Derby Preps: Bluegrass and Arkansas

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s rare to see serious Derby prospects with the degree of early speed Bobby’s Kitten possesses. As a 2-year-old taking on the top turf juveniles in the world, he nearly wired the field in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. If he figures out how to redeploy that speed at a later point in a race, he will not be defeated in the Kentucky Derby.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Chad Brown has worked diligently to teach his horse that exact lesson. Yet in his only start this year, he led from gate to wire on the turf at Gulfstream. The Bluegrass Stakes is a must-need race for Bobby’s Kitten, but it’s also a must-experiment race for Chad Brown. I look for Bobby’s Kitten to stalk briefly, take command and win easily in the Bluegrass. I’m not quite as sure that he’ll relax as well as his trainer wants him to.

In Arkansas, Bob Baffert attempts to extend his domination of Oaklawn Stakes with the lightly raced Bayern. The biggest challenges relate to the horse, not to his opponents. With little time to lose in developing this horse, Baffert lost time with him due to a minor injury. Also, I rate Bayern’s recent win as a bit on the slow side pace-wise. Can he step up the tempo and still deliver enough late punch to get the job done?

Last week, we saw Social Inclusion fail to win in the same scenario. Here Bayern faces weaker foes and rates a better chance than Social Inclusion. As with the Wood, a lack of clarity about a lightly raced prospect will keep me away from the betting windows. If Bayern fails, I suspect the toteboard will light up with big prices as other short-priced horses in the race, like Tapiture and Strong Mandate, continue to disappoint.

—Roger LeBlanc

2 Comments
  • Tom Temple
    Posted at 05:53h, 12 April Reply

    Roger – great rundown of the 2 big races this weekend. The only think I really see going against Bobby’s Kitten is that the race is ran on poly. Anything or anyone could win this as a result. A lot of finishes on this stuff are desperately random. I agree with Bayern and I hope he does well. We need some big excitement this late in the game to take a little attention away from California Chrome. Keep pushing on!

  • Roger LeBlanc
    Posted at 06:35h, 13 April Reply

    I definitely saw the big negatives on Bayern (and the toteboard lit up as I predicted), but I fell down with my pick of Bobby’s Kitten. Very disappointed in that…and tore up some futures tickets as a result. The pace was manageable enough, so your assumption that the poly could prove problematic proved correct. After watching the replay, I’d also point out that Bobby’s Kitten failed to relax. Javier probably dropped 5 pounds after fighting to restrain him through the opening 4 or 5 furlongs. This failure to rate (especially on poly) doomed him in the Bluegrass, but it also spelled disaster for him if he made the Derby field.

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