Super Saturday: Good Preps; Bad News
SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY, April 7, 2009--It is no small irony that with respect to prime Kentucky Derby contenders, last weekend’s Grade 1 preps at once gave HorseRaceInsider's Power 10 definition but confused the issue significantly.
Then the picture became more confounding when it was confirmed that The Pamplemousse, scratched from the Santa Anita Derby with a tendon problem, is unlikely to run again this year and that Quality Road suffered a quarter crack in the Florida Derby.
The Ernie Paragallo and Jeff Mullins imbroglios are issues for another day and time. Better that they would have gotten the quarter cracks instead.
Most observers who follow these events as if their livelihoods depend on it agree that I Want Revenge, Pioneerof The Nile and Quality Road are, at this point, the three most likely to succeed on May’s first Saturday.
Of course, this depends on how well and how quickly Quality Road recovers. There seems to be sufficient time between each Derby, but ultimately the nature and severity of the crack will be the deciding factor. If it’s anything like Big Brown’s last year, Louisville we have a problem.
So, which of the aforementioned looms a clear choice over the others? It’s no accident that we listed them alphabetically.
I Want Revenge arguably was the most impressive winner of back-to-back major preps this year. But then he’s never finished ahead of Pioneerof The Nile in a race on any surface.
And you wouldn’t question ‘The Nile’s credentials unless, of course, you believe the ability to run on dirt counts for something.
It’s not enough to say that I Want Revenge’s Wood victory was worthy of inclusion in a Derby-prep time capsule. Giving his Wood further definition is his Gotham, which was equally impressive in a different way.
The kind of versatility he’s shown as a spring three-year-old is highly unusual. And that doesn’t speak to his uncommon ability, courage and class. I Want Revenge is a very good racehorse.
His connections have called an audible with respect to his remaining preparation, deciding to ship to Churchill Downs from New York instead of returning home for an eventual third cross-country trip. This is called using your noodle.
For the second time in as many starts, Garrett Gomez decided to make use of Pioneerof The Nile’s gear box. What Bob Baffert’s colt demonstrated winning the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby--the old go-stop, go-stop-go move--might be more unusual than the ability of I Want Revenge to change styles and still win impressively.
Gomez has great intelligence on horseback. “I moved him early because he’s uncomfortable when the pace is too slow.”
Not to worry, Garrett. A slow pace will be the least of your concerns come May.
Once again. Pioneerof The Nile didn't run all that fast and didn't dominate his rivals. But win again he did, showing no perceptible fatigue at the end of the race. The feeling is he'll be more effective making one run off a solid pace.
It’s difficult to know what to make of the Illinois Derby. Musket Man was the only graded stakes winner going in and came out the same way. A quality colt, the Grade 2 prep was his fifth win in six starts and fourth over a different surface.
The most impressive performance by a three-year-old last weekend, however, belonged to a filly, Rachel Alexander, who’s pointing for the Oaks, not the Saturday race. She keeps winning disdainfully as Calvin Borel sits motionless in his rocking chair.
There were two prominent dropouts this week. The Pamplemousse, sidelined by tendon issues, is ultimately pointing to next year’s Pacific Classic and Gotham runnerup Imperial Council, who emptied out three furlongs from the Wood finish, are off the Derby trail.
The HRI Derby Ten, Week 9:
1-Quality Road (30): Retains top billing by virtue of his Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby sweep. Two turns was no problem, his performance figures are excellent, and he loves mix it up. A quarter crack is not the worst thing in the world, but the timing is.
2-I Want Revenge (28): Gotham winner in fast time gained a huge following after truly memorable Wood performance, crossing the line with apparent energy in reserve. Don’t know if it was youthful exuberance, but Joe Talamo said he won easier than it looked. Who knew?
3-Friesan Fire (26): Suddenly the seven weeks between the Louisiana and Kentucky Derby doesn’t look quite as compromising. As already stated, it’s up to Larry Jones to keep the talented, ultra sharp sophomore where he is. Then there’s the fact he’s never been beyond a mile and a sixteenth.
4-Pioneerof The Nile (24): Dirt form notwithstanding, this colt has been remarkably consistent while showing a strong will to win. Baffert has enjoyed an excellent spring with him, not only winning but remaining on schedule. He ships to Kentucky next week.
5-Old Fashioned (16): Can jump back to the top of the heap with a victory in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. An impressive score might revive the hype machine that was cranking out superlatives earlier this year. Based on pedigree, he still has his share of doubters. Saturday’s big angle? First time Terry Thompson.
6-Dunkirk (14): Lightly raced sophomore gained added stature and world of experience in Florida Derby placing and Todd Pletcher said that Dunkirk was back to himself within three days, his appetite hale and hearty. Will need defections to get in.
7-Chocolate Candy (11): One of those Rodney Dangerfield types who runs well even in defeat, like his wide-rally second to ‘The Nile’ on Saturday at Santa Anita. His connections remain committed to the Derby and no one can say he doesn’t belong. Never fails to fire.
8-Desert Party (9): A Grade 2 winner as a Saratoga juvenile, a dawdling UAE Derby pace prevented a sweep of the “Dubai Triple Crown” when his talented stablemate Regal Ransom controlled the pace, and the race. Has all the pedigree and talent you’d want or need. It’s the Dubai trail that remains questionable.
9-Regal Ransom (4): “The sheikhs are coming, the sheikhs are coming…” It’s true that the wet, speed favoring Nad Al Sheba course and clever handling of Alan Garcia was to his benefit in UAE Derby. Can relax while battling up front unless, of course, the barn is having a special on rabbit stew.
10-Musket Man (3) [tie]: Despite consecutive victories in graded stakes, including Saturday’s Illinois Derby, enabling him to crack the HRI Power 10, he’s far from a household word. Owns tactical speed, can kick, and has overcome trouble. Needs to meets and beat, Grade 1 talent.
10-Win Willy (3) [tie]: Beat Old Fashioned with a strong kick in the Rebel and will get far more attention Saturday than he did winning at 56-1. He deserves that attention, having sufficient pedigree and capable connections. A real nice colt and maybe better than that. Arkansas Derby tells the tale.
Written by John Pricci - Comments (0)