HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., April 4, 2011--Anyone serious about their craft in this business probably wrestled with their Kentucky Derby Poll rankings order before casting a ballot.
Uncle Mo or Dialed In? Dialed In or Uncle Mo?
Somewhat surprisingly, Uncle Mo remained the consensus top choice in the HRI Derby Power 10, Week 8 edition.
We’ve mentioned before how these Thoroughbred polls can be tricky. Horse racing wouldn’t exist without the fans being at odds with each other. And so, that’s the issue with polling.
Achievement or ability? Ability or achievement?
As difficult a question as that is, in our view it’s a little bit of both, walking the line between opinion and fact.
What made this week’s three-year-old poll so interesting is that clearly, based on three-year-old form, Dialed In owns victories in two graded stakes, the Holy Bull and Grade 1 Florida Derby, easily the deepest field of the 2011 prep season.
For his part, Dialed In won the ungraded Timely Writer, a race whose distance was changed to accommodate the juvenile champion needing a place to begin his three-year-old season.
What ultimately won out is the fact that Uncle Mo never has been beaten and is a defending champion. But then Dialed In never has been beaten within his own age group.
How should one evaluate the slow running time? But then how many times do horses come from the next county to win at Gulfstream Park?
Polling, like handicapping the races, is more art than science, so we guess it‘s a case of beauty resting in the beholder‘s eye.
Significantly, this week, anyway, the gap between the top four and the bottom six is widening. Interesting, too, the way the power numbers turn out, there is a two-horse and four-horse dead heat for third and sixth, respectively.
But there’s no sense in getting tied up in knots over this, not with the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby and Illinois Derby coming up this weekend and the Arkansas Derby the next.
That’s when the scores can really change.
HRI KENTUCKY DERBY POWER 10, Week 8:
1. Uncle Mo (36) All the chatter now centers around two questions: Will another easy victory in the Wood Memorial have him combat ready for the Derby rodeo? How does the presence of The Factor effect his strategy? Answer: Let’s see what happens on Saturday first.
2. Dialed In (27) There will be a lot of quotes from Nick Zito saying something like “all we need now is another good five weeks,” etc., etc. This colt probably does have six races worth of experience. “That’s what I loved about his allowance race. He was between horses and he was no trouble, said Julien Leparoux.
3. Premier Pegasus (21) The chatter around him centers on will how show that same explosive mid-race move with more reasonable fractions? His San Felipe was a freaky effort, but under freaky circumstances. SA Derby should be instructive.
3. The Factor (21) Hard to believe but here’s a colt who’s just as fast as Uncle Mo and like the champ, distributes his energy late as well as early. We know he really likes Oaklawn Park. The ninth furlong is the next interesting variable.
5. Anthony’s Cross (11) Moved up in the rankings by virtue of his recent inactivity. On Saturday, this game speedster needs to show that he owns an extra dimension and the ability to handle strong rivals at a meaningful distance.
6. Jaycito (9) Don’t understand the change of heart, remaining at home instead of shipping East for the Wood. In a Kentucky Derby context, what would have been wrong with a strong-finish second or third behind Uncle Mo? Connections probably looking for a more contentious pace battle expected in the SA Derby.
6. Mucho Macho Man (9) His right fore which he grabbed while pulling off a shoe in the Louisiana Derby is all heeled. No decision on what’s next will be made until he gets back into his regular training routine. It could be a race; it could be a public workout between races. Stay tuned.
6. Soldat (9) As stated previously, horses are allowed to throw in a bad one every once in a while. The Florida Derby was easily the worst effort of his career; baffling considering how he was coming up to the race. Simply not the way you draw up your final Derby prep.
6. To Honor And Serve (9) It’s hard to know how much is there but this seems clear. His Florida Derby was much better than his Fountain of Youth. In terms of conditioning, the brief-rally effort followed by a hard speed prep is the way you get fit, physically and mentally. If he has a good five weeks…
10. Shackleford (5) Simply have to acknowledge his effort in the Florida Derby in which he came up a head short. He took pressure from To Honor and Serve throughout, held firm when Flashpoint attempted a three-path sweep, understandably tiring late. Getting good at the right time.