Cleveland - Another major Kentucky Derby prep race is underway this weekend at Oaklawn Park. For Trainer Steve Asmussen it’s business as usual and he isn’t answering any questions regarding the current allegations that he and a top assistant have mistreated horses while in their custody.
This field will have nine horses battling the 1-1/8 mile race with the winner earning 100 points toward a spot in the starting gates at Churchill Downs the first weekend of May.
Trainer Steve Asmussen’s horse Tapiture (3) is the favorite for Saturday’s race with odds of 9/5 and a major jockey change. Joel Rosario, last year’s Kentucky Derby winning jockey, will replace Ricardo Santana Jr. in order to have the best shot at getting into the Derby. This colt already has one victory over the Churchill surface, taking the Kentucky Jockey Club last November with a speed rating of 95.
Bayern (8) is the 2/1 shot in the field and is undefeated in two starts as he broke his maiden in January. The next time out he won an Allowance race by 15 lengths. He is trained by Bob Baffert and will be under the control of jockey Gary Stevens. I always watch out for Baffert horses being shipped into Oaklawn Park.
Strong Mandate (9) enters the field under jockey Luis Saez and is trained by D. Wayne Lukas. He had a disappointing fourth place finish after being pinched-back in the Rebel and finished second behind Tapiture in the Southwest G3. His pedigree is attractive and has odds of 9/2.
Commissioner (6) finished third last out in the Sunland Derby and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He is ranked 33rd in the Kentucky Derby points standings. He has steadily improved in his last three starts and will need a third place finish to head to Louisville in May. Odds are 8/1 with a jockey change; Mike Smith will take the ride.
Ride On Curlin (4) is currently ranked 23 on the Kentucky Derby points listing and finished third in his last two races the Rebel Stakes and Southwest. His pace figures are steadily improving. Jon Court will ride with odds of 12/1. He is trained under William Gowan.
Conquest Titan (7) also gets a jockey change with Calvin Borel at the helm. Look for Calvin to move him toward the inside as Calvin doesn’t mind the rail at all. This horse won on the Churchill track in November of last year and is trained by Mark Casse. Odds are 10/1.
Danza (1) with odds of 15/1 is trained by Todd Pletcher with jockey Joe Bravo. Knock Em Flat (2) is trained by Donnie Von Hemel with jockey L. Quinonez with 20/1 odds. Thundergram (5) is the long shot in the field at 30/1 and is trained by Mark Casse and N. Arroyo will ride.
Horses that have won the Arkansas Derby that also contended in the Kentucky Derby have placed well in the three legs of The Triple Crown. Smarty Jones (2004) won the first two legs and contended for The Triple Crown but was beaten by Birdstone. Afleet Alex (2005) took third in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness and Belmont. While Curlin (2007) was third in the Kentucky Derby, first in the Preakness and second in the Belmont. Here’s where the pedigree of Ride on Curlin makes him a high-profile contender and he’ll have to watch his slower starting pace and keep up with the field to get around Tapiture.
In Kentucky the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland will take place with a field 14 3-year-olds challenging for $750,000. Bobby's Kitten has been installed as the favorite with odds of 3/1. Medal Count has odds of 9/2 and Gala Award is the third favorite with odds of 5/1. Keep your eyes on Harry's Holiday with Rosie Napravnik at the controls, they finished a close second in the Spiral last month. This Grade I race is set for a 5:45 p.m. (ET)