Brother Derek early favorite


NEW YORK (AP) – The Kentucky Derby has its favorite in Brother Derek. Three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert will be back, too, with a couple of contenders.

Brother Derek solidified his status as the Derby favorite with an easy victory in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. Baffert, meanwhile, sent out Bob and John to win the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct about an hour before watching Point Determined finish second to Brother Derek.

Trained by Dan Hendricks, Brother Derek has won four in a row with ease, and on May 6 will attempt to become the third favorite in seven years to win the Derby. Smarty Jones did it in 2004; Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

“It’s up to the bettors,” Hendricks said of whether Brother Derek will be the top choice on Derby day. “The Derby is a whole other race. It’s a whole other scenario. It’s a 20-horse field.”

Saturday’s races were final tuneups before the Derby. In another prep, Sweetnorthernsaint punched his ticket to Churchill Downs with a 9-length victory in the $500,000 Illinois Derby.

Brother Derek may be the favorite, but Barbaro will come into the Derby with a perfect 5-for-5 record after winning the Florida Derby on April 1. Lawyer Ron could make a strong case as the horse to beat if he wins the Arkansas Derby next weekend and improves to 7-for-7 on dirt tracks.

At Santa Anita, Brother Derek used his early speed to take the lead under Alex Solis, letting the rest of the field chase him for 1 1-8 miles and beating Point Determined by 3 lengths.

Brother Derek covered the distance in 1:48.00 and paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10 as the 2-5 favorite.

“He can run, that’s all there is to it,” Hendricks said. “There hasn’t been any faster horses in the races so far, and the next one there will be and it’s a whole new game.”

A.P. Warrior was third, and also is headed to the Derby.

Although the Santa Anita Derby has produced winners who went on to wear the roses on the first Saturday in May, it hasn’t happened since Sunday Silence in 1989.

At Aqueduct, Bob and John made his first start outside California a winning one, catching pacesetter Keyed Entry at the top of the stretch over a sloppy track and beating Jazil by 1 lengths.

Baffert won the Derby with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002. Baffert’s two Derby horses since finished 14th (Indian Express in 2003) and 17th (Sort It Out in 2005).

Bob and John covered the 1 1/8 miles in a slow 1:51.54. Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Bob and John returned $6.40, $4.50 and $2.70. Jazil paid $12.20 and $4.80. Keyed Entry returned $2.10 for show.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Keyed Entry, said he’ll wait a few days before making a Derby decision.

Jazil, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, also is headed to the Derby.

AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

AP-ES-04-08-06 1925EDT