Newsletter: Racing! No doubt, Justify is for real


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as we now have a favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

It wasn’t the classic stretch duel of Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie in the San Felipe Stakes. Instead, the $1-million Santa Anita Derby was a powerful display of dominance by Bob Baffert’s latest superstar — Justify.

With only two races going into the Santa Anita Derby, some doubted that such an inexperienced horse could make such a big jump in class and win this prestigious race. There was Bolt d’Oro, a seasoned Grade 1 winner, who by many was considered to be the Kentucky Derby favorite.

But on Saturday, it was all about Justify, with Bolt d’Oro’s trainer Mick Ruis promising that things will be different in the Kentucky Derby. Want to know what Baffert and Ruis, along with jockeys Mike Smith and Javier Castellano, had to say about the race? Just click here.


And if you want to watch a replay of it, take a look here.

There were a bunch of other stakes races at Santa Anita on Saturday, and you can find a summary of those. Just click here.

Outside California, Todd Pletcher qualified a fourth horse for the Kentucky Derby when Vino Rosso, a phrase in Italy as common as hello is here in the U.S., won the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He was involved in a nice stretch run with favorite Enticed before pulling away to win by three. Restoring Hope, for Baffert, finished third and will not have enough qualifying points to make it to Churchill Downs.

Vino Rosso joins Audible, winner of the Florida Derby; Noble Indy, winner of the Louisiana Derby; and Magnum Moon, winner of the Rebel Stakes. Vino Rosso paid $10.40 to win. (You can watch the race here.)

At Keeneland, Good Magic redeemed himself for a poor performance in the Fountain of Youth to win the Blue Grass Stakes. He engaged Flameaway, who also qualified, in the stretch before winning by 1 ½ lengths. Good Magic was the 2-year-old Eclipse Award winner and also won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar. He paid $5.20 to win. (You can watch the race here.)

Shout out to Tierney

We normally wouldn’t give a separate item to an ungraded Cal-bred race, but it was pretty darn exciting when Spiced Perfection won the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes. The reason is her part-owner is Mike Tierney, who sometimes does horse racing for The Times, when I’m too lazy to be there. In a heart-pounding run down the stretch, Spiced Perfection caught favorite Show It N Moe It to win by a neck.


Brian Koriner is the trainer and Joe Talamo was the jockey. Tierney is one of several partners in DareTo Dream Stables, which bought the horse for $50,000. The 3-year-old filly paid $23.60, $6.00 and $3.40.

“She’s won three times so far, so she’s done real well,” Tierney said in his first-ever interview as a horse owner. “We were delighted. We thought the one hole was real tough and was not favorable for us. … We felt like she needed to get out of the gate quickly, and she did. We wanted to get into stalking position, and that’s exactly what she did.”

Santa Anita review

Everything you need to know about Saturday’s card can be found at these links. Here’s the Santa Anita Derby. Just click here. And here’s the rest of the thoroughbred stakes. Just click here.

Santa Anita preview

Sunday is a nine-race card with the new 11:30 a.m. start time. It’s an OK card, especially considering all the firepower the track used up on Saturday. The highlight is the fifth race, the Grade 3 $100,000 Tokyo City Cup, which is the rare 1 ½ miles on the dirt. Makes you wonder if in Tokyo on Sunday they are running the Arcadia City Cup?

Hoppertunity is the 2-5 morning-line favorite. Hoppertunity has won $4.3 million in 29 lifetime starts. The next closest money winner in the field of six is Twentytwentyvision, who has won $441,293. Even if Hoppertunity is not in top form — he was scratched out of the Santa Anita Handicap when the track turned to slop — he should still beat this field. Baffert is the trainer and Flavien Prat is aboard.

Big races review

A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Saturday.

Aqueduct: Grade 2 $300,000 Gazelle Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: My Miss Lilly ($7.90 to win)

Keeneland: Grade 3 $250,000 Commonwealth Stakes, 4 and up, 7 furlongs. Winner: Warrior’s Club ($48.80)


Aqueduct: Grade 3 $150,000 Excelsior Stakes, 4 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: Discreet Lover ($17.60)

Santa Anita: $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes, Cal-breds, fillies 3 years old, 6 ½ furlongs. Winner: Spiced Perfection ($23.60)

Keeneland: Grade 2 $200,000 Shakertown Stakes, 3 and up, 5 ½ furlongs on turf. Winner: Bound For Nowhere ($19.00)

Aqueduct: Grade 1 $400,000 Carter Handicap, 4 and up, 7 furlongs. Winner: Army Mule ($6.20)

Santa Anita: Grade 3 $150,000 Providencia Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/8 miles on turf. Winner: Fatale Bere ($17.80)

Oaklawn: $100,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes, Ark-bred 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Glacken’s Ghost ($6.00)


Keeneland: Grade 1 $300,000 Madison Stakes, fillies and mares 4 and up, 7 furlongs. Winner: Finley’sluckycharm ($13.80)

Aqueduct: Grade 3 $250,000 Bay Shore Stakes, 3 year olds, 7 furlongs. Winner: National Flag ($4.90)

Santa Anita: $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes, Cal-breds, 3 years old, 6 ½ furlongs. Winner: Heck Yeah ($5.20)

Keeneland: Grade 1 $500,000 Ashland Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Monomoy Girl ($2.60)

Aqueduct: Grade 2 $750,000 Wood Memorial, 3 year olds, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: Vino Rosso ($10.40)

Oaklawn: $150,000 Carousel Handicap, fillies and mares 4 and up, 6 furlongs. Winner: Swing And Sway ($8.80)


Keeneland: Grade 2 $1 million Blue Grass Stakes, 3 year olds, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: Good Magic ($5.20)

Santa Anita: Grade 1 $1 million Santa Anita Derby, 3 year olds, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: Justify ($3.80)

Santa Anita: Grade 2 $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes, fillies and mares 4 and up, 1 mile on turf. Winner: Beau Recall ($10.80)

Santa Anita: Grade 1 $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Midnight Bisou ($3.20)

Big races preview

A look at graded stakes or races worth $100,000 or more on Sunday. All times PDT:

1:24 Keeneland: Grade 3 $150,000 Beaumont Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Dream It Is (3-1)

1:30 Santa Anita: $100,000 Tokyo City Cup, 4 and up, 1 ½ miles. Favorite: Hoppertunity (2-5)


1:57 Keeneland: Grade 2 $200,000 Appalachian Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Rushing Fall (7-5)

2:17 Aqueduct: $100,000 Danger’s Hour Stakes, 4 and up, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Vulcan’s Forge (7-5)

Bob Ike’s SA play of the day

SIXTH RACE: No. 1 Dia de Pago (4-1)

Sophomore colt from the Vladimir Cerin stable has been sidelined since the Del Mar Futurity in September but showed good ability as a 2-year-old and has shown the ability to fire fresh. He should get a hot pace in front of him, switches to Prat for a barn that has been sizzling and should handle two turns.

Saturday Result: For Him did not break alertly, didn’t make a clear lead as anticipated and was out of horse turning for home.

Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of (here’s a video) and the proprietor of (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).

Ed Burgart LA play of the day

THIRD RACE: No. 4 Royal Red (4-1)

She makes her second start for the solid owner/trainer team of Jaime Morfin and Charles Treece while taking on a much easier $2,500 field. While lacking early speed, this mare faces several suspect pace foes and was beaten only 1 ¼ lengths for second in last fourth-place try after a two-month layoff. The 5 ¼-length winner Oleanderpolarbear was posting her sixth lifetime victory and this time, Royal Red faces no rival who has captured more than two races.


Final thoughts

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And now the stars of the show, Saturday’s results and Sunday’s entries.