Haskin's April 9 Derby Report (Cont.)
by Steve Haskin
Date Posted: 4/9/2001 8:59:40 AM
Last Updated: 4/9/2001 11:10:53 AM

Macho Dos

So, Frank Stronach and Joe Orseno have a gray colt by Holy Bull on the Triple Crown trail after all. Thunder Blitz may not be Macho Uno, but he's sure the next best thing after romping by 6 3/4 lengths in the Flamingo Stakes. With heavily favored Outofthebox getting clipped from behind and ripping off a chunk of his quarter, Thunder Blitz had no trouble defeating the 40-1 Tampa Bay shipper Tour of the Cat.

But this race was more impressive than just the large margin. Thunder Blitz was bumped hard coming out of the gate, and got caught behind a wall of horses passing the wire for the first time. With the colt in tight quarters and in danger of clipping heels, jockey Edgar Prado grabbed hold of him and yanked him sharply to the inside where there was clear sailing. Down the backstretch, with the remainder of the field far off the rail, he made a bold early move to reach contention. After battling with the front-running Tour of the Cat to the quarter pole, Thunder Blitz drew off under left-handed whipping, closing his final eighth in :12 2/5, and completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 1/5. He ran pretty straight down the stretch, which is something you always like to see.

In his previous three races, the only horses to finish in front of him were Monarchos, Distilled, and Invisible Ink. And he came out of his race against Monarchos with a quarter crack. He then finished a good second to Distilled after having to train in bar shoes. So, he has run against top-class horses, and he appears to be getting good quickly, and at the right time. He was trying to eat the help alive the morning after the race, and will head to Churchill Downs a dangerous horse in excellent hands.

From a pedigree standpoint, Thunder Blitz's female line is almost all European, with his dam being by Irish Derby winner Assert, whose broodmare sire is the great Sea-Bird, winner of the English Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Thunder Blitz is a complete outcross, with no inbreeding through at least the first five generations, and his dosage index is a strong 2.00, thanks to the presence of solid chef-de-race Sea-Bird.

Action aplenty

The Lone Star and Illinois Derbys left many more questions than answers. Percy Hope, winner of the Lone Star Derby has never been considered a Kentucky Derby contender by his connections, and there is a good chance he will pass the big race, which would seem like a wise decision. The son of Ide turned in a much more solid effort this time than he did winning the Rushaway Stakes two weeks ago. Although he battled on the lead for most of the way, the fractions were slow, and he seemed to be doing it on his own, just biding his time. When Jon Court set him down turning for home, he accelerated nicely to open a clear lead, and was never in any danger of being caught by Fifty Stars, who had circled the field and closed strongly on the far outside. He is turning into a solid stakes horse after 11 career starts, but it would seem to be in his best interest to be kept in lesser company for the time being.

Fifty Stars ran his usual race, coming home his final eighth in about :12 1/5, but not much has changed in the public's perception of him. He's a consistent closer, but he was trying to rally down a stretch that is some 400 feet shorter than the one at Fair Grounds. Now he goes back to another long stretch at Churchill Downs, and that can only help him. Losing this race certainly should not be held against him, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him pick up a piece of it on Derby Day, especially if the pace is fast.

The big disappointment was Hoovergetthekeys, who made a very brief run at the leaders on the far turn before flattening out. Whatever the reason, this race did nothing to prove he handle top-class horses outside Northern California.

As for the Illinois Derby, there isn't much to tell other than Distilled proved too tough to catch, while fighting a strong headwind down the stretch. This wasn't a very strong field, and Distilled was simply too good a horse not to keep going, even into the teeth of that wind. Runner-up Saint Damien ran a very encouraging race, and this son of Saint Ballado looks to be coming into his own after winning the OBS Championship in his previous start. Cot Campbell, who had the come-from-the-clouds closer Impeachment in last year's Derby, now finds himself on the opposite end of the spectrum with the speedy Distilled, who does wear four bandages. Campbell will wait several days before deciding whether to send the son of Hennessy to the Derby, where he'd have to pick up 12 pounds, or wait for a spot that would be more conducive to his style of running. Trainer Todd Pletcher said the colt could run back in the Lexington Stakes.

PREVIOUS REPORTS:

The Day of Godolphin

Valentine For Zito and Shooting Star at Turfway

Stars Shine as Clouds Lift

Impressive Win By Monarchos

Palmeiro, Newcomers Best of Derby-Bound Horses

Hero's Tribute, Dollar Bill Are Impressive

Tryine to Dodge Baffert, Lukas, Zito

Monarchos, Startac Make Moves

Expect a Big Blue Invasion

Derby Fever Begins

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