The GRADE 1 HOLLYWOOD DERBY is the penultimate Grade 1 race of the year for three-year-olds. The 1 ¼ miles turf race has attracted a strong field of 14 contestants. This is a strong handicapping challenge for racing fans. Let’s break it down!
BIG BANE THEORY comes to this race with little experience. He has raced just three times, but has won his last two trips to the track. Trained by Carla Gaines, it looks like he has a world of potential. That will have to be true in order for him to compete with the big dogs entered in this race. Joe Talamo is listed to ride.
HANDSOME MIKE has always looked like a nice horse and he finally proved it with a two back win in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby. The son of Scat Daddy figures to be even better on turf. He tried this trip in the Secretariat Stakes, finishing a respectable fourth. He figures to do better this time than he did there as he is in racing shape. Mario Gutierrez rides for trainer Doug O’Neill.
UNBRIDLED COMMAND has a huge turn of foot and that is exactly what you want in a race like this one. The grey son of Master Command roared around the turn to win the Saranac Stakes two races back. After that he made his New York bred competition look silly by drawing away for a 6 ¾ length win in the Mohawk Stakes. He has won four races in a row and it looks like he is only getting better. However, this will be his toughest test to date. Thomas Bush trains and JJ Castellano is making the trip to ride.
Few horses have the kind of acceleration that GRANDEUR (IRE) showed in the stretch of the Twilight Stakes across town at Santa Anita. He broke last of nine and was as many as 13 lengths back before thundering down the lane for a ½ length win. The Jeremy Noseda pupil has a win at today’s distance and has shown very few flaws in his 10 race career. He is one of only two horses with a win against older horses in open company. If he’s not the favorite, he should be. Garrett Gomez is listed to ride.
SMART ELLIS showed good late foot in the lane of the Twilight Stakes, but couldn’t match stride with his European foes while settling for third. The son of Smarty Jones is bred well enough for the distance and hails from a barn that wins 23% of the time when racing second off a long rest. The always good Corey Nakatani rides for trainer Richard Mandella.
POWER FOOT has finished behind many horses in this race, but does have the advantage of owning a win over the course. He figures to get the distance and should move up in his second start off the layoff, but could find himself in too deep once again. Edwin Maldonado keeps the mount.
RJWA (IRE) is Group 1 placed as she finished second beaten a neck in the Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp. She was then third in the French Oaks. We know she can handle today’s mile and one quarter distance and she might be passed over by many bettors because she is a filly. She is a solid player in this spot for trainer Francois Rohaut and jockey Thierry Jarnet.
MY BEST BROTHER reeled off three wins in a row, two in Grade 2 company, before shortening stride to be fifth in the Twilight Stakes. In his defense, he had a rough beginning in that race. He will look to get back on track over a course where he was won 2 of 3 starts for trainer Julio Canani. Look for jockey Martin Garcia to head to the front and play “catch me if you can”.
LUCKY CHAPPY (IRE) hasn’t won since joining Team Valor International, but has done well to be second in the El Camino Real Derby and the Virginia Derby. He seems to do well after some time off and this will be his first race since September 22. Graham Motion trains and Julien Leparoux is in for the ride.
SPEAKING OF WITCH (IRE) looked like a winner in the stretch of the Twilight Stakes, but was gunned down in the final stages. He had every advantage, including a better trip, over the winner. He easily won at this distance three starts ago at the Curragh and figures to enjoy it once again. It’s encouraging that Pat Smullen is making the trip to ride. The Dermot Weld pupil has to be viewed as dangerous.
ALL SQUARED AWAY came running like a bat out of hell in the Twilight Stakes, but was too far back to win and ended up settling for fourth. It was one of the best runs of his career. The addition of Rafael Bejarano is encouraging. He knows the course like nobody else and really moves his horses up. Use him on trifecta tickets.
For much of the year SUMMER FRONT has been regarded as a top three-year-old turf horse. It’s time to put up or shut up for the Christophe Clement trainee. He has showed us dazzling efforts in races like the Hill Prince and Duluth, but was dull in the Secretariat and Jamaica. Distance could be a question, but should be fit enough for the trip and moving back to a firm course has to be a good thing. The talent is there; will he show it? Ramon Dominguez is in to ride.
GENERAL LOGAN figures to tend the pace under jockey Eddie Castro. The chestnut gelding rides a three race winning streak with his latest score coming in allowance company against older horses at Keeneland. Graham Motion rarely tries horses over their heads, so this one has to be considered live.
As a rule, European turf horses are better than their American counterparts. Grandeur and Speaking of Witch showed that in the Twilight Stakes and countless other Europeans have also proved it over the years. As we have seen how good they are, they wont offer any value. The filly, Rjwa, could be even better than both and I’m banking on the public overlooking that. She is my top pick to win the Hollywood Derby.