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Brother Derek – a worthy Derby favorite
by Geir Stabell / Globeform
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Unless Churchill Downs gets ran on Derby day, the Californian ace Brother Derek will be the post time favorite for the big race.

The Dan Hendricks trained colt has done everything right since winning last year’s Hollywood Futurity (G1). He bounced back from a fourth placed finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) that day, to beat Your Tent Or Mine.

Incidentally, only two of the 14 runners in last year’s BC Juvenile still figure on the list of Derby contenders, Brother Derek and Private Vow – who finished last after a mishap at Belmont Park. The latter seems to be somewhat on the fence but Brother Derek is bang on course for Louisville. As he has been all year. His last race was his best to date, when he defeated fellow Derby runners Point Determined and A.P. Warrior in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

BROTHER DEREK (Benchmark) Globeform 121+ 117+ 116+ 121+ / A Solis

Brother Derek looked very, very strong at the finish of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) – but once again he had things his own way up front. He set the pace – going a good clip up front – and ran on to beat Point Determined by 3 ¼ lengths – looking value for four lengths. Whether he will be as good over 1 ¼ miles at Churchill Downs is hard to say. We have always read this horse as miler. Okay, he stretched successfully out to 1 1/8 miles last time, so that theory was not correct. The problem now is; the difference between that trip at Santa Anita and the Derby trip at Churchill, is more than ‘just another furlong’. And he will not get an uncontested lead at Churchill Downs, which means that he must stay the distance really well.

Still, there is no getting away from the fact that Brother Derek is the best horse going into the big race, and he has been improving at just the perfect rate. The Santa Anita Derby was his fourth win on the trot and fifth in a Graded stakes. He performed to Globeform 121+.

Prior to the Santa Anita Derby, he had won the Santa Catalina Stakes (G2), run over 1 1/16 miles at the same venue in March. Brother Derek raced with great zest (but did not make all) and he ran on much too strongly for Sacred Light (a staying-on second) and Latent Heart (a non-staying pacesetter). The fourth placed Mister Triester ran second to Sweetnorthernsaint in the Illinois Derby (G2) on his next start. He had been 8 ¼ lengths behind Brother Derek and was beaten 9 ¼ lengths in Chicago. Brother Derek’s Santa Catalina win was solid, rather than brilliant. He ran to GF 116+.

He had performed to GF 117+ when holding last year’s champion Stevie Wonderboy for a 1 ½-length win in the San Rafael Stakes (G2) on a good seasonal debut back in January. One can slam three points against the value of that race: It was run over a mile, Stevie Wonderboy was making his seasonal debut, and he was injured shortly after. Was he way below his best? Or had Brother Derek improved significantly on his juvenile form? He had improved of course, even compared to his win in the Hollywood Futurity (G1), where he was successful over 1 1/16 miles.

He made full use of his experience when defeating Your Tent Or Mine by a length in last year’s Hollywood Futurity (G1), with the immature Bob and John 4 lengths further adrift in third and A.P. Warrior fourth. Like the BC Juvenile, the Futurity is a 1 1/16-mile race, and like in the Juvenile, Brother Derek once more looked like a horse that would be better suited to racing over a mile.

The son of Benchmark kept on well when challenged in the Hollywood Futurity (G1), just as he had when going gate to wire in the Norfolk Stakes (G2) over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita last October. He beat A.P. Warrior by ¾ length in the Norfolk, and had the same horse 6 ¼ lengths behind at Hollywood Park. A.P. Warrior has improved since.

The key to Brother Derek’s chances of winning the Kentucky Derby (G1) may lie in his run at the Breeders’ Cup. Why? Because that was the only time Brother Derek’s stamina was put to a real test. The Juvenile was run at strong early fractions, with Stevie Wonderboy coming from well off the pace to beat Henny Hughes. The pace scenario was very much like how one can guess the 132nd Kentucky Derby will be run. Brother Derek went off at 56-1. He outran those odds to finish fourth, after contesting the pace throughout – and tiring in the straight. He kept trying all the way to the line, and must have had a hard race. Yet he came back to win at Hollywood Park in December. A sure sign of a tough horse. That is just what he is. Brother Derek is tough, solid, and incredibly honest in his races. Those qualities will give him a big chance on May 6. Will he win? Over 1 1/8 miles we would have no hesitation – he’s the one – but over 1 ¼ miles. Not so sure…

Published: 2006-04-25 04:07:14

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