Forestry, who has had only three full crops to race, is by
Even if he had a reason, such as feeling the horse was goofing off, nine times seemed pretty excessive, especially with such an honest horse. Finishing second was the D. Wayne Lukas-trained maiden, Special Interest, who was making his eighth career start. With Lukas' success in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II), it wouldn't be a surprise to see this horse show up there.Crying Wolf againThe closer one looks at the Rebel Stakes (gr. III), the more one has to like Steppenwolfer, who was highly regarded before the race, having finished a fast-closing second to Lawyer Ron in the Southwest, beaten only three-quarters of a length. What at first appeared to be a disappointing third in the Rebel, actually was not a bad race at all, and the feeling here is that the son of Aptitude is going to run big in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and even bigger in the Kentucky Derby.Breaking from the outside post in the field of 10, Steppenwolfer was carried five wide by Lawyer Ron's stablemate, Red Raymond. While Red Raymond was able to save ground and settle at the back of the pack, Steppenwolfer continued to race wide down the backstretch and then was put into a drive a long way out. This colt's style has been to make a quick, powerful run leaving the three-eighths pole. But in the Rebel he had to make a long sustained run of about 4 1/2 furlongs, while losing ground all the way. He closed well in the stretch, but Lawyer Ron was running a freaky race wasn't going to be beaten. Red Raymond, who appeared to be ridden with second in mind, came along late to nip Steppenwolfer for the place. But Steppenwolfer still came back at him in the final yards, while holding off Well Said on his inside. The only thing he lost in the Rebel was additional graded earnings he might need. Steppenwolfer has mile and a quarter written all over him, being by the distance-loving Aptitude, out of a mare by Wolf Power, who is also the broodmare sire of two-time Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Milwaukee Brew. Watch out for this colt on May 6.Take the FourthContinuing the search for under-the-radar horses, do the top contenders confuse you, especially the ones that ran in the Rebel, Gotham (gr. III), Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III), and San Felipe (gr. II)? Well, how about looking beyond the top three in each race and try to find a gold nugget in the form of several fourth-place finishers.Racketeer (San Felipe): This son of Awesome Again has been discussed numerous times, but in a nutshell, this was his first race around two turns, having turned in a pair of strong efforts going six furlongs, while running against some of the fastest 3-year-olds in California. In the San Felipe, he tracked a strong pace and then found himself between horses on the far turn. All around him were seasoned colts, including major stakes horses Bob and John and A.P. Warrior. When things heated up he could have backed out of the fire, as pacesetting Simon Pure did. But instead, he battled on and actually stuck his nose in front at one point. He continued on gamely, stuck down on the inside, and was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths. With this race under him, and his distance-oriented pedigree, there's no reason to think he won't settle better and show big improvement in his next race, which likely will be the Illinois Derby (gr. II)..Little Cliff (Tampa Bay Derby): Yes, he finished a dull fourth again in the Tampa Bay Derby, but he's still an interesting horse if you're looking for a Nick Zito longshot for the Derby. And after this past weekend's results, and the hock injury to Great Point, he may be Zito's last chance to send a contender to Churchill Downs. It is apparent watching the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby that the son of Gulch does not handle the Tampa Bay surface (Look what Seaside Retreat did in the Lane's End after a dismal effort in the Sam Davis). He appeared to be in great position, and was striding out beautifully on the far turn until he and Bluegrass Cat ran into the same wall. Had he stayed on the inside, where there were no horses anywhere near him, he likely would have been third. But Jeremy Rose, still trying to win, decided to look for better ground and yanked him clear to the outside. But he didn't fare any better there. What can be taken from this race is that Little Cliff had been beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Bluegrass Cat in the Sam Davis and finished 3 1/2 lengths behind him in the Tampa Derby. Zito has in the past followed leading Derby contenders, trying to keep closing the gap, and so far, he's doing that with Little Cliff and Bluegrass Cat. Little Cliff will run next in the Blue Grass, a race Zito won two years ago with The Cliff's Edge, who had run third in the Sam Davis. Don't be surprised to see Little Cliff return to his form of last fall when he won back-to-back races at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. All Zito is looking for is a solid third-place finish or better to move on to the Derby. And if there is some good to come out of the Tampa races, it's that the deep surface should give the colt a lot of bottom.Greeley's Legacy (Gotham): Having demonstrated a quick turn of foot on the far turn in his previous two races, the son of Mr. Greeley tracked the three big speed horses, Like Now, Keyed Entry, and Sweetnothernsaint, who finished in that order. Down on the inside for most of the race, he tried to close the gap in the stretch, and did manage to make up two lengths in the final furlong to be beaten 1 1/4 lengths. We really don't know how good this horse is, or if he can move forward in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) against what promises to be a tougher field. But his speed figures are solid and climbing, and if he can get a contentious pace and be able to make one big run, he could be a factor.Well Said (Rebel): Like Steppenwolfer, he is a son of Aptitude. He showed dramatic improvement this year following a mediocre 2-year-old campaign, winning at Louisiana Downs and Oaklawn, defeating the highly regarded Brilliant both times. In his stakes debut, he was stuck in traffic most of the way and closed well enough to be fourth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths, to suggest that there is more improvement to come.In other Derby news:-- Looking ahead, here are the possible fields that might be shaping up on April 8 and 15:Santa Anita Derby, April 8 -- Brother Derek, A.P. Warrior, Point Determined, Sacred LightWood Memorial, April 8 – Keyed Entry, Bob and John, Strong Contender, Showing Up, Like Now, Sweetnorthernsaint (or Illinois Derby), Deputy Glitters (or Blue Grass), Greeley's Legacy, Marco's Tale Illinois Derby, April 8 – Cause to Believe, My Golden Song, Racketeer, Sweetnorthernsaint (or Wood), DevilofarushBlue Grass Stakes, April 15 -- First Samurai, Bluegrass Cat, Jazil, Little Cliff, Deputy Glitters (or Wood)Arkansas Derby, April 15 -- Lawyer Ron, Steppenwolfer, Private Vow, Red Raymond, Achilles of Troy, Sinister Minister, Well Said, High Cotton-- It's almost decision time for Edgar Prado and agent Bob Frieze. They're OK for this week, riding Barbaro in the Florida Derby (gr. I), and set for April 15 aboard First Samurai in the Blue Grass. But they may have to decide between Keyed Entry and Strong Contender for the Wood Memorial. Imagine the decision if they win all three races.-- Not only has Bally's, as well as other race books, sold out the fans by instituting a mutuel field, and not altering it each week, they are so far off the mark with several horses. As of March 19, after the big weekend stakes, they had Deputy Glitters listed at 150-1 and A.P. Warrior at 45-1. I wonder if they honored those odds. Of course, if you want to bet Barbaro, Point Determined, Keyed Entry, Steppenwolfer, Sweetnorthernsaint, Like Now, My Golden Song, or Racketeer, you'll have to settle for 8-5 as part of the field.-- Not enough upsets for you on this year's Derby trail? How about Our Peak paying $149.80 in Saturday's Private Terms stakes at Laurel Park? The son of Peaks and Valleys was making his stakes debut and covered the mile in 1:36 3/5 for trainer Katy Voss.