As often happens on the Kentucky Derby trail, they fell like proverbial bowling pins last weekend, although two of the bigger names reinforced their strong position. Not all the vanquished will be taken off the trail, as some deserve another chance after racing on less than desirable surfaces, but they have put themselves in a desperate situation.
It was mentioned last week about the second wave that usually hits around this time. While that held up to a very small degree, in the form of one horse, those we expected to provide the fresh blood all failed miserably.
Rather than concentrate on the races, we will focus on the horses in the form of expanded comments on the Derby Dozen, and then we’ll get to the others who ran on Saturday..
He doesn’t need much more to be Derby-primed other than a good solid effort in the Wood Memorial. He’s already run a peak effort, and now just has to do whatever is necessary in order to run another one on May 2. He retains his top spot, as the only performer who ran big enough to displace him won in the slop, and a number of his main foes failed to fire.
2—Pioneerof the Nile /Bob Baffert/Empire Maker—Star of
The San Felipe was a perfect prep for him, despite his paltry Beyer figure of 90. He showed a new dimension by making a big early move, throttling it down a notch after collaring the leader, and then kicking in gear again. Because he seems to loaf a bit once he hits the front, he makes himself vulnerable in that position. So, although he had to work to defeat an opponent with far fewer credentials and wasn’t as visually impressive as some might have hoped, his final four fractions of :24 , :24, :24 1/5, :06 1/5 were extremely strong and he was giving seven pounds to the runner-up.
He’s becoming more professional with each start, and has now shown his versatility and the ability to adapt to different race scenarios. Off his performance in the San Felipe, and never having cracked the 95 Beyer mark, he’s certainly not going to scare anyone away in the Santa Anita Derby, but the bottom line is that Baffert just wanted to get this race out of the way. Consider his early move a practice run for what he may have to do in the Santa Anita Derby to stay in close proximity to The Pamplemousse. But even if he gets beat by a loose-on-the-lead The Pamplemousse it’s not a big deal, as long as he puts himself into the race at some point. If he’s as effective on the dirt as he is on synthetic, and that is the key, he’ll be ready for a peak effort on May 2.
3-- Friesan Fire /Larry Jones/A.P. Indy—Bollinger, by Dehere
He just keeps getting stronger despite seven races in seven months with no time off since his career debut. Can he keep up that pace into May? So far, he’s not showing signs of slowing down. Just as we love I Want Revenge’s Argentine and English-dominated tail-female family, you have to love all the Australian and
Jones is toying with the idea with training him up to the
As for the Louisiana Derby, it’s obvious he relished the slop, so we don’t know if he’s really that much better than the others in the field. But he’s become machine-like in the way he runs the same race every time, sitting in almost the same spot and then kicking in turning for home, winning by bigger margins each time. And he pretty much drew off on his own with little urging from Saez.
Judging from what we’ve seen so far he looks like a legitimate
I have to admit this horse is really growing on me. Of course, his pedigree is suspect at 1 1/4 miles and it would be good to see him rate off the pace. He’s seems like the type who will, because of the way he relaxes so well on the lead and the way he closed from the clouds in his career debut, but right now he’s a terror on the lead. Bob Baffert is not going to have Pioneerof the
There seemed to be no reason for Dominguez to go after
As for the 56-1 winner, Win Willy, there was no way to tout him coming off a six-furlong allowance score and never having been two turns in only three career starts. He broke his maiden in his career debut going 5 1/2 furlongs at Canterbury Downs. Even now, we have no idea how good he is. He stormed into the fray from far back and wisely was kept out in the middle of the track where Old Fashioned couldn’t see him. He switched to right lead on cue, but then jumped back to his left lead and then back to his right. It actually was when he switched to his left lead that he accelerated away from Old Fashioned. The final two quarters up front of :25 3/5 and :26 2/5 were pedestrian, but the winner had to make up 16 lengths and came home his final sixteenth in about :06 1/5, which was impressive. And he was getting stronger as he ran through the wire, as they say, and galloped out very well. A $25,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland September, selling as Hip No. 5241, he is by Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos , but out of a
And look ing at his tail-female family, his second dam is by Storm Bird, out of a French-bred mare by Sea-Bird's classy son Arctic Tern. And his fourth dam is by Hail to Reason, to whom he inbred top and bottom. So there is more there than you might think.
The bottom line is, if he’s not in the race, Old Fashioned defeats a good field by eight lengths and stays atop most everyone’s list. So, go figure. And it's interesting to note that Win Willy was born on April Fool's Day, just to add to the wackiness.
The Florida Derby is shaping up as one of the more intriguing
8--Dunkirk /Todd Pletcher/Unbridled’s Song—Secret Status, by A.P. Indy
He has to prove he can handle top-class competition and he needs to be a freak to win the Kentucky Derby with a three-race foundation. But so far he’s done freaky things. If he continues to do so in Florida Derby he could pull it off. There is more pressure on him and his connections than
Although it’s not imperative he makes up the 8 1/2 lengths he was beaten in the Gotham, he, like
10— Theregoesjojo/Kenny McPeek/Brahms—Slewie Blues, by
Big test coming up in Florida Derby, in which he needs to reel in
If he can even finish a fast-closing third to the big two in the Santa Anita Derby he would have to be considered a legitimate
He has to be taken seriously after finishing second in the Sham in his first start on a synthetic surface, arriving in
As for the other races and horses who competed over the weekend, you have to give a second chance to Hello Broadway, who raced wide every step of the way in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) over a track that has been unkind to almost every Gulfstream shipper this winter in 3-year-old stakes. This wasn’t a true bill, and one would think Barclay Tagg will give him that second chance in either the Wood Memorial (gr. I) or
The winner Musket Man, although a classy, consistent colt, isn’t bred to be a Kentucky Derby horse, and runner-up Join in the Dance, whose only career win was at 5 1/2 furlongs, had never raced farther that 6 1/2 furlongs. So, make of this race what you wish. General Quarters and Sumo, the first two finishers in the Sam Davis, in which they were well clear of Musket Man and the others, were never in contention this time, and Warrior’s Reward, second top
The beaten horses in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) have some major rebounding to do. Papa Clem ran well enough, setting the pace and barely holding on for second. And third-place finisher, Terrain, again closed well to just miss the place spot in his first start of the year. He likely will improve off this. Giant Oak could only pick up horses late to finish fourth. Flying Pegasus, Uno Mas, Patena, and Free Country either didn’t handle the slop or simply ran terribly. Patena made a good move to reach contention nearing the top of the stretch, but dropped back in the stretch, beating only Free Country, who made an early move on the backstretch, got in a bit tight along the rail and called it a day.
The Rebel (gr. III) also had its share of horses either drop off the
In the San Felipe, Shafted again was a huge disappointment. New Bay should have stayed in sprints as originally scheduled. Feisty Suances had won three of five in lesser company and certainly made his presence felt. And Jeranimo ran well enough to suggest he has a future.
In the Palm Beach (gr. III), Lime Rickey ran yet another good race without winning, and if you go by pedigree, we won’t see his best until he gets on real dirt.
If Rachel Alexandra’s connections hadn’t stated emphatically that she’s Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) bound, she would definitely be in the Top 12. This filly is so athletic and corners so well, and has so much brilliance and class who knows what she’s capable of. And she’s bred to run long. Her fractions were significantly faster than the fractions in the Louisiana Derby, but we don’t know how much slower the track had gotten later in the day.
How about if Calvin Borel is given a rear-view mirror next time, just so he doesn’t injure his neck looking back so many times? One or two little peeks you can understand, but a veteran jock should have a better grasp of what’s going on behind him and what he has under him. There was no need to look back that often. But no harm done. The fact is this is a special filly.
For down the road, keep an eye on Omniscient, who won his second straight at Fair Grounds for Steve Asmussen, defeating a solid allowance field by 1 1/4 lengths in an excellent time of 1:40 flat for a mile and 40 yards. Run as the fourth race, the time does suggest the track was faster earlier in the day.
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