Three major Kentucky Derby preps Saturday saw two heavily hyped favorites fail to get to the winners’ circle. The third prep, at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky, produced an impressive winner in Somelikeithotbrown for trainer Mike Maker.

Somelikeithotbrown under Tyler Gaffalione
Hot favorite Somelikeithotbrown under Tyler Gaffalione flashes home an easy winner in the Kentucky Derby prep at Turfway Park. (Image: Coady Photography/Turfway Park)

A fourth key prep Saturday, the $500,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park, was postponed then canceled in the aftermath of an unusual number of equine fatalities at the historic Los Angeles-area racetrack.

Recapping the Big Kentucky Derby Prep Weekend

For bettors preferring favorites, it may have been an expensive weekend. However, lessons often cost money. There’s always information to be gleaned for Derby hopefuls and bettors with the May 4 Kentucky Derby is drawing closer.

  • Gotham Stakes – Instagrand, the highly regarded but lightly raced California invader, went to post the even money favorite in the $300,000 event at Aqueduct in Queens, N.Y. — one mile around one turn. It’s a 50-20-10-4 Derby points race. However, upstart Haikel — $10.80-$4.90-$2.90 – blasted home from off the hot pace set by Bob Baffert’s Much Better to best Mind Control, a solid second, and Instagrand, a flattening third. Fans were suspecting Instagrand, un-raced since August at Del Mar, might need the start before he would show top form. That may have been the case in the 1:35.63 mile. But, it remains a major question as to his ability to get the additional quarter of a mile with two turns he’ll have to navigate the first Saturday in May. For an official chart of the race click here.
  • Tampa Bay Derby – This 1 1/16 mile $400,000 race with a 50-20-10-4 points reward for the first four to cross the finish line saw Tacitus –$19.80-$8.20-$4.60 – bested Outshine, who finished second and 7/5 favorite Win Win Win, a disappointing third. The time: 1:41.90, a news stakes record. Win Win Win got up for third after a trip in which he was wide on the racetrack throughout and surging near the wire for the show. That’s the positive. The negative is that he was still beaten by about three lengths and the extra distance in the Kentucky Derby may also prove questionable for him. For an official chart of the race click here.
  • Jeff Ruby “Steaks” – Heavy favorite Somelikeithotbrown — $3.20-$2.60-$2.60 – is now a proven commodity at Turfway, winning this 1 1/8 mile, $200,000 event and being rewarded with 20 Derby points. He’s hoping top follow the path taken by 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom who won this race on the synthetic surface, too. Somelikeithotbrown’s final time was 1:52.05, Bettors now need to decide if he merely needs more racing experience because he was drifting in and out in the stretch and if he can go the other eighth of a mile the Derby requires. For an official chart of the race click here.

Baffert Duo On to Arkansas and Rebel Stakes

The now canceled San Felipe Stakes is forcing numerous California-based Kentucky Derby aspirants to re-route to Hot Springs for the $1 million Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Among them are Game Winner, the two-year-old champion colt and his stablemate, Improbable, another who’s yet to taste defeat. Both worked for Bob Baffert Sunday morning at Los Alamitos, a largely Quarter Horse facility in Orange County, south of his Santa Anita home base.

Derby hopefuls from the barns of several other leading California trainers, including Jerry Hollendorfer, Richard Mandela, Doug O’Neill and Keith Desormeaux are also expected on the aircraft for the trip east.

Trying to accommodate the additional entrants, Oaklawn says, if necessary, it will split the 1 1/16 mile Rebel into two $750,000 divisions that would each reward 37.5 Kentucky Derby Points to the winner.

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