The Grade 2 Del Mar Derby is a solid, competitive turf event at 1 1/8 miles for three-year-olds, but it doesn’t quite have the feel of a Grade 2 event. No one in the field has won a G2 or G1 stake, and many of the American contenders wouldn’t be able to win an allowance race against older horses. But many of the horses are very sharp. If you look at the entire field’s last three races, you get a very impressive 11 wins in those 24 starts.
But one of TFUS’s strengths is its foreign speed figures, which work on the same scale as the American numbers. They shouldn’t be used alone, but they are very powerful in pointing out horses to look at more closely. And in this race they point to (6) Aventador. His most recent numbers of 103 and 104 are better numbers than the 100 and 101 earned by morning line favorite Enterprising in his last two tries. But just as importantly, his race two back was a very solid effort. He was beaten less than six lengths in a Group 1 stake at Chantilly, a $2,000,000 race. He followed that up with a win in an ungraded stake, and he had previously finished a good second in a Group 3 event. It is true that Aventador has been competing at longer distances, but he had raced very well at a mile earlier in his career, always gaining on the leaders. 1 1/8 miles seems perfect for him. As for his conditioning, he’s been off only two months, and he has a couple of very nice works under his belt. Trainer Vienna has a poor record this year but is capable, and this French invader should be a nice price as well. He seems worth a shot.
(2) Sawyer’s Hill looks a little cheap here at first glance. He’s never even hit the board in a stakes race, let alone a G2, but his last allowance win was a solid score over older horses (note the TFUS race rating of 105, equal to or better than anyone else’s highest number). And perhaps more importantly, he may wind up being the major speed in this basically paceless race. He might prefer 1 1/16 miles. He’s never gone this long. But the likely slow pace here may neutralize that factor. At an 8-1 morning line (like our top choice), he’s another value horse.
(7) Flamboyant raced well in the G1 Belmont Derby against Mr Speaker, who came back to run competitively in the Travers. He has now raced three times since coming to the US, and every race has been good. In his American debut, he got up at the wire to beat Home Run Kitten and Enterprising, both of whom are in today’s race. He then made a powerful move in the Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont before just getting caught on the line, and his Belmont Derby was a solid (if pace-aided) closing effort. He should race well, but his lack of early speed may hinder him a bit. Also note that his French numbers couldn’t hold a candle to Aventador’s. While the numbers may occasionally get lost in translation, it’s still a legitimate point to add to Aventador’s case.
(3) Midnight Storm may be the other speed here, and his last win wasn’t bad at all against allowance competition. That was his first turf try, and he showed real determination. He definitely might outrun his odds.
(5) Enterprising is listed at 9-5, but that looks like an underlay to me. First of all, he’s as slow early as Flamboyant, putting him at the mercy of what may be slow fractions. He also hung in both of his tries at 1 1/8 miles, one on turf and one on synthetic, suggesting that he’d rather be closing at 1 1/16 miles than taking on this competition at 1 1/8 miles. And in his last two races, both wins, he was aided by good trips, once closing off of fast fractions, and once skimming the rail from perfect position. He could win this, but the price is definitely not right.
(1) Home Run Kitten is another on a two-race win streak. Since just missing to Flamboyant in the La Puente Stakes, he closed to win an allowance (at 6-5) and stepped up to capture the Singletary Stake with a rousing finish. He didn’t beat all that much there, though, didn’t earn great figures, and he’s another who closes from far back and faces a pace disadvantage as a result.
(4) Talco is the other foreign invader. Also from France, and moving into the Sadler barn, he’s never faced top competition, though his numbers, especially the 99 in his last, aren’t bad. He’s definitely a mystery horse, but he seems less impressive than Aventador, despite the more highly ranked connections.
(8) Sammy Mandeville has come up short to Enterprising twice in a row.
Aventador to win.
Small exacta box of Sawyer’s Hill, Midnight Storm, Aventador, and Flamboyant.