Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
With just about a week to go until Kentucky Derby 137, it’s time to start recapping what went down on the 2011 Derby Trail. Over the next week, Anthony Stabile will look at all 24 horses that are still being pointed towards the Run for the Roses before an extensive breakdown of the final field next Friday, exclusively at VegasInsider.com. To buy Anthony Stabile products, CLICK HERE!!!
In this installment of Derby Countdown, we’ll take a look at the five contenders for the Run for the Roses that have a connection, whether being stabled at or having raced in, the Bluegrass State itself, Kentucky.
Though he’s done the bulk of his running in New York and was stabled in Florida all winter long, BRILLIANT SPEED captured the biggest prep in horse country when he won the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland in his last start.
After a couple of failed dirt efforts to start his career, Brilliant Speed finished third in his next two starts on the grass before finally breaking his maiden in the fifth and final start of his juvenile season on the lawn at Tampa Bay Downs.
In his two subsequent starts, Brilliant Speed missed by just a nose in the Dania Beach at Gulfstream before getting bothered by eventual winner and stablemate King Congie through the stretch in the Hallandale Beach when he crossed the line third. The winner was disqualified and placed behind Brilliant Speed, who was bumped up to second.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, his Derby rider, for the first time in the Blue Grass, Brilliant Speed was allowed to trail the field while saving ground early before being maneuvered to the center of the course by Rosario on the far turn as he uncorked a powerful last to first run that ended with him just getting up on the wire at 19-1. Trainer Tom Albertrani hasn’t worked Brilliant Speed since his Blue Grass upset but still has about a week to tighten the screws before the Derby.
TWINSPIRED was on the other end of that nose photo finish in the Blue Grass and it almost cost him a spot in the Derby. But after a few defections and declarations, perhaps the most aptly named Derby contender this season has secured his spot in the gate.
After breaking his maiden in his debut at Keeneland, Twinspired failed to fire in a couple an allowance race on the grass and a couple of minor stakes on dirt and turf before returning to the synthetics to win a minor stakes at Turfway Park.
A fourth in the Battaglia and third place finish in the signature event of the Turfway meet, the G3 Spiral came before his narrow defeat in the Blue Grass. A bit closer to the pace than usual that day, Twinspired was truly the only hors in the race that was prominent throughout and looked like a winner in deep stretch before getting nailed in the last stride.
Trainer Mike Maker will have to find a new rider for the Derby but he’s used to it with this colt as he’s been ridden by six different jockeys in his eight career starts. Twinspired worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 at Churchill Downs Trackside, a training center in Kentucky, on 4/30.
Maker needs a new rider because Robby Albarado, who rode Twinspired last out will be aboard Spiral winner ANIMAL KINGDOM for trainer Graham Motion in the Derby.
After finishing second in his debut in an off the turf maiden event at Arlington last summer, Animal Kingdom broke his maiden when adding Lasix at Keeneland for the second and final start for trainer Wayne Catalano.
Animal Kingdom returned to action this year for Motion in a Gulfstream allowance contest in which he was handled poorly by Rajiv Maragh, who let the winner waltz on the lead over a speed biased turf course before rallying through the stretch to miss by a head.
Just a little over three weeks later in the Spiral, Animal Kingdom settled in last before passing each and every horse with aplomb en route to the easiest kind of 2 ¾ length victory. He’s trained well since the Spiral, including a sharp six furlongs at Churchill on 4/30 in 1:13. The biggest question Animal Kingdom will have to answer in the Derby is can he handle the surface switch as this will be his first start on conventional dirt.
SANTIVA doesn’t have to answer that question as he’s done the best running in his six race career on the dirt. Santiva finished third in his debut sprinting at Saratoga before a second place finish on the turf at the Spa for trainer Ken McPeek.
Transferred to Todd Pletcher after that effort, Santiva, as a maiden, overcame a terrible start and some traffic trouble to finish second in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in what turned out to be his only start for Pletcher. Santiva finally broke his maiden in his first start for current trainer Eddie Kenneally not in a maiden race but in the G2 KJC at Churchill when he sat just off the early pace to defeat the highly regarded Astrology.
In his first start this year, Santiva raced wide throughout yet still managed a solid second place finish behind Mucho Macho Man in the G2 Risen Star. Some two months later, Santiva returned to the Keeneland Polytrack for the Blue Grass and couldn’t have had a worse trip.
Bottled up along the rail most of the way, Santiva was bounced around and actually hit the rail in the Blue Grass before fading in deep stretch as the 2-1 favorite. On 4/26, Santiva worked a half mile in :49 1/5 at Churchill Downs and still needs a rider.
The final member of the group is MASTER OF HOUNDS, and while putting him in here is a bit of a stretch, he has to go somewhere. The lone European in the field this year, this Kentucky bred broke his maiden in the fourth start of his career and finished third in the G1 Racing Post in England before getting beat three lengths in the G2 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill when he finished sixth as the tepid 7-2 favorite.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien didn’t bring Master of Hounds back to the races until Dubai World Cup night in late March in the G2 UAE Derby where Master of Hounds was prominent throughout and grabbed the lead in mid-stretch before getting cut down by the filly Khawlah to lose a nose decision.
While he did get beat by a filly, it should be noted that she is an accomplished one at that and that distance of the race was 1 3/16 miles. It was however over the Tapeta synthetic surface meaning the Derby will be his conventional dirt debut. He will have the benefit of one of the nation’s best riders as Garrett Gomez will climb aboard Master of Hounds for the Derby.
In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the Florida contingent. See you then.