No way Bob Baffert is getting too pumped for the Kentucky Derby – at least not yet.
The Hall of Fame trainer may have two of the favorites, but he knows these final weeks leading to the May 2 race must go without a hitch.
For now, all is well in Baffert world.
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Unbeaten Dortmund delivered a powerful victory in the San Felipe over the weekend, solidifying his No. 1 ranking in the AP’s latest Run to the Roses Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders. His other star, American Pharoah, remains No. 4 and is expected to be a heavy favorite in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.
The Rebel lost a top attraction Tuesday when trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Take Charge Brandi has a bone chip in her right knee and will be sidelined for several months.
”It was a walk in the park for him,” Baffert said a day after Dortmund’s win over Prospect Park improved his record to 5-0.
Baffert is looking for a fourth Derby win – his last was in 2002 with War Emblem.
Carpe Diem and El Kabeir also gave top efforts over the weekend. Carpe Diem won the Tampa Bay Derby by five lengths and moved up to No. 2. El Kabeir easily won the Gotham at Aqueduct and earned the No. 6 spot.
El Kabeir unveiled a new running style, too, coming from far off the pace to overtake the field around the turn for home and pull away under 54-year-old jockey C.C. Lopez.
”He’s a tough, strong horse; he’s got a great constitution,” El Kabeir’s trainer, John Terranova, said. ”We’ve got a tremendous foundation under him now, and I think the winter has toughened him up even more. We’ll see how things go, but he seems to love racing. Every race he’s gotten stronger.”
El Kabeir is the leader in Derby qualifying points with 75. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters, and is determined by a points system for designated prep races.
The Rebel is worth 50 Derby qualifying points, with 20 for second, 10 for third and 5 for fourth.
Here’s our Top 10:
1. Dortmund (Bob Baffert, trainer; Martin Garcia, jockey): Wow! Powerful finish to win San Felipe by three-quarters of a length and extend perfect record to 5-0. … Cream of 3-year-old crop at this point. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita (April 4). … Derby future odds (pool 3): 9-1.
2. Carpe Diem (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Impressive five-length winner in Tampa Bay Derby moves colt up a few notches. … Only loss in four starts was runner-up to Texas Red in BC Juvenile. … Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland (April 4). … Odds: 10-1.
3. Upstart (Rick Violette, Jr., Jose Ortiz): DQ’d to second for interference after finishing first in Fountain of Youth by nearly three lengths. … Worked 4 furlongs in 48.48 at Palm Meadows on March 7. … Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park (March 28) or Wood Memorial, Aqueduct (April 4). … Odds: 15-1.
4. American Pharoah (Baffert, Victor Espinoza): Set for first race in nearly six months. … Won 2 of 3 last year. … Worked 6 furlongs in a fast 1:10.40 at Santa Anita on March 6. … Next start: Rebel, Oaklawn Park (Saturday). … Odds: 8-1.
5. Far From Over (Pletcher, Manuel Franco): Worked 4 furlongs in 49.97 at Palm Beach Downs on March 7. … Has a win over El Kabeir in Withers. … Next start: Wood Memorial. … Odds: 13-1.
6. El Kabeir (John Terranova, C.C. Lopez): Soars into Top 10 with explosive finish for easy win in Gotham. … Winner in three of last four races. … Next start: Wood Memorial. … Odds: 47-1.
7. Texas Red (Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux): BC Juvenile winner fading fast due to inactivity since running second in San Vicente on Feb. 2. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby. … Odds: 14-1.
8. Itsaknockout (Pletcher, Luis Saez): Worked 4 furlongs in 49.97 at Palm Beach Downs on March 7. … Finished 2 3/4 lengths behind Upstart in Fountain of Youth, but declared winner via DQ. … Next start: Florida Derby. … Odds: 30-1.
9. Firing Line (Simon Callaghan, Gary Stevens): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita on March 7. … Gave Dortmund plenty to handle in last two starts, both runner-up finishes. … Next start: Sunland Derby, Sunland Park (March 22). … Odds: 29-1.
10. Far Right (Ron Moquett, Mike Smith): Smarty Jones and Southwest winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:04.00 at Oaklawn Park on Monday. … Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park (April 11). … Odds: 31-1.
Keep an eye on: Bolo, Classy Class, International Star, Prospect Park, Mr. Z.
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