HALLANDALE BEACH, Florida, February 15, 2011--Here, the winter home of the top five colts on the 2011 HRI Derby Power 10 ratings, Todd Pletcher as expected is THE dominant player, training three of the Power 10, including undefeated 2010 juvenile champion Uncle Mo, the obvious and unanimous leader.
While two consensus top 10 West Coast three year olds embarrassed themselves over the weekend, the Pletcher-trained Brethren made an auspicious 3-year-old debut, dominating the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, a race the four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer virtually has owned in recent years.
Santa Anita, Steve Asmussen, “privileged” to be training Tapizar, warned everyone that his colt would not be wound tightly for the G2 Robert B. Lewis but, even at that, Tapizar’s Lewis effort was abysmal. Alas, there was a reason. Tapizar developed a bone chip and is off the Derby trail. Not career ending, he is expected to return after surgery.
Up north, meanwhile, Asmussen’s Silver Medallion put on a good show at the expense of odds-on protem West Coast leader Comma At The Top. Heretofore a turf performer, it will be interesting to see how Silver Medallion’s Golden Gate synthetics score will transfer to a dirt surface.
Here this weekend, Uncle Mo also was in action, albeit at the Palm Meadows training facility in Boynton Beach, where he breezed a half mile in :47 2/5 Sunday, galloping out five-eighths of a mile in a strong 1:00, once again in company with stablemate Stay Thirsty.
Two keen observers, Mike Welsch of the Daily Racing Form and Perry Gastis of GradeOneRacing.com, were sufficiently impressed by the move. “He looked good,” said Welsch in the Gulfstream press box later that afternoon. “He was going easily while Stay Thirsty was urged to keep up.”
“Obviously, this was much better than his first two works here,” said Gastis. “He was very sharp this morning,” he added. Everything points toward his being ready for the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby, his announced scheduled debut. But Pletcher has some juggling to do and he seems content to play it by ear for the time being.
With a three-way tie for ninth, there are 11 horses listed here and things are certain to change next week given that two of the following colts, Rogue Romance and Mucho Macho Man, are scheduled to meet in the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds, plus other well regarded sophomores including the undefeated-in-two-starts Machen.
This weekend also marks the first of three Kentucky Derby Futures pools. An interesting question: Who will debut the favorite among the two dozen entrants at the end of betting on Sunday, the dominating champion and worthy Uncle Mo, or the traditional favorite, “all other three year olds?”
HRI Derby Power 10 Rankings, Week 1, power ratings in parentheses:
1. UNCLE MO (36): Whenever his name comes up, some wags are beginning to whisper the name Indian Charlie, thereby supposedly questioning this colt’s chance of being a true 10 furlong horse. While it is true that the average winning distance of Indian Charlie’s offspring is a sprint oriented 6.5 furlongs, doubters apparently are choosing to ignore grandsire Arch, whose progeny own a strong 7.6 furlong average. Empirically, it seems that Indian Charlie’s could go this far, he qualifies on dosage, and his dominant performance figures could blow the Derby wide open. We’ve still got a long way to go.
2. TO HONOR AND SERVE (26): A distant second in the rankings, the 9 furlong Remsen winner is getting closer to his Fountain of Youth debut a week from Saturday with a strong five workouts at Payson Park in 1:00 4/5 recently. Already a winner at 9 furlongs as a two-year-old, distance should not be a problem for the son of Bernardini and it’s no imperative that he win the Fountain of Youth in his season’s debut. He likely has sufficient earnings so there’s no rush for Bill Mott to get him ready, which suits Mott’s patient style.
3. DIALED IN (25): Unless he can find a secondary allowances for three-year-olds, unlikely since the competition is unlikely to be looking out the window at entry time, Nick Zito may be forced to run in the Fountain of Youth, which means the Holy Bull winner likely will have a three-prep campaign. As lightly raced as this colt is with two lifetime starts to this point, three races, which give him two around two turns, seems the prudent course. Zito knows how to do this; just ask him.
4. BRETHREN (21): That certainly was a wow sophomore debut for a colt which, according to Sun Sentinel entertainment and racing writer, Tom Jicha, could be known as the horse that Derby-winning Super Saver is a half-brother to, not the other way around. Undefeated in three starts with some learning to do, this colt is all racehorse. But off an allowance win at two, and given the lightly accomplished rivals he beat up on in the Davis, the jury still needs more evidence. However, you can say that of all of them.
5. SOLDAT (18): As everyone knows, he owns victories on turf and in the slop but never on a fast track, so it’s a matter of supposition as to whether he will be the same kind of runner on fast dirt. At this point, we’re supposing that he is. He owns tactical speed and kick, always useful tools, and he certainly seems to have some class about him. Kiaran McLaughlin is happy with his development and, while he said he’s doing a rain dance for the Fountain of Youth, I’m sure McLaughlin’s curious about a dry track in top competition himself. And the competition next weekend will show everyone just where he stands.
6. JAYCITO (10): “First-time Bob Baffert” will be the handicapping refrain when he makes his season’s debut in the 7 furlong San Vicente this holiday weekend. From the old school, we like it when trainers bring their three year olds out at meaningful sprint distances; gets them tight and sharp right from the jump, Actually, it really makes sense for this colt, who ran really goofy the last time he raced two turns at Churchill Downs. By Victory Gallop out of a Ascot Knight mare, he should run all day. Count on Bullet Bob to put speed into him.
7. ANTHONY’S CROSS (9): His victory in the Lewis was not all that shocking before or after the race. This Indian Charlie colt was competitive with some good colts at two and in the Sham, his season’s debut, he was beaten 9-¼ lengths by the easy, loose leading Tapizar. For his second start off a lay-up, trainer Eoin Harty added blinkers, was training nicely and was well drawn, so why not an upset? The West Coast three year olds haven’t been all that, but a G2 score at Santa Anita must be acknowledged. And give him this much: That was one game finish.
8. ROGUE ROMANCE (6): Ken McPeek-trained colt has been installed the early favorite for Saturday’s Risen Star which has come up pretty salty. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was his dirt debut after three turf starts, his third place finish was first rate, considering that was the champ and G1 Hopeful winner 10-¼ lengths in front of him. Not that he would have beaten the winner, but getting pushed impossibly wide on the first turn didn’t help. The turf tack, of course, certainly didn’t hurt Barbaro’s Derby chances, and the fact ‘Rogue’s’ dirt debut came at Churchill, where he had been working very well, is lost on no one.
9. STAY THIRSTY (5): It will probably be a welcome relief when he finally gets away from his celebrated workmate and into a graded stakes against what, at this juncture, has to be lesser. He gave indications at two that he wanted to go longer, but the Hopeful runner-up just had an impossible time of it in the Juvenile. While Brethren might turn out to be more talented, this colt, unlike that stablemate, has had his hooves held to the fire. Pletcher is keeping options open for Mike Repole, also the owner of Uncle Mo, of course.
9. SANTIVA (5): Has obvious quality given his placing in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and Keeneland and G2 Jockey Club Stakes victory at Churchill. It’s been fashionable to knock the latter given the slow running time and suspect competition. However, it did come at Churchill Downs and was an extremely game effort, battling between rivals throughout the final sixteenth, winning the eyeball-to-eyeball battle. Interesting that trainer Eddie Kenneally and Hall of Famer Mike Smith have an eye on a future together. Smith will be in from SoCal to ride him colt for the first time in Saturday’s Risen Star.
9. MUCHO MACHO MAN (5): Really earned his way onto the debut edition of the Power 10 as a two year old with two worthy efforts behind To Honor And Serve, especially when he appeared to be reaching for more ground at the end of the 9 furlong Remsen. His season’s debut in the Holy Bull can be forgiven. Too fresh coming off a lay-up and a series of bullet works, he wound up in a hot-paced duel with several rivals. Worked a leisurely 5 furlongs 1:04 over the weekend without blinkers, so he should revert to more patient tactics in the Risen Star. He need not win but must show improvement.