengths.

Forever Darling and Jade Princess are two of three fillies in the race (besides Songbird) with multiple wins. The other is Bellamentary, who has won her last two starts by a combined 7 lengths, and her 93 Speed Rating last out gets her in the conversation for minor awards here. She pressed the pace in her first win but went gate-to-wire in her second, suggesting that she could control “the race for place” behind Songbird, who has led at the first call in all six of her races.

Completing the field are Mokat, third behind Songbird last out and fourth behind Jade Princess three back; Kay Kay, the lone pure closer in the field who was second behind Bellamentary last out; and maiden She’s a Warrior.

Saturday’s forecast calls for rain throughout the day, which will be a wildcard factor given that no one in the field has run over an off track.

Ed DeRosa

Fantasy Stakes Kentucky Oaks prep race

Oaklawn Park, Saturday April 9, post time: 6:09 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)

2016 Fantasy Replay

Download the 2016 Fantasy Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Fantasy News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Terra Promessa Captures Fantasy by a Neck

2016 Fantasy Preview
As a Kentucky Oaks prep race, the 1 1/16-miles Grade 3 Fantasy has proven influential over the past decade. Oaks winners Rachel Alexandra and Blind Luck won back-to-back Fantasy runnings in 2009 and 2010, and before them came subsequent Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles. Last year’s surprise Fantasy winner Include Betty failed to hit the Oaks board after enduring troubling traffic issues, but she rebounded nicely to run second in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, win the Grade 1 Mother Goose, and strongly close late for a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

With or without rainy conditions and an off track, this year’s contest appears to be at the mercy of trainer Steve Asmussen with his two starters Terra Promessa and Taxable. That the Fantasy is one of the premier races for 3-year-old fillies that Asmussen has not yet won obviously adds special importance to the event for him. Both fillies are major contenders.

With her facile 6 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/16-miles Grade 3 Honeybee, Terra Promessa put herself firmly in the Kentucky Oaks picture. Her recent workouts, including a bullet 5-furlong workout two weeks ago, suggest she’s maintaining her form and looks to be the clear favorite.

Undefeated stablemate Taxable has yet to be tested beyond one mile, but everything in her pedigree suggests she should only excel at longer distances. Her dam is a half-sister to Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly. In her last start, jockey Corey Nakatani rated her beautifully mid-pack in the sloppy going before unleashing her in the stretch. During the walk back to the winner’s circle, Taxable had her ears pricked and looked barely winded. As a non-stakes winner, she’ll enjoy a 4-pound jockey weight advantage over her stablemate.

As noted in our Honeybee preview, Cosmic Evolution possesses a promising stamina pedigree. However, it wasn’t enough to carry her to victory in the sloppy Honeybee; after leading much of the race, she was passed and distanced by both Terra Promessa and Nickname. Not much suggests she can turn the tables on the Fantasy favorite. Ramon Vazquez replaces recently-retired Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel as her rider.

Florida Bird broke her maiden going 1 1/16 miles in a $25,000 claiming event at Oaklawn just over a month ago. She followed that effort with an improving but still distant fourth-place finish in the 6-furlong state-bred Rainbow Miss just one week ago. While certainly bred for stamina, this homebred daughter of 12-furlong (1 1/2 miles) Grade 1 Belmont winner Summer Bird just hasn’t yet proven herself to be fast enough to be a serious threat.

D. Wayne Lukas-trained Impasse is also well-bred for stamina. Her half-sister Majestic River won the 1 1/16-miles Grade 2 Molly Pitcher in 2014, and her half-brother Tempus Temporis finished third in a 10-furlong (1 1/4 miles) listed turf stakes in England last year just behind a subsequent Royal Ascot Grade 2 winner. However, Impasse is still a maiden after three starts, two of which occurred at the 1 1/16-miles distance. In her last effort she squeezed through traffic in the stretch and poked a head in front before three late-closing fillies passed her. A better ride by new jockey Channing Hill may improve her chances dramatically.

Ready to Confess broke her maiden at this race’s distance over a sloppy Remington Park track last November. The daughter of 1 1/16-miles Grade 1 Frizette winner Confessional, her 2016 debut was also a winning one as she dueled and prevailed over Dorodansa, a filly who subsequently finished ahead of her in the listed Martha Washington. During the 2-month break since that last race her workouts have been solid, so with her proven speed Ready to Confess may be an exotics threat.

Valerie Grash

Santa Anita Derby Kentucky Derby prep race

Santa Anita, Saturday April 9, post time: 6:30 pm ET
1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs)

2016 Santa Anita Derby Replay

Download the 2016 Santa Anita Derby Chart courtesy of our partners

2016 Santa Anita Derby News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Exaggerator Soars Home in Santa Anita Derby
DRF: Santa Anita: Exaggerator wins big in Santa Anita Derby
DRF: Exaggerator relishes wet conditions in Santa Anita Derby
TDN: No Exaggeration: Curlin Colt Romps in Santa Anita Derby

2016 Santa Anita Derby Preview
The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park is one of the most competitive prep races of the modern—i.e. points system—era, and why not with $1-million and 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points on the line?

The top 3 from the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 12 at Santa Anita all return here, and only 1.5 points separates them on’s Prime Power scale while less than half a point separates them on recent Class Ratings. Prime Power is a measure of a horse’s strength for this race while Class Ratings assess performance of previous races.

Danzing Candy got the best of the trio in the San Felipe, beating Grade 1 winner Mor Spirit by two lengths and multiple graded stakes winner Exaggerator 2 ¾ lengths, but bettors are expected to expect Mor Spirit to bounce back from that loss, as not only is he the morning line favorite here but also took more money than Danzing Candy in the recently concluded Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Mor Spirit was the 11.7-1 fourth choice (among individual entrants) in that pool while Danzing Candy was the 16-1 sixth choice. Exaggerator closed at 27.4-1.

Danzing Candy lost his career debut but has since gone gate-to-wire on the lead to win three consecutive races by a combined 11 lengths. However, two horses capable of showing speed and running with Danzing Candy early—Exaggerator and Smokey Image—both had trouble at the start of the San Felipe. If either (or especially both) run with Danzing Candy in the Santa Anita Derby, then the race could better set up for Mor Spirit who makes his move from off the pace.

Uncle Lino is the fifth horse from the San Felipe to show up here. He finished fourth in that heat following a runner-up finish behind Mor Spirit in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis. Uncle Lino’s lone win came gate-to-wire, but he was not able to make the lead against Danzing Candy last out, and his fourth-place finish behind him in the San Felipe was his first worst-than-third finish in five career starts.

The top three from the San Felipe are the only graded stakes winners in the field on dirt, but Dressed in Hermes (SCRATCHED), a multiple stakes winner on turf who won the Grade 3 Cecil B. Demille last year, is trying dirt again after a fourth-place finish in the Lewis. Dressed In Hermes has won three of five starts on turf but is winless in two starts on dirt.

The field’s only other stakes winner is Iron Rob, who began his career losing six consecutive races but who has since won three of four races including a pair of stakes. Iron Rob is another who can apply some pace pressure to Danzing Candy—somewhat coincidental as both colts are by stallion Twirling Candy.

Iron Rob beat Denman’s Call home last out, and Denman’s Call was third behind Nyquist and Exaggerator two races back in the Grade 2 San Vicente. Rare Candy and Diplodocus, two horses whose lone wins have come on turf, complete the field.

Saturday’s forecast calls for rain throughout the day. While most of the field has yet to run over an off track, Exaggerator, Mor Spirit and Uncle Lino have all performed well under the circumstances. It’s worth noting that Exaggerator’s only win, aside from his maiden, came in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot over a muddy track.

Ed DeRosa