With the running of the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and the El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, February 12, we bring to and end the running of the first wave of 2022 Kentucky Derby prep races.
The two races are the last of the 10-4-2-1 prep races. When the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds goes off on February 19, the 50-20-10-5 races will begin.
Let’s take a quick run through the two Saturday preps.
Sam F. Davis (10th race, Tampa Bay Downs, 1:54 p.m. PDT post): A full field of 12 horses will head to the gate here with Classic Causeway (Brian Lynch trainer, Irad Ortiz jockey) as your morning line favorite at 3-1.
The horse is coming off a second in the Kentucky’s Jockey’s Club at the end of November at Churchill Downs. He has one win in three starts, that coming in his debut on September 4 at Saratoga.
He was beaten easily by Smile Happy in his last start, but the connections have moved away from the horse here.
Make It Big (Saffie Joseph, Jose Ortiz, 9-2) is the second choice and has been perfect in three starts. The last start was a win in the Springboard at Remington Park in mid-December. The first two wins came back in October, both at Gulfstream.
Howling Time (Dale Romans, Joe Talamo, 5-1) is the next choice. The winner of 2-of-3, with all three coming over the Churchill Downs track. The last start was a fading fifth in the Kentucky’s Jockey’s Club. Romans sent him to the bench after that and the horse has responded with a series of good works, including a bullet effort Feb. 5 at Gulfstream.
Shipsational (Edward Baker, Javier Castellano) and Strike Hard (Matthew Williams, Leonel Reyes) are both 6-1 and round out the single digit choices.
Shipsational is coming off a win in the Sleepy Hallow on October 30 at Belmont Park. The work tab has been strong and steady, all over the Tampa surface.
Strike Hard has six career starts already, second most in the field. The last start was a solid second in the Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1 at Gulfstream, four lengths back of Simplification. The favorite that day, the horse got caught too far back early before finishing strong.
El Camino Real (8th race, Golden Gate Fields, 4:30 p.m. post). Is this the latest in what I am calling the “Bend them over Bob,” Tour?
Bob Baffert, the multiple Kentucky Derby trainer, is banned from the Kentucky Derby this season after his horse Medina Spirit tested positive after winning the Derby last year.
Baffert’s horses have been allowed to be run in the preps, but since he is banned from running his horses in the Derby, they are not allowed to accumulate points.
So, Baffert has gone out, entered his horses in two of the five prep races run in 2022 and won both, thus depriving any horse in the field from getting the 10 points. In the Lewis last Sunday, a Baffert horse also ran third, keeping any one from the two points that went to that spot.
I fully expect him to keep following this plan at Santa Anita and Oaklawn. Saturday he is sending a horse to Golden Gate Fields for the El Camino.
The favorite is Mackinnon (Doug O’Neill, Abel Cedillo, 8-5). The horse was beaten badly in the Sham at Santa Anita by Newgrange – a Baffert horse.
This time Baffert will send out Blackadder, ridden by Edwin Maldonado and opening at 7-2. The horse has only a maiden special weight race win in three starts and this is the first time the horse will face winners, but you must figure this one in the mix. Baffert always has a plan.
Boise (Jonathon Wong, Evin Roman, 9-2) was the winner of the Gold Rush at Golden Gate back in early December. But the next stop was a 7th-place finish in the Eddie Logan at Santa Anita on Jan. 2.
Cabo Spirit, a highly thought of sophomore, won the race and the next two horses came back to win their next starts, so perhaps the loss was not as bad as it seemed on paper.
By Dennis Miller