Who would have ever thought that the Blue Grass, always a huge and important prep for the Derby would have a field of very talented turf horses? But it is now a reality since Keeneland has changed over to a synthetic track, and we are seeing more and more “turf” horses trying to build up enough earnings to get to run for the roses.
However, when this prestigious race comes up, I think, “I wish this was still on conventional dirt.” It’s just the traditionalist in me.
So much for wishes, but it’s a good race none the less. It’s no secret that I have been a big fan of Willcox Inn since the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf last year. He has had good races on turf and poly. In his “off the turf” maiden breaker at Arlington he beat Animal Kingdom the winner of the Grade 3 Spiral. He then had a very nice effort, behind probable Blue Grass favorite Santiva in the Breeder’s Futurity at Keeneland.
His first race this year came at FG on yielding turf going 7/8ths, a good effort to set him up for this as running on a yielding course is more work than running on a firm course. I love a horse that can run on anything, and despite the quote from his connections, if he were to win or finish second, I think they will be “derby dreamin’”, though he would be trying dirt for the first time. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves; he looks very well spotted for this event. Even a second would get him in, if the connections elect to go. And Anna Rose has figured out where the finish line is at Keeneland, so he looks very live.
Here is his work at Keeneland last Saturday.
The probable fave, Santiva is another who has been very versatile on every surface. Also, he doesn’t seem to care who trains him or who rides him. He just goes about his job. Though he has improving numbers, he is coming off an 8 week layoff, and I wish he didn’t have so many gaps in his short career. Though maybe that’s just because he has switched barns 3 times!
Queens’platekitten, broke his maiden on polytrack, so we know he likes it.
Will King Congie like the poly? He is 3 for 3 since switching to turf and stretching out. He likes to win, so look out if he takes to the surface. He is one of 4 in here trying synthetic for the first time.
And Newsdad is an interesting horse as he finished right behind “Queen'splate” in the Palm Beach, and I will use him in my exotics. He looks like a horse that wants to run all day, so if he polytracks, look out.