Steve Haskin's Derby Report--3/25 (Cont.)

After ducking in at the start, bumping with Derby Drive, he then settled nicely just off the pace, while tracking the highly promising Wild Horses the whole way. He moved up smoothly and effortlessly and took over at the eighth pole, while throwing his ears back and forth. He did try to duck in again after turning for home, but when Pat Day went to several left-handed whips, he immediately straightened himself out and drew clear in a solid :06 2/5 for the final sixteenth. Although he would have had to flown home to match the Spiral horses another sixteenth, the 6-furlong and mile fractions of this race actually were faster by comparison.

So, you've got Pat Day (for now at least) and Elliott Walden, and the piece de resistance – a pedigree to knock your socks off. He is by Red Ransom, a homebred son of the human Mr. Mellon's English Derby winner Roberto, out of another Mellon homebred, Mackie, who is by Kentucky Derby-winning sire Summer Squall out of Mellon's blue hen mare Glowing Tribute, who, in addition to Sea Hero, produced stakes winners Hero's Honor, Wild Applause, Glowing Honor, and Seattle Glow. The honor roll of champions to come from this family include: major stakes winner Relaxing, dam of Belmont winner and champion Easy Goer; major stakes winner Priceless Gem, dam of Arc de Triomphe winner and champion Allez France; major stakes winner Affectionately, dam of Preakness winner and champion Personality; CCA Oaks winners Lite Light and Tweedside, plus major stakes winners Al Mamoon, Ordway, Mozart, Eastern Echo, and Marking Time. Mr. Mellon's dosage profile is a Classic-heavy 2-5-22-2-1, and his DI is a mouth-watering 1.29.

Slowed down last year by a heart valve problem that has been corrected, Mr. Mellon is a colt who is finding himself quickly, and now it's just a question of how quickly, and whether he can make the Derby. Walden is contemplating running in either the Blue Grass or Wood Memorial, and then we can take it from there. Of course, skeptics will question who he beat, and while we don't yet know the quality of Wild Horses, he is a good-looking colt with great promise, and he did finish 5 1/2 lengths ahead of the Tony Dutrow-trained Derby Drive, who had won his previous two starts impressively. Wild Horses is being considered for the Arkansas Derby, and should also show big improvement. As we said, we're talking big future book price with Mr. Mellon. If he had beaten major stakes winners, he'd be bet through the roof. If you want a huge longshot at this late date, you've got to take a chance that the talent (and pedigree) is there to keep him moving forward against better horses. And this colt definitely fits that bill.

Arkansas Passage

Yet another of the improving 3-year-olds to emerge is Rebel Stakes winner Windward Passage, owned by Team Valor and sired by Team Valor's near-Kentucky Derby winner Captain Bodgit. The Rebel set up perfectly for Windward Passage, who sat behind the dueling leaders, Ocean Sound and Jeremiah Jack on the far turn, then surged past them out in the middle of the track. He has more of a sweeping stride than a quick burst of speed, so you really don't see him coming until he's already on top of you. He did allow a game Ocean Sound, the 8-5 favorite, to come back at him, but he regrouped and dug in, holding him off by a length.

What we really like about this horse is the fact that his trainer Steve Asmussen likes him and considers him a true distance horse, and Asmussen is as realistic and honest a trainer as you'll find when it comes to assessing his own horses. Nothing against Donnie Meche, who rode him perfectly, but we love Chris McCarron signing up to ride him in the Arkansas Derby. Meche also rides Private Emblem for Asmussen, and he is owned by the same people who had Meche's Derby starter last year, Fifty Stars, so Meche likely would have stayed with that colt anyway in the Arkansas Derby. Windward Passage's connections are well aware that McCarron will stick with Came Home if that colt makes it to Churchill Downs. But that's still an "if," until the Santa Anita Derby.

Essence of Godolphn

It looks as if the Boys in Blue will be back at Churchill Downs once again following Essence of Dubai's victory in the UAE Derby. We still won't have any idea what to expect from the son of Pulpit, as he again beat his longtime stablemate, the maiden Ibn al Haitham, who finished a close third. And his time of 2:02 4/5 was far slower than the Dubai World Cup. Then again, we haven't seen any 3-year-olds this year who would come within a second and a half of Street Cry, who is awesome right now, so we don't put much stock in that. The bottom line is that this horse has already won the Norfolk Stakes here rather easily, and we do know that he can get the 1 1/4 miles. In fact, he was getting stronger at the end and was striding out beautifully in the final 100 yards. He was able to weave his way between horses, and is the only horse to have competed in a very large field. He also seems to have found his best style of running, coming from far back in the Derby, which could explain why he wasn't as effective last year racing close to the pace. The fact that he also was able to beat a hard-knocking miler in the UAE 2,000 Guineas makes him even stronger and more versatile. And, don't forget, the runner-up in the UAE Derby came very highly touted from Chile, giving him an age advantage. Unlike past Godolphin horses who have run in the Derby, he will be the first one who will be fit enough and battle-hardened enough to win, not to mention having a 1 1/4-mile pedigree. In short, there is now a lot to like about this horse.

The important part of the puzzle may have been answered by assistant Tom Albertrani, who tells it like it is. Albertrani said after the race he can't believe how much this colt has improved over the past month or two. "I'm really beginning to like him," he said. "He has a lot more confidence now and is not as quirky as he was. He looks better and is training better, and you know he'll get the mile and a quarter. The track has been deeper this year than the past few years, and I like the fact that he was just finding his best stride at the end. There are no real stars in the U.S., and I'm more confident and upbeat about his chances than I was earlier in the year."

When Albertrani says things like that, it pays to listen. This could very well be Godolphin's year, especially after losing their big chance last year with Street Cry.

Equality taking the easy road to Louisville

Tampa Bay Derby winner Equality, a colt with whom we were very impressed in every aspect, will shift from offense to defense and run in the Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream on April 6, instead of taking on the top horses in one of the conventional preps on April 13. It's difficult these days to tell what is the best route to Louisville, but by bucking history big-time, the colt's connections will be asking him to win the Derby off a 4-week layoff, never having been beyond 1 1/16 miles, and never having faced quality competition. A move like this is designed to get a horse to the Derby, rather than win it. But if Equality, a son of Mt. Livermore, is indeed a superhorse in the making, then anything is possible.

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