The big day is almost here. No, not the
Papa Clem , who had his seven-furlong work last week compromised in the final furlong when the exercise rider misjudged the finish line, made up for that miscue by turning in a razor-sharp three-furlong blowout in :34 breezing Thursday morning, out a half in :47 1/5. I particularly loved the way he rolled around the clubhouse turn and well down the backstretch, reaching out with great authority as if he wanted to keep going.
It’s difficult to know what to make of him on Saturday, as he will be the inside speed from post 7, if Rafael Bejarano decides to have him return to his old style of running. He surprised his connections in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) by taking back to fifth and then rallying in the stretch to out-battle Old Fashioned. There is no one in the field more tenacious than the son of Smart Strike and you can bet none of the connections of the favorites will want to take him on too early. His coat is blossoming and he appears sharp, even to the point of nipping at anyone who comes near his stall.
Not far outside Papa Clem, in posts 9 and 10, respectively, will be Join in the Dance and Regal Ransom , the two horses expected to be on or close to the lead. Todd Pletcher would love to see Join in the Dance be contentious early to provide a decent pace for the late-running
An interesting post position selection was the connections of the late-running Hold Me Back choosing post 5 instead of post 17. Some wondered why they didn’t go outside with this long-striding son of
One horse on most everyone’s watch list is
There is one horse who seems to be coming up to the
The one name, surprisingly, that is not on many people’s lips is the morning line favorite I Want Revenge, who has not gotten a lot of buzz, perhaps because he’s stabled out in the hinterlands or whatever reason. But anyone who gets a good look at this horse close up has to be wowed by him. He looks spectacular, and has to be the most striking physical specimen in the field. In fact, all the California-based horses look terrific. If Pioneerof the
The one horse who is getting a lot of buzz is Friesan Fire , and the feeling here is that the son of A.P. Indy is going be bet very heavily. More and more people seem to like him, and mention of the
Hold Me Back turned in a strong gallop, equipped with draw reins, to give the rider better control and help keep the colt’s head down and straight. He was striding out beautifully this morning.
One horse who impressed on Wednesday was Join in the Dance, who turned in an excellent gallop, and I loved the way he was holding his head and moving over the track.
On the other hand, Mr. Hot Stuff obviously needed some time to get used to the track on Wednesday, as he turned in an odd gallop, constantly ducking in, throwing his head up, and leaping in the air. The rider was actually having trouble staying in the saddle. The colt went out early this morning in the dark and I didn’t get a chance to see if he improved any.
Although no one was paying attention, Mine That Bird, who likely will be either the longest or second-longest priced horse in the field, actually turned in a smooth, strong gallop this morning, which caught the eye. There is nothing striking about him physically; he’s just a smallish colt in a plain brown wrapper, but he does move well.
Comment on this Column on Steve Haskin's Blog: Hangin' With Haskin.