With a romping score in Saturday’s $1 million Rebel S. (G2) at Oaklawn Park, Concert Tour jumped to the upper echelon of Kentucky Derby contenders. The rising three-year-old remained unbeaten in his two-turn debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Bafffert.
Look for more eye-catching performances as the final round of prep races get underway this weekend.
Saturday’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds will be the first of eight major qualifiers awarding a combined 170 points toward a Kentucky Derby berth.
There appears to be solid depth to this year’s crop, and it’s shaping up to be a fun race at Churchill Downs on May 1.
Concert Tour won like something special. After taking a short lead into the first turn, the Gary and Mary West homebred cruised along until putting away his rivals with a sharp turn of foot midway on the final bend, opening up a sizable advantage by the head of the stretch.
Joel Rosario put his mount under wraps and the Street Sense colt rolled home as much the best, scoring by a 4 1/4-length margin.
An impressive first-out maiden winner in mid-January, Concert Tour received a stiff test when narrowly capturing the seven-furlong San Vicente S. (G2) three weeks later. The bay moved forward while easily stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in the Rebel, winning with plenty in reserve, and he’s got more to offer in my estimation.
His racing career is less than two months old (57 days).
Baffert orchestrates a deep bench, and Concert Tour joined the early Kentucky Derby favorite, unbeaten San Felipe S. (G2) victor Life Is Good, at the top of the ranks.
Life Is Good is targeting the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 3, and Concert Tour will return to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby (G1) a week later.
The six-time Kentucky Derby winner is also preparing Medina Spirit, Spielberg, and Rebel runner-up Hozier for the first leg of the American Triple Crown.
Hozier, who was exiting a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight win in his second start, offered his best stride late in the Rebel, closing up the inside to edge Big Lake for second by three-quarters of a length.
Big Lake was in position to grab second before being interfered with by Caddo River, who came up empty in the stretch after chasing Concert Tour. It was still a respectable initial stakes attempt for the Steve Asmussen-trained Big Lake, who was exiting maiden and entry-level allowance wins at Fair Grounds.
Keepemeinmind never made an impact, finishing sixth in his first appearance since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) in late November. Get Her Number, unraced since upsetting the American Pharoah S. (G1) in late September, weakened to seventh in the latter stages.
Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon, and Proxy have been prominent in the first two qualifiers at Fair Grounds, filling the top three slots in the Lecomte S. (G3) and Risen Star S. (G2), and they remain the principals for the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby.
Impressive last-out maiden winner Run Classic is a new face in the mix, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, a neck third most recently in the Jan. 30 Robert B. Lewis S. (G3) at Santa Anita, will invade from California.
But we’re eligible to see more of the same on Saturday.
Mandaloun is the horse to beat following a sharp 1 1/4-length victory in the Risen Star. A close third when making his first stakes attempt in the Lecomte, Mandaloun benefited from the addition of blinkers last time, and trainer Brad Cox is bullish on the well-built Into Mischief colt’s potential.
Midnight Bourbon regressed off a career-best effort last time when third in the Risen Star. The Tiznow colt returned from a lengthy layoff to upset foes in the Lecomte, comfortably scoring in a wire-to-wire manner, and Midnight Bourbon is a candidate to rebound for Steve Asmussen.
Proxy is my top pick. Never worse than second from five starts, the Tapit colt outfinished Mandaloun for second when making his first stakes outing in the Lecomte. He didn’t run straight in the stretch that afternoon, and Proxy appeared to lose focus in the midst of his rally while turning for home in the Risen Star. When he got back on track, the bay colt finished up well for second.
Michael Stidham adds blinkers in the Louisiana Derby, and Proxy may put it all together.