Kentucky Clarity: Strong Contenders Emerge 

March 5, 2023

Practical Move was much the victor in the GI San Felipe at Santa Anita Saturday. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Practical Move commanded, Forte impressed and Raise Cain raised eyebrows

By Laura Pugh

After weeks of questions upon questions with no answers, the first weekend in March finally provided some clarity on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Prior weeks had been filled with drama from the embattled Bob Baffert and CDI, or efforts that left much to be desired.

At first, it looked like more of the same with longshot Raise Cain in the muddy edition of the Gotham Stakes. At odds of 23-1, Raise Cain splashed home victorious. However, the final time of 1:38.09 did little to impress. And, given his lack of success prior to this point, one must assume that he simply moved up due to the state of the track. That, or his competition fell a couple of pegs. 

Thankfully, the San Felipe and Fountain of Youth, both historically strong preps, came through with impressive performances. 

First came Practical Move in the San Felipe. Trainer Tim Yakteen has received several Bob Baffert trainees In search of points. However, Practical Move has been with Yakteen since his debut. It took Practical Move a few tries to get his first win, but here’s an interesting factoid…going a mile or beyond, the son of Practical Joke is unbeaten.

He kept that stat going in his San Felipe victory. Despite brushing the gate and chasing some pretty solid fraction early on, Practical Move came charging home over three lengths the best. This was his first start since the Los Alamitos Futurity in December, and he looked fantastic. The final time of 1:42.01 was stellar, as were the final splits of 24.59 and 6.34. 

After Practical Move, all fingers were crossed in the Fountain of Youth. We had seen favorite after favorite fall in the races leading up to Fountain of Youth, and we all were desperately hoping for a turn of fortune. Given the dominance of his performance, fortune was not something Forte needed. 

Down the backstretch, it looked as though Forte would get trapped behind a wall of horses. There were two options, wait for a hole which is always a gamble, or go around. Many jockeys wait for the hole, sacrificing precious time. Irad Ortiz, Jr., elected to go wide, sacrificing ground, but in the end, it made no difference. Forte was much the best.

Despite the four wide move, as soon as he straightened into the stretch, he quickly put four lengths between his foes, gearing down in final few yards. 

Now, this is not to say that there aren’t still questions. Practical Move doesn’t have the best of pedigrees for the Kentucky Derby distance, and neither have trainers that are wildly successful at producing Kentucky Derby winners. In fact. Todd Pletcher has a historically abysmal record in the Kentucky Derby.

Bother horses will have to overcome these obstacles moving forwards, and quite possibly more. At this juncture, however, I think it’s quite safe to say they are the clear-cut leaders on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. 

Contributing Authors

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that...

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