The action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby picked up over the weekend with Signalman claiming a gutsy victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) and the filly Make Happy powering to a decisive win in the Cattleya Sho in Japan.
Plus, two weekends ago, we saw trainer Bob Baffert debut yet another exciting two-year-old who appears to have a very bright future. How have all these developments affected my Kentucky Derby Top 10 rankings? Let’s take a look….
The form of Game Winner’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory was flattered a bit when third-place finisher Signalman (see below) came back to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. But flattery of form is pretty much the only means we’ll have for judging Game Winner over the next couple of months, as he is not expected to run again until 2019.
According to the Daily Racing Form, Instagrand recently returned to Santa Anita to begin preparations for his three-year-old campaign. His two sprint races this year gave us a taste of his obvious talent, but they leave us with plenty of questions about his overall class and ability to negotiate longer distances. His eventual return to action, presumably against tougher company, should tell us more.
He’s already breezed twice since his easy victory in the Street Sense Stakes, going a half-mile in :48.80 on November 15th and six furlongs in 1:12.20 on November 21st. His next run (and his two-turn debut) is expected to come in the December 8th Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Los Alamitos, a race Baffert has won seven times in the last ten years.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Signalman doesn’t know the meaning of hesitating in traffic. In both the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Signalman has raced inside and in between horses while bulling his way through almost non-existent openings. He acts more like a seasoned pro than a relatively inexperienced two-year-old, and is willingness to go wherever his jockey asks—regardless of how tight the position—could serve him well while facing nineteen rivals in the Kentucky Derby.
Code of Honor
After missing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with an illness, Code of Honor bounced back to breeze three furlongs in :37.23 on November 15th and a half-mile in :49.66 just four days later, after which he waited a week before going five furlongs in 1:01.55. This easy but accelerated work schedule should have him ready for the December 1st Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct, where he’ll make his much-anticipated two-turn debut while facing Maximus Mischief (see below).
He closed at 32-1 in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 and I placed a small “just for fun” bet at that price, my thinking being that if Roadster could finish within two lengths of Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) while dealing with a minor breathing issue, he must have a lot of talent. I’m eagerly awaiting his return to the work tab.
Preamble hasn’t breezed since his gutsy allowance victory at Keeneland, but presumably, this lightly-raced son of Speightstown is just in the process of heading south for the winter to prepare for the Derby trail. Perhaps he’ll follow a schedule similar to that of his Rodolphe Brisset-trained stablemate Quip, who won the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) in Florida following a brief two-year-old campaign in Kentucky.
Granted, he benefited from securely an uncontested lead, but Bob Baffert’s Coliseum looked terrific winning his debut going seven furlongs at Del Mar on November 17th. After racing to the lead through a :22.88 opening quarter-mile, Coliseum threw down a stiff second quarter in :23.23 to open up a four-length lead, after which he pulled away while eased up late to defeat stablemate Figure Eight by 6 ¾ lengths, earning a 91 Beyer speed figure. Owned and bred by Godolphin, Coliseum clearly has a lot of talent, and if he can harness it under more challenging circumstances (he’s reportedly been a bit tricky to control in the mornings), he might be one of Baffert’s better runners.
The Daily Racing Form has reported that the unbeaten Vekoma will skip Saturday’s Remsen Stakes in favor of resting a bit before his three-year-old campaign. Considering that the Remsen has not been a very productive Derby prep race in recent years, this could be a wise strategy, giving Vekoma more time to mature before tackling tougher company and longer distances.
He wrapped up his serious preparations for the Remsen Stakes by breezing four furlongs in a bullet :47.42 on November 26th at Parx Racing. I’ve already outlined how he’s bred like a sprinter, making the nine-furlong distance of the Remsen a stiff test, but based on the raw talent he’s shown so far, he has to be considered a threat until he conclusively shows that he has distance limitations. Which, who knows, he might not.