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.

Once Again, Baffert a Major Factor

HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., March 22, 2011--So, there are no good three year olds in California, right? So much for knee-jerk instant analysis.

And isn’t this potential East vs. West match-up going to be intriguing? Uncle Mo has proven that he can stalk and kick. Did just that in the BC Juvenile. However, if the horse he’s stalking is The Factor, it’s going to be interesting to will happen between those two and those racing behind this speedy pair.

Damnation...That's Dance City on the inside getting his nose in front of heavily favored stablemate, Cal Nation, at Gulfstream Park last Saturday.
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Damnation...That's Dance City on the inside getting his nose in front of heavily favored stablemate, Cal Nation, at Gulfstream Park last Saturday.
Conventional wisdom says that two speed types will cancel each other out, setting the table for a rallier. But what if the two fastest horses decide not to stop? What if they are simply too fast and run the competition off its collective feet?

In a match race, you want “the speed of the speed.” And it appears that The Factor, the very impressive Rebel Stakes winner, might have only one dimension to his game. But the effortless way he took the lead at Oaklawn Park might indicate otherwise.

If this highly anticipated meeting occurs, let’s hope both colts remain happy and healthy. Oddly, all the pressure on the champ’s connections. Todd and JR will need to decide which is the best way to meet the challenge--then have enough in the tank for the late challenges to come.

Trainer Bob Baffert apparently was so floored by his colt’s performance that he’s not sure what to do next. The logical move would have him returning to Hot Springs for the Arkansas Derby, where the surface has been kind to speed all meet long.

The killer question is whether you want to come back in three weeks for the Santa Anita Derby and have four weeks until Kentucky’s Derby, or take the four weeks now and come back in three for all the marbles? The answer is way beyond the pay grade of an executive editor.

One more variable to consider. On the Equiform performance-figure scale, the colts are thisclose on numbers and each has the ability to distribute his energy efficiently, although Uncle Mo has done so with more consistency.

At Laurel, where the Private Terms is often a useful barometer of Preakness form for Marylanders, New York-bred Bandbox won the one-turn mile by a measured length and a half in 1:37.25.

An aside: Jockeys might think they’re doing trainers and owners a favor by winning a race as easily as possible. They‘re wrong. Horses at this stage of development need to progress at a rate closer to their ultimate ability. It’s the only effective means to chart a horse’s progress with a clearer understanding.

Winning with something in reserve doesn’t mean it will be there when you need it in the future, not if the horse doesn’t get as much out of the race as it should and wins too easily. It’s about conditioning, not styling.

In South Florida on Saturday, a similar attempt was made to give highly promising, impressive maiden breaking three year old, Cal Nation, some education in his second lifetime start against more seasoned rivals.

After bobbling at the break, Cal Nation moved up to challenge the pace of his own accord, but then was held back in a rating posture. Attempting to go from a pull to a drive with three-sixteenths remaining after gaining a slim lead, the colt was out-gamed by stablemate Dance City, beaten a nose.

Hopefully the horse got more out of the experience than the bettors did.

That same morning, Risen Star winner Mucho Macho Man, the 9-5 early line favorite for Saturday’s Louisiana Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 and galloped out another furlong in 1:15-plus for six furlongs. The move should have him right on time for his return to New Orleans.

The HRI Derby Power 10, Week 6:

1. UNCLE MO (36) Still considered more likely for the Wood Memorial than Florida Derby, the door is still open for the colt to remain in South Florida. The NYRA is now offering a million reasons for the champ to stick with the original game plan.

2. SOLDAT (27) It wasn’t so much the recent bullet 1:00 3/5 at Palm Meadows was so encouraging, it was rather that he worked behind stablemates, reportedly taking plenty of dirt, suggesting a possible return to a rally style.

3. DIALED IN (21) Light training schedule is by design as he seems to get a lot out of his gallops. Does not have to win but needs to run big in the Florida Derby; he has a plenty of catching up to do but has the talent to do just that.

4. PREMIER PEGASUS (16) Developing nicely and certainly has shown he owns all the tools. But it’s his running style and turn of foot that sets him apart; the normally strong pace on May’s first Saturday in Louisville should suit perfectly.

5. TO HONOR AND SERVE (15) Goodbye Johnny; hello Garrett Gomez. After finishing a non-threatening but very useful third in the Fountain Of Youth, Bill Mott is applying a little more pedal to the metal. Clearly expected to take the next step a week from Sunday.

6. THE FACTOR (13) Moved into sixth with a big bullet. The thing about his Rebel is the fact that he showed high speed but it wasn’t run-off speed. Check the replay and note how he took the lead so comfortably from the start; not easy for a speed horse making its two-turn debut.

7. MUCHO MACHO MAN (12) Well drawn in post 4 in a large Louisiana Derby field, he owns tactical speed, kick, courage, karma and an obvious love for the Fair Grounds surface. Connections believe he runs best with three weeks between starts. Look for one more prep after Saturday’s race; the outfit will be.

7. STAY THIRSTY (12) Got what he needed out of his season’s debut winning the Gotham. Whether it will be enough to handle a much deeper and talented group in the Florida Derby is a different conversation. No question about the added sixteenth, though; he’ll handle it.

9. JAYCITO (9) If you were impressed by Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe, this colt is hard to ignore. He might have finished in another area code but was going in the right direction in his first start of the year. Whether it’s the Santa Anita Derby or Wood Memorial, the improvement needs to be significant.

9. ANTHONY’S CROSS (9) It’s just so-o-o different training for the Derby these days. Trainer Eoin Harty lending new meaning to the term lightly raced, but the ultra game colt continues to train lights out in California. He had better; anything less is not an option.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (34)


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