By J.J. Hysell
Kentucky Jockey Club champ Uncaptured has fallen out of Kentucky Derby radar range since his first start as a 3-year-old was delayed by hoof issues.
The son of Lion Heart, who was 6 of 7 as a 2-year-old, is back in training and looks to be catching up quickly. Trainer Mark Casse has mentioned a possible prep campaign on synthetic: the Spiral Stakes at Turfway and/or the Blue Grass at Keeneland.
While many bettors have shied from the all-weather to Churchill angle, Team Valor and Graham Motion have singlehandedly proved it not only can be done, it produces results.
Animal Kingdom had raced solely on turf and synthetic when he arrived at Churchill for the 2011 Derby. He had one work over the Churchill track a week out – a spectacular move that drew everyone’s attention. After winning the Derby, he was a strong second to Shackleford in the Preakness.
In 2012, Went the Day Well – who had previously tried dirt – took a similar path, going straight from his Spiral Stakes win to the Derby. He finished a good fourth in the race, closing well after being trapped in 14th a mile into the trip.
Uncaptured has even more checks in the plus column than his predecessors. He’s won two stakes races on Churchill dirt, so there’s no worries about the surface. He’s also proven on synthetic, where he began his career at Woodbine, signaling his chances of doing well in this type of prep.
With his recent hoof issues, the synthetic could be a better starting point for his 3-year-old campaign. The time off might have been a blessing as well. The Derby could wind up being perfect timing with one to two races off the layoff.
The only obstacle facing Uncaptured is the new Derby point system. His current 10 points will drop him significantly as the “championship” phase moves forward and others garner additional points, so there is pressure to secure a spot in the gate.