Despite the retirement of Nadal and sidelining of Charlatan, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert still has multiple arrows in his Kentucky Derby (G1) quiver.
Authentic is on course for the July 18 Haskell Invitational (G1), while flashy debut winner Uncle Chuck reportedly could be bound for the July 11 Blue Grass (G2) or join rebound-seeking stablemate Thousand Words in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Derby (G3). But first, his $3.65 million blueblood Cezanne will try to punch his ticket to a points race in Thursday’s 5TH race at Los Alamitos.
Aside from deploying his forces across the map of opportunities, Baffert’s placement of Cezanne likely reflects the fact that he’s yet to try two turns. The Coolmore colt is bred to enjoy a route as a son of Curlin and a Bernardini mare from the family of Rags to Riches, and he confirmed that idea when staying on to win his 6 1/2-furlong debut at Santa Anita.
From a developmental perspective, though, stretching out and simultaneously taking a bigger class hike into a stakes was more than Baffert wanted to ask Cezanne second time out. Note he’d told Southern California turf scribe Art Wilson last week that he was still mulling a next start since the colt was a little behind.
Hence Thursday’s mile allowance/optional claimer presents the next educational step. A 19-1 chance in Pool 5 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Cezanne aims to check the two-turn box before graduating to deeper competition.
Drawn on the outside of the 5-horse field, Cezanne is pegged at 4-5 on the morning line with a returning Flavien Prat. Right next door is stablemate Bronn, who has not raced since breaking his maiden at this track and trip last September. Bronn was fourth in a pair of notable maidens at Del Mar, debuting behind future Best Pal (G2) and Laz Barrera (G3) winner Collusion Illusion and then contesting the race that launched Honor A. P. Drayden Van Dyke guides the 2-1 second choice, who is owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill.
Their three rivals all have speed. Rail-drawn Itsthattime comes off a front-running starter/optional claiming win, and Mongolian Legend likewise wired a $50,000 maiden claimer, both over a mile at Santa Anita. Never Easy makes his first start off the $35,000 claim while going turf-to-dirt for Andrew Lerner. A 4-year-old gelding like Mongolian Legend, Never Easy is the only entrant in for the $40,000 tag.
Cezanne isn’t the only well-regarded sophomore in action Thursday. A couple of hours earlier at Belmont Park, the 6TH race features several recent maiden winners including Creed, a 54-1 shot in Pool 5. It remains to be seen if the ever-cautious Shug McGaughey would put the $650,000 Honor Code colt on the Derby trail at this stage, but his 7 3/4-length conquest at this track and 1 1/16-mile trip was full of promise, albeit in the mud.
Triple Crown nominee and Queen’s Plate candidate Edge of Fire, who’s placed to Money Moves and Casino Grande at Gulfstream Park, will offer a good yardstick. Others of interest are Chad Brown’s debut winner Mister Winston and Life Changer, who upset Dreams of Tomorrow in his premiere.