One Liner looked terrific winning the February 20 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park, drawing off to a 3 ½-length decision. He received a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating trying two turns for the first time, one of the better numbers from a Kentucky Derby qualifier this year, and rates as another talented prospect from the Todd Pletcher stable.
Breaking from post 11, One Liner was about 4-wide entering the clubhouse turn and appeared under a ride from John Velazquez by the time he reached the backstretch, stalking the pace a few lengths behind in fourth. The Hall of Fame jockey really went to pumping his arms by the beginning of the far turn, asking for everything the bay colt had, but One Liner didn’t offer his best stride until the stretch drive.
Uncontested, the even-money favorite following a 5 ¼-length romp in the January 16 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn, sped forward to another unopposed advantage but appeared rank tossing his head during the early stages. Petrov, who chased the pacesetter as a clear second, struck first under Jose Ortiz, collaring the pacesetter nearing the conclusion of the far turn.
One Liner edged closer while traveling wide on the final bend but still had ground to make up on Petrov, who turned for home in front and looked strong reaching midstretch with a one-length advantage. But the landscape changed quickly as One Liner blew past his rival within a few strides, accelerating clear in eye-catching fashion as he rolled to the wire.
It was easy to come away impressed by his finish and the winner registered a 101 BRIS Late Pace figure.
Now 3-for-3, One Liner is still relatively inexperienced. He spent six months on the sidelines after winning a 5 ½-furlong maiden in late July, returning against only five rivals in a 6-furlong entry-level allowance at Gulfstream, and entered the 1 1/16-mile Southwest off a 25-day freshening.
The Southwest provides ample time for two more preps and One Liner showed a preference for the Hot Springs, Arkansas track, but Pletcher has indicated a preference for keeping his charge well-rested over the next 10 weeks. As a result, One Liner will receive only one more prep, and it won’t be at Oaklawn, before taking stretching out to 1 ¼ miles.
Longer distances are a concern given his speed-oriented pedigree. He’s by the hot sire Into Mischief, a half-brother to Beholder, but One Liner wants to avoid the same fate as previous offspring Goldencents and Vicar’s in Trouble, who recorded impressive victories in the 2013 Santa Anita Derby (G1) and 2014 Louisiana Derby (G2), respectively, before coming up short at 1 ¼ miles.
Into Mischief covered Arrogate’s dam last year and is capable of siring a Kentucky Derby winner if paired with the right mare, but One Liner hails from a daughter of champion sprinter Cherokee Run. Numerous black-type performers can be found in the first few generations of the female family and all performed best at distances up to nine furlongs.
His breeding is far from optimal but One Liner wouldn’t be the first 3-year-old to outrun a suspect pedigree at Churchill Downs. We’ll wait until April to see how he handles the step up to 1 1/8 miles in the final prep.
Petrov wound up eight lengths clear of Lookin at Lee in third. A debut winner in mid-November, Petrov has now recorded three consecutive runner-up finishes in stakes races. I don’t know whether the son of Flatter can continue to perform at a high level against deeper competition at extended distances, but the gray colt has certainly displayed nice improvement this winter for trainer Ron Moquett.
Last seen clunking up for fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Lookin at Lee picked up right where he left off with a belated third, nearly 12 lengths back of the winner. A non-threatening second in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Iroquois (G3), Lookin at Lee had the potential to develop into a top-level performer at age 3 but came back with a plodding effort that garnered only an 87 BRIS Speed rating.
Uncontested wound up weakening to sixth, about a length back of Lookin at Lee, and connections must now regroup. He’s a talented colt and connections can still try another prep race, but the speedy sophomore appears better-suited toward one-turn events.
The El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields on February 18 also offered points, but the top three finishers aren’t nominated to the Triple Crown and the 1 1/8-mile race on Tapeta won’t have any impact upon the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
Other runners of interest
O Dionysus rallied to win the February 18 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park going away by three lengths, earning his first win past 6 ½ furlongs in the one-turn mile event. Now a two-time stakes victor, the bay colt is best known for finishing a nose second to subsequent Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Irish War Cry in the December 31 Marylander. Trained by Gary Capuano, the Maryland-bred son of Bodemeister could target the Preakness (G1) this spring but has yet to try two turns in eight starts. O Dionysus earned a 92 BRIS Speed rating in the Miracle Wood.
Unplaced in his first two efforts sprinting, Bronze Age stretched out to two turns with aplomb in a February 18 maiden at Santa Anita, leading wire-to-wire in a 1 ½-length decision. A $600,000 2-year-old in training purchase by Juddmonte Farms, the Mineshaft colt is trained by Bob Baffert. Bronze Age established himself as one to watch with a commendable 95 BRIS Speed rating.
Patch left a favorable impression breaking his maiden at Gulfstream on January 18, producing an excellent 101 BRIS Speed rating scoring by 1 ¾ lengths at a one-turn mile. Out of an A.P. Indy mare, the Union Rags colt should appreciate more ground in upcoming starts for Pletcher.
A New York-bred son of Quality Road, Long Haul Bay did not disappoint his many backers when winning at first asking over New York-bred rivals on February 18, gamely prevailing by a head at 1-2 odds in the 6-furlong maiden special at Aqueduct. Trained by Chad Brown, Long Haul Bay is out of the Grade 3-winning French Satin, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart.
Similar to Long Haul Bay, Souper Tapit is probably getting started too late for the Kentucky Derby but we can look forward to seeing him in stakes races by this spring. The Mark Casse-trained colt made his career debut a winning one at Fair Grounds on February 18, winning by a neck at a mile and 70 yards, and the son of Tapit is the first offspring to race from the Grade 1-winning mare Zo Impressive, a daughter of Grade 1 winner Zoftig. Souper Tapit notched a respectable 86 BRIS Speed rating.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby series shifts to the 16-race Championship Season this weekend with the $400,000 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds offering points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.
Guest Suite is back after winning the January 21 Lecomte (G3) at the New Orleans track but the Quality Road gelding will need to improve upon a 93 BRIS Speed rating to maintain his advantage. He figures to get bet down from his 6-1 morning line odds. Early favoritism goes to Mo Town, who has been installed at 7-2 in his first start since winning the Remsen (G2) in late November. Local Hero, a 7 ¼-length maiden winner at Fair Grounds on January 26, is the 4-1 second choice.
Fourteen horses were entered for the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star but California Derby winner So Conflated is expected to scratch and wait for the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct a week later after drawing the far outside post.
Kentucky Derby top 20
- MCCRAKEN: Returned in good order winning Sam Davis, March 11 Tampa Bay Derby next
- IRISH WAR CRY: Remained unbeaten winning Holy Bull wire-to-wire, will be interesting to see if he shows more versatility in March 4 Fountain of Youth
- EL AREEB: Lynch planned to wait for Wood Memorial but now headed to March 4 Gotham because colt is doing so well
- AMERICAN ANTHEM: March 18 Rebel is next for Bodemeister colt
- MASTERY: Baffert will send unbeaten G1 winner to March 11 San Felipe
- CLASSIC EMPIRE: Three-prep plan has become a two-prep plan as he continues to recover from foot abscess; after a brilliant 2-year-old season, nothing seems to be going right this year for the champ
- MO TOWN: Looked awesome but didn’t beat much in Remsen; we find out whether he’s for real in Risen Star
- GORMLEY: Ran fast winning one-mile Sham, Shirreffs deciding between San Felipe and Rebel for him and stablemate Royal Mo
- ILIAD: Exciting San Vicente winner is bred to relish longer distances, makes 2-turn bow in San Felipe
- PRACTICAL JOKE: Last seen finishing third in BC Juvenile, multiple G1 winner returns in Fountain of Youth
- GUNNEVERA: Holy Bull runner-up will be running late in Fountain of Youth
- ONE LINER: Distance and seasoning questions remain but looked the part winning Southwest
- TAPWRIT: Sam Davis runner-up an intriguing player for Pletcher, hope he can benefit from a couple more starts before Churchill
- ROYAL MO: Robert Lewis winner will need to show more next time to break top 10
- GUEST SUITE: Let’s see if he can build upon Lecomte win
- DABSTER: Curlin colt exits a pair of key races for Baffert, looking forward to stakes debut
- ALWAYS DREAMING: Smashing maiden winner will try to carry form forward in Tampa Bay Derby
- BATTALION RUNNER: Could develop into a nice one but hasn’t worked in nearly four weeks since last start
- REACH THE WORLD: Unraced juvenile exits convincing maiden tally for Baffert
- EPICHARIS: Japanese colt stamped his Kentucky Derby ticket winning Hyacinth Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse