Back in the Wild West days, the question of who was the fastest gun spawned legends, tall tales, and a lot of spilled blood on the streets of notorious towns like Dodge City.

Following the events of last Sunday, what we have in the 3-year-old division are Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, and The Sundance Kid all walking toward each other for the inevitable shootout. Only these equine gunslingers are named War Emblem, Medaglia d'Oro, and Came Home. All three want to prove to the world they are the fastest gun alive. The big question facing them is: when is the right time to show your hand?

War Emblem, sleek, almost black, and as nasty as Billy the Kid, has already proven he can outdraw any 3-year-old around in important pressure situations. Medaglia d'Oro, big, strong, and intimidating, was slow to learn, but showed in his last fight he has developed into a deadly opponent, perhaps the deadliest of them all. Came Home, smooth, cool-headed, and professional, has demonstrated on numerous occasions he is almost unbeatable at closer range.

So, what happens now? War Emblem and Came Home each had the opportunity to state his case against the other in a classic shootout on the Jersey Shore. War Emblem packed his six-shooters and was just about ready to travel East for the Haskell Invitational when he heard Came Home was heading there to meet him. Being a bit rusty, War Emblem felt it wasn't quite time to risk his reputation as the fastest gun alive and backed out. But then Came Home decided it wasn't worth traveling all that way if he wasn't going to get a chance at War Emblem, so he too stayed away. Now, with the coast clear, War Emblem hopped on a stagecoach at the last minute and headed to Jersey to sharpen up on his draw for the inevitable big gunfight against Came Home and Medaglia d'Oro somewhere down the line.

Meanwhile, Medaglia d'Oro, the one with less to lose at this time, remained home up in Saratoga, where he, like War Emblem, would toy with his lesser opponents. But Medaglia d'Oro displayed such a quick draw and deadly aim in the Jim Dandy Stakes, he convinced many people he may turn out to be the baddest dude of them all, if he isn't already.

Now is where it gets really interesting. War Emblem, still protecting his reputation after dropping four overmatched foes in Jersey, decided to keep away from the dangerous Medaglia d'Oro in the historic Travers and stay in California to face some moderate older opponents in a long-range shootout in the Pacific Classic, knowing that Came Home wouldn't dare take him on at that distance. Oops.

Came Home, who had done a helluva job of convincing everyone he would keep his next fight at very short range at Saratoga to shift attention away from himself, then dropped a bombshell by challenging War Emblem in the long-range Pacific Classic. With everyone believing his aim is severely hampered at that distance, Came Home had nothing to lose, so he figured he'd try to leap to the head of the Most Wanted List with one let-it-all-hang-out showdown, proving that his loss to War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby was a fluke.

Now, you might ask, why isn't this shootout taking place in the Travers, which holds more prestige and has more history behind it than the Pacific Classic? After all, Came Home has already outdrawn a fast gun in Mayakovsky at Saratoga. Well, there could be several reasons -- one being neither of them wants to face Medaglia d'Oro, putting that off until Chicago. Another is that neither has to ever face Medaglia d'Oro to be hailed as the king of the 3-year-olds at the end of the year. It's up to the late-developing Medaglia d'Oro to go after them. War Emblem actually has already beaten both horses and really doesn't have to face either of them again to gain the title. So, you have one horse trying to stay under the radar, while the other two go on search-and-destroy missions.

So, now we're brought up to date. At this precarious point in time we have War Emblem being called out onto the street by Came Home, while Medaglia d'Oro gets to enhance his rapidly growing reputation by having the Travers pretty much to himself. Of course, a defeat there would damage his reputation and have the loser of the War Emblem-Came Home shootout kicking himself in the pants for being afraid of him.

It's rare to have three such brilliant quick-draw artists in one crop of 3-year-olds. For now, it's best to simply enjoy their speed, their deadly aim, and their ferocity in battle, and hope at the end of the year the best one is left standing.

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