Some favorites finally woke up Saturday across the nation in two out of three races, and in another, a horse with great potential finally proved himself.
Tacitus firmly entrenched himself as one of the Derby favorites Saturday in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, winning by
Tacitus remainded patient in fourth place as front runners Joevia and Not That Brady took a seven-length lead on the field on the backstretch. The field quickly caught up with them in the middle of the far turn, however, and Tax and Tacitus made their move, with Tax taking a slim lead entering the homestretch. Tacitus was forced four wide, but came on furiously to catch Tax and win by 1 length.
That made it 3 out 4 for the son of Tapit, and the second win in a Kentucky Derby prep. He previously won the Tampa Bay Derby.
In Keeneland, Vekoma finally proved that he belonged in the upper echelon by winning the Blue Grass Stakes in impressive fashion.
Somelikeithotbrown set speedy early fractions as Vekoma stalked him in second place. The favorite pulled up beside the colt on the backstretch but refused to take the lead until entering the far turn, when he blew past Somelikeithotbrown.
The homestretch featured some awkward running by Vekoma, with his left leg kicking out straight as if he were goose-stepping, and his head turned to the right as he drifted toward the center of the track. Jockey Javier Castellano, straightened him out, and he cruised to a 3 1/2-length win over a fast closing Win Win Win, who just beat out Signalman for second.
The Santa Anita Derby was the only race in which the favorite didn’t win, but Game Winner, at 1-2, put his heart into it and failed by a whisker for the second straight race. Instead, the much-heralded Roadster took the race, cementing his spot in the Derby.
Another horse to watch, Instagrand, went to an early lead in the small field of six, as Game Winner was forced four wide going into the clubhouse turn. Roadster lay back on the inside, comfortably in fourth place. He then inexplicably slowed down, eight lengths off the lead and tied for last as the field headed into the far turn.
Roadster slowly started making his move then as Game Winner made his move, but Instagrand fought him off. Roadster found his stride in the homestretch and began to battle Game Winner and Instagrand for the lead.
Game Winner put Instagrand away, but could not keep Roadster away, as the Bob-Baffert son of Quality Road pulled away in the last 100 yards to win by a neck.
Game Winner, another Baffert trainee, had a long trip around the track, and he remains a potent Derby contender even after two straight stakes losses. But Roadster defined himself as a powerhouse in his first stakes win.
We have one more week to get Kentucky Derby hopefuls in the race. The Arkansas Derby will feature Omaha Beach, who defeated Game Winner in the Rebel Stakes; Improbable, yet another Baffert horse; Long Range Toddy, winner of the other heat in the Rebel Stakes; and Country House, Galilean and Gray Attempt.