Although the son of Dixie Union is lightly raced, with only three starts this year, trainer Neil Howard is confident the colt will run big in the Super Derby, barring anything unforeseen.
“The only concern is what you don’t see,” Howard said. “The Travers obviously was a very hard race against a great horse on a hot day, and he ran an “A” effort. He bounced out of the race in good shape, and has been working well and eating good, but sometimes there are underlying things you just don’t see that can be the result of a hard race like that. I feel great about his chances, and if any flatness surfaces as a result of the Travers, it’s something you can’t see.”
Grasshopper made most of the running in the Travers and then hung on gamely when challenged by Street Sense, who had to dig down to win by a hard-earned half-length. Some have been trying to figure out if Grasshopper is that good or if Street Sense had an off day.
“I don’t think Street Sense had an off day,” Howard said. “He’s a champion and he shows up every time. We expected Grasshopper to run well, but we didn’t expect that kind of effort. He really ran an unbelievable race. I believe there’s still some room for improvement. He’s a long, lanky colt, and I’m happy with the way he’s been filling out. I was thrilled with his Travers, but I think he can get better and stronger physically.”
Howard said Robby Albarado will back aboard for the Super Derby, after which he will discuss the jockey situation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I) with owners William S. Farish and Edward Hudson. Albarado is the regular rider of Curlin, who runs in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Sept. 30. Grasshopper’s other rider has been Calvin Borel, who is committed to Street Sense.
Howard feels the Super Derby is an excellent spot for Grasshopper. At this time, he’d like to keep him away from Street Sense, as well as the other top 3-year-olds.
“I’m never in a hurry to run against Street Sense and Curlin and Hard Spun,” Howard said. “I really think Street Sense is a great horse. I know that word gets thrown around a lot, but you don’t want to have to run against him too many times. It’s not good for a young, inexperienced horse.
“After the smoke from the Travers cleared and we saw what everyone else was doing, we thought the timing of this race was good. It gives him almost a month. Keeping him with 3-year-olds was a wise choice. He’s still a little light on seasoning and we felt if we had a chance to stay with the 3-year-olds for another race it would help.
"When we saw that the Super Derby was not on Carl’s (Street Sense’s trainer Carl Nafzger) and Larry Jones’ (trainer of Hard Spun) radar, we felt this was our spot. If he runs well and comes out of the race well, there’s a decent chance we’d look at the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But we also want to look ahead with him as a 4-year-old.”