2008 Santa Anita Derby Recap: Colonel John Wins

Colonel John catches game Bob Black Jack in heartbreaker to win Santa Anita Derby
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com

April 5, 2008 If you like to watch game racehorses run you got a real treat in the 71st running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby-G1 on Saturday when Bob Black Jack gave his all in a losing cause. And that takes nothing away from winner Colonel John, who ran an exceptional race after getting shuffled back midway through the final turn.

Colonel John lost at least three lengths when he got caught in a switch on the turn, yet still had enough left to come charging down the lane with a long smooth rally and catch Bob late. At the wire it was Colonel John by half a length, but there were no losers in this race Bob Black Jack remained the measuring stick for toughness among California-based 3-year-olds.

In his start previous to the Santa Anita Derby, Bob Black Jack had run a gutsy pacesetting third in his first try beyond seven furlongs in the San Felipe-G2, making winner and former leading Kentucky Derby contender Georgie Boy and Gayego run all the way to the wire. He ended up losing by 1 -lengths in that race, but it set it him up perfectly for the Santa Anita Derby. Despite the fact that it appeared to be beyond his best distance, his race in the Santa Anita Derby stamped him as game, legitimate, graded stakes speed. If Bob Black Jack does happen to show up in the Kentucky Derby on May 3, you can be sure that anyone who decides to battle with him on the final turn will be forced to dig deeper than they want to at that stage of the race.


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In the Santa Anita Derby, Bob Black Jack rated just back and outside of pacesetter Coast Guard through fractions of 23.33 and 47.57 before moving to pressure that one into the final turn. After six furlongs in 1:11.64, the pair raced into the stretch together, but at that point Bob Black Jack drifted out into the middle of the track and lost a length to the leader. Drifting back in while giving everything he had, Bob Black Jack drew even again with Coast Guard passing the eighth pole after a mile in 1:35.50. He then drifted out and back in again trying everything he could to get by that rival. He finally got his neck in front of Coast Guard in mid stretch, but just as he was drawing away from that one in deep stretch, Colonel John came flying home on the outside to pick up the pieces. The final time for the 1 1/8- miles was 1:48.16.

Coast Guard stayed on gamely for third, a length behind Bob Black Jack and 2 -lengths in front of Yankee Bravo. Its important to note that Yankee Bravo came into this race off a decent third place finish in the Louisiana Derby-G2, where he was beaten 3 -lengths by Pyro. He got a great trip in the Santa Anita Derby, saving ground and making a good move into the stretch before flattening out in mid stretch. Base on the performance of Yankee Bravo, we suspect Pyro is going to have to turn it up a notch when he meets the California horses at the big show on May 3.

The disappointment of the race had to be favorite El Gato Malo, who in his previous start had finished second beaten only half a length by Colonel John after mild trouble in the Sham Stakes-G3. El Gato Malo had a slightly awkward start in the Santa Anita Derby but did maintain a good stalking position off the rail before making a 5-wide move late on the final turn. He then began drifting in in early stretch and finally flattened out.

Trained by Harty Eoin for WinStar Farms LLC, Colonel John remained undefeated in two starts as a 3-year-old with the win, and improved his lifetime record to 4-2-0 in six starts for earnings of $825,300. Prior to his Sham Stakes-G3 and Santa Anita Derby-G1 victories, the 3-year-old colt by Tiz Now-Sweet Damsel by Turkoman had won the Real Quite Stakes and finished second in the Cash Call Futurity-G1 at Hollywood as a 2-year-old.

If we use Bob Black Jack as a guideline, the California-based horses might be just a cut above the rest when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, but it probably wont play out like that on the odds board. Colonel John wasnt even granted the honor of favorite status in the 2008 Santa Anita Derby. But he should have enough pedigree and talent to get the mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby - and he will also have a few additional advantages on Derby Day.

Hes already been forced to go all out to win twice which might give him a slight conditioning and fitness edge. And hes got Corey Nakatani in the saddle.

Nakatanis experience came through on the final turn in the Santa Anita Derby when he had to wait for room. He didnt panic, and deftly got his horse in a position to win. Remember, Nakatani rode very successfully in California when the jockey colony was filled with ultra-tough world-class riders like Patrick Valenzuela and Laffit Pincay.

Nakatani still has races, even days, when he makes the current California riding colony look ordinary.

Santa Anita Derby Results and Payoffs

April 5, 2008 - 6th Race Santa Anita

5 Colonel John $7.20 $4.00 $3.20

4 Bob Black Jack $7.20 $5.40

3 Coast Guard $7.80

1 Yankee Bravo

$1 Exacta 5-4 paid $24.60

$1 Trifecta 5-4-3 paid $306.50

$1 Superfecta 5-4-3-1 paid $1184.60