Oaklawn Park ‘Deja Vu All Over Again’ – Malagacy! Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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Malagacy wins the Rebel Stakes

March 20th 2017

Just like it was with One Liner at Oaklawn Park in the Southwest Stakes last month, a lightly-raced Todd Pletcher-trained colt making the first two-turn start of his career, Malagacy, won the Rebel Stakes. Todd Pletcher now has three very promising Kentucky Derby contenders.

Overall, the Rebel Stakes (shown below) was sort of a weird race, the kind you usually get in a wet race but this happened on a dry, fast track. The race favorite, the Bob Baffert-trained American Anthem, finished 10th. And the 4th race favorite, Royal Mo, finished ahead of him in 9th place. Bob Baffert had won six out of the last seven Rebel Stakes races. 

And now the really weird part, the Keith Desormeaux-trained colt, Sonneteer at 112-1 odds, finished 2nd. Sonneteer has yet to break his maiden in 10 starts and he had never eclipsed the 80 Beyer Speed Figure mark in 9 previous starts. But he did in this one however. Of course, this surprise finish killed everyone’s exotic bets, right down to the Exacta. I feel your pain in Hot Springs (inside joke). And consequently, a 50 cent Trifecta paid out $943 and a 10 cent Superfecta paid out $1,138.28. Oaklawn didn’t publish $1 Superfecta winnings, which would have been over 11 grand, because nobody was stupid enough to make that bet.

At any rate, there’s really no clear-cut Derby favorite at this point. This Kentucky Derby class is very deep in talent but lacking consistency. If I were Unique Bella’s owner, I would give strong consideration for entering the filly in the Kentucky Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks if she runs well in her next start.

Below are my updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings and I am writing them in pencil:

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, tied for 2nd best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Unknown but probably the Florida Derby on April 1st or the Wood Memorial on April 8th

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Latest report from Ian Wilkes is that he has filled out and getting stronger, uh oh! Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

3) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  Classic Empire had a minor issue in a previous workout and refused to run. However, he ran 4 furlongs in 48.95 on March 12th at his Palm Meadows training center but refused to workout yesterday at Palm Meadows on March 19th. However, it gets more interesting. Today on March 20th, he breezed at an alternative Ocala Training Center. If Classic Empire is 100% physically and mentally healthy, he’s probably the most talented colt in this class. But I am dropping this “bad boy” back down a notch due to his most recent workout issue. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th. 

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in the 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Malagacy – Another undefeated Pletcher colt in three starts. There were questions regarding how he would take to added distance but Todd Pletcher believed from training that he would handle the step up in distance well and he proved him right by winning the Rebel Stakes. I will have a Kentucky Derby profile of Malagacy on US Racing’s website in the next few days. Next Start: The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 15th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Shackleford (Finished 4th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Javier Castellano 
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – 2017 Rebel Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – Gulfstream Park 2/12/17

5) Tapwrit – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes back in February. His pedigree suggests that he will like added distance. And he has a greater trainer in Todd Pletcher behind him. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire:  Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

6) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star stakes time of 1:43.08 was 0.86 seconds faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year (1:43.94). And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Girvin is probably not a Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati (Finished 4th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

On my radar:  J Boys Echo, Gunnevera, Practical Joke, Irish War Cry, Iliad, El Areeb and Unique Bella although I haven’t heard anything to suggest she will skip the Kentucky Oaks in favor of the Derby. 


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50), Practical Joke (34), Untrapped (34) and Classic Empire (32). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses. 

–Michael

 

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