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Derby 139: What we learn about distance from the prep races

Derby 139: What we learn about distance from the prep races

by Gary Roedemeier

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 12:05 AM

The Kentucky Derby is about distance. It's a mile and a quarter, the classic distance and the first time a three-year-old will try that.

And with most of the final prep races in the record books, we have to make a judgment on past performance. Will they still be running at the finish line?

We start with the likely Derby favorite, Verrazano. He's undefeated, lightly raced and a distance question mark.

Verrazano got away with a soft pace in the Wood Memorial and held off Normandy Invasion to get the win. But would he have still been there for another eighth of a mile?  I'm not sure the More Than Ready pedigree translates to a Derby win. He's a very good horse, but is he Derby distance good?
Verrazano was chased home by Normandy Invasion, who looks like he wants more distance but he's by Tapit and that pedigree has been coming up short at the classic distance.

Meanwhile, out West, Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby and I admit that I was surprised, because I thought he was challenged even by the mile and an eighth. But the question is, who did he beat?

The second place horse, Flashback, came back with a knee chip and is off the Derby trail. Hear the Ghost was injured and scratched before the race.

It appears that the west coast division that dominated the Derby last year, has come up light in 2013. The race in California was much faster than the Wood, but Santa Anita is just a faster track.
All these suspicions about distance, brings us back to the previous week when Orb won the Florida Derby and looked like he could have gone on forever. And Revolutionary overcame another last to first trip to win the Louisiana Derby.

These two winners look like better candidates to be running at the end than Verrazano and Goldencents.

Coming up this weekend, the Bluegrass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby should produce two more major contenders and perhaps more. The Bluegrass, which was the prime Derby prep, when it was run on dirt, is now marginalized by its surface. The Polytrack attracts grass winners like Rydilluc, whose connection are hoping to sniff roses. But another angle emerges when a dirt horse like Street Sense, preps on the Poly and then loves to be back on the dirt at Churchill.

Both horses trained by D. Wayne Lukas will be interesting to watch this weekend. Will Take Charge and Oxbow have serious distance potential. I like Den's Legacy, who will run for Bob Baffert at Oaklawn.

We'll be down to three weeks until Derby on Saturday and I'm almost ready to list my horses than won't win the Derby. But this weekend, we'll certainly see some that will be able to win.

Thanks for Reading.