Steve Haskin's Derby Report (3/11): Looking For Trouble

Steve Haskin's Derby Report (3/11): Looking For Trouble
Photo: AP/Fair Grounds/Lou Hodges Jr.
Despite troubles during the race, Repent (4) narrowly won the Louisiana Derby.
Jerry Bailey was fighting three battles at the same time in the last quarter-mile of Sunday's Louisiana Derby, and for a while, it looked as if he would lose them all. He sure wasn't having any success getting Repent to change leads, and he sure wasn't able to get him to keep a straight course, despite crosses and left- and right-handed whipping. And, most of all, he sure didn't look like he was ever going to get the better of Easyfromthegitgo.

Watching Repent's latest escapade, we've come to the conclusion that the colt is not, as some might think, a victim of circumstance; he actually goes out of his way to look for trouble. He is, by nature, what we would call in Brooklyn, N.Y. an alley fighter or street fighter. You know those kids. They're not the biggest kid on the block, nor are they the strongest. But they're the ones no one wants to pick a fight with, because they'll kick, bite, scratch, and hit you over the head with a garbage can cover in order to whip you. They back down from no one and pick a fight with anyone. And they always find a way to win.

Repent was just itching for trouble right from the start of the race, making a right-hand turn coming out of the gate as if he were out to pummel Publication. Fortunately, for Publication, he also ducked right, resulting in only minimal contact with Repent. For most of the race, Repent managed to find himself stuck in between horses, and at one point, entering the backstretch, he and Publication came to blows again. Wherever Repent went, there were always horses on both sides of him, as if he were seeking out opponents to bully. Repent has been banging and shoving horses around in just about every race, and if he were any more battle-hardened, he'd be wearing a suit of spiked armor. He finally found clear sailing nearing the head of the stretch, and wound up having to go wide once again, but not as wide as he did in the Risen Star.

Then the real fun began. As soon as he straightened into the stretch, Bailey did everything possible to try to get Repent to change leads, but to no avail. Not only was the colt stuck on his left lead, he began weaving in and out so badly, it's surprising no one stopped him to take a Breathalyzer test. First he drifted in, then out, then in, then out. Meanwhile, down on the rail, all by himself and minding his own business, was Easyfromthegitgo, who had a perfect ground-saving trip stalking the leaders and was drawing clear of the rest of the pack. Repent and Bailey were almost oblivious to their opponent as they continued their serpentine path down the stretch. Finally, inside the sixteenth pole, Repent switched over to his right lead, just as he came to a set of footprints across the track. But he was drifting in badly at the time. As Bailey went to a left-handed whip, Repent began drifting out just as badly. Despite the adventures, he still managed to stick his nose in front right on the wire.

Even more amazing was that he somehow managed to close his final two fractions in :24 and :06 2/5. We do have to mention that the pace was very slow, which does not reflect well on the race in general. But those still are quality fractions for a horse running the way he did. Which brings us to the main point of all of this. Just imagine what this horse could accomplish if he had any idea what he was doing. Think of boxing legends like Jake LaMotta and Rocky Graziano. Repent, like those guys, is the proverbial street brawler who becomes a champion despite not knowing the mechanics of his sport and not having any desire to avoid a punch. If Repent ever does wake up and become a professional racehorse, the sky's the limit. But one thing is certain, he sure won't be as interesting.

What makes his last several races so bizarre is that he was all professional in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, switching leads and running smoothly down the stretch. Which brings us to the inevitable question: can Repent continue with these follies and still win the Kentucky Derby? Just try and stop him.

Easy does it...almost

As we mentioned earlier, Easyfromthegitgo gave Repent all he could handle, and this was an excellent rebound effort after his third-place finish in the Risen Star. The son of Dehere had taken his step backward following three straight victories, and now he was ready to bounce back. He was the pick of the post parade, bouncing along on his toes and apparently ready for action. He just sat on the inside the whole way and waited for something to open. When Charioteer came off the rail just enough, Easyfromthegitgo changed leads and slipped through, while building up momentum. He did switch back to his left lead, but then jumped back to his right again.

Repent, who had won the Risen Star convincingly coming off a layoff, was ripe to take his step backward. And he likely did. But like a true top-class horse, he still was able to come away with the victory. Both he and Easyfromthegitgo should now continue to move forward.

It'sallinthechase also ran back to his LeComte form, finishing third, beaten 2 3/4 lengths. Charioteer, making his first start around two turns, did not get the kind of trip you want to see for a horse stretching out for the first time. Having to battle Risen Star runner-up Bob's Image on the inside for most of the way certainly didn't help, and didn't tell Todd Pletcher what he wanted to know: if this horse wants to go long. He hung in there pretty well to finish fourth, 4 1/2 lengths behind Repent. He's just a little guy, and was up against it having to run this way, especially with that long Fair Grounds stretch to contend with. Watch out for him next time out. Bob's Image and Publication ran disappointing races.

Yougottawanna beat Baffert bad enough

And Yougottawanna obviously does. Once again, Bob Baffert watched helplessly as Yougottawanna knocked off one of his top colts. First it Officer last year in the Cal Cup Juvenile, and now the son of Candi's Gold nailed another Baffert colt, Danthebluegrassman in the El Camino Real Derby in much the same manner. It was quite a sight seeing jockey David Flores, aboard Danthebluegrassman, drop his whip just after turning into the stretch, then take off his goggles and start hitting the horse with them...right- and left-handed no less.

Continued

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