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    Have you been following our Road to the Kentucky Derby series? If you have, then you probably already have a good idea of the horses set to compete in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and have already seen their prep races. If you haven’t, now’s the time to hunker down and start playing catch up. Either way, going back and watching replays of some of the prep races is a good idea to get ready for Saturday’s big race. I’ve assembled replays of some races I think provide good insight into what you might expect to see out of some of these horses when they break from the gates in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

    Dortmund/Firing Line – Robert B. Lewis Stakes (Feb. 7, 2015, Santa Anita Park)

    Although I was already a fan of Dortmund going into the Robert B. Lewis (G3), after seeing his performance in the race I knew he would be my Kentucky Derby pick. As expected, the race came down to Bob Baffert’s Dortmund and Simon Callaghan’s Firing Line. The pair seemed to move together around the final turn, Dortmund with the scant lead. As they moved into the stretch, Firing Line gained the advantage and it appeared he would hand Dortmund his first loss, but Dortmund fought back and took victory by a head.

    This was impressive because Dortmund was on the rail, a place most horses don’t like to be, and it was the first race of the year for both of these young colts. Equally impressive was the fact this pair was 21 ½ lengths in front of the rest of the field. 

    American Pharoah/Far Right/Mr. Z – Arkansas Derby (Apr. 11, 2015, Oaklawn Park)

    In American Pharoah’s final Kentucky Derby prep, he showed the most brilliance of all his four victories. He rated comfortably off Bridget’s Big Luvy before making his move around the turn in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He responded when jockey Victor Espinoza asked him to move. But that’s all Espinoza did, he asked and American Pharoah didn’t need anything else. He just ran and effortlessly won by eight lengths.

    Ron Moquett’s Far Right, under jockey Mike Smith, closed from near last to get up for second. Smith went to the whip a few times, but just rode him out when it was clear they would not be able to catch American Pharoah in time. D. Wayne Lukas’s Mr. Z, who was second or third through much of the race, held on for show money. But all he did was hold on. If the race had been another 1/8 of a mile, he likely would have dropped back to fourth or fifth. 


    International Star/Stanford/War Story – Louisiana Derby (Mar. 28, 2015 Louisiana Downs)

    Mike Maker’s International Star was way back in seventh place as Todd Pletcher’s Stanford was in front, leading the field of nine in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Mr. Z was also in there, up close to the lead, but eventually dropped way back to ninth, beaten 20 lengths.

    Stanford set a moderate pace and held the lead going into the stretch, but couldn’t hold off the closing kick of International Star, who finished a neck in front. Tom Amoss’s War Story raced mid-pack throughout the race and advanced slightly to get third.

    The thing to take away from this race is the battle between Stanford and International Star near the wire. Watch how many times each were struck by the whip to get them to fight to the wire. However, International Star may be the best chance at a Kentucky Derby win owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey have had in recent years. He’ll enter the Derby on a three-win streak.

    Materiality/Upstart – Florida Derby (Mar. 28, 2015, Gulfstream Park)

    Todd Pletcher’s Materiality entered the Florida Derby (G1) in only his third start. Materiality and Rick Violette’s Upstart sat just behind the leader and moved together around the turn and stayed together into the stretch before Materiality kicked on home. Upstart finished 1 ½ lengths behind. The pair earned Brisnet speed figures over 100 for the effort.

    Materiality may be Pletcher’s most overlooked Kentucky Derby entry. Not because he’s not good enough, but because he didn’t race at age two. The take away on this race is that Materiality, with little experience, shows raw talent. However, experience helps when a horse is forced to make his way in a 20-horse field. 

    Frosted/Tencendur/El Kabeir – Wood Memorial (Apr. 4, 2015, Aqueduct Racetrack)

    Kiaran McLaughlin’s Frosted was near-last early on in the Wood Memorial (G1), while George Weaver’s Tencendur was three-wide staying just off the frontrunner Tiz Shea’s pace. John Terranova’s El Kabeir started in about fifth place, but soon found himself in the back of the field. Around the far turn everyone began to move on the leader. Tencendur got there first, but Frosted was hot on his tail, forced out four-wide. El Kabeir was also trying to close. Frosted finished two lengths in front of Tencendur, with El Kabeir another 3 ¾ lengths further back.

    A few things should be noted from this race. First, Frosted, who earned a Brisnet speed figure of 107 in the Wood, entered the race after a successful throat surgery. That might explain his poor performance in the Fountain of Youth (G2) Feb. 21. Second, El Kabeir was well out of it in the Wood, forced out on the far outside, yet still able to get up for only a 3 ¾ length loss. Third, jockey C.C. Lopez, who rode El Kabeir in the Wood and in his previous three starts, will be replaced by jockey Calvin Borel in the Kentucky Derby.  


    Carpe Diem, Danzig Moon, Ocho Ocho Ocho – Blue Grass Stakes (Apr. 4, 2015, Keeneland Race Course)

    Todd Pletcher’s Carpe Diem and James Cassidy’s Ocho Ocho Ocho were one-two through most of the 1 1/8 mile Blue Grass Stakes (G1), but Carpe Diem was able to overpower Ocho Ocho Ocho into the stretch and kicked home to the win. Mark Casse’s Danzig Moon closed sharply from mid-pack, overtaking a tiring Ocho Ocho Ocho, but couldn’t catch Carpe Diem. The thing to take away from this race is that Carpe Diem didn’t have to do a lot to overtake Ocho Ocho Ocho and Danzig Moon may have caught Carpe Diem if the race had been a little longer. I’m not the best at spotting when a horse changes lead, but it looked to me that Danzig Moon continued to run on his right leg until a few yards from the finish. Changing leads on a horse provides the strength you’d feel when you switch a heavy bag from one arm to the other.  

    So now that I’ve done the hard part and nicely packaged this replay reel in one place, get to your homework! The Kentucky Derby’s just a few days away. Analyze the races on your own and remember to watch each horse’s performance, not just the leaders.

    Photo: J. Oswald

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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