ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY 145 IS ON THE NARROW
As we are getting closer to answering one of the most important questions of life things they are a changing. We can figure out what we are going to wear to the grocery store and we can probably choose what we are going to eat for supper…But can we pick the winner of the Kentucky Derby?
With about a month until the first Saturday in May and the final prep races on tap over the next couple of weekends, likely contenders are beginning to emerge. Of course there will only be 20 that take the Louisville exit ramp from that superhighway that leads to immortality. The next few weeks will decide just who is able to survive the merge.
“These final prep races will tell you who the for real horses are,” says five-time winner and defending Kentucky Derby champion trainer Bob Baffert. “The mile and an eighth races separate the classic distance horses from the others. A mile and a sixteenth or just the mile races don’t always tell you what kind of horse you have.”
Baffert is once again a major player in the Kentucky Derby as he has two high profile contenders. Based on the West coast, the hall of famer had to deal with some lane closures while guiding his contenders down that harrowing path that leads to Churchill Downs. The temporary shutdown at Santa Anita certainly created a detour for Baffert and other California horsemen, but he is trying to make it into a positive.
“Right now its all about trying to prepare your runners for the Derby,” says Baffert. “You have to toughen them up and having to ship hopefully can help you find out some things about them and how they handle different situations. We have come through it okay and are still moving forward.”
Baffert sent both Game Winner and Improbable to Oaklawn Park back on March 16 to run in the different divisions of the Rebel Stakes. Each ran a very strong race but both absorbed their first career defeat. Improbable lost by a neck and Game Winner fell by a flaring nostril. Obviously the Arizona native sent his horses to win, but even in defeat Baffert was pleased with what happened as he looks at the bigger picture.
“I think it was good for both of them,” says Baffert. “They ran winning races at Oaklawn. The trip was not real good for either in their races but they both showed me they belong and it provided good experience in several facets.”
Improbable will return to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby on April 13. Game Winner is slated to start in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6. Both of the Baffert trained colts have trained well since the Rebel Stakes and are on target for their next start. As the road narrows sometimes the perils are less predictable. In this game things can change in the blink of an eye and a short four week stretch of highway can seem like a long ride to the beach with the mother-in-law.
“I think we are in a good spot with both of the them and I like where we are at,” says Baffert. “Both of them are nice horses with a chance to be special. We just need to keep them healthy and happy. Believe me, it’s still a long time until the Kentucky Derby. “
Other major preps slated for April 6 are the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The Arkansas Derby will be joined by the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13 as the final points race stops on the road to Kentucky Derby 145.