Saratoga Springs, NY, March 3, 2009--In the grand scheme of classics things, the Fasig- Tipton Fountain of Youth and Sham Stakes are but cogs in a wheel of continuing momentum towards an ultimate goal. But last weekend was more. Two stars were born. How brightly they shine--and for how long--is the reason they run races.
Not to disparage Turfway Park but we’ll need more information to find out where the winning Proceed Bee--now four-for-six lifetime--fits with the class of 2009, that seems to have gotten better by the day. Maybe more evidence will come from the Lane’s End Stakes, March 21. But given its lack of recent Derby impact, maybe not.
And so the stars glowed, one on each coast, and if Quality Road and The Pamplemousse make it into the Churchill Downs starting gate, it’s going to be awfully crowded up front when the herd reaches the first turn. There’s no lack of brilliance in this year’s Derby class.
Quality Road, eligible for preliminary allowances, asserted himself to show that he’s something more, maybe much more. After an impressive juvenile debut, a festering cough, poor start and hot pace forced him to settle for place in his first start of 2009. That day Theregoesjojo raced right on by him. On Saturday Quality Road would have widened his margin on the Fountain of Youth runnerup if allowed to go around again.
A high-cruising stalker, Quality Road took advantage of the outside slip and Johnny Velazquez’s heady rating to attend the rapid pace of This Ones For Phil, who probably wanted a target himself but was much too keen, especially when the other burners failed to show speed. Edgar Prado wisely allowed him to roll but to no avail.
Quality Road finished up strongly, re-breaking after entering the straight, and it was all over. The Jimmy Jerkens-trained colt stopped the timer in 1:35, a distance that has not yielded fast times all meeting despite the speedy nature of this sprint configuration. It was a top effort from a very talented colt.
The winner was 4-¼ lengths better than Theregoesjojo, who showed an electric turn of foot at mid-far turn. Beethoven came from last of 10 with a strong, wide rally, showing improvement from his Holy Bull, his second encouraging sophomore performance. Hutcheson winner Capt. Candyman Can was too keen, also, and looked unsuited by Derby conditions.
The Pamplemousse, meanwhile, was very impressive in a dominating Sham performance, skipping the nine furlongs in a controlled 1:47.86 over the Pro-Ride surface. He gave no indication he can’t go beyond nine furlongs despite a sprint oriented pedigree. He’s now a multiple stakes winner and improved his two-turn record to 3-for-3. A serious racehorse, he’ll continue to improve with experience.
The HRI Derby Ten, Week 3
1-Old Fashioned (36): He‘s still the one and for the third consecutive week. A big date is the week after next when the consensus leader of every poll on the planet makes his second start of the year in the G2 Rebel Stakes. It isn’t likely to change a thing.
2-Pioneerof The Nile (26): Recent workouts, including Sunday’s six furlongs in 1:12 3/5, galloping out seven in 1:25 3/5, have been super. His education continues next weekend in the San Felipe. Have a feeling that every day until May’s first Saturday is like eternity for Bob Baffert. Bullet Bob has lots of options with this big-time talent. Lacks dirt form.
3-Stardom Bound (22): As stated last week, her Derby participation depends in large measure on how owner’s Patena performs in Louisiana Derby. Not sure what to expect beyond a victory this Saturday vs. three projected rivals, and how much it will matter. Had useful maintenance five-furlong workout over the weekend. Also no dirt form.
4-Friesan Fire (18): A great insurance policy for Larry Jones. Speedster will try to extend his unbeaten three-year-old stakes season next weekend in New Orleans. Well seasoned, he gets better by the day according to Jones, seemingly learning how to settle early.
5-The Pamplemousse(16): The connections were high on him even when the whole world wasn’t. It’s unlikely this guy will be underestimated again, such was his Shamsational performance last weekend. Friesan Fire notwithstanding, the only multiple graded stakes winner this year. Dirt, please.
6-Desert Party (14): Won the U.A.E. 2000 Guineas with style and appears to have all the tools. Runs next in the nine furlong UAE Derby, March 28. Has pedigree, acts on disparate surfaces, and proved his graded class state-side as a two-year-old.
7-Quality Road (12): The executive editor has to do a some crowing here as the only voter who included him on the first poll in mid-February. Don’t want to be too hard on my colleagues, however, as his trainer didn’t nominate him to the Triple Crown series. “I forgot,” Jimmy Jerkens said. Yeah, right.
8-Dunkirk (5): His fan club keeps growing as his legend spreads this spring. Garrett Gomez loves him and his second lifetime win without defeat was a remarkable effort vs. salty allowance types. Even unflappable Todd Pletcher was impressed. But can we wait until we see how he fares vs. seasoned stakes rivals before beginning to sculpt his likeness?
9-Hello Broadway (4) TIE: Ran all the way in good Hutcheson placing that doesn’t look as promising after Capt. Candyman Can disappointed in the Fountain of Youth. Can’t wait to see him run around two turns in the Tampa Bay Derby, March 14. Continues to work very well--:59 1/5 last week--for Derby-winning connections.
9-Haynesfield (4) TIE: Undeniably brilliant, he’s seasoned enough and proven around two turns. But he’s been beating questionable competition on brilliance alone. Must show an ability to rate and handle better horses. He’ll get that opportunity in Saturday‘s Gotham.