Trainer Frank Lucarelli and owner Chris Randall are certain of one thing: Gallant Son will make his next start April 4.
He will race in either the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby or the $500,000 Illinois Derby and a top-two finish in either race could be enough to propel last year’s Emerald Downs’ Top Juvenile into the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
“We feel like we have one little glimmer of a shot at the Kentucky Derby,” Lucarelli said.
The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 runners based on earnings in graded stakes races. Although Gallant Son has no graded earnings to date, the colt took a step in the right direction last week with a victory in the Pasadena Stakes on turf at Santa Anita. It was enough to convince Lucarelli and Randall that Gallant Son deserves one more chance against the big boys.
“He came out of that race so good,” Lucarelli said. “He’s still at Santa Anita with Ed Moger, and Ed’s assistant says this horse is unreal right now. I feel like he’s back where he was when we left Emerald Downs (last fall).”
Both the Santa Anita Derby and Illinois Derby are 1 1/8 miles in distance, but Lucarelli said there are pluses and minuses to both races.
The Santa Anita Derby, for example, is worth more money and Gallant Son wouldn’t have to ship, since he’s already stabled there. On the down side, the Santa Anita race is shaping up tough with both The Pamplemousse and Chocolate Candy being pointed toward the Grade I event. Moreover, they would lose jockey Alex Solis since he is already committed to ride The Pamplemousse.
The Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero, Ill., would likely offer a softer field, but the purse money is less and they would have to ship Gallant Son some 2,000 miles to a new environment.
“Trainers have told me that (Hawthorne) is a track that horses either love or hate,” Lucarelli said. “I’d hate to leave and ship because the horse is so good (at Santa Anita), and there are so many more variables when you go to a new track. But we’re keeping our options open by nominating to everything.”
With five wins in nine starts and $161,988 in purses, Gallant Son has taken his connections for quite a ride already.