By Derek Simon
Five stakes races for California-breds highlight a strong Saturday card at the Great Race Place. Among the most interesting races to me are the California Cup Derby, a $250,000 event for three-year-olds that drew the undefeated and largely untested Smokey Image, and the California Cup Turf Classic for older horses.
To say that Smokey Image has a speed advantage in the Derby is akin to saying that the Golden State Warriors are better than the Philadelphia 76’ers. Depending on the figures you use — Thoro-Graph, The Sheets, Brisnet, Equibase, Beyer, etc. — it isn’t hard to make the case that each of Smokey’s last three races were better than any of his rivals’ efforts.
That said, these horses just turned three and often younger horses can improve overnight (witness Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby).
In the Turf Classic, it looks like Alert Bay, who has won 11 of 22 lifetime starts is the one to beat, although What A View impressed me in his frontrunning score last time. As a lightly-raced five-year-old in a race with a soft projected pace (-1 early speed ration), I think the son of Vronsky could have a say in the final outcome.
FREE past performances for California Cup Races: