Santa Anita will host the most anticipated matchup of the spring on Saturday, when The Pamplemousse meets Pioneerof The Nile in the Santa Anita Derby. Will the front-running Fruit be able to carry his speed all the way to the finish? Will PNile close in time to hit the wire first? Or will Chocolate Candy surprise them all?
The Fruit may just be the freak of this year’s 3yo crop. Sure, Quality Road has put up some big Beyers in the FOY and FL Derby, but he just doesn’t have the style of The Pamplemousse. Big, grey, cute face marking, high white socks, carousel-horse-high knee action, funny name, and undefeated. He likes to be on the lead, but he has been known to rate, somewhat. Sure, he has pedigree questions, but as of today he has already outrun his sire, Kafwain, by winning at 9f, in a stakes, no less. But there’s just something about him- he may not win the Kentucky Derby, but he’s got the Santa Anita Derby for the taking.
PNile is a very good colt right now, getting better with each start and trained by a guy who knows how to win the Derby: Bob Baffert. The son of Empire Maker has stuck out some close finishes in his career, but he has never faced a horse like The Fruit. It will take every bit of his class and drive to pass The Fruit in the stretch.
Chocolate Candy, and to a lesser extent, Mr. Hot Stuff (seriously, who named this horse? his brother is Colonel John; this name sounds like a Chippendales’ dancer) are the upsetters-in-waiting. Chocolate Candy has been plugging along in stakes at Golden Gate Fields, winning the El Camino Real and California Derby. He’s by Candy Ride out of a Slew mare, so distance is not an issue. His times and figures, while certainly quick, haven’t been as scintillating as The Fruit’s or PNile’s. Mr. Hot Stuff was 3rd in the Sham behind The Fruit, but fans of the colt hope he gets better as the distances stretch, like his big bro.
At Aqueduct, the action moves out the the main track for the Wood Memorial. I Want Revenge wants to turn in another devastating victory against Imperial Council. I think Imperial Council will get the better of Revenge this time. Revenge’s victory last out was his first run on traditional dirt, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounces.
April 4 is Part 1 of the Final Derby Preps. The major contenders must keep it together the next 2 saturdays to solidify their places in the gate May 2. Next weekend will be the Bluegrass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby — wow, time flies!