2010 Road to the Kentucky Derby – California Derby

The Road to the Kentucky Derby
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com

The road to the 2010 Kentucky Derby kicks off on Saturday, January 16 with the $100,000 San Rafael at Santa Anita and the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate. Its a long arduous journey to that first Saturday in May and well be looking for not only the most talented horses, but also the most courageous, in an effort to hit the Kentucky Derby superfecta.

The one-mile San Rafael goes as the third race at Santa Anita on Saturday and features the undefeated Conveyance. The gray Indian Charlie colt looks like the speed of the field as he stretches out off an impressive 7-length allowance win going six furlongs at Hollywood Park on November 25, 2009. He received a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 for that win, an improvement of 23 points off his first lifetime start, in which he wired a Maiden Special Weight field at Santa Anita. Trained by Bob Baffert, Conveyance will be ridden by Garret Gomez in the small field of five.

The price is likely to be short on Conveyance, which might force us to play an exactor instead with longshot Lucky Rave. The former European rallied into a slow pace in the Generous going a mile on the Hollywood Park turf in his last start on November 28, 2009, and while he looks like hell need even more distance than the San Rafael offers, if Conveyance gets pressure up front or doesnt handle the distance, this one could get lucky. Veteran jockey Alex Solis is in the saddle. Well play heavier on the Conveyance-Lucky Rave exactor, and reverse it for half the amount. Well also play a small exactor with another longshot, Via Verde, trained by John Sadler. Via Verde has lower numbers than these as he makes his second start off a layoff, but he gets a rider switch to Rafael Bejarano, removes blinkers, and comes into the race off a troubled trip in which his saddle slipped.

The California Derby goes as the eighth race on the Golden Gate
card and showcases the undefeated Giants Causeway colt Connemara. Trained
by Todd Pletcher, Connemara comes into the Derby off a rallying allowance
win at Santa Anita going 1 1/16-miles on November 4, 2009. Proven at the
Derby distance, Connemara also gets a rider switch from Garrett Gomez to
Golden Gates top jock Russell Baze. If hes got the horse hell get the
job done.

Pace pressure up front would benefit Connemaras late run, and while theres a chance of that, theres also the possibility that sprint specialist Shudacudawudya could get loose early. Distance is a question mark, as he has never gone beyond 6 -furlongs, but he should have enough pedigree to stretch out and he does have the best set of Beyer Speed Figures in the field. Our Minesweeper, Ranger Heartley and Cahill Country can also sit close to a reasonable pace, so if Shudacudawudya decides to rate a little too much, he will probably have company and set the race up for a rallier like Connemara or Thomas Baines, who comes into the race off a third place finish in the Eddie Logan going a mile on the Santa Anita turf. Proven at the distance, Thomas Baines would likely need a perfect trip behind a duel to win, but he certainly has a chance.

The California Derby is a tough race to handicap and well be watching for signs of future talent rather than betting heavily.

Good Luck!