2018 Kentucky Derby Road: Which Horses will Shine?

With the inconsistency that we have seen this year from the current 3-year-old crop and older horse division, I have been paying a bit more attention to the 2-year-old crop than usual. I love finding the hidden gems and future stars of tomorrow.

Scouting 2-year-olds can be counterproductive and deflating at times when promising colts regress, as they so often do, or when they are retired prematurely due to injury — so, what’s the incentive, you ask?

From a recent historical standpoint, ten out of the last eleven Kentucky Derby winners had raced on or before Labor Day during their 2-year-old campaign. And the one out of the eleven who didn’t was Animal Kingdom, whose first career start came on Sept. 18 as a 2-year-old. So, the odds are good that the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner is in our midst, having raced at some track, somewhere, already by now.

If nothing else it is nice to have an early Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender list. With the points-paying prep season for the 2018 Kentucky Derby officially kicking off on Sept. 16 with the Iroquois Stakes, which 2-year-olds are on my radar?

Here are three of my current favorites:

Bolt d’Oro

The recent winner of the Del Mar Futurity with an 85 Beyer Speed Figure. Should I mention that two out of the last three Del Mar Futurity winners (Nyquist and American Pharoah) went on to win the Kentucky Derby? He’s the son of Medaglia d’Oro out of an A.P. Indy mare (Globe Trot).

Medaglia d’Oro sired Rachel Alexandra and Songbird. Perhaps it is long overdue for Medaglia d’Oro to have spawned a famous male progeny by now. Bolt d’Oro beat a talented field in the Del Mar Futurity that included previously undefeated Run Away and the Bob Baffert-trained Zayat Stables’ colt Zatter.

Copper Bullet

I have been very high on this Steve Asmussen-trained colt since late May.  Same owner/trainer combination as Gun Runner. If you followed Gun Runner’s career, he didn’t dazzle with eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures, but steadily improved throughout his career and he’s now arguably the top racehorse in the world.

I first wrote about Copper Bullet for my blog back in June. Copper Bullet impressed me back then by breaking his maiden on May 25 at Churchill Downs, where he won by eight lengths in a five-furlong race.

His next start, the Bashford Manor Stakes, he expended a lot of energy overcoming a poor start out of the gate. When he finally settled in, he unfortunately got hemmed in a bit, which broke his momentum. He fought back for a second-place finish behind Ten City. In his most recent start, the Saratoga Special Stakes (shown below), he bounced back with a four-length victory.

Unfortunately, it was announced on Sept. 3 that Copper Bullet will be sidelined due to shin issues and likely miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps the time off will work for him much like it did for American Pharoah.

St Patrick’s Day

A full brother to American Pharoah that is currently trained by Bob Baffert. That should pique your interest. Can lightning strike twice? Although it is highly unlikely that he will be able to duplicate the success of his Triple Crown-winning brother, it’s sort of like buying a Powerball ticket. You know that you aren’t likely to win but there’s entertainment value just thinking about the possibility.

St Patrick’s Day lost in his debut at Del Mar to Zayat Stables Zatter (also trained by Bob Baffert), but his second-place finish earned him an 81 Beyer Speed Figure. He rebounded in his next start (shown below) and broke his maiden with a half-length win over the million-dollar colt Instilled Regard ridden by Mike Smith.

Honorable Mention: Zatter, Sporting Chance and Instilled Regard.

Michael Cox
Michael is a pharmacist by profession, author of “Masten Gregory: Totally Fearless” as well as a horse racing blog that can be found at: www.thederbyhandicapper.com. He attributes his love for horse racing to two things: his grandfather who used to listen to horse races on the radio broadcasted from the now defunct Ak-Sar-Ben race track in Omaha, Nebraska and a Sports Illustrated subscription in the 1970s.
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