Best of the Rest
In the final installment of our four-part Kentucky Derby Preview here at VegasInsider.com, we’ll focus on the first two finishers from the G1 Santa Anita Derby, Rock Your World and Medina Spirit as well as three runners who’ve found their way into the gate by way of the multiple defections in the week or so leading up to the race, Hidden Stash, Keepmeinmind and Brooklyn Strong.
Rock Your World
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Kentucky Derby Contender - Rock Your World
Rock Your World is perfect in three starts for trainer John Sadler and is another looking to win the Derby without having raced as a two-year-old.
On New Year’s Day, Rocky Your World came from just off the pace to win his debut going six furlongs on the turf under Joel Rosario, winner of the 2013 renewal of this event with Orb.
With Rosario out of town, Umberto Rispoli climbed aboard Rock Your World for the one-mile Pasadena on turf. Again, from just off the pace, he was able to collar his rivals before drawing away to a two-plus length victory.
With division leader Life Is Good off the Derby Trail due to an ankle chip, things seemingly opened up for others to take a shot, especially in the Santa Anita Derby and Sadler decided to enter Rock Your World.
Breaking from post 2 in a nine-horse field going nine furlongs, Rispoli aggressively put Rock Your World on the lead, discouraging others from trying to go to the front, and ran them off their hooves winning by over four lengths with an authoritative tally.
Rock Your World earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100, the only triple digit figure run by any of the contenders in the race. He is also responsible for the biggest controversy as it was announced two weeks prior to the Derby that Rosario would get the mount back.
Before shipping to Churchill, Rock Your World worked a sharp five furlongs in :59 1/5 at Santa Anita on Saturday 4/24.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Medina Spirit
Medina Spirit is the last bullet left in six-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert’s equine six-shooter, with the likes of Life Is Good and Concert Tour on the sidelines and others, namely the highly touted Bezos, having not panned out.
As for Medina Spirit, he broke his maiden in his debut sprinting at Los Alamitos in his lone start as a juvenile and only start outside of Santa Anita. He stretched out to a mile and chased home Life Is Good in the G3 Sham in his subsequent start, getting closer with each stride before falling less than a length short.
In the G3 Robert Lewis, Medina Spirit went to the lead for the first and now only time in his career and survived a three-ply stretch battle that included a bit of bumping to prevail by a neck.
In the G2 San Felipe, under three-time Derby winning rider John Velazquez for the first time, he once again played second fiddle to Life Is Good, literally and figuratively, as he raced well behind his stablemate throughout, eventually winning a place battle some eight lengths behind the winner.
Medina Spirit appeared to be affected the most by Rock Your World’s aggression in the Santa Anita Derby the most, as many believed he would be on the lead. It appeared as if Velazquez took a hold and was content to rate but began losing ground on the winner approaching the far turn. He did manage to finish second and was safely ahead of the rest of his rivals.
With the defection of the main speeds, Concert Tour and Caddo River, Medina Spirit could very well make the pace in the Derby. One thing is for sure, he has the most accomplished, Hall of Fame connections in the field. Baffert won this in 1997 with Silver Charm, 1998 with real Quiet, 2002 with War Emblem, in 2015 and 2018 with eventual Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify and last year with Authentic, Johnny V’s third Derby winner. He also won it ten years ago with Animal Kingdom and in 2017 with Always Dreaming.
Medina Spirit worked six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 at Santa Anita on Thursday 4/22 before shipping to Churchill.
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Kentucky Derby Contender - Hidden Stash
Hidden Stash will be looking for his first win this season in his fourth try having won his final two starts of 2020 for trainer Vicki Oliver. Jockey Rafael Bejarano will ride.
After a pair of sprints to start his career, Hidden Stash won a late October maiden event around two turns at Keeneland before taking an entry level allowance/optional claimer on a Stars of Tomorrow card at Churchill.
Ten weeks later, Hidden Stash made his sophomore debut in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Breaking from the rail in the field of 12, he saved ground most of the way before switching to the center of the course in the stretch while making up plenty of ground to finish third, a little over a length behind a pair of Bill Mott-trained runners who haven’t done much since.
Hidden Stash took a bunch of money in the G2 Tampa bay Derby as he was sent off the 3-1 second choice. He ran off under Bejarano in the post parade. Once the action began, he made a similar rally to the won in the Davis and had dead aim on the winner Helium but couldn’t make up less than a length in the final eighth of a mile and hung on the money to finish second.
Last out in the G2 Blue Grass, Hidden Stash was up against it from the start, as little pace was signed on for the race. It played out that way on the track and despite passing a few horses late, he could only manage a non-threatening fourth place finish, 10 lengths behind the top two and another four-plus behind the third-place finisher.
Hidden Stash completed his serious training with a five furlong move in 1:00 3/5 at Keeneland on Friday 4/23.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Keepmeinmind
Keepmeinmind was one of the most accomplished maidens for most of 2020 and appropriately got out of the non-winner ranks by closing out the season with a graded stakes score for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
After a second-place finish in an off the turf race at Churchill, Keepmeinmind finished a solid second in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity then stormed home from last to finish third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, both at Keeneland and behind juvenile champ and Derby favorite Essential Quality.
Unlike other runners who battle Breeders’ Cup hangovers last season, Keepmeinmind came back just 22 days later in the G2 KJC at Churchill. The favorite at 2-1, regular rider David Cohen bided his time in last before launching a bid on the far turn to win by a little less than a length.
Originally slated to return in the G3 Southwest at Oaklawn on President’s Day weekend, Keepmeinmind has his return rerouted to the G2 Rebel when the Southwest was pushed to just two weeks before that race. He was never a factor, beating just two horses home while finishing eight lengths behind front-running winner Concert Tour.
Keepmeinmind did even less running in the Blue Grass, where the lack of pace likely affected him the most as he was kept much closer to the pace than usual before fading on the far turn to finish fifth.
Keepmeinmind worked a sizzling half-mile in :46 1/5 at Churchill on Friday 4/23.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Brooklyn Strong
The New York-bred Brooklyn Strong was the last one in after a slew of eleventh-hour defections paved his way to Louisville for trainer Danny Velazquez, who has tabbed Umberto Rispoli to ride.
Brooklyn Strong broke his maiden in a $40 claimer going a mile to start his career at Delaware Park before a third-place finish in a statebred sprint stakes at Belmont.
Brooklyn Strong stretched back out to a mile for the statebred Sleepy Hollow and parlayed a perfect trip into a two-plus length score. Six weeks later, Brooklyn Strong handled a sloppy track at Aqueduct with aplomb when he was able to capture the G2 Remsen going nine furlongs by a neck.
Brooklyn Strong hit a few bumps along the way to his sophomore debut, with it eventually coming two months after it was intended to win the G2 Wood Memorial. Breaking from the rail, he was never more than three lengths from a pedestrian pace but didn’t pick up the pace in the stretch and finished fifth, just shy of five lengths from upset winner Bourbonic.
Brooklyn Strong wasn’t even under consideration for the race officially until a handful of days prior to entries. He worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 on Monday at Parx before a scheduled 12-hour van ride to Churchill to be on the grounds before entries will be drawn on Tuesday 4/27 at 11:00 a.m. ET.