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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

UPDATE FINAL: FEUD LOWERS TYPICAL DERBY EXPECTATIONS; ALL FOUR GRADE 3 PREPS POSTED

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, February 2, 2024 – The fastest horse entered in one of four stepping stones to the 2024 Kentucky Derby is running in South Florida Saturday, the second fastest in Southern California.

But presuming continued good health for both, only one will be shipping into Louisville for May’s big dance–and it won’t be the one currently in training for Bob Baffert in Southern California.

In fact, no horses trained by Baffert, nor his owners’ designated Derby trainers, will be running in the 150th anniversary of America’s Race, the result of a lingering feud between Baffert and Derby host Churchill Downs Inc. [CDI].

Banned Bob and CDI have been engaging in a cross-country pissing contest for the past two weeks after Baffert and Amr Zedan, owner of disqualified Derby-147 winner Medina Spirit, dropped their lawsuit against CDI.

The presumption is that the connections of the late Medina Spirit were hoping that the deadline for Baffert to transfer his runners to other trainers, moved up this year by 30 days compared to 2023, would be rescinded in favor of last year’s timetable.

Apparently, CDI was suitably unimpressed by the lawsuit-withdrawal gesture which was made with neither an apology nor an acknowledgement that any wrongdoing, pre- or post-race, was committed.  

This is the third consecutive year Baffert will not have a Kentucky Derby starter. For the past two years, horses he trained were transferred to the barns of other trainers with their owner’s approval.  

Moving the deadline up a month sends the message that “we know you’re training horses for the Derby horses, but never mind sending them to other horsemen for a finishing-touch sham blowout. But other tea leaves remain.

The hypothesis wonders whether the owners of serious Derby contenders were united in solidarity behind their trainer, or whether Baffert played a kind of Trumpian loyalty card. Either way, the celebrated Derby 150 will be less-than without the “Baffert horses.”

The Hall of Famer’s assault on Ben Jones’ all-time Derby record of six victories, broken by Medina’s temporary first-place finish, will have to wait one more year. It’s too bad and all too sad.

At the moment, the biggest losers are the sport’s fans and the storied history of America’s greatest racing spectacle.

***

OAKLAWN PARK

G3 SOUTHWEST STAKES Race 11

PROJECTED WINNER: 5-Wynstock (4-1) $700,000 juvenile purchase [sire’s average: $95,800] is 2-for-2 rounding two turns beneath Kyle Frey including G2 Los Al Futurity at today’s trip in December, making a favorable visual impression. Purposeful works for Bullet Bob.

BEST VALUE: 6-Liberal Arts (8-1), also a winner at the trip, is an Arrogate colt that kicks home strongly, taking the G3 Street Sense at CD in his juvenile finale; Christian Torrez for former Shug assistant Robert Medina

EXOTICA: 1-Maycocks Creek (3-1) won 3YO debut by 10 at FG; pole sitting and may go favorite. 4-Otto the Conqueror (5-1) and 7-Carbone (9-2) are highly regarded Asmussen trainees–latter is undefeated and a surface winner.

SANTA ANITA

G3 ROBERT B LEWIS Race 5

PROJECTED WINNER: 6-Nysos (4-5) is 2-for-2 by an aggregate 18-3/4 lengths including G3 Bob Hope in juvenile finale; seven published works since with Prat on the re-ride.

BEST VALUE: 5-Coach Prime (5-1), a $1.7 million yearling, is the second fastest of three Bafferts and is having blinkers removed–barn is 35% efficient this scenario–loses Prat to the favorite, but picks up Dettori.

EXOTICA: 7-Stronghold (6-1) and 3-Better Than Gold (6-1) both own strong late foot but each is meeting his biggest challenge to date.

AQUEDUCT RACETRACK

G3 WITHERS                                                    Race 9

PROJECTED WINNER:  3-Lightline (8-5) was uncharacteristically far back going two turns at Oaklawn then made a long sustained power seep at the turn, placing gamely behind undefeated Carbone.

BEST VALUE: 1-Speed Runner (5-1) broke maiden at today’s trip on this surface in second start, earning competitive figure; pole sitting with hot-riding Lezcano.

EXOTICA: 4-El Grande O (5-2) is fast and loves this surface. 8-Uncle Heavy (10-1) sharp at Parx now makes local debut for live ship-in outfit.

GULFSTREAM PARK

G3 HOLY BULL                                                 Race 12

PROJECTED WINNER:  7-Fierceness (3-5) juvenile champion freaked in both lifetime wins, his latest in key BC Juvenile that’s produced two next out winners; well spotted in 3-year-old debut.

BEST VALUE:  3-Otello (9-2) acts like top prospect and recent five-eighths at deeper Payson fastest of 20 peers who worked the week of JAN 26.

EXOTICA: 2-Inveigled (12-1) went well despite somewhat tentative handling last out; well-drawn with Irad on the re-ride.  4-Dancing Groom (30-1) was a good third in Champagne and 21% effective first-blinkers. 6-Domestic Product (8-1) exits live race and Chad 31% removing blinkers.

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2 Responses

  1. More questions than answers for me in yesterday’s 3 year old stakes results. But one thing is clear Nysos is the leader of the pack on Feb 4th. What a brilliant performance, Prat rode him perfectly for first time 2 turns. He’s the real deal. If he stays healthy who trains him in Kentucky?

    I read Todd’s post race comments. After watching the reply several time of the start of the race. To these eyes, Fierceness start wasn’t too troubled. His effort is very disappointing when you consider the resume of the two horses who finished in front of head. Take nothing away from Hades, game winner. Fierceness was flat, as flat as IHOP pancake when it mattered most. We’ll give him more more race before we move on from him. Consistency is a concern at the very least with him.

    Southwest sloppy track is tough to gauge but winner Mystik Dan absolutely loved the surface. Where several other top contenders have a built in excuse, like Carbone and Wynstock.

  2. Thanks for checking in Tony. Can’t strongly disagree with any of your observations–our take will be posted by Tuesday at the latest.

    No one will take over the training of Nysos: In fact, no Baffert horse will be transferred to another trainer this year. Will first review the video again from all four preps …

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