Trainers might also look at the Colts as an example of what can happen when a team, or any athlete, peaks too soon, a common occurrence on the Derby trail.So much for deviating off course, but it couldn't be helped after observing these parallels watching the Colts come up flat after such a dominating season. Back to the Derby trail.Stevie Wonderboy's second-place in the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) can be summed up very easily: Making his first start around two turns; advantage Brother Derek. Facing only three opponents: advantage Brother Derek. Having to stay closer to the lead than normal: advantage Brother Derek. Going wide on both turns; advantage Brother Derek. Having to chase a top-class speed horse on an uncontested lead; advantage Brother Derek. Having to move through a sharp :23 3/5 third quarter; advantage Brother Derek.Credit Garrett Gomez for sensing the futility of the chase in the stretch, hitting Stevie Wonderboy only once and then going to a series of crosses and a hand ride to keep the colt together and striding out at the finish. Brother Derek was turning in some impressive speed figures and it wouldn't have been wise for Stevie Wonderboy to bust a gut trying to run him down, especially in January in his first start of the year. Sure, he was giving it his all, but there's a difference between running hard on your own and being driven hard with the whip, especially when it's obvious you're not going to catch a talented, classy horse who has had everything his own way. It must also be noted that you rarely ever see a 2-year-old champion make his 3-year-old debut in January and have to face as formidable a foe as Brother Derek.This was only the first step on the long, arduous road ahead. Stevie Wonderboy needed to get experience around two turns; he achieved that. He needed to show he made the transition from 2 to 3; he achieved that as well. So, other than continuing his three-race winning streak, which has no bearing on what he's going to do on the first Saturday in May, this has to be considered a step forward.Brother Derek has shown in three major stakes – the San Rafael, Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), and Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) – that he doesn't need to steal a race with slow fractions. Leave him alone on the lead and he'll :23 and change you to death. And it's that third quarter that does in his pursuers. In the San Rafael, he was running his opposition into the ground with a :23 3/5 third quarter at the same time Stevie Wonderboy was making his move while losing a good deal of ground. That gave Brother Derek the luxury of putting in a final quarter in :25 3/5 and not being seriously challenged.The bottom line is that these are two classy, talented horses who ran pretty much the way they were supposed to. It still would be to Brother Derek's benefit to show he can rate off the pace, as he won't be able to count on short fields once the big push to Churchill Downs begins in earnest. And he likely won't have things so easy in the Derby. He has been a bit headstrong early in his last few races, and you can't make a horse do what he doesn't want to, but the feeling here is that he will take back if and when he has to. There was no need to on Saturday with only three opponents.Many feel it's best to set a slow pace and save something for the end. But in many cases, especially in a small field, when you have a hard-running horse with class like Brother Derek, it's more effective to set a solid pace and force a closer like Stevie Wonderboy to expend more energy early on than he's used to. That's one of the main reasons Stevie Wonderboy couldn't make up much ground through a moderate final quarter.Saturday's other stakes, the Risen Star (gr. III), run at Louisiana Downs, was won in brilliant fashion by racing's most improved horse, Lawyer Ron, who after taking eight races to break his maiden, has won three straight by a total of 20 lengths. Trainer Bob Holthus attributed the turnaround to being put on the dirt, although the colt had run three of his first eight starts on the dirt, with a win and a second, the latter for a $50,000 claiming tag.The son of
Most eyes were on the Zito-trained Fabled in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race, but it was the far more experienced, stakes-placed, Rehoboth who charged by him at the top of the stretch to win going away. Fabled, as in his previous race, found himself in tight quarters turning for home and battled gamely to finish second. We'll get a better line on him once he stretches out to two turns. Saint Daimon, who was highly regarded for the Aventura Stakes, threw in another poor performance and has not been able to return to the form that saw him win the Huntington Stakes so impressively.At Laurel, Mike'sgoodandtough made it two for two, winning a mile allowance race going away by three lengths. This was an excellent follow-up to his spectacular maiden score, in which he came from a dozen lengths back in a 14-horse field, lost a ton of ground going eight-wide at the top of the stretch, and still managed to be in front by two lengths at the eighth pole before drawing off to a 3 3/4-length victory. Bred in West Virginia, the son of the quick Good and Tough is trained by Randy Allen.John Ward has an exciting colt who should be heard from soon. Strong Contender, a son of Maria's Mon, looked super winning his debut at Arlington Park last August. He has an awesome distance pedigree, being inbred three times to Ribot. An $800,000 2-year-old purchase, he's been in steady training and is nearing a race.