Zombie City Looks to Capture LA Derby

LA Derby (Grade 2) (KYD)- $1,000.000 Purse
FG- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and One Eighth on the Dirt
March 24, 2018

The 14th running of the LA Derby takes place on Saturday, and while it offers an incredible purse, its 100 points for the winner are equally as valuable. Like the FG Oaks, this weekend represents the first of the biggest prep races on the schedule in terms of points. Last year, we had two winners getting the 100 points as Atletico and Withdrawn finished in a dead heat for Our Athletes, and John Henry, respectively. Atletico struggled in the KYD while Withdrawn would finish fifth. Each would only have one more win in their career since that race, but both are still active and competitive. Despite many successful horses that have won this race in the past, a LA Derby winner has never won the KYD. There have been two that have finished second, with the first going way back to 2005 and the late Commander Phil. In 2012, The Last Danz would run second in the KYD after winning the race. The most interesting past winner would be the filly Mai Mia Bambina in 2011. She was regularly competing against males at this time in her career, and it comes the season following Mrs Bombastic’s stunning PRK win. Mai Mia Bambina ran third in the KYD, but would not win another race in her career. Finally, in 2015 Mars would finish third in the KYD after winning the LA Derby. He is still active but hasn’t been seen in big races for a while. Can one of these horses win the race and then follow it up with that KYD win? The field is impressive, so you have to like their chances. Let’s take a look at them!

#1- Stainless Metal (John Henry, ridden by T C Baze)- We start our look through the field with a newcomer to the TC chase. Stainless Metal spent the early portion of his career running on the grass, and while he always seemed to be close at the finish, he only ended up winning one of those races. Following a race in January, he would be sold two times in the manner of a month. In fact, it was only on Sunday that he joined the John Henry stable, as the trainer acquired him for $190.000 in a private sale. Obviously, he sees something, and a recent work does look promising. Tough horse to pick though, but the one who starts on the rail always a shot.

#2- Rumble (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- Like Stainless Metal, Rumble is newcomer to the TC chase. In five starts, he has been in the money four times, and has picked up a pair of wins, but they were not at the stake level until his most recent race. He comes out of the $100.000 Mine That Bird Derby at SUN, and if he had won that race, I would feel a lot better about his chances here. Sometimes, you have to forget the past performances, and take the shot if you believe in your horse, and that’s the case here. Probably will be a longshot in this race, though.

#3- Blindfold (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- Just outside the top 20 in the KYD, in a large tie with 10 points, sits Blindfold. Unfortunately, because the game makes KYD entries about the trainer and not about the qualifications of the horse, Blindfold has an additional hurdle to have to overcome in that he has to crack Mb’s “top three”. Right now, he has behind several stablemates, so its important for him to get a win or at least a place here to prove himself against his friends in the barn, before he can take on everyone else. He impressively won the Holy Bull, but came a little flat in the Fountain Of Youth. Blindfold is a great horse but needs to figure out went wrong in his last race.

#4- Alpha Uno (Estero Farms, ridden by J R Velazquez)- After winning just one of his first six races, and a rather disappointing finish at the Grade 3 Southwest last month, Alpha Uno paid the ultimate price, and lost his ability to breed. New geldings are always dangerous in this game, and Alpha Uno does seem like a ultimate candidate to have success off the geld, especially when you look at a work he had at AQU in the beginning of February. If it works and he can maintain his focus on the track better, he’s a threat. He does have 2 KYD points to his credit.

#5- Zombie City (Pan Farms, ridden by A A Gallardo)- I’m pretty excited to have a chance to get a close look at this one, since he seems to be very highly regarded in the forum polls that are going on now. He was ranked #1 in the initial poll, but fell to #2 behind Lane Frost, in the most recent poll. He leads the KYD point chase right now with 64 points, and that goes a long way in him being so high in that poll. In eight races, he’s won three, and only once has failed to be a part of the exacta. That was accomplished by having success in the NY-bred stakes, before stepping up and winning the Grade 3 Jerome at AQU and then the Grade 2 Risen Star right here. I like that he is versatile, showing the ability to win while on the lead and while coming from off the pace. Looking forward to watching him run here, and he is definitely one of the favorites.

#6- Pass Me By (Mb Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- Despite his name, no one has been able to pass by Pass Me By so far, as this Wreaking Havoc gelding is a perfect three-for-three in his career. The first two victories are not going to intimidate anyone in this field, but he does come off a good looking win in the $150.000 Winkfield at AQU last month. He worked sharply at PRX earlier this week, and is poised for a good run. Though you have to wonder if a win would be bittersweet for the trainer because it would only further complicate the decision he has to make when only nominating three to the KYD.

#7- Die Nasty (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by L H Colon)- This one is looking to take a step forward in his career as well, and has won two out of three races. His career started on the grass, but he comes off a good looking win in an allowance at AQU. So far, all of his starts have come against NY-breds, so this will be the toughest field he has ever faced. Pedigree says he will be up to the challenge, as he is by Cherokee Sunset, one of the top young sires in the game, as well as being out of Gianna, who was produced several successful foals of her own, including Kingslayer, and Genetics. In fact, No Chill, bred in the second quarter of 2017, is a full brother and also on the TC trail. Die Nasty was bred in the third quarter.

#8- Cheapsnake (John Henry, ridden by F Prat)- Speaking of pedigree, I am very fond of Snakie, the sire of Cheapsnake, as probably everyone knows who regularly reads my previews. So, Cheapsnake will have my rooting interest, but he is probably not one of the top threats here. Seems like a middle of the pack runner to be in this race, but I’d love to be wrong. His last stake appearance was a sixth place run in what has proven to be an exceptionally loaded Davis Stakes field as the prep race season continues. The trainer took him off the TC trail off that, though, and if he needed the confidence boost, he got it. Tempted to include him in my picks but will instead root for him as an underdog.

#9- Trumpomatic (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Maragh)- While it might not be uncommon to see a horse go directly from a claimer to a graded stake in the game, usually there’s a private sale in between. For Trumpomatic, there’s been no sale, as he’s going directly from a $35.000 maiden claimer at AQU at the beginning of the month, to the LA Derby, for Night Rider Stables. His win at AQU was impressive, and probably deserves more then the 87 SRF shown, so you can see why there’s optimism about him. With time running out before the KYD, you have to take the shot now, so you can understand the move, it’s just an interesting set of circumstances with the jump. Trainer gets his favorite jockey for the race.

#10- One Dance (Gdp Inc, ridden by E A Roman)- At the beginning of February, One Dance went to seven furlong Swale Stakes and ran a good looking second to Pretty Ferro. A week later, the trainer saw his own Jerry Bien win a similar race, and that may have increased the optimism factor for One Dance to extend his distance as well, and he responded with a second place run at the Grade 3 Southwest, which was just sixteen days after the Swale. That earned him four points, and now with a little more time to rest, and seeing that Pretty Ferro continue to shine, One Dance looks to follow that path. Unfortunately, he has to overcome a pretty tough starting spot in the gate.

#11- Subutai (EasyMoney Stables, ridden by M E Smith)- After winning a graded race very early in his two year old career, Subutai has done everything but win again, it seems. A string of three consecutive third place finishes, which began in the BC Juvenile, and has continued through two races on this track: the Grade 3 Lecomte and the Grade 2 Risen Star has earned him 18 KYD points, which right now is good for 17th on the leaderboard. Subutai likes to come from well off the pace, so perhaps his running style could make this post position work. It’s been a struggle for many though, to overcome these outside draws. The effect of that can be seen with the scratches of the original starters in posts 12-14. As much as I really like Subutai, he’s got a tough fight here.

#12- Indistinguishable- Scratched

#13- Lucky Phooey- Scratched

#14- Drift- Scratched

#15- Sacred Brave (Blushing Meadows, ridden by J R Ortiz)- Drawing into the race due to the scratches, Sacred Brave looks to back up some good looking works. He does only have one win in his four starts, and he comes off somewhat disappointing finish in the Grade 2 Holy Bull at the beginning of February. In that race, he showed great closing kick, and made up ground in the stretch, so there is reason to be hopeful that he can improve off of that race. Unfortunately, he must do so from a tough starting spot.

#16- Processing Class (Toppedout, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- Unbelievably, this gelding is making the 20th start of his career already. As a two year old, he made fourteen starts, and will race for the fourth time in seven weeks here. All four of his wins have come at free tracks as well. There may have been talent here, but he looks topped out to me. Even if he wasn’t, starting way out on the outside will not help.

Prediction: 5-3-11-10

— NS

Categories: Grade II, STAKES ARTICLES

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