The HRI Derby Power 10 is a compilation of votes cast by Executive Editor John Pricci, staffers Tom Jicha and Brendan O'Meara graded on a 12-points for first, 9 for second, 8 for third basis, etc., and was written by the editor
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 17, 2013—In the wake of Saturday’s Rebel Stakes, the takeaway is that famed cliché about if it weren’t for bad luck, Oxbow would have no luck at all.
The first impulse is to note that, just as he did in the Risen Star, he raced wide into the first turn, the lost ground adding up to much more than the margin of defeat. Unlucky, yes, but he had help.
As noted in HRI’s Feature Analysis on Saturday, Mike Smith has been a little uneven with his forays East from Southern California thus far this year.
Well, the Hall of Famer didn’t use his best judgment in the Rebel and it cost Oxbow 30 points, the difference between a narrow, last-jump defeat and victory.
The error? Smith showed favorite Super Ninety Nine much too much respect, in our opinion. He should have concentrated on riding his own horse, which he was astride for the first time.
The ground loss into the clubhouse turn could not be helped, the product of early speed, an outside post and a first turn that comes up quickly.
Oxbow was good enough to handle the ground loss and still win—of Smith had not made too much use of him the rest of the way.
Remaining wide on the backstretch, Smith asked his mount to stay within striking distance of the favorite instead of allowing his horse to settle more comfortably.
Then, instead of tracking from close range on the far turn—since he was already there—he went after the favorite prematurely and asked Oxbow to win the race approaching headstretch.
It was all good until the final two jumps when stablemate Will Take Charge did just that just before the post. Good for Jon Court, who had ridden both Wayne Lukas trainees but was bumped off Oxbow in favor of Smith.
If we were Lukas, we’d invite Smith back to make amends, now that he knows exactly how many gears the son of Awesome Again has.
Resultantly, the Coach’s horses debut at seventh and 10th, respectively, in HRI’s Derby Power 10, as Uncaptured, Super Ninety Nine and Normandy Invasion dropped out. The suspicion is that two of the three have a puncher’s chance to return, but the tasks of Uncaptured and Normandy Invasion grow taller by the day. The HRI Derby Power 10—Week 3:
1. Orb (30)—Holds on to the top slot as his trainer Shug McGaughey tries to maintain an even keel as the Florida Derby is now but two weeks away. Reported to be doing very well at his Payson Park base for an outfit that has had an outstanding winter in South Florida.
2. Verrazano (28)—With Delhomme virtually disqualifying himself from Derby consideration when finishing virtually eased in the Rebel, the shadow cast over the Todd shed by this well-endowed colt grows in length with each passing day. Three weeks to the Wood which will be as contested as any in its history?
3. Itsmyluckyday (26)—Had an excellent work for the Florida Derby, galloping out six furlongs in 1:14, a perfect stamina-sustaining, form-maintaining drill two weeks from the race. Trainer Eddie Plesa having a terrific winter and remember, this guy needs the points.
4. Vyjack (17)—Three million dollars? The Pick Six King don’t need no stinking three million and won’t take any money off the table, either. David Wilkinfeld is going all in with his undefeated 3-year-old which showed a new dimension winning the Gotham and is continuing to learn his relaxing lessons very well.
5. Shanghai Bobby (15)—Maybe the colt can be defeated in the Florida Derby by either Orb or Itsmyluckyday, but can his rider? Rosie’s winning everything in sight and is on her way to a record setting meet in the Bayou. His effort in the record setting Holy Bull was a first rate placing—and he, too, needs Derby points.
6. Hear the Ghost (12)—Jumped onto the trail in a big way taking the San Felipe with a favorable set up, but good horses often make their own luck. Must like the way he lengthened stride at a mile and a sixteenth but need Derby validation by seeing him do the same in the longer Santa Anita Derby. If there’s a bottom, Jerry Hollandorfer will reach it.
7. Will Take Charge (11)—Debuts in the Power 10 at #7 and his effort in winning the Rebel didn’t appear to be a fluke. Jon Court asked him to maintain contact with the leaders on the final turn but saved a little something for deep stretch. It’s not as if he was without license, having previously taken the Smarty Jones over the track Jan. 21.
8. Revolutionary (10)—Don’t know how fast but we do know he’s genuine—horses, especially young ones, don’t do what he did to take the Withers without inherent class. Indeed, Mr. Pletcher needs to keep his sophomores apart but shipping this one to Fair Grounds, with the country’s longest homestretch, figures to suit this guy perfectly.
9. Flashback (9)—Certainly was pace-compromised when defeated by last-run Hear the Ghost and deserves a mulligan for his first defeat. Will have a new pilot in Garrett Gomez for the Santa Anita Derby and should be better for his San Felipe effort—but he still has something to prove.
10. Oxbow (8)—Was beaten by a total of 3/4s of a length in the graded Risen Star and Rebel Stakes, compromised by wide trips in both and questionable handling most recently which speaks to his class and courage. Lukas says he’s probably the toughest horse he’s ever trained--and that’s from a man who’s gotten to the bottom of all of them.