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
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.