11 Apr 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.