Horse Racing

`Derek' reaffirms position as Kentucky Derby favorite

Dominance of colt continues despite average pedigree


There will be no threat to the position occupied by Brother Derek since early in the culling process that will ultimately result in 20 or so survivors that reach the first Saturday in May with the Kentucky Derby hopes of their human connections intact.

The pedigree does not jump off the page or cause breeding experts to rave. Benchmark, his sire, is not on the thoroughbred social register. Nor is Siyad Kalem, his maternal grandsire. For the time being, he will not be embraced by residents of the 606 area code, where the planet's most expensive breeding stock roams the rolling terrain that surrounds Lexington, Ky., and the term Cal-bred is considered vulgar.

Nevertheless, if Brother Derek makes it to the starting gate for the 132nd running of the Derby on May 6, he will be the favorite. His position was solidified Saturday at the expense of the five 3-year-olds who followed him - challenged would be too strong a word - in the Santa Anita Derby. He dismissed the smallest field assembled for the principal West Coast Derby prep in 59 years with aplomb, ran nine furlongs in 1 minute, 48 seconds for a 3 1/4 -length win. His wheelchair-bound trainer, Dan Hendricks, never had an anxious moment. Alex Solis, the only jockey ever to ride Brother Derek in competition, has begun calling the colt "a monster," and by the end of the day he was the 6-1 favorite in future-book wagering on the Derby.

Bob Baffert, having left Point Determined in California to deal unsuccessfully with Brother Derek, won the Wood Memorial with Bob and John and watched the Santa Anita Derby from Aqueduct.

"Just goes to show you that there is so much speed in California, it's like a vacation when you get away from there," he said.

If those who followed Brother Derek did little to lead their connections to believe that a race a furlong longer would have a different result, Jazil raised his profile dramatically with a ground-closing flourish in the mud at Aqueduct. Last of nine through most a race that ended in a 14-second final furlong, Jazil's rally left him 1 1/2 lengths short of Bob and John, whom he passed 10 yards beyond the wire.

"We're happy, very happy," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "That's his style. He always comes running late. So, we were happy that he showed that same run today again, especially against this caliber of horse."

Saturday's preps did more to narrow the field than settle issues. The stock of Sweetnorthernsaint, trained at Laurel Park by Michael Trombetta and owned by Baltimoreans Joe Balsamo and Ted Theos, rose at the expense of a suspect group in the Illinois Derby. Hutcheson Stakes winner Keyed Entry and Tampa Bay Derby winner Deputy Glitters are probably out of the picture.

"I have one less Derby horse now," jockey Edgar Prado said after riding Keyed Entry in the Wood. "But I think [Florida Derby winner] Barbaro is the horse."

Paul Moran writes for Newsday.

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