The annual rite of Spring that is the Kentucky Derby will be run on May 5 and the final prep races are being run. This past weekend took horse racing fans in a bi-coastal journey. The Wood Memorial ran at Aqueduct Park in New York and the Santa Anita Derby took place in CA. This coming weekend will see the Arkansas Derby and the Bluegrass Stakes. All are Grade 1 stakes and they're important because they give the horses valuable experience and add to the winnings necessary to qualify for the Run for the Roses.
If you like horses of color, there are two you should keep your eyes on; Creative Cause and Hansen. Creative Cause is a rose grey colt with a black mane and tail. That's unusual in Thoroughbreds but Hansen's coloring is unheard of in the breed. He's white (not grey) with a strawberry mane and tail. Those with a superstitious turn of mind might see this as a bad sign because his coloring is so far from the norm but no matter what your opinion might be, Hansen is easy to spot in the crowd.
In the Wood, Gemologist went to the post as the favorite and he didn't disappoint. He won by a narrow margin, but was commanding all the way. Gem is a particular favorite of mine; his sire is the great Tiznow who won the Breeder's Cup Classic two years in a row. This racing feat has never been duplicated. I've owned four Tiznow offspring and like Gemologist, they are big and powerful and tend to be "difficult" to handle. Alpha came a close second and I think we'll see him in the Derby but he'll likely run in the middle of the pack. Teeth of the Dog was third but I don't think he has the class of Gemologist. One caveat for Gem is that although he's undefeated, he's only run five races so he is very lightly campaigned.
Creative Cause went to the gate as the favorite in the Santa Anita but came in a close second to I'll Have Another. The real surprise in the race was Blueskiesnrainbows, ridden by Joe Talamo. This colt led the race all the way and set a blistering pace but faded in the final eighth of a mile. Unless disaster strikes I think all three will ship to Churchill Downs. My feeling is that I'll Have Another is unlikely to withstand heavy pressure from as many as 19 other colts. Of the three, Creative Cause looks like the best option.
With two more prep races this weekend, we'll have another chance to see Hansen and one other fine colt, Union Rags. Union Rags deserves consideration and will probably go to the post as one of the heavy favorites. He is trained by Michael Matz who also trained the ill-destined Barbaro in 2006. Michael has ridden in the Olympic show-jumping venue multiple times and is one of the all-time money winning Grand-Prix jumper riders. He is a consummate horseman and an American hero (Google him and read of his life-saving efforts during an air disaster).
So, the horses I will be looking most closely at are Gemologist, Hansen, Union Rags and I sure would like to see Blueskiesnrainbows pull a rabbit out of his hat. See y'all around the paddock, I'll be the one NOT wearing a silly hat but I will be carrying a BIG mint julep!