Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.
Garrett O’Rourke, general manager of Juddmonte Farms, said recent 2019 Kentucky Derby trail runners Tacitus and Hidden Scroll continue going their separate ways in final preps, with hopes the two runners offering different styles then earn their chance to meet at Churchill Downs.
“When the distances get to a mile and an eighth and beyond, I think that’s when you’re going to see the best of Tacitus,” O’Rourke said of Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner, who is pointing next for the April 6 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.
With Hidden Scroll, it’s his speed that’s his weapon,” added O’Rourke, with that colt expected to remain South for a return to Gulfstream Park in the March 30 Florida Derby (G1).
“It’s nice to have two complementary horses like that.”
Both are trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who O’Rourke said designed this course of action to include as little change as possible for the colts.
Hidden Scroll has made his two starts at Gulfstream, registering a 104 Beyer Speed Figure on debut before fading from the lead in the Fountain of Youth (G2). He’ll get another chance over the speed-favoring surface.
“The first time he ran there he was rather impressive, and to be honest with you, the second time a lot of people have said he was very impressive as well,” O’Rourke said, with Hidden Scroll fourth by three lengths in the Fountain of Youth after going out to chase and ultimately inherit a blazing pace. “It was just asking a little bit too much. He’s got a little more quirk to his temperament.
“I’d say nine furlongs won’t be any trouble. You always wonder when a horse has that much speed as to whether they’ll have the stamina. I think if the horse relaxes, he can get it — he can probable get it. Is it his ideal distance? I don’t know. He’s by Hard Spun, who had the speed and did finish second in the Derby, and he’s out of an Empire Maker mare.
“There are signs there to suggest he could do it, but I’d say it would pushing the limits of his stamina to get 10 furlongs.”
With Tacitus, O’Rourke noticed Mott was “quietly confident going into the Tampa Bay Derby” in Close Hatches’ first son, by Tapit, who broke his maiden Nov. 10 at Aqueduct and will return there for a final prep.
“A lot of people had seen that work where Hidden Scroll beat Tacitus in a five-eighths workout,” O’Rourke said. “But immediately after that workout, Bill said, ‘Don’t be judging him on that. They’re very different horses. Tacitus is only getting warmed up at five-eights.’
“His assistant said the same when I was down at Payson Park. I think that’s kind of what we saw on Saturday as well. He gets that big old stride of his going.”
Juddmonte and Mott teamed last year for Hofburg’s seventh-place finish. Previously, Juddmonte, the racing and breeding operation owned by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, also entered Eltish (sixth in 1995), Aptitude (second in 2000) and Empire Maker (second in 2003) in the Derby.
Final prep plans are also set for the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) winner Somelikeithotbrown, who won’t go far from Turfway Park In his last chance to earn qualifying points.
Given we’re inside of two months until the Derby, the value of futures dips, but there still looks to be a few good plays left according to William Hill U.S.’ Kentucky Derby odds.
Having watched the Tampa Bay Derby from Oaklawn Park, columnist Bob Wisener couldn’t help but notice — too late to make a bet — the type of superior breeding that produced Tacitus.
In case you missed it…
Monday’s Derby Daily report featured comments from Kentucky Derby Media Poll voters, including one suggesting disruptions in the West Coast contenders’ training could give the edge to another region this season.