Derby signs look Mighty good

Louisiana Derby winner has much in his favor as picture begins to clear

March 18, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Mighty ran a Kentucky Derby-winning race when blazing from last to first in the Louisiana Derby. But that was last weekend.

The horse who will win the Kentucky Derby is the one who runs a Derby-winning race May 6 at Churchill Downs. Mighty could be that horse. He could be good enough to duplicate, even improve upon, his Louisiana Derby effort seven weeks from today.

But the challenge, and the beauty, of choosing the Kentucky Derby winner is trying to predict what he -- or she -- will do when racing 1 1/4 miles for the first time. You do that by looking at what a horse has done in the past.

Mighty's past indicates a potentially explosive effort the first Saturday in May. Except for his first race last June and a race in the mud last October, the Lord At War colt has finished first or second in his other eight starts.

He flashed talent, but displayed immaturity -- a common trait among developing 3-year-olds. Finally, in the Louisiana Derby, the toughest Kentucky Derby prep so far this year, he ran powerfully and professionally.

Mighty appears to have it all: An able trainer in Frank Brothers, who is based at Churchill Downs; a top exercise rider in the former jockey Donna Barton, the trainer's wife; a talented jockey in Shane Sellers; the proper breeding, and an affinity for the quirky Churchill Downs' racing surface, on which he's raced four times, won twice and finished second twice.

More Than Ready, a gutsy second in the Louisiana Derby (1 1/16 miles), may be ill-suited for the Kentucky Derby's demanding distance. But Captain Steve, third in Louisiana, should improve next start, the Santa Anita Derby or Blue Glass Stakes, according to Bob Baffert, his trainer.

After missing training because of bruised feet, Captain Steve was merely 80-percent fit last weekend, Baffert said.

Hal's Hope and High Yield established again in the Florida Derby one week ago that they towered over other 3-year-olds in the Sunshine State. They will meet again April 15 in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

Surfside, the nation's top 3-year-old filly, worked hard Sunday to win the Santa Anita Oaks. Although her trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said a win's a win (Surfside's fourth in a row), her performance raised questions about her chances April 8 in her first test against males, the Santa Anita Derby.

Tomorrow, Derby contenders compete at Aqueduct, Tampa Bay Downs and Santa Anita Park.

The Gary Capuano-trained Grundlefoot will contest the Tampa Bay Derby, and the Maryland-bred Acres and potential star Red Bullet will run in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. But by far the most intriguing race of the day is the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Anees, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, will make his 3-year-old debut. Fusaichi Pegasus, the Neil Drysdale-trained powerhouse, will make his stakes debut. The Deputy, the Irish-bred, will make his second start on dirt. Promontory Gold, trained by Bobby Frankel, will make his dirt debut. And the Lukas-trained Commendable will attempt finally to meet his trainer's high expectations.

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