May 28, 2020

Five points to ponder: San Felipe, Tampa Bay Derby, Gotham

Thousand Words captured the Robert B. Lewis (G3), giving trainer Bob Baffert his 3,000th win © Benoit Photo

Of the three Kentucky Derby (G1) scoring races on tap Saturday, the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita offers the most tantalizing showdown. But the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) has the potential to unearth a lightly raced up-and-comer, and even the one-turn mile of the Gotham (G3) can have wider implications.

Here are my five points to ponder:

1. Seven individual interests in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be in action.

Four square off in the San Felipe – the Bob Baffert duo of Authentic and Thousand Words, highly regarded Honor A. P., and surprise champion Storm the Court. Authentic was pegged at a shorter price than the others in the KDFW morning line (12-1), and in the Pool 3 betting so far, he continues to be preferred to his San Felipe rivals. As of Friday at 10 p.m. ET, Authentic was 13-1 compared to Thousand Words at 27-1, Honor A.P. at 28-1, and Storm the Court at 52-1.

While it would be expected for Sham (G3) romper Authentic to have more dash in this 1 1/16-mile scoring race, Thousand Words and Honor A. P. are liable to be more effective at a classic distance. Thus if they perform respectably in defeat on Saturday, their Pool 3 odds could offer serious value by close of trade Sunday at 6 p.m. (ET). That’s especially the case for Thousand Words, considering he’s in the shadow of other flashier stablemates in Pool 3 as well – Charlatan and Nadal.

The remaining three KDFW interests are in the Tampa Bay Derby, but all are longshots in the betting. At this writing Friday night, Sole Volante has drifted from a 12-1 morning line to 31-1. Chance It, opening at 30-1, is up to 35-1, and Spa City went from 50-1 to 65-1. Sole Volante’s odds could contract the most of those three with a win, since he’d back up his Sam F. Davis (G3) score and consolidate his status as a Derby contender. Still, whatever happens at Tampa Saturday will undergo further scrutiny in a final prep.

2. The highest-profile stakes debut comes in the San Felipe, but Tampa has more unexposed types.

Honor A. P. brings the biggest buzz of those graduating into stakes company in Saturday’s points races. The John Shirreffs pupil turned heads in his Del Mar summer premiere, rallying from last to place second in a good 6-furlong maiden. Entitled to prosper on the stretch-out next time, Honor A. P. deployed useful tactical speed to wire a mile maiden at Santa Anita. The one hesitation is that he had a minor hiccup that ruled him out of the Sham, so he enters the San Felipe off a nearly 5-month break. The ultra-conservative Shirreffs sees the San Felipe as a building block rather than the be-all, end-all.

Tampa is brimming with untapped potential. Spa City, representing retiring trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, is by Street Sense who turned the Tampa Bay/Kentucky Derby double in 2007. The Godolphin homebred needed three tries to break his maiden, but progressed in each start culminating in a 9-furlong Gulfstream Park victory over Unrighteous.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has been known to launch his promising types at Tampa, so it’s noteworthy that Texas Swing broke his maiden over the Oldsmar oval in his first chance around two turns. Stablemate Market Analysis did even better by winning first time out going 7 furlongs at Gulfstream, and makes his two-turn debut here. From off the beaten path come well-bred Bye Bye Melvin, twice a winner on turf for Graham Motion, and Mike Maker’s Turfway maiden scorer Mo Mosa.

The Gotham stakes-firsters with the greatest interest from a Triple Crown trail perspective are War Stopper and Attachment Rate. War Stopper appears to be a new horse since adding blinkers for Rudy Rodriguez, and although he has bags of speed, his pedigree gives hope he can carry it over a route down the road. He’s by Declaration of War out of a Curlin mare from the family of Owendale. Attachment Rate, who has the opposite running style, is a Hard Spun colt from Hymn Book’s family. Sixto qualifies on this score as a Curlin colt, but the May 17 foal is not Triple Crown-nominated, and trainer Eric Guillot tweeted he’d be “ripe by late summer.”

3. All three preps present chances to turn the tables.

Sole Volante was third to Chance it in the Jan. 4 Mucho Macho Man, but the result of that one-turn mile around Gulfstream isn’t sure to hold up around two turns at Tampa. Note that Sole Volante was racing on dirt for the first time at Gulfstream, and did well in the circumstances. In his latest, the closer thrived on a hot pace set-up in the Sam F. Davis at this track and trip, a scenario that could unfold again on Saturday. Chance It ran a massive race off the layoff in the Mucho Macho Man, so it’s possible that he can step up again himself. Yet the venue change is liable to favor Sole Volante in the rematch.

Gotham favorite Mischevious Alex ran away with the Swale (G3), but two of his re-opposing rivals didn’t run their race that day, and now he has to give them five pounds. Untitled, the 7-5 Swale favorite in his first start since being privately purchased and transferred to Mark Casse, was taken out of his game with a rough start. He ran much better in an interim allowance (more on that below), and reverting to one turn – with a clean break and opportunity to use his speed – could make all the difference. Swale fifth Necker Island had been on the upswing with back-to-back wins at Churchill Downs, but he too had an excuse for his subpar showing at Gulfstream. Trainer Stan Hough revealed that Necker Island “had a little bit of a setback” late last year. Hence he wasn’t totally at his peak for the Swale, and a difficult passage didn’t help.

The San Felipe is the least likely to witness a form reversal. Wrecking Crew was third to Storm the Court in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and eased when last of four behind Thousand Words in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). The former is a truer bill than the latter, but he has something to find.

4. All three preps can provide a barometer on other Derby contenders.

Market Analysis (Tampa Bay Derby) beat Attachment Rate (Gotham) in his maiden score. Maiden form is best treated cautiously, given the rates of development, but a bold show by Market Analysis might be auspicious for Attachment Rate’s chances a few minutes later at Aqueduct.

Tampa Bay Derby runner Letmeno comes off a third to Gouverneur Morris and Gotham contender Untitled in a Tampa allowance. While Gouverneur Morris is an elite Derby contender (17-1 in Pool 3 Friday night) independent of what happens elsewhere Saturday, he’d be flattered if Untitled does well or Letmeno jumps up. Likewise Relentless Dancer, a remote fourth to Tiz the Law and Ete Indien in the Holy Bull (G3), would underscore their depth if outperforming his odds at Tampa.

Storm the Court still has to prove that his 45-1 Juvenile victory was no fluke, and his cause is not bolstered by the recent failures of fellow Juvenile alumni. Indeed, the only bright spot of late was Juvenile fifth Full Flat’s upsetting last Saturday’s Saudi Derby. That said, I think that Storm the Court will move forward from his old-school comeback fourth to Nadal in the San Vicente (G2). If he turns in a bigger effort than expected in the San Felipe, it would boost the stock of the San Vicente. Nadal (14-1 in Pool 3 right now) would still need to prove himself around two turns though.

Storm the Court’s stablemate Royal Act (99-1 in Pool 3) has a vested interest in how Thousand Words performs. Royal Act just came within three-quarters of a length of Thousand Words in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) in his dirt debut. Another who wouldn’t mind a Thousand Words-Storm the Court exacta is Anneau d’Or, who missed narrowly to each of them in the Los Alamitos Futurity and Breeders’ Cup respectively before flopping at Fair Grounds.

5. Several major sires have multiple contenders.

Leading sire Into Mischief could turn a cross-country double with Mischevious Alex in the Gotham and Authentic in the San Felipe. Honor Code is off to a fine start with his first crop, and Market Analysis and Honor A. P. go to bat for him at Tampa and Santa Anita respectively. Hall of Famer Curlin has Texas Swing at Tampa and Sixto at Aqueduct.

Uncle Mo has three entered, but all in the Tampa Bay Derby. Aside from the aforementioned Bye Bye Melvin and Mo Mosa, his King Guillermo goes turf to dirt. Interestingly, he was last seen finishing third as the favorite behind Sole Volante in the Nov. 30 Pulpit. Hard Spun’s duo – Attachment Rate and Necker Island – are both in the Gotham.