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Eskendereya, by Barbara D. Livingston

All aboard? (photo by Barbara D. Livingston)

While Eskendereya’s bandwagon continued to gather passengers with his Wood Memorial victory, Lookin At Lucky hit something of a bump in the road in the Santa Anita Derby – but what both races ‘mean’ is still very much up in the air.

First, we’ll examine the Santa Anita Derby.  Winner Sidney’s Candy was fortunate in a number of respects – he’s a front-runner who was allowed to get loose on the lead, despite a little stumble at the start, and Lookin At Lucky ran into major traffic trouble (but more on that in a moment).  He also clearly relishes the Santa Anita surface, but that will probably knock him down a few notches in many handicappers’ minds come Kentucky Derby day.  While I freely admit that a horse with a synthetics-only record would not normally be my pick at Churchill Downs, Sidney’s Candy has a pedigree that suggests he would be equally at home on traditional dirt or synthetics – he doesn’t strike me as a pure synthetic specialist. But without an actual performance on dirt to evaluate, he’s still below Lookin At Lucky in my estimation – despite the win over him.

And so to our second and third-place finishes in the race – Setsuko and Lookin At Lucky.  Setsuko is being somewhat overlooked (his placing leaves him on the bubble as far as Derby graded earnings), but he ran a decent race; he’s definitely improved since getting blinkers, but it may be too late for Derby consideration.  Lookin At Lucky, meanwhile, showed great determination as he fought back to get part of the purse – but he also managed to get himself into considerable trouble.  Granted, that had a lot to do with his jockey, Garrett Gomez, going one-on-one (or, perhaps, one-on-fence is more accurate) with Victor Espinoza aboard Who’s Up – poor Caracortado was stuck just behind them, but he also rallied to finish just behind Lookin At Lucky. While Lookin At Lucky has no worries earnings-wise, the in-race shenanigans will likely lock Caracortado out of a Derby slot.  Of course, the real drama was not televised – after the race, Gomez and Espinoza very nearly came to blows:

According to other jockeys in the room after the race, Gomez went after Espinoza, and though they pushed, and loud, unprintable words were exchanged, they were separated before any punches could be thrown. One rider, who asked not to be identified, was asked who won.

“The stewards,” he cracked.

Gomez was eventually fined for disorderly conduct, while Espinoza picked up a suspension for his riding.  There was already some bad blood between Espinoza and Team Baffert, so this certainly did not help matters – but Bob Baffert seemed more annoyed by Gomez’s overall ride on Lookin At Lucky than the outcome.  Nevertheless, Gomez will retain the mount for the Derby – and who knows, it may have been a good thing for Lookin At Lucky to face a little more adversity just before he heads to the Derby.  When the twenty-horse stampede moves forward, he should be ready.  It’s just a shame there’s no third season of ‘Jockeys’ – this incident would have been perfect (and, quite frankly, I wish I’d seen it). Only one thing seems certain after the Santa Anita Derby – Sidney’s Candy won’t be allowed an easy lead in the Derby.  Of course, I thought that of another Santa Anita Derby winner who went on to win the Derby wire to wire – one Winning Colors.

We’ll now head back to the right coast (yes, flying over American Lion’s win in the Illinois Derby) for more on the Wood Memorial.  Eskendereya made it look easy, but (fortunately, in my opinion) not quite as easy as Bellamy Road did a few years back.  He looked as though he had plenty left, and he gives Todd Pletcher by far his best chance yet to finally find the Derby winner’s circle.  Of course, given that Pletcher may bring something like eight starters, he should be able to increase the odds of another last-place finish as well.  Eskendereya will certainly be a bet-against on Derby day, but that will be due to short prices; the horse has done nothing wrong this year. Naturally, there is the concern that he peaked too soon – his 109 Beyer is the highest for a 3-year-old this year – will he regress in the Derby? In my opinion, the four weeks off in between and his stellar pedigree both make that less of an issue – but we’ll see what happens in Kentucky.

We have one more weekend of Derby preps to go – Odysseus, Interactif and Aikenite will look for earnings in the Blue Grass, and Super Saver, Noble’s Promise and Dublin should contest the Arkansas Derby.  Check back later in the week for more!

1 comment to Bandwagoneering

  • Lookin At Lucky deserves to get a good clean trip after all he’s been through since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the poor guy can’t get a break it seems. I’m still keeping him as my top pick. I’m not really sure what to make of Sidney’s Candy. This always happens when a horse from CA that seems really good keeps winning, I never know if I should trust what I see or not. So many times they can’t transfer their good synthetic form to dirt. I suspect he probably will be able to handle the dirt.

    Really looking forward to seeing Noble’s Promise and Odysseus running this weekend.

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