We’ll roll into California with a 3YO turf stakes race in the Twilight Derby (GII). It is 9 furlongs and on the firm turf. With 2 scratches today, 9 horses are scheduled to enter the starting gate at 3:49 Pacific Time. Here’s a rundown:
- Cowboy Culture is a horse that likes to win — he’s 5 of 7 in his career (all on the turf). He’s won at 4 different midwest tracks.Trained by Brad Cox, who can ship well. He’s never run at 9 furlongs. His best performances have been on wet ground. Certainly a contender, he’ll need to improve to find the winner’s circle.
- Big Score ran lights out last time, finishing a close second in the Del Mar Derby at this 9 furlong distance. He’s been on the stakes circuit his entire career, winning a G3 and finishing second in a G2. Fast enough with some classy performances. Strong Contender
- Bowies Hero was the winner of the Oceanside — an important opening day stake race at Del Mar. And he also won the Singletary. Both of these races had an extremely fast pace, so that’s his best hope. I don’t foresee a super fast pace — 2 speed horses scratched out. But you never know — he may be worth an inclusion on deeper P4’s, just in case the jockeys go crazy.
- Winner of a G3 at Laurel Park, Just Howard is riding a 4 race winning streak. Once breaking his maiden, he won two restricted and a G3. Has an excellent trainer in Graham Motion, he faces a major bump up in class. Not impossible to see him winning, but does not seem terribly likely. The Laurel-to-Santa-Anita ship is hard.
- Sharp Samurai, ridden by Gary Stevens, won the Del Mar Derby. He’s answered the challenges, with one blip losing to Bowies Hero in the Singeltary. He’s 4 of 5 since trying the turf. Super Strong contender, and quite possibly the one to beat.
- Troublewithatee is over his head in this race. He’s here off maiden and allowance wins, but he’d need to improve his speed significantly since September. He would be a huge surprise.
- Channel Maker ships in from Belmont. He previously had won a restricted stake in Canada after a strong showing in the Queen’s Plate. Numbers-wise, he’s the best and his decent showing in a G1 suggests form. He’ll also be cutting back, having run twice at 12 furlongs. He doesn’t have the wins of the others, only 2 for 11 lifetime. I’m looking elsewhere, primarily because of the lack of wins.
- Profiteer is another shipper. A solid horse, he’ll need a form cycle up (3rd race off the layoff), into the best performance of his career. He has two allowance wins, but a GII may be too much at this point. A contender, but only one to put on deeper P4 tickets.
- I always have mixed feelings about Ann Arbor Eddie because I have two degrees from the University of Michigan. It’s his first turf try after two recent graded stakes sprint tries. I’m banking he’s here to gain some condition, so I wouldn’t put him on a ticket (at least to win).
My pick is Big Score, but I’d include Sharp Samurai and Just Howard on P4 tickets.
Good luck at the races!