There were three Road to the Kentucky Derby points races contested on Saturday around the country. While Dash Attack and Courvoisier picked up 10 points each, Sham winner Newgrange won’t by awarded points as he is in the Bob Baffert barn.
Churchill Downs announced that Baffert is not welcome for the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derby and any horses in his care would not be eligible to earn Derby points.
Impressive Dec. 5 maiden winner Dash Attack made the successful step up to stakes competition with a powerful victory in Saturday’s $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. In the process, the colt, who races for Catalyst Stable, Magdalena Racing, Kevin Pollard and Patty Slevin, earned 10 important points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility.
Dash Attack broke a step behind the field from his rail post, but that allowed him to settle into seventh place. Ruggs led the field through an opening quarter mile in :23 before relenting the lead to Ben Diesel before a half mile in :46 2/5. Jockey David Cohen moved the winner out of traffic and they came four-wide into the lane before drawing off to win by two lengths over Barber Road, who also closed fast to earn four points for second. Final time for the one-mile race was 1:39 2/5 over a sloppy track.
“He broke a little flat-footed today, but was able to work out a pretty good trip,” Cohen said. “I had to move a little earlier than I would have liked. I like to be a little more patient with the horse, but given the short stretch, it was the time to go and I saw one opportunity to get out (of traffic). I pointed him in that direction and got that so-called sling shot effort. He really turned up his game and turned on the power.”
Dash Attack Wins Smarty Jones
“I’m just really pleased with the job David (Cohen) and my team did over there,” McPeek said. Just an impressive run by that colt. Look, he’s still just figuring it out, this horse. I knew he would come from off the pace. I saw that he got off a little awkward. I just didn’t want David to rush things and it looked to me like he started to, but then as the race unfolded, he kind of ended up in a pocket for a while. But good horses overcome things and he’s done that, for sure.”
Ignitus finished third by a head in front of Advent Stakes-winner Kavod. Ignitus earned two points toward Kentucky Derby eligibility, while Kavod earned one.
Dash Attack, a Munnings colt trained by Kenny McPeek, is now a perfect two for two and has earned $205,440. He returned $17.40, $8.60 and $5.60 at odds of 7-1.
Courvoisier Rolls to Sloppy Win in Jerome
Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and James Spry’s regally-bred Courvoisier overcame a wet track to take Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome for sophomores going a one-turn mile over the sloppy and sealed main track at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Jerome awarded 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers, respectively. By Tapit and out of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Eclipse Award-winner Take Charge Brandi, Courvoisier splashed over the slop and through a dense fog under Jose Ortiz to win his stakes debut for trainer Kelly Breen after breaking his maiden going nine furlongs last time out at the Big A.
Breaking from post six in the field of eight, Courvoisier found himself mid-pack a few strides from the gate before splitting horses and moving to the outside of pacesetter Hagler, who was piloted by Trevor McCarthy. Racing down the backstretch, Ortiz kept Courvoisier close to Hagler through a half-mile in a speedy 45.78 seconds.
Ortiz showed Courvoisier the crop to his right side rounding the turn, giving him the signal to make his move at Hagler as McCarthy began to give his mount a strong hand ride. Hagler battled back on the inside at the top of the lane but began to tire as Courvoisier found more and overtook the lead at the eighth pole.
Driving to the finish with two right-handed taps of the crop from Ortiz, Courvoisier widened his margins briefly at the sixteenth pole before needing to fend off one last bid from runner-up Smarten Up under Anthony Salgado in the center of the racetrack. Courvoisier had enough left in the tank to finish strongly, besting Smarten Up by 1 ¼ lengths with post-time favorite Cooke Creek checking in two lengths back in third. The final time for the mile was 1:38.86.
2022 Jerome Replay
“He broke good but the eight-horse [Hagler] had some speed too, and it looked like he wanted it,” Ortiz said of his battle for the lead. “Crossing the chute, my horse was traveling really well and I was really happy with the position I had.
“Passing the three-eighths pole, I had to ask him a little bit but Kelly gave me the warning – he said, ‘he’s not going to give you anything you don’t ask for, so you have to keep pedaling and he will dig in,’” Ortiz added. “And he did. He kept digging in and I’m just happy we got the win.”
Ortiz, who rode Courvoisier for the first time in the Jerome, said he was unsure of the mile distance for the chestnut colt.
“I was a little bit concerned,” Ortiz said. “Personally, I’m not a fan of stretching to a mile and an eighth and cutting back to a mile, but he’s sharp. He’s got tactical speed – which helps him – and I think those kinds of horses you can play around with them. He’s the right kind of horse to do it and he did it successfully, so kudos to Kelly and the team.”
Baffert’s Newgrange Stakes Sham
How hum. Another year, another bevy of Bob Baffert Derby prospects. That was the storyline at Santa Anita on Saturday, as Baffert runners Newgrange and Rockefeller ran one-two throughout in the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile, giving him three consecutive wins in the Sham and eight overall. Ridden to victory by John Velazquez, who collected his third stakes win on the fourth day of the meet, Newgrange, who slowed things down nicely, prevailed by 2 ¾ lengths and got the distance in 1:38.32.
Baffert runners are not now eligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
With post time favorite Rockefeller drawn to his immediate outside, the Baffert pair were hustled from the gate but quickly settled into nice rhythm, with Newgrange maintaining a one length advantage leaving the three furlong pole and he was in complete command turning for home.
The third choice at 5-2, Newgrange, who was a first-out maiden winner going six furlongs under Velazquez Nov. 28 at Del Mar, paid $7.40.
No match for his stablemate late, Rockefeller held off a fast finishing Oviatt Class by a nose for second and paid $2.60 and $2.20 as the 3-2 favorite with Flavien Prat.
In an encouraging performance, Oviatt Class finished well into slow splits and acts like a colt who could improve with added distance for trainer Keith Desormeaux. Ridden by his brother Kent, Oviatt Class was off at 4-1 and paid $2.40 to show.
Fractions on the race were 24.46, 48.94, 1:12.84 and 1:25.27.