SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 19, 2011--Suddenly, Uncle Mo’s third place finish in the Wood Memorial doesn’t look so bad, does it? Suddenly, prepping for the 2011 Kentucky Derby in Dubai might be the right way to go. And, suddenly, late developing Grade 1 prep upsetters need to be taken more seriously.
In a year where the three-year-old class, populated by so many fast horses, held such promise, it’s no longer the darlings of the division that top most Derby polls including the HRI Derby Power 10, Dialed In notwithstanding.
Truth be told, where are the likes of R Heat Lightning and Joyful Victory when you really need them? Oh, that’s right, the Kentucky Oaks.
The run-up to Derby has been so topsy turvy, in fact, that Shackleford, rated ninth in today’s Week 10 edition of this exercise, will need help breaking into the field. The game Florida Derby runnerup is currently ranked 23rd on the graded earnings list of possible Derby entrants.
Additionally, other recent highly rated three-year-olds among media polling organizations--Santiva, Silver Medallion, Anthony’s Cross and Brethren--place 21st, 25th, 26th and 27th, respectively, among the possible 20 Derby qualifiers.
The one likely to be missed most would be Santiva who never was given a chance by the rider to show what he can do, getting trapped in close quarters while racing on the rail throughout. Expected to show freshness coming off a brief layup, he was surprisingly dull. If he draws in, it will be difficult to have confidence in his chances.
So, too, the winning Brilliant Speed, who’s been beaten poles on the dirt. But despite racing last most of the way, he uncorked a brilliant inside-out late run beneath Joel Rosario, is what had to be the ride of the prep season.
Had there been thismuch hesitation from Rosario, the late developing colt never would have gotten up by the narrowest margin over a well ridden, perfect tripping Twinspired who showed good speed throughout. However, Twinspired ranks 24th in graded earnings.
Indeed, many horses outran their odds over the weekend. King Congie, like the winner trained by Tom Albertrani, who’s had a quiet but very productive winter/spring despite limited opportunities, never runs a bad race when the surface is grass or synthetic.
Of the Blue Grass horses having a tough trip, fourth finisher Newsdad clearly was best of those. He, too, saved ground, tipped out for room after straightening away, was steadied while hemmed in briefly by the rallying King Congie, then finished well while angling back inside in the final sixteenth, then outside again as the wire approached.
Crimson China, inconsequentially forced to steady into the first turn while showing improved early speed, dropped back to 11th, was forced to rally widest of all in the late running and finished up well despite not being abused late, beaten 3-¼ lengths for it all. What all this means when returning to dirt at Churchill Downs is, of course, a completely subjective exercise.
There were three lessons to be gleaned from the Arkansas Derby. Never lightly dismiss a late developing three-year-old with incrementally improving performance figures, one who loves the surface upon which he is to compete, and never take a horse out of his best game if you can help it.
And that last factor was The Factor behind the defeat of the Arkansas Derby favorite. After J P’s Gusto came out of the gate quarter-horsing for the lead, it forced Martin Garcia into an attending position off the early pace. The Factor said “no thanks” and has now earned a place in the No Rate Zone.
The most shocking aspect of the Arkansas Derby was not so much that Archarcharch was lightly dismissed by the bettors but downright ignored. Odds of 25-1--given his development pattern, winning Southwest performance and subsequent good third in the Rebel--were laughable.
Clearly, both Archarcharch and Nehro ran themselves into the Kentucky Derby rather prominently, runnerup Nehro proving that being beaten narrowly in two consecutive million-dollar races is some consolation when it places you 12th on the Derby’s qualifying earnings list.
The top three finishers all ran very well, although show horse Dance City, ranked 33rd on the earnings list, will need to await the Preakness before rejoining the Triple Crown horses.
Yet another light on experience, Dance City is developing rapidly. In the running, he put The Factor in close while racing into the first turn but himself was leaned on by Sway Away a sixteenth from the finish, shrugging off the light contact and holding determinedly along the rail. Considering he was balky while being loaded, delaying the start, it was quite the effort.
Chances are much will be made of Nehro’s galloping out strongly passed the winner, but it should be noted that Archarcharch saved ground at no time during the nine furlongs, rallying four wide on the turn, his momentum carrying him six wide into the straight.
Additionally, Archarcharch moved into the teeth of a still lively pace, forcing him to be handled strongly at the finish as Nehro rapidly approached. The latter, given his strong rally placing in New Orleans, too, will have a sizable bandwagon by the time the circus arrives in Louisville.
HRI is setting the over-under on the Kentucky Derby post time favorite, likely to be Dialed In, at 5-to-1. Hope you all got a generous price on your future-bet choices. This looks like another year where if you bet the winner on Kentucky Derby day, you’re going to be rewarded handsomely.
HRI Derby Power 10, Week 10:
1. Dialed In (36) With each passing prep, Nick Zito-trained runner looks better and better--at least as long as he remains happy and healthy in Garbo-like Palm Meadows. Recently breezed a half mile and is scheduled to have one more timed workout before May 7.
2. Toby's Corner (21) Peaking at the right time, obviously, his closing fractions winning the Wood Memorial look better and better with each prep on this year’s long and particularly winding road. Appears that the blinkers made a man of him.
3. Archarcharch (18) You might not like the Derby chances of a horse trained by a man whose nickname is Jinks, but that’s the only knock we could fabricate. William Fires has done a superb job with this very tough and honest racehorse and Jon Court really gets along with this guy.
4. Mucho Macho Man (15) “It’s a little nerve wracking,” said majority owner Dean Reeves of the run-up to Derby while en route to Lexington Saturday morning. Trainer Kathy Ritvo very pleased with Saturday‘s 7 furlongs in 1:23 3/5 and strong gallop-out. His Louisiana Derby third flattered by Nehro at Oaklawn Park.
5. Uncle Mo (14) I know a few wise guys who were willing to lay a price on Saturday morning that the Wood disappointment would not be on the plane for Louisville on Monday. Well, he’s at Churchill Downs and is back in the Derby mix. How prominently depends how he trains from now until May’s first Saturday.
6. Nehro (13) Talk about peaking at the right time, a real picture-under-word-in-dictionary horse. Even though the pace set his style up beautifully in Hot Springs, it’s hard not to be impressed by his strong late run and gallop-out. Was not helped by standing in the gate a long time awaiting the delayed start.
6. Soldat (13) Since his Florida Derby non-effort failed to prove one way or another whether or not he can be rated, if he has a few good weeks the always hot-paced Kentucky Derby would be a helluva spot to find out. Much will depend on his training, too.
8. Jaycito (10) Talented colt finds himself in a terrible position. The foot abcess necessitating his Santa Anita Derby scratch and entrance in Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington will leave him precious little recovery time. He needs to run very well; just not very, very well.
9. Shackleford (9) Proved in the Florida Derby that he can take pressure and keeping on going. This gritty fighter will need a few defections in Louisville to test that theory, however.
10. Master of Hounds (8) If there ever was a year when a Dubai performer could break through in America’s Race, 2011 looks like it. Can’t blame connections for taking a shot on a successful transition from Tapeta to dirt. His UAE Derby effort impressed.
10. The Factor (8) Trainer Bob Baffert said the colt displaced his soft palate while resenting the rating tactics. If that turns out to be the case, The Factor had a legitimate excuse. Horses often rebound big time with a minor procedure to correct the problem. Look for Garcia to be quarter-horsing from the gate in Louisville.