HRI's Triple Crown Power Rankings

The HRI Triple Crown Power Rankings is a consensus opinion of HorseRaceInsider's editorial staff compiled and written by executive editor John Pricci. It is an amalgam of achievement and opinion relative to the merits of the 2013 Triple Crown. The HRI Triple Crown Power Rankings will be adjusted each week following significant prep race developments.

Events Surrounding La. Derby Lend Perspective

HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA. March 29, 2011--The thing about perspective is that it can come to you from anywhere and everywhere, most often unexpectedly, always yielding philosophical lessons.

Late Saturday afternoon at Gulfstream Park, the horses for the turf finale had left the paddock but some people were just beginning to file into the walking ring area.

One was Billy Terrill, majority owner and breeder of Gourmet Dinner, currently on R & R at the farm after most recently finishing second in the Holy Bull to the probable favorite for Sunday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby.

If you’ve seen his races, you know Gourmet Dinner hits hard, and he’s been going at it without a break from early fall. The timing may not be ideal, but it’s never prudent to ignore Mother Nature.

The small Terrill entourage was there to lend moral support to a rival outfit but also a longtime friend, Tim Ritvo, Gulfstream’s Vice-President of Racing who came to watch the Louisiana Derby on one of the large digital monitors surrounding the paddock.

Ritvo was there to root for his wife Kathy’s Louisiana Derby favorite, Mucho Macho Man. He turned the bridle over to his wife since he landed a front office job at Florida’s premier Thoroughbred venue.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Ritvo was watching it in the same place he saw Macho win the Risen Star. There was no evidence he was wearing the same shirt and tie, but I’d be willing to lay odds if you’re looking for some action.

Anyway, you know how superstitious these horsemen type are.

I took a seat a few feet away from the group on the cement wall that lines the fountain in the walking ring when Ritvo walked over and showed me a live image on his smart phone.

It was Eibar Coa, standing and waving his arms while an attendant in the rehabilitation wing of Hollywood Hospital was helping with his balance in a harness-type apparatus from behind the injured rider. Coa was involved in a calamitous spill earlier in the meet.

As Coa slowly waved his arms he was also shuffling his feet, shifting his weight from one leg to another, taking a few baby steps forward that were more like giant leaps for humankind.

Early on, Coa was believed to be thisclose from never getting an opportunity to do so, indeed enduring several lengthy surgeries to insure that he wouldn’t live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.

Coa fractured his Cervicle-4 vertebra in a spill while pulling after the finish of a turf sprint at Gulfstream in February. Paco Lopez broke his elbow in that same spill, but recovered quickly and is back in the irons competing for the meet‘s riding title.

Given its potential highs and lows, this game can be a killer.

On several levels, the image of Coa was unexpected, making it that much more stunning. “That’s enough to make you cry,” I said looking up to Ritvo as he stood over me.

Ritvo, a former jockey who in a short career rode over 500 winners on the New England circuit before becoming a trainer and, ultimately, an executive, could relate. He said nothing as he continued looking at the image, perhaps unable to get the words out, and just nodded.

The Gulfstream finale ended in a blanket finish, was made official, and those remaining were only there to watch the Louisiana Derby, including a handful of simulcast fans seated in the stadium chairs that surround the ring.

I kept my distance as Ritvo and company, closer to the monitor than anyone else, announced “can’t draw it up any better” as the Louisiana Derby field curled into the first turn, Macho sitting comfortably off the flanks of what would become engaged rivals.

Positions remained virtually unchanged throughout until Rajiv Maragh, who has replaced the injured Eibar Coa as Mucho Macho Man‘s regular rider, made his move toward the leaders. But he was not showing the same turn of foot on display in the Risen Star.

As headstretch approach, he maintained his position between rallying rivals but was not gaining. He entered the stretch about four paths wide as the field straightened way.

“Left hand,” the old rider yelled at Maragh, who continued to urge his mount with a vigorous hand drive. With a furlong remaining, just as it appeared Macho was about to run by the leading Pants On Fire, he remained one paced.

“Get into him.” By now Maragh had begun to employ a left-handed whip but it was too late as the leaders reached the sixteenth pole.

Pants On Fire was resurgent. Mucho Macho Man lugged in at this point, was straightened by Maragh, but the eventual runnerup, Nehro, came up the rail with a good late rally for the place. Mucho Macho Man finished third, beaten a half-length and a neck.

What no one in the Gulfstream walking ring knew at the time was that the effort was not as disappointing as it looked. In fact, to the contrary. Macho Man grabbed himself coming away from the barrier, pulling off his right front shoe in the process, which explains both the lugging-in and one-paced finish.

Mucho Macho Man was the only member of HRI’s Week 6 Derby Power 10 to race last weekend and, despite the defeat, hung in there gamely, just like he did in New Orleans..

There’s only one major prep this weekend, but it’s a huge one. Four members of the Power 10 in the same starting gate Sunday at Gulfstream Park. Between this weekend and next, it’s time for the big boys start getting serious.

The HRI Kentucky Derby Power 10, Week 7:

1. Uncle Mo (36) Maintained his lead and his form with a half-mile breeze in :49 2/5 at Palm Meadows just to sustain his fitness level for the Wood Memorial a week from Saturday.

2. Soldat (27) Had his second consecutive strong work for Sunday, five-eighths in 1:00 4/5. Will likely see in change in tactics unless, of course, he falls out on the lead again, which could happen with an inside draw and the absence of the rapid Flashpoint, McLaughlin intimated on Tuesday‘s NTRA conference call.

3. Dialed In (22) Nick Zito playing this one extremely close to the vest and has been all winter. He seems to have complete confidence in what he has, given the light training regimen. Zito has confirmed what we saw at Palm Meadows; the colt gets a lot from his lengthy gallops. Must finish strongly Sunday and was honed to do so with recent sharp half-mile in 47 2/5.

4. Premier Pegasus (17) With the number of quality speed horses seemingly growing with each passing week, this colt’s finishing power and eye-catching turn of foot gains him more fans with each passing day. Interesting to see how he reacts to non-suicidal fractions. Likely to get that chance in SA Derby.

5. To Honor and Serve (16) Bill Mott tightening the screws at Payson Park--not all of them--but most. As stated previously, with only two scheduled preps, he needs to run big on Sunday. The finishing strength of Garrett Gomez could play a huge role in his continued development. Recently worked a half-mile in :49-- pretty much rolling right along at Payson Park, with a “good gallop-out,” confirmed Mott on the conference call.

6. The Factor (14) We know it’s vice versa but in his case, it’s fast does as fast is. And this is one fast sonuvabitch. Not only that but his stride showed no evidence of shortening as he raced through the stretch in the Rebel, making an impressive two-turn debut. The nine furlong question will be the next hurdle.

7. Stay Thirsty (12) Strange colt. When we saw him work in company with Uncle Mo last month at Payson Park, this guy stayed on strongly on the inside, even if his mate was going easier. Now he’s intimidated by an outside rival not named Uncle Mo? Wish I knew what it all meant; maybe Todd Pletcher does, too. Expected to get blinkers for the Florida Derby.

8. Anthony’s Cross (8) Yes, he’s another one of those speed horses, one who benefited from an equipment change to blinkers win his last, which seems a long time ago but only because it was; February 12. If you like this colt, in Harty and the Santa Anita Derby you trust.

9. Mucho Macho Man (4) This colt’s in no man’s land with six weeks until the big dance and 54 years of history going against him. His best races in the past have come with three weeks between starts. Blue Grass, anyone? “What he does I’m sure will be the subject of much discussion in the next few days,” said Tim Ritvo.

10. Jaycito (3) Shipping to New York for the Wood, even with Uncle Mo in the wings, is the right decision. Getting him off the Santa Anita salt flats is one good thing; Bob Baffert’s winning two Woods ia another, and he doesn’t need to beat Uncle Mo, just be get closer to him at the end of the Big A’s nine furlongs.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (4)


Page 54 of 93 pages « FirstP  <  52 53 54 55 56 >  Last »