Haskin's Derby Report: Day for Revenge

Haskin's Derby Report: Day for Revenge
Photo: Mathea Kelley
I Want Revenge

Following Monday’s flurry of workouts, it was all about I Want Revenge   on Tuesday, as the likely Kentucky Derby favorite had the center stage all to himself

With jockey Joe Talamo aboard, the son of Stephen Got Even   turned in a sharp half-mile breeze in :47 1/5, and did it with Talamo virtually motionless in the saddle. To show how sensible this horse is, he was full of himself on the track after jogging the wrong way past the finish line. He was bouncing and bucking like a horse who was feeling good and ready for action. There was a thought that maybe he’d be too keyed up breaking off from the pole, but he settled down to business like an old pro and did just what Talamo asked of him.

He immediately broke off into his long, flowing stride, cornered beautifully, and cruised down the stretch with Talamo never moving his hands. Despite the ease of the work, he still came home his final eighth in :11 4/5, and again cut the corner sharply galloping out.

The colt is the picture of health and appears, like a number of contenders, to be coming up to the Derby in excellent shape.

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Now that the main works are over, with a few short blowouts scheduled for Thursday and Friday, here are a few observations.

-- Although there are several horses whose coats are blooming, Pioneerof the Nile   wins the award for the most resplendent coat, which is dappled from one end to the other. He is alert, happy, and handling the track as well as anyone, and could not be doing any better. The way he was floating over the track and striding out in his most recent work, indicates he should have no trouble making the transition to dirt, and could very well improve several lengths over it. Whether you think he’s too slow or question his ability to handle dirt in an actual race, there is no doubt he is primed for a huge effort.

-- Sometimes, it’s not how a horse is looking in his works or about his overall physical appearance that matters as much as the improvement he shows in the days leading up to the race. Bluegrass Cat   was a case in point. He turned in a very unimpressive work a week before the Derby, but you could see his gallops get stronger day to day and his coat begin to improve.

Although I never saw it, General Quarters  ’ last work received low grades from a number of observers. But all I can go by is what I’ve seen, and this colt’s gallops have improved each day, with today’s gallop being particularly strong. He was moving over the ground much smoother than he has in the past, and is generating a lot of power in his long strides. He also has “that look” that is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. You can tell when a horse is starting to get in that zone. And General Quarters is giving off those signs.

-- As mentioned yesterday, another horse who is showing improvement each day is Chocolate Candy, and no horse’s coat has shown more improvement in the last four days than the son of Candy Ride  . When those dapples start appearing noticeably almost overnight, it’s something to pay close attention to. They can also start to fade just as quickly, so it’s something you want to make sure you keep checking as the race approaches.

-- I forgot to mention in yesterday’s column that Hold Me Back   was out for a solid gallop early Monday one day after working five furlongs. Bill Mott said the colt doesn’t like being cooped up in his stall and wants to get out and do something. The more I watch his work the more impressive it looks, especially the way he exploded away from his workmate inside the sixteenth pole when Kent Desormeaux gave him a little flick of the wrist. He went from a length in front to eight in front in an instant. I also liked the way he had his mate collared by the quarter pole. He’ll have to get into contention earlier than usual in the Derby, so this should help him accomplish that, even in a small way.

-- Mr. Hot Stuff made his first appearance on the track this morning, and if they were casting for the role of Black Beauty, this is the winner hands down. What a handsome horse. His best days likely are ahead of him, but he still is capable of passing a lot of horses late in the Derby. It is worth remembering that he is far from the finished product.

As of now, based on looks and improvement, both physical and on the track, Pioneerof the Nile, General Quarters, Hold Me Back, and Cholocate Candy are horses you want to pay close attention to over the next several days. And also as mentioned yesterday, Win Willy and Flying Private are looking like interesting 40-1 shots to possibly hit the board.

I’ll be concentrating on some different horses next time, including, of course, Dunkirk, who arrived this afternoon. I’ve been extremely high on this colt, as have many others, and will be looking for any signs that his inexperience is not worth being concerned about. But we’ll never really know for sure until the race. But make no mistake, this is a gifted horse.

Yesterday, I mentioned that after observing Papa Clem  ’s last work, I was of the firm belief the rider misjudged the finish line. I finally was able to speak to trainer Gary Stute, who confirmed that the rider did indeed misjudge the finish line. Stute will give the colt a good quarter-mile blowout, going out three-eighths on Thursday to help make up for that.

Comment on this column on Steve Haskin's Blog: Hangin' With Haskin.

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