One Allowance, Two Derby Prep Winners?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Could a single allowance race contested at Keeneland produce multiple Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race winners this Saturday? It's definitely within the realm of possibility.

On Nov. 4, 2022, Keeneland hosted the first day of the Breeders' Cup. Races like the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) dominated the attention of racing fans, but the fourth race on the card—a $160,000 allowance optional claimer for two-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs—may prove equally influential.

Ten horses faced the starter, with Arabian Lion favored at odds-on to claim top honors for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify entered off a three-length debut victory at Santa Anita, in which he stopped the clock for six furlongs in a quick 1:09.78.

Another logical contender in the Keeneland allowance was Giant Mischief, a son of three-time (soon to be four-time) leading North American sire Into Mischief. The Brad Cox trainee debuted out of the spotlight at Horseshoe Indianapolis but delivered an impressive performance, overcoming trouble to finish legitimately fast and win a maiden special weight by 1 1/2 lengths.

Suffice to say, Arabian Lion and Giant Mischief put on a show at Keeneland. Both showed tactical speed tracking early leader Tap in Formation, and turning for home they locked horns in a tremendous battle for supremacy. In the end, it was the ground-saving Giant Mischief who edged ahead to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:22.30, but Arabian Lion lost little respect in defeat, pulling 17 1/2 lengths clear of the third-place finisher. According to Trakus, Arabian Lion ran 25 feet (about three lengths) farther than Giant Mischief.

Giant Mischief and Arabian Lion have gone their separate ways since Keeneland, which means both can win Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers this Saturday. Arabian Lion is the 4-5 morning line favorite to win the $200,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) at Los Alamitos, while Giant Mischief is the 3-1 second choice in the Remington Springboard Mile S. at Remington Park.

Arabian Lion looks formidable in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Baffert has won the 1 1/16-mile race 13 times overall, including seven out of eight editions since the race moved from Hollywood Park to Los Alamitos. Two of Arabian Lion's four rivals are fellow Baffert trainees, and Brisnet Speed ratings suggest Arabian Lion is the fastest of the trio. With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle, Arabian Lion appears poised to set or stalk the pace from the outside post before going on to victory.

For second place, Arabian Lion's stablemates Carmel Road and Fort Bragg are logical contenders. Of the pair, I give a slight edge to Fort Bragg. The son of Tapit has run well against quality competition (including Grade 3 winner Speed Boat Beach and the Grade 1-placed Hejazi), and he recently posted a gate-to-wire win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Santa Anita, edging next-out winner Reincarnate by three-quarters of a length. Hot jockey Flavien Prat, with 42 North American graded stakes wins under his belt this year, is named to ride.

Meanwhile in the Springboard Mile, the morning line odds favor Echo Again, who delivered a flashy 6 3/4-length victory in his debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga. The son of Gun Runner subsequently faltered as an odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois S. (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, fading to finish seventh, but he showed a bit more promise in an Oct. 30 allowance optional claimer racing 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs. The race was called off around the far turn due to an accident (and isn't listed in the past performances), but Echo Again appeared to be moving well from a pace-pressing position and warrants respect at Remington.

That said, there's less uncertainty surrounding Giant Mischief. He's already run as fast as Echo Again on the Brisnet Speed rating scale (both colts boast career-best 99 ratings), and Giant Mischief earned his lofty figure against proven winners like Arabian Lion rather than maidens. Giant Mischief has the pedigree to stretch out over one mile and combines tactical speed with tractability, setting the stage for a perfect trip in a somewhat speed-heavy edition of the Springboard Mile.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Los Alamitos Futurity and Springboard Mile?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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