We really don't know what to make of the Arkansas Derby, as Private Emblem ran a much bigger race than we thought he would. While the time was relatively slow, his final eighth in :12 3/5 was decent enough. We're just surprised he was able to draw off the way he did. With Roman Dancer winning the Bay Shore, this capped off a big day for New York-breds. We admit we now have to re-evaluate this horse, who did have a perfect trip all the way. A mile and a quarter is a whole different story, but we sure didn't see any signs of this horse slowing down.Runner-up Wild Horses took a big step forward, not so much in that he finished second, but that he rated kindly for the first time after getting stuck in behind horses right from the start. He then got involved in a shoving match with Holdthehelm going into the far turn. Once he finally got clear sailing in the stretch, he drew clear of the five horses lined up across the track. Windward Passage looked to be making a winning move on the turn, but got fanned 8-wide turning for home. He seemed to be going nowhere out in the middle of the track, but did find enough late to get up and dead-heat for third. You basically can take your pick of the top three from this race. All have room for improvement, but we really don't know just where they fit with the other leading contenders. One note: Ocean Sound, coming off a second to Windward Passage in the Rebel, did close well to finish third in the Blue Grass, but was no match for Harlan's Holiday.Finally, we had the California Derby, which did produce the fastest 1 1/8-mile time of the four preps, but that's where any comparisons end. The winner, Tracemark, obviously is improving at the right time, and he did manage to run down a tough horse in Cappuchino. But he was beaten pretty soundly in the San Felipe, and still must prove he can compete with the Southern California horses.
Now, we come to Sunday Break, and although he couldn't match strides with the top two, he looks to be coming into the Derby in good shape. That is, of course, if he's up to another tough race. After toying with his opponents and goofing off at times, he was put to the test and responded big-time, doing everything the right way. He lost a bit more ground than Buddha and Medaglia d'Oro, and did tire a tad more, switching back to his left lead after being hit right-handed by Stevens nearing the sixteenth pole. What really stood out about this colt, however, was how his coat looked in the paddock. As many good-looking horses as there were in the field, his burnished bay coat outshone all the others. We can't wait to see see him on a daily basis at Churchill. If he keeps his coat, or blossoms even more, and looks enthusiastic in his training, he could be a live horse. The main question surrounding him is whether he can come back in three weeks after having two 1 1/8 mile races in two weeks, one of them a very tough race.There is always the question of whether he'll be as effective at a mile and a quarter. In fact, you can say the same about Buddha. But note that Sunday Break does have five Belmont winners and six Preakness winners in his first four generations, not to mention two other stallions who sired Belmont winners. He also has two Kentucky Derby winners and three others who were beaten a photo in the Derby.We were hoping to see a bit more zip from Saarland in the Wood, but that stiff wind didn't help a horse like him at all, and remember, he had only one mile race under his belt. He was beaten only 3 1/4 lengths, but wouldn't have caught the first three had they gone another half mile. This big, grand-looking colt remains an enigma, but if the Derby sets up for him, with a rapid, hotly contested pace, it wouldn't surprise us to see him run a big race. The Derby is whole different ballgame, and we feel he will be on the move around the turn and be within striking range at the quarter pole. The big question is whether he can kick into another gear immediately after turning into the stretch, which he hasn't done in past races. He can gobble up ground with that humongous stride of his, but he has to quicken his stride and bear down on horses. Maybe the long Churchill stretch will help him do that.