Another Kentucky Derby is upon us, and most of the talk has been about the inconsistencies and slow speed figures of this year's crop of 3-year-olds. Before we get into all the observations and analyses, and attempt to figure out this daffy Derby there is one point that must be addressed first.
WinStar Farms' Colonel John worked four furlongs in :47.40, and Bob Black Jack went :48.00 on the Cushion Track at Santa Anita Park the morning of April 14.
Well, we're down to our final two major preps, the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) and Arkansas Derby (gr. II), with the Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) and Holy Bull (gr. III) thrown in for good measure. The question right now is: what did we learn from last Saturday's preps?
Unbeaten Big Brown, the dominating winner of last week's Florida Derby (gr. I), took on the look of the ultimate favorite for the $2-million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) when he finished as a solid 3-1 choice in the third and final pool of Churchill Downs' 2008 Derby Future Wager.
Colonel John was all set to run for the roses the morning after his late-running victory in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), but the trainer for the runner-up, the persevering Bob Black Jack, plans to weigh his options.
WinStar Farms' Colonel John emerged as the West Coast's leading Triple Crown contender with a clutch late-running victory before a crowd of 50,358 in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 5.
IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr.'s Big Brown, the unbeaten winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I), remained the top choice of Kentucky Derby fans as the third and final pool of Churchill Downs' 2008 Kentucky Derby Future Wager reached its midway point April 4.
HRTV's originally produced weekly show on top Derby prospects and the road to the Triple Crown. This week's episode includes an update on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, a recap of the Florida Derby, an interview with Eoin Harty, trainer of Colonel John; and previews of the Wood Memorial, Illinois Derby, and Santa Anita Derby.
Colonel John has been installed as a slight favorite over El Gato Malo in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 5. A larger-than-expected field of 11 was entered in the 1 1/8-mile synthetic track test for 3-year-olds.
With the final Derby preps approaching, there is no more room for error. It's time to earn your way into the Run for the Roses or pack up and go home. The three graded stakes this weekend, the grade I Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial and grade II Illinois Derby, offer intriguing plot lines that will make or break aspiring Derby hopefuls.
Unbeaten newcomer Big Brown, a dazzling five-length winner in his stakes debut in the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. I), has been installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the third and final pool for Churchill Downs' 2008 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opens its four-day run April 3.
Sham Stakes winner Colonel John, one of the favorites for the April 5 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and a major Triple Crown contender, worked six furlongs in 1:10.80 March 31 at Santa Anita Park.
Despite three losses to reigning 2-year-old champion War Pass, Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred Pyro is the 4-1 favorite as Pool 2 of Churchill Downs' 2008 Kentucky Derby Future Wager closed March 9.
War Pass and Pyro are each at odds of 4-1 heading into the final day of wagering for Pool 2 of Churchill Downs' 2008 Kentucky Derby Future Wager after conclusion of betting March 8.
War Pass, who kicked off his 2008 Triple Crown campaign with an allowance victory at Gulfstream Feb. 24, stood as the solid 5-2 favorite as the first day of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2 drew to a close March 6.
So, did Saturday's Sham Stakes (gr. III) showcase two exceptional 3-year-olds or was it simply about two top horses running agonizingly slow early and coming home fast late over a synthetic surface? We'll know the answer when they hit the quarter pole at Churchill Downs on May 3.
Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) winner Pyro and Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Cool Coal Man headline a talented roster of 167 3-year-olds nominated to Keeneland's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), to be held Saturday, April 12.
Odds-on choice El Gato Malo fell from the ranks of the unbeaten when Colonel John held the closer off in the final furlong to win the $200,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita March 1.
On Jan. 19, after Eoin Harty sent Colonel John out for his first recorded workout of the year, he said he'd crank him up from there for the Grade III Sham Stakes. Now it's time to see how hard the crank's been turned.
West Point Thoroughbreds' El Gato Malo puts his unbeaten record on the line against Colonel John and five others in the $200,000 Sham Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita March 1. Another entrant, Coast Guard, will be scratched due to a minor ankle injury.
Undefeated Triple Crown contender El Gato Malo worked six furlongs at Hollywood Park Feb. 15 in a bullet 1:11 4/5, while across town at Santa Anita, Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) winner Crown of Thorns turned in a leisurely drill. The pair is headed for a showdown in the 1 1/8-mile Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita on March 1.
This year's Future Wager field includes some interesting morning line odds, withy only five of the 23 horses higher than 20-1 and only three less than 15-1. That means that 15 horses are either 15-1 or 20-1. That all seems to imply that no one -- not even the oddsmaker -- has a clue what to make of this year's classic crop so far.
PORTER ON PEDIGREES by Alan Porter Following the Breeders' Cup World Championships each year, a major focus for race fans is the game of "spot the classic candidate," with bragging rights for the earliest identification of a future star. Colonel John was added to several lists when the youngster scored an impressive victory in a seven-furlong maiden at the Oak Tree-at-Santa Anita meet, and in all probability he has now moved several places up those lists following a decisive win in the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park, an effort which may have earned him a tilt at the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I).
You know it's early when you start carving into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) before your Thanksgiving turkey, but this is a good time to start evaluating the 2-year-olds and get a jump on this week's grade II Remsen and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and grade III Hollywood Prevue.
Short-priced favorite Colonel John overcame his inexperience and a rail draw in his first two-turn race to deliver a polished victory in the $105,900 Real Quiet Stakes for 2-year-olds on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track Nov. 18.
WinStar Farm's homebred Colonel John, a 4 1/2-length maiden winner in his last start for trainer Eoin Harty, is the likely favorite in Hollywood Park's $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles over the Cushion Track Nov. 18.
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