The trial, much like the Lexington, has been a race usually used as a prep for things down the road in modern times. Sure, nice horses have won but it’s an oddly named race for what it’s become. However, this year it could actually shake things up with the graded earnings bubble keeping so many possible Derby entrants on edge. Bob Baffert appears to have changed his mind more than his underwear on this race in the past week, but to catch you up: Chitu was set to go, and then Bayern was added to the mix. Both were entered, but Chitu scratched in lieu of the big dance. Now Bayern is on the chopping block in favor of entering as an Also-Eligible for the Derby with his current 23rd position on the list. Sure makes that narrow margin between 2nd & 3rd in the Arkansas Derby look a lot bigger in hindsight, eh? Bayern drew the rail and the services of Rosie Napravnik for opening night, but the tandem from California scared off nobody with eight others lined up to their outside.
There is plenty of speed outside of Bayern but at least on paper he has an edge on the rest. The rail draw doesn’t help matters of learning to relax, take dirt in face etc. but the thought is that perhaps he just needs the seasoning to hit the TC Trail on its next step and lay in wait for the Derby winner. Baffert horses get more than enough education in the morning with their usually-hefty string of workouts before their careers even begin, and perhaps he’s already gone through the motions of sitting off a workmate and such. With the points on the line last time out there was no risking experimentation of laying back and trying such things in the Arkansas Derby, but these are only questions that can be answered at a future time. The point is he’s about the only one in here with anything on the line; should he win and leave something in the tank I wouldn’t put it past Baffert to drop his name in the box on Wednesday.
Friendswith K Mill could validate the Santa Anita Derby further, or Matador/Spot the Florida Derby, but that’s it. Friendswith K Mill was one of many shots taken by the Doug O’Neill barn on the Derby trail this year and he missed the mark like the rest, but they’ve had a rough go of it all spring and shipping out of town without Baze, Smith, or Maldonado doesn’t get the heart racing. Spot is interesting if all of the speed melts down….but what’s up with Lanerie jumping ship for the N2L next door? He didn’t run a step in the Florida Derby and will pick up his eighth pilot in as many starts for Zito. The logical alternative for yours truly is at the opposite end of the gate from the favorite. Myositis Dan has yet to crack the winners’ circle on dirt but his Gulfstream races weren’t bad, including leaving Danza behind at 7 furlongs two back. Yes, it does seem he gets a little dull beyond 6 or 7 furlongs but this isn’t asking the world…..just another furlong. His three year old year has been a vast improvement over his juvenile season and with Proctor at the controls the improvement shouldn’t plateau anytime soon. It’s easy to see his preference for Keeneland over any other surface he’s touched thus far, but he trained at CD most of last year and is better now than he was in his first two failed ventures over the strip. Give him another chance and include him – That price may go up and Bayern should be unbettable.
Next week I’ll have a final answer for you – Enjoy opening weekend at Churchill and study hard! You have one week!