• A round-up of the main prep races – plus ante-post prices generally available in Britain
By Nicholas Godfrey
8-1 Authentic (Bob Baffert/Drayden van Dyke)
Santa Anita (March 7): San Felipe Stakes G2, $400,000, 1m½f, dirt
Sire: Into Mischief
Likely target: Santa Anita Derby (April 4)
There’s a new Kentucky Derby favourite in town after an excellent performance from Authentic, who established himself as clear number one among Bob Baffert’s ultra-strong three-year-old crop. For now, at least; the likes of Nadal and Charlatan may yet have their say on that matter, but either way the trainer looks sure to be mob-handed on the first Saturday in May.
Having won the G3 Sham at this venue by nearly eight lengths on his previous outing, Authentic was sent off 6-5 favourite in what looked on paper the strongest prep race so far. Despite an awkward break, the son of Into Mischief went straight to the lead and never looked back, setting strong fractions (22.84s, 46.71s) and then finding more as he entered the stretch and winning with ears pricked in an impressive display.
Maiden winner Honor A.P. also posted a noteworthy effort to claim second, running late to be beaten just over two lengths, with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm The Court more than three back in third. It wasn’t all gravy for Baffert, whose second string Thousand Words faded to a well-beaten fourth.
Bob Baffert (trainer): “When I saw the fractions, 22 and change, it was fast, but he was doing it so easy. The really good ones do that and I just love the way he looked down the backside. He handled it well and he wasn’t tired. He’s a special horse and this was probably one of the toughest prep races that we’ve seen so far. Those were really good horses in there. He looked like he was enjoying himself out there. I have to just keep him at this level until the first Saturday in May.”
12-1 Mischevious Alex (John Servis/Kendrick Carmouche)
Aqueduct (March 7) Gotham Stakes G3, $300,000, 1m, dirt
Sire: Into Mischief
Likely target: Wood Memorial (April 4)
Stepping up in trip, Mischevious Alex was much the best as he completed a hat-trick after a couple of wide-margin victories (9¾ lengths in the Parx Juvenile, then seven in the G3 Swale). Though it was only two lengths this time – albeit a long-looking two lengths – he put the race to bed early in the stretch and easily held the challengers.
All in all, a professional effort from a horse who is progressing with his racing for a much respected trainer who has had only one previous Kentucky Derby runner, namely the 2004 winner Smarty Jones.
John Servis (trainer): “It was a great day for us. He handled the next step up really well and gave us a solid effort today. Ever since we put the blinkers on him, everything that we’ve handed him, he has handled very well.”
25-1 King Guillermo (Juan Carlos Avila/Samy Camacho)
Tampa Bay Downs (March 7): Tampa Bay Derby G2, $400,000, 1m½f, dirt
Sire: Uncle Mo
Likely target: Kentucky Derby (May 2)
A shock result as 49-1 longshot King Guillermo, owned by former baseball star Victor Martinez, tracked the pace before exploding in the stretch for a 4¾-length victory from a solid field.
As he is not Triple Crown-nominated, the winner needs to be supplemented at $6,000; he is guaranteed a spot in the field with the 50 qualifying points gained here. Runner-up Sole Volante also ran an eyecatching race, closing late to claim a clear second after breaking slowly and being forced to race well off the pace.
Juan Avila (trainer): “This race was perfect Thirty years training horses, and I’ve never seen a horse run like that.”