Awesome Patriot has the experience and the class, but hasn't run since Dec. 29.

Awesome Patriot has the experience and the class, but hasn't run since Dec. 29.

New Stars Could Shine This Weekend

We could see some new faces on the Derby Trail, despite Uncle Mo and Brethren.

It sure looks like a Pletcher Powerhouse Parade this weekend, but even if Uncle Mo  and Brethren  run off with their respective races, in which the both will be heavy favorites, that doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing any potential stars emerge from the Timely Writer and Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II). And who knows what the 3-year-old picture in California is going to look like after what promises to a wild and woolly San Felipe Stakes (gr. II). Any one of a number of horses can come out of that race smelling like roses.


Good luck separating the six horses coming out of sprints who have never been two turns. Runflatout and Albergatti have the potential to major stars, even though both have a lot of catching up to do. Runflatout looked as impressive as anyone this year in a totally dominant performance in his career debut. He has the look of a star, and he will attain that title if he can beat this field coming off that one sprint. Awesome Patriot  has the experience and the class, but hasn’t run since Dec. 29. Premier Pegasus has the pedigree to stretch out and may be crying to go two turns, especially with the blinkers coming off. Bench Points could be the sleeping tiger that no one is paying much attention to, and he too could be better going longer, even though the Cal-bred is undefeated in four career starts.


Then we come to the two grade I winners, Jaycito, making his first start of the year, and Comma to the Top, who is looking to start a new winning streak after disappointing in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III). Both are already proven going two turns.


That leaves us with the two bombs, Quail Hill, a Candy Ride  colt who is improving with every start, and Surrey Star, the horse who could turn this race upside down.


At the price he’s going to be, Surrey Star looks like a very intriguing horse, even if only included in the exotics. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pull off a shocker going two turns for the first time; something he should relish.


He is by a son of Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Dubai Millennium, out of a mare by Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Fantastic Light, so he should be all about distance. After starting nine times at 2 in Europe, all but one at seven furlongs, he went to Jim Cassidy in California and finished a fast-closing third in the one-mile Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) on grass. Dropping back to seven furlongs in the San Vicente in his dirt debut, he drew the disadvantageous rail, made a big early move, going from eight lengths back to three back while running his second quarter in a scorching :20 1/5, and then raced evenly to finish fourth, beaten 4 3/4 lengths.


Even on the Santa Anita Freeway you don’t normally see a horse make up five lengths in a :21 1/5 quarter. Who knows? These horses may be too much for him to handle, but considering how many of them are unproven, especially going two turns, and considering that Jaycito and Comma to the Top are unproven on dirt, this may actually be a good spot to go bombs away.


As for the Tampa Bay Derby, the undefeated Brethren looks extremely tough in here, but is breaking from the far outside again and hasn’t exactly been turning in dazzling Beyer or Brisnet speed figures.


Free Entry should be second choice and seems to be getting some support, but his speed figures also have been slow, so we really don’t know how fast or classy he is off only three career starts.


The two in here who should be a decent price are Striding Ahead and Beamer, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see Striding Ahead get bet, because of his connections (Bill Mott and Juddmonte, and a switch to Alex Solis) and the fact that he was ultra impressive in his maiden victory over this track.


He gave all appearances of being a top-class colt the way he cornered and powered home with long, efficient strides. He was smart enough to throw his tail in the air when jockey Luis Garcia went to hit him with the whip, and he was hand-ridden the rest of the way, while taken well in hand in the final yards. He showed no signs of slowing down after the wire and Garcia had all he could do to pull him up. This colt had running on his mind and had no desire to slow down after the wire. Of course, we don't know yet about his class, but the way the son of Empire Maker turned back a challenge on the turn and the way he looked down the stretch, he could develop into a top horse.


His dam, Helstra, is a half-sister to Stormy Atlantic, his second dam, Hail Atlantic won the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), and his third dam, Flippers, a half-sister to Apalachee and Brahms, won the Golden Rod (gr. II) and Pocahontas at Churchill Downs. For you Rasmussen Factor pundits, he is inbred to the top mare Rough Shod through full-sisters Moccasin and Thong.


As for Beamer, he could be a sucker horse, having failed to threaten in his two starts following an impressive maiden win at Tampa. But he was at a huge disadvantage in both starts and is just looking to get a decent pace to run at. He’s trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Carl Nafzger and will be getting four pounds this time from Brethren. It’s hard separating him from Too Experience in here, but we’ll give him one more chance.


Then we come to the Timely Writer. No, we’re not looking for anyone to beat Uncle Mo, but don’t be surprised to see Rocking Out and/or Rattlesnake Bridge come out of this race looking a lot better than they went in. In terms of the Derby, Rattlesnake Bridge has way too much catching up to do with only one six-furlong maiden race to his credit, as impressive at it was. But Rocking Out has a mile race in him to go with his equally explosive maiden victory at six furlongs, and he definitely should improve off it, winding up on the early lead after breaking slowly and having to steady. If he reverts back to the style he showed in his maiden win, coming from 11 lengths back to win by 4 1/2, he should be motoring down the stretch. Even if he gets thumped by Uncle Mo but is running on well in the final furlong, he should move forward and be a major factor in his next start.


So, to summarize, the live price horses we’re following closely are Surrey Star, Rocking Out, and Striding Ahead, with Beamer right behind, and Rattlesnake Bridge an interesting horse for down the line. And we’re particularly interested to see how Premier Pegasus runs without the blinkers.


Finally, watch out for the Nick Zito-trained Charlies Swell in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race at Gulfstream Saturday.