While many people will be paying attention to the conclusion of March Madness this weekend in New Orleans, still others will be keeping a close eye on the All Saints Derby-G1, a Derby prep that guarantees the winner a starting berth in the Bluegrass Derby-G1, plus the lion’s share of a rich $600,000 purse. This race, in its current version as the All Saints Derby, has already fielded two Derby winners – Indy Storm Cat last year, and Hot and Spicy – so this prep has been used successfully in the past. This year’s edition has attracted a full field of fourteen, but when you get down into the details, it’s an oddly mixed bunch – a handful of fillies, several sprinters and milers attempting to stretch out, and speed, lots of speed, with lots of closers as a counterbalance. The past performances show a host of horses used to blazing their way to the front. The final sixteenth will sort the quality speed from the cheap speed, and may very well set the race up for one of the handful of closers in the field. You can tell it is anyone’s race when the co-favorites are both 6/1.
Reigning Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile Filly-G1 winner Street Etiquette takes on the boys for the first time in her career. Lsllives’ pride and joy has done little wrong in nine starts, winning seven of them, and finishing second in the other two. The Street Cry filly does her best running on or near the lead, as she did in both the Breeders’ Bowl and in the Darley-G1. She has earned a 100 SF in each of her last two starts. The distance suits, and she has been able to battle back on more than one occasion to prevail. Lots to like about her, including Oxon in the irons, one of the top jockeys at this track.
The other co-favorite is newastin16’s Specificity. To me, this colt screams turf (by Dynaformer out of a Pivotal mare), and the fact that his best efforts are over an off-track seem to back me up on this, but for right now, the colt is doing just fine on the dirt. It should also be noted that while his “dam” was a dirt sprinter, his “granddam” was Hail Cesario, one of the better turf milers in the game. The husky brown colt has won six of nine, winning a pair of listed stakes at this distance as a juvenile, and gave every appearance that he would relish the Derby distance. The colt was left with too much to do in the Immense Derby Challenge-G1, at 9 panels, and closed belatedly for third. The speed duel should set this race up nicely for him, and a top three finish should punch his ticket for the Derby.
Appeasing’s Derby prospects looked quite bright back in November, when the Street Sense colt was a game second in the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile-G1. He concluded his juvenile season with a rallying third in the Delta Jackpot-G3. Since then, things have not gone exactly the way mrrx7 hoped. A dull seventh in the Good Cow-G3 was followed up by a sparkling allowance score at a flat mile with a 103 SF. However, last out, the colt faltered badly in the Immense Derby Challenge-G1, finishing last, and seeks redemption here. A return to his earlier form should see major improvement, especially with the expected hot early pace, which should set up for this stalker. At 9/1, definitely worth including in the exotics, and like Specificity, this guy simply needs to hit the board to lock up his Derby start. The handsome seal brown colt may even have the points with an off-the-board finish, but that’s not the way you want to go into the Derby.
The other filly in the race is Sistema, trained by muninn240. The compact Pulpit filly appears to need the lead to do her best running, and has compile a much better record sprinting than routing. All of that raises concerns with this race. She hated the off-going in the Miss Bonnie-G2, trailing the field. She hung on for third in the Walnut Tree Stakes-G1 at this distance, but posted an 88 SF in the process, so she’s going to have to improve off of that effort to hit the board here, and the low percentage jock does not help her chances (0-22 this year). Quality filly, but this is a tough spot to nab her first stakes win and ultimately, I think she will do her best when returned to sprints, or possibly even turf, as her turf debut was a pretty nice effort.
A similar analysis applies to graywolf3’s Grayington. The son of Eddington did little wrong in four starts sprinting, but has managed only one second and one third in nine routing attempts. Most recently, the chestnut colt was last, beaten 20 lengths, in the Vermont Is 4 Lovers-G1. Low percentage (4%) jock does not help this guy get his first stakes win on Saturday.
Glove World has been a pretty nice juvenile for goldsoundz. The son of Valid Expectations has already racked up three stakes victories sprinting, and when stretched out to a mile last out, posted the best speed figure of his career, a 97 SF. However, he had opened up an uncontested four length lead, which he couldn’t sustain, and this guy is going to see a lot more rivals in the early going than he is probably used to. On the other hand, he did win a stakes after rating in third, more than two lengths off the lead, in the early going, so Glove World may be able to back off the pace if it gets too crazy, especially with Ham, one of the more successful jockeys on the circuit this year, in the irons. At 21/1, will offer a good reward if the gamble pays off.
Super already has a serious Derby contender in Ras El Hanout. His stablemate, Doctor Sax, is currently ranked 10th in the division. That said, the colt seems to be following more in the hoofprints of his “dam”, top miler On the Road, as evidenced by his win in the one mile Eruption-G2 on DelPenn Champions Day, and his poor outing in the Vermont is 4 Lovers. The cutback in distance should help, and the son of Giant’s Causeway has already placed twice at this distance in graded stakes. Legitimate shot here today; the bigger question is the 1 ¼ mile distance the first Saturday in May.
Royality Note is bred to go longer, as he is by Tiznow out of an Awesome Again mare, but the three year old is only now getting around to stretching out. The pick6king trainee attempted a mile for the first time in Dubai, where he made a move early in the stretch to grab an almost three length lead before getting passed in the final few strides. Still, it was an encouraging effort, and the connections clearly hope to build on that G3 effort. Note has won from off the pace, but for the most part, he’s been on or near the lead, so if he can answer the pace and distance questions, could be in the picture at the finish.
The big grey colt with a ton of chrome has been the darling of the photographers all week, and Zen Kitty’s been working up a storm all week. The bigcoleman trainee is another colt hoping to make amends after a subpar effort in the Immense Derby Challenge-G1. The son of Zensational is starting to get sort of a good colt/bad colt rhythm going, which would be good for Saturday, not so good for the Derby. A deep closer, Zen Kitty has shown an amazing late kick in the Big Hill Stakes-G2 and the Blazing Saddle Juvenile Dirt as a 2yo, and popped a 107 SF while missing by just a neck in the one mile Good Cow-G3. If you consider the Immense Derby a bounce from that effort, then Zen Kitty has every right to rebound here at fairly attractive odds of 8/1.
Yet another speedster in the field is jstoldgals Blame Me Tb. The dark chestnut colt likes to go out there and play catch me if you can, and in five tries at a mile, has been the victor three times. Last out, he was second in a listed stakes with a 100 SF to fellow All Saints entrant Bound for Big Day. Pedigree says he should like the extra distance – he is a half to the nice stakes winner Stormcaster, and his dam is Fall Classic – a stakes winner at 9 furlongs and grade 1 placed at that distance. However, the sheer amount of horses that look to be gunning for the lead may not help him show his best here, and the low percentage jock does not really help. As for Bound for Big Day, the big bay son of Eskendereya attracted some attention in that victory, as he pulled down a 104 SF in the victory. Unbeaten in two starts at a mile for icbomber7, this guy is playing serious catch up in a quest to earn a berth in the Derby. Anything short of a win, and he’ll be on the sidelines. He’s had five weeks to recover from that effort, and Big Day should be stalking in the middle, which with this pace scenario is a good spot to be. A repeat of that last effort would make him a serious contender at 9/1.
Lucky’s Franklin is another colt trying 1 1/16 miles for the firsttime. The well-bred son of Curlin is unbeaten in four starts at a mile. He comes into this race with a pair of listed stakes wins to his credit, and like Big Day, should be racing just off the pace in the early going. Would need to take another step forward, speed figure-wise, but naracing9 has this colt in a good spot, and wouldn’t be a surprise if he pulled the mild upset off. Kroth3’s Foggy Surf is a rapidly improving colt, and put up a lifetime best in the a listed stakes four weeks ago. At Saturday’s distance, the performance earned the colt a 100SF. His prior two routing tries weren’t quite as impressive, but if that race is a sign of things to come, rather than a one-off, this son of Surf Cat will be there in the final stretch drive. Finally, seniorbarn’s Carry the Mail looks to carry off the victory after knocking on the door in his last two efforts, including a third place finish in the Gary Asher Memorial-G3 (99 SF). The lanky brown colt looks to be crying out for distance, so it is a little bit surprising to see him in another 1 1/16 mile race, rather than a 9 furlong stakes, but he’s here. The pace will help, and the speed figures fit, but I think the extra 1 1/16th would have helped him. Carry the Mail will definitely be flying late; it is just a question of whether he can get to the wire in time.
Good luck to all the entrants and their connections!