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Can Toby Get Close Enough to Mo?

Toby's Corner needs at least a good second in the Wood Memorial to get in the Derby

For Toby's Corner’s connections, all they are looking for in the $1 million Wood Memorial (gr. I) is to get close enough to Uncle Mo  at the finish to warrant a trip to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The son of Bellamy Road  needs a second-place finish to accumulate enough graded earnings to possibly secure a spot in the starting gate on May 7.


If Toby’s Corner can achieve that goal and can get within striking distance of Uncle Mo, he could very well be a horse to watch at Churchill Downs. He has the pedigree and the running style, can handle all kinds of surfaces, and certainly has the right trainer. And he looks the part.


A tall, stately colt, Toby’s Corner has already shown he has the ability, but needs to mature and stay focused a little better, and the addition of blinkers may help him take that big step up.


If the blinkers can keep him closer to what should be a relatively slow pace and he can still come home fast and have Uncle Mo in his sights at the wire, then the Wood will prove a successful endeavor and set him up perfectly for the Derby.


Some may question his inability so far to get out of the 80s in his Beyer speed figures, but you can be sure Uncle Mo is going to run in the high 90s or higher, and if Toby’s Corner can be competitive with the champ in the final furlong, he will be carried up the speed scale, just as speed skaters will improve their times dramatically when paired with an Olympic champion.


“I’d like to think the blinkers are really going to help him and get him more focused,” trainer Graham Motion said. “Is it going to help him enough to beat a horse like Uncle Mo? On paper, it seems unlikely. But the upside of running in the race is huge. The mile and an eighth, hopefully, is something that will favor our horse, as will the five weeks. If he runs a bang-up second to Uncle Mo, at least we have the option of being on the bubble of getting into the Derby.


“But the Derby is not the be all, end all to me, and I don’t think it is to Mrs. Cotter (owner Dianne). Sure, we’d like to think we have a Derby horse, but neither one of us is forcing our hand to do that.”


Motion said Animal Kingdom, winner of the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III), and Crimson China, who is heading for the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) are both doing well.


I you’re looking for two horses who have been training lights out for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and have tfremendous room for improvement, expect big performances from Silver Medallion and Anthony's Cross .


It could be a productive afternoon for Bellamy Road if the maiden Zoebear can run big in the TVG Illinois Derby (gr. III). But El Grayling could to bounce back big-time from the Fountain of Youth (gr. II), in which he was eased. The son of El Prado has run right behind Shackleford and Brethren this year, so he does have ability.