As we are now less than two weeks from the running of the Derby, the final grouping of horses to look at for the top 20 on the leaderboard saw some changes over the weekend. Originally in slot #15, Morello is now out of the Derby with a foot injury. That defection allows for Pioneer of Medina to slide into the field, a horse with a running style very similar to Morello. A look at the now 15-20 horses for the race:
Messier – Named to honor the hockey legend, Messier is a very solid racehorse. He’s another of the Baffert trained horses that switched to the barn of trainer Tim Yakteen to be eligible for Derby points. He’s never been worse that second in six career starts while racing solely on the West coast. He has graded stakes scores in the Bob Hope and Robert B. Lewis but was defeated by Tabia in the Santa Anita Derby. He’s a very large horse, weighing nearly 1,200 pounds and a good post draw puts him in the pace mix on Derby day. Sired by Empire Maker, the 1 1/4 mile distance of the Derby shouldn’t be an issue for him.
Zozos – Zozos is an interesting horse. He is lightly raced, making only three lifetime starts, improving in each race. After breaking his maiden while sprinting at Fair Grounds he shipped to Oaklawn to defeat a talented allowance field by over 10 lengths while running around two turns for the first time. The bettors backed him in the Louisiana Derby as he was sent away as the 5-2 second choice to top points earner Epicenter. He nearly pulled off the victory, leading into the stretch and holding on for a clear second. His upside is there as he has been stabled at Churchill for a few weeks, getting a couple of workouts over the track.
Summer is Tomorrow – In an earlier article we wrote about how the UAE Derby has yet to provide a serious Kentucky Derby threat. That may be the case again this year but the race looks to send two horses into this year’s edition. While Crown Pride was victorious in the UAE Derby, Summer is Tomorrow was the runner-up, doing all of the dirty work on the front end. He’s a bit of a curious horse as he wasn’t given much consideration going into that race. His prior six lifetime starts before the UAE Derby were all sprints, racing with mixed results. To his credit, he was game on the front end well into the stretch of the UAE Derby but this hike in competition may be too much for him.
Charge It – Weird to say the wise-guy horse in the Derby may be the one who sits at #18 on the points leaderboard but that could be the case with Charge It. He comes from a great stable as Todd Pletcher always has solid three-year-olds, but he’s another who didn’t make a start at two. He just missed in his debut at the one turn mile at Gulfstream before winning easily in his second out. Many felt his race in the Florida Derby was better than appears on paper as he closed to finish second behind White Abarrio. Charge It did have his share of trouble in that race, hitting the gate at the break and racing greenly in the stretch. The concern for the Derby is that he will have to overcome some young horse jitters while in front of 100,000 fans, get clear sailing and mature off his last start. That’s a lot to ask.
Happy Jack – At one point #20 in the standings, Happy Jack moved up a slot with the defection of Morello. He’s going to be one of the longest shots in the Derby if he runs although his breeding suggests the distance won’t be an issue for him. He was dismissed in his debut, upsetting at odds of 24-1. Given a stakes shot by Doug O’Neill, he’s earned enough points to get into the Derby by running third in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby. In both of those starts he was defeated double digit lengths and he just doesn’t seem to match up with the rest of this field.
Pioneer of Medina – With Morello dropping out of the Derby, Pioneer of Medina gives Todd Pletcher another possible entrant into the race. With 25 points he would have gotten in most years but this has been an odd season. He’s in now though if the connections choose to run. It took three starts for him to break his maiden but he was able to follow that win up with a good allowance score. He held his own with Epicenter twice, losing by three and four lengths respectively in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. It’s wouldn’t be unheard of for him to grab a share in the Derby.
With the race closing in, reservations are filling quickly at Hawthorne Race Course and all of the Club Hawthorne OTB locations. Make sure you get your spot secured now so you aren’t shut out on Derby day.