Sidelines with John Clay

Santa Anita Park closure altering Kentucky Derby prep plans

Four important Kentucky Derby prep races are schedule for Saturday. Only three will be run, however. And that has several early Derby prospects in limbo.

Because of the closure of Santa Anita Park for safety reasons — at least 21 horses have died since late December — Saturday’s Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes has been postponed. The race that was to feature Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner and Los Alamitos Futurity winner Improbable going head-to-head has not yet been rescheduled, though the Los Angeles Times reported Friday the track hopes to resume racing March 22.

[Santa Anita tested as hoof beats yield to sounds of silence]

Both horses are trained by five-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, who could end up sending one or both to Oaklawn Park for next week’s Grade 2 $1 million Rebel Stakes. In fact, so many horses could run in the Rebel that Oaklawn could split the prep into two divisions.

Meanwhile, there are three Kentucky Derby preps ready to go on Saturday. There is the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida. There is the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. And there is the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway.

Win Win Win is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Tampa Bay Derby. Trained by Michael Trombetta, the son of Hat Trick has won three of his four races. He has had a tendency to break slow from the gate, however. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount.

Sam F. Davis winner Well Defined is second choice in the morning line for trainer Kathleen O’Connell. The addition of blinkers helped the son of With Distinction move forward. The one to watch is Dream Maker, who sits 4-1. Trained by Mark Casse, coming off an injury as a 2-year-old, Dream Maker won his 2019 debut by 8.5 lengths in an optional claiming race.

The unbeaten Instagrand is the 4-5 favorite for the Gotham. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer decided to ship Instagrand from California to New York for the race which awards 50 Derby points to the winner, 20 for second, 10 for third and five for fourth place. The son of Into Mischief is 2-for-2 in his career after being purchased for $1.2 million as a 2-year-old by owner Larry Best.

Baffert has shipped Much Better to the Big Apple for the Gotham. Coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Sham, Much Better is making the transition back to dirt after finishing last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Knicks Go, the long-shot winner of the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall, is at 12-1 in the morning line.

Somelikeithotbrown is the 8-5 favorite in the Jeff Ruby. Trained by Michael Maker, the son of Big Brown has won twice in six starts. He was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year. Skywire, trained by Mark Casse, is second choice at 3-1. He’s 2-for-2 in his career, with his maiden win coming at Woodbine on the same Polytrack surface he will run on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Baffert reportedly plans to work Game Winner, Improbable and Grade 3 winner Mucho Gusto at Los Alamitos this weekend. If the San Felipe is not rescheduled soon, it could run up against the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

Here are entries for Saturday’s trio of preps with trainer, jockey and morning-line odds.

Tampa Bay Derby

1-Admire - Dale Romans - Robbie Albarado - 12-1

2-Sir Winston - Mark Casse - Julien Leparoux - 12-1

3-Lord Dragon - Jordan Blair - Jose Bracho - 30-1

4-Dream Maker - Mark Casse - Florent Geroux - 4-1

5-Well Defined - Kathleen O’Connell - Pablo Morales - 7-2

6-Outshine - Todd Pletcher - Joel Rosario - 8-1

7-Win Win Win - Michael Trombetta - Irad Ortiz, Jr. - 5-2

8-The Right Path - Duarte Jorge - Joe Bravo - 15-1

9-Dunph - Mike maker - Daniel Centeno - 20-1

10-Tacitus - Bill Mott - Jose Ortiz - 12-1

11-Zenden - Victor Barboza - Camacho Samy - 8-1


1-Family Biz - Edward Barker - Kendrick Carmouche - 20-1

2-Knicks Go - Ben Colebrooke - Jose Lezcano - 12-1

3-Mind Control - Greg Sacco - John Velazquez - 9-2

4-Much Better - Bob Baffert - Mike Smith - 5-1

5-Haikal - Kiaran McLaughlin - Rajiv Maragh - 10-1

6-Instagrand - Jerry Hollendorfer - Javier Castellano - 4-5

7-Not That Brady - Rudy Rodriguez - Gutierrez Reyluis - 12-1

8-Tikhvien Flew - Steve Asmussen - Dylan Davis - 20-1

Jeff Ruby Steaks

1-Dynamic Racer - Ronald Kahdes - Euclyn Prentice - 12-1

2-Moonster - Dale Romans - John McKee - 20-1

3-Five Star General - Arnauld Delacour - Declan Cannon - 6-1

4-Dabo - Dale Romans - Luan Machado - 10-1

5-Baytown Jimbo - Paul McEntee - Archard Alexis - 15-1

6-Skywire - Mark Casse - Gary Boulanger - 3-1

7-Counter Offer - Ian Wilkes - Malcolm Franklin - 10-1

8-Twelfthofneverland - Raymond Handal - Sheldon Russell - 10-1

9-Curlin Grey - Kenny McPeek - Brian Hernandez, Jr. - 10-1

10-Somelikeithotbrown - Mike Maker - Tyler Gaffailione - 8-5

11-Speed App - D. Wayne Lukas - Waler De La Cruz - 20-1


Racing halted at Santa Anita after horse deaths

Mind Control camp welcomes a test

Instagrand a product of Stonewall Farm dedication

Trombetta hopes for a Win Win Win situation

Kentucky Derby preps

The Tampa Bay Derby at a glance

Jeff Ruby Steaks at a glance

Gotham Stakes at a glance

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
Support my work with a digital subscription