SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 12, 2001--Where did it all go wrong? How did it happen that so many of the best two-year-olds of 2010, leading Kentucky Derby contenders throughout the 2011 prep season, are no more?
Well, today’s sales ring athletes are having difficulty standing up to the rigors of actual racing, leading to the velvet-gloved approach to horsemanship. What’s next? A one race prep campaign?
Given the events of the past week, both pre- and post-prep, that seems to make as much sense as anything else.
Resultantly, there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Dialed In, atop the Week 9 edition of the HRI Derby Power 10, a first for the Mineshaft colt this year.
Well documented, Dialed In’s not much for morning work but saves his best running for the afternoon, which makes perfect sense considering no purse monies are distributed for what happens during training hours.
But there is one thing to ponder regarding Dialed In’s light workout regimen. Is Nick Zito so dialed in to his colt that he knows precisely what he has and what the colt needs, or is there more to it than that?
Current plans call for Dialed In to finish his important training at Palm Meadows and ship to Louisville during Derby week. Zito getting to his beloved Louisville late?
There’s a first time for everything, of course, but this will be a maiden breaker for the Hall of Famer who has earned a doctorate in Derbyology. So why the change?
Illinois Derby winner Joe Vann did not crack into the Power 10 off his effort and a good thing, too, as he is not Triple Crown nominated. Most agree that’s just as well, a group that includes his always sensible trainer.
Horses, especially young horses, simply don’t lose so much ground--racing four, five, or six wide, depending on your vantage point--then forced to steady several times in the stretch, and still keep coming on to win a Santa Anita Derby.
What kind of performance was that, and just how much talent does Midnight Interlude have, anyway? A considerable amount, no doubt.
Still, it’s hard to wrap a handicapping head around the fact that he can the same thing again going longer against much tougher in a month‘s time. This is a colt that debuted in January 29 of his three-year-old year, remember.
When it comes to Resorts World Casino Wood Memorial hero Toby’s Corner, the suspicion is we will continue to learn that getting beaten by this new and rapidly improving Graham Motion trainee is no disgrace.
The same might be said of runnerup Arthur’s Tale, another dramatically improving sophomore. And their timing, both in development and running style, could not be any better with May’s first Saturday rapidly approaching.
I have watched video of the Wood Memorial a half dozen times and I still don’t know what to make of Uncle Mo’s performance. Everyone I spoke with agreed that he appeared short of condition for this demanding mile and a eighth.
The only one I know to disagree was his five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer and certain first-ballot Hall of Famer.
When horses appear poised to draw off at the three sixteenths pole then appear to be life-and-death leaving the eighth pole, what other conclusion can be drawn?
One observer made the point that Todd Pletcher used to win all the preps but now he knows how to win a Derby.
So could it be that Pletcher, mindful of having to make three starts in five weeks in a possible Triple Crown bid, purposefully trained him lightly for that task?
In the one-mile Timely Writer, he really finished up strongly during the last part of the race off laughably slow fractions. In the Wood, the pace was more realistic and the final fractions were still good.
There’s another way of phrasing being short of condition and getting tired. It’s called getting fit.
If all is well with Uncle Mo, all screws will be tightened securely in the next 3-½ weeks. Then fans will know whether he’s indeed one for the ages or a top class miler getting set for a weight pull from his elders in the Metropolitan Handicap.
HRI Derby Power 10, Week 9:
1. Dialed In (36) Since he will not be under the media microscope in Louisville and remain at bucolic Palm Meadows instead, keep your eyes on the work-tab for further clues. With three races under his belt, he won’t need much but will need to do something.
2. The Factor (26) “He’s got to do well in that last eighth of a mile to go on to the Derby,” said owner George Bolton on Tuesday’s media teleconference. “We need to get through Arkansas; if we’re competitive, we’re going.”
3. Uncle Mo (25) Assuming and hoping that blood tests taken on Tuesday will determine that the formerly undefeated colt is no worse for the wear. From that point forward, we would like to see Mr. Pletcher do a decent Bob Baffert impression. Need to see at least one long, fast trial.
4. Mucho Macho Man (15) If the competition continues falling by the wayside, this colt could be number one in a week or two. Worked very well at his Gulfstream Park base last weekend.
5. Soldat (13) Connections could find no plausible excuse for his Florida Derby flop and are giving the colt a mulligan. Give what he accomplished previously, he’s entitled. Need to see something from future workout regimen.
6. Toby's Corner (12) That was one hell of a finish he put on at the end of the Wood, knifing between then setting sail for the leading Arthur’s Tale who got the early jump. Graham Motion’s late season roll of 2010 has continued forward.
7. Shackleford (9) Not very sexy or stylish but that was a solid Florida Derby pace he set and gave Dialed In all he wanted until inside the sixteenth pole. His speedy style highly likely to compromise his Derby efforts.
8. Jaycito (7) Don’t like the foot issues this close to the Derby but horses have won out of the Lexington before and we’re not going to sell Mr. Baffert short. He’s too good at this.
9. Arthur’s Tale (6) Graham Motion got to win the Wood with a son of Wood winning Bellamy Road. So why can’t Tom Albertrani reprise his Triple Crown success with a son of Preakness winning Bernardini? Much improved.
10. Master of Hounds (5) Normally we look askance at European shippers with Derby aspirations. But this is an Aidan O’Brien runner and this colt ran very well at Churchill Downs last fall.
10. Santiva (5) From below the radar to likely Blue Grass favorite? Why not? He runs on anything and was flattered when Pants On Fire came back to win the Louisiana Derby with the Macho Man a legitimate excuse third. "He has enough earnings," said trainer Eddie Kennealy. "We're trying to knock out a Grade 1 win."