Trainer Bob Baffert has another serious Derby contender as he won his fifth three year old stakes race in a row at Oaklawn Park.
Ten three-year-olds hoped to make their mark on the Derby trail on President's Day, as it turned out, only Super Ninety Nine will be remembered on a very muddy day in Arkansas.
Baffert won two divisions of the Southwest Stakes last year, but Super Ninety Nine looked like a horse that could win two divisions by himself.
He pulled away at the top of the stretch and won by more than eleven lengths.
Fear the Kitten was second at 22 to1 and Heaven's Runway was third at 59 to 1.
Will Take Charge, who won the Smarty Jones stakes was sixth, and he was part of a pack of three year olds who were paddling in the mud.
This is the track that Baffert loves to use for Derby preps so he can avoid running against his own horses in California. He expects to have someone back for the Rebel Stakes, but he's not sure if it will be Super Ninety Nine.
And while the Pulpit colt had no problems with this two turn race, there is some concern that his pedigree (Dosage Index of 4:09) might not reach a mile and a quarter.
But Super Ninety Nine was clearly superior to this group of Derby hopefuls who where all reaching for wet track excuses.
It's hard to say if this horse will reach the Derby but if he stays sound, he will make a lot of money.
There was one other Derby prep race over the weekend, the El Camino Real Derby that once produced Derby winner Charismatic. It may not even produce a Derby starter this year.
The winner was Dice Flavor, a Scat Daddy colt, who had previously run only on grass in Southern California. He wins ten Derby points but isn't nominated to the Triple Crown races and would have to pay a 6,000 dollar late nomination fee to get on the Derby trail.
Nina's Dragon was second by four lengths and Counting Days was third. They're not Triple Crown nominees either.
I won't re-work the Top Ten this week, but I would certainly include Super Ninety Nine. But next week, ah….there's going to be changes.
The Risen Star Stakes at the Fairgrounds and The Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream are the first fifty point races of the spring, and some serious contenders will put their hopes on the line.
Violence, the winner of the CashCall Futurity will risk his unbeaten record in the Fountain of Youth. He'll face the winner of the Sam Davis Stakes, Falling Sky, plus recent allowance winners Cerro and Orb. And adding to the intrigue, Doug O'Neill sends in He's Had Enough from California. He's Had Enough was third in the Bob Lewis and second last fall in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
O'Neill had cross entered the horse in Florida and New Orleans but apparently will run at Gulfstream. He'll scratch at Fairgrounds because the Risen Star has an overflow field of 15 three year olds.
The field is lead by Oxbow, trained by Wayne Lukas, who won the Lecomte Stakes in a romp. This race will be the second start of the year for Circle Unbroken, who won the Bashford Manor last summer at Churchill. Chad Brown sends out top ten Derby challenger Normandy Invasion, and Todd Pletcher starts Palace Malice. And then there's a Bob Baffert shipper, the highly regarded Code West.
This is the kind of race that could give us a line on more than a half dozen Derby possibles. This is one you don't want to miss. In fact, it's a great weekend to get a line of a whole herd of Derby horses.
At last 50 points, big fields, the races is on.