02/15/2013 2:33PM

Steve Klein: Shakin It Up has the talent to win San Vicente following layoff

Benoit Photo
Shakin It Up will make his first start since the Hollywood Prevue in November on Saturday.

My favorite longshot to win the Kentucky Derby was not listed among the 23 individual betting interests last week in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. His name is Shakin It Up, and he hasn’t yet received the attention he deserves, but that’s going to change when he makes his first start of the year Sunday at Santa Anita in the seven-furlong, Grade  2 San Vicente.

He hasn’t run a bad race yet. He finished second behind the talented Super Ninety Nine in his debut at Santa Anita, then dominated maidens there by 4 1/2 lengths in his second start.

The race that convinced me that Shakin It Up could be a serious Derby contender was his third race, the seven-furlong, Grade  3 Hollywood Prevue on Nov. 22.

He broke alertly, then was allowed to drop back to last in the five-horse field. He rallied into striking distance on the turn, but lacked running room behind the leaders and was pinned inside by Super Ninety Nine. Shakin It Up waited for a hole to develop between horses in the stretch, but it didn’t materialize, so the next best option was to try to get outside. Unfortunately, Super Ninety Nine occupied the lane outside of him, and that rival had to rally out of his way before Shakin It Up could find room to make his own move one lane farther outside of him. Fortunately, Super Ninety Nine gained two lengths on the leaders, so Shakin It Up finally found the room he needed. Once free, he made an eye-catching spurt, gaining two positions and 2 1/4 lengths while finishing third, three-quarters of a length behind the winner, and only a neck behind Super Ninety Nine.

I believe that Shakin It Up was the best horse that day, and if he had been given the chance to rally outside turning for home, rather than being held up while waiting for room, he might have run about three lengths faster than he did. He earned a 96 Beyer for his performance, which would be a 102 with credit for another three lengths.

Shakin It Up also deserves credit for closing from last place against a slow pace. And since the Hollywood Prevue was run nearly three months ago when he was a 2-year-old, it would be no surprise at all if Shakin It Up is faster now with the benefit of added physical maturity. He might also be better around two turns than he was in his six- and seven-furlong races.

The two biggest concerns are that Shakin It Up might need this race after the time off and that closers are sometimes at a significant disadvantage in one-turn races on the Santa Anita main track. That trend is as current as the last four racing days, Feb. 8, 9, 10, and 14. Eleven of the 19 one-turn dirt races were won by horses who were either first or second at the first call versus only three winners from those 19 races who were either last or next-to-last at that point. Shakin It Up figures to be in that second category.

It remains to be seen whether Shakin It Up lives up to his considerable potential the first time back or needs this seven-furlong race as a prep before stretching out to two turns in a race that would give him the chance to earn the Kentucky Derby points he needs to make the starting gate May  4.

It’s encouraging to see that Baffert has won with 34 percent of 82 runners returning from breaks of two to six months and that Shakin It Up has been training well for his return, including a five-furlong work in 59.20 seconds, the second-fastest of 67.

The two horses who appear to be the biggest threats are other horses trained by Baffert who haven’t run as fast as Shakin It Up did and had to work harder than he did while winning their maiden races.

Belvin is my second selection. He fought hard and defeated maidens by a length with a 90 Beyer in his second start. Continued progress is possible Sunday, and he’ll have a chance to capitalize if Shaken It Up needs to shake off some rust.

I’ll take War Academy third. He tracked a slow pace, then kicked away to beat maidens by 1 3/4 lengths at Hollywood on Nov. 9 in his debut. He’ll be a factor in the exotics, if he’s ready for a good try.

Caballo Del Cielo is on the upswing and would benefit if he encounters less early pace pressure than he did in his last two races.

Treasury Bill was helped by the fast pace as a deep closer in his maiden win. He’ll have to continue to improve.

Mudflats must prove that his win on a sloppy track was not a fluke.

I’ll bet Shakin It Up to win, and I’ll play him on top in the exacta over Belvin and War Academy.