We’re getting close to judgment day -- finding that single horse or betting angle or most attractive overlay possibilities. Until the horses can be observed in the flesh starting next week, here are some of the most memorable moments on this year’s
Of course, most everyone will single out I Want Revenge ’s Gotham and especially Wood Memorial, Quality Road ’s Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, and Friesan Fire ’s Louisiana Derby, but for the purpose of this column, the object is to recall moments a bit less obvious that left a lasting impression and will go a long way in finding those elusive potential overlays.
2—Desert Party ’s stretch run in the UAE Two Thousand Guineas. I loved everything I saw. He looked like a well-oiled machine, striding out magnificently and drawing off with authority, while being allowed to do it all on his own. I also liked the way he remained on his right lead to the wire. Many horses, especially American horses, will switch back to their left lead at the end of that testing three-eighths of a mile stretch, as our horses are not used to being on one lead for that long. Staying on his right lead and still reaching out with good extension suggests he wasn’t even close to getting tired. As an afterthought, even in his second to stablemate Regal Ransom in the UAE Derby, the race, as in the Florida Derby, was run over a speed-biased track that probably was even more pronounced than at Gulfstream. He was the only dirt horse to close ground the whole night and he finished 15 lengths ahead of the third horse.
Numbers 4 and 5 are the Tampa Twosome of Musket Man and General Quarters. Musket Man’s final sixteenth of the Tampa Bay Derby stands out because of the way he responded to a single right-handed whip, switching gears in a flash and pouncing on the apparent winner Join in the Dance in the final few jumps. It was the classic case of turning defeat into victory. That’s the kind of acceleration you’re looking for in a
General Quarters ’ memorable moment came after turning for home in the Sam F. Davis Stakes when he left his field for dead and drew off, while generating a tremendous amount of power. Even with his Blue Grass Stakes victory he is not ranked all that high on most lists, but with this horse’s tactical speed, his ability to settle anywhere on the track, his powerful strides, and a distance-oriented pedigree, he has to be considered a serious threat on Derby Day.
So, excluding the two likely favorites, I Want Revenge and
A few others, which can be considered honorable mentions, are Hold Me Back ’s breathtaking strides in the stretch of the Lane’s End Stakes and Win Willy’s lead-switching stretch run in the Rebel, in which he opened up on Old Fashioned after rallying from 16 lengths back and continued to build momentum approaching the wire. A look back at his earlier victories showed the same surge in the final yards. His Arkansas Derby performance was a bit of a disappointment, considering the slow final fractions and being out-closed by a recent maiden winner, but a regression was expected, so we’ll see how fares during his stay at Churchill Downs, if indeed he points for the Derby, which hasn’t been determined yet.
The only non-stakes race to make the list among the
Another maiden victory that caught people’s attention and should be mentioned was Mr. Hot Stuff’s impressive rally in the final furlong, but we’re going way too deep here.
In short, based on what I’ve seen so far, I will be taking the three or four most attractive overlays from the top of this group and use them based on the memorable moments they provided, with
-- Mr. Hot Stuff is on the bubble in regard to making the field, but he will be shipped to Churchill Downs anyway, and his connections will hope for the best. If he doesn’t get in, they will make alternate plans. Owner WinStar Farm also has Hold Me Back in the
-- Looking ahead to Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes, most eyes will be on Square Eddie, who is looking to return from the “dead” and make the
-- It has been reported that Charitable Man, seventh in the Blue Grass in his 3-year-old debut, is still under consideration for the
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