SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 13, 2010--By now, the field for the Kentucky Derby would be virtually set. After all, 10 days remain to the big event. Only last minute defections due to injury or poor final workouts should effect the status of most expected starters.
Not so in this topsy-turvy run-up to Derby 136 in which only three colts; Eskendereya, Sidney’s Candy and Conveyance, were repeat winners in the division’s traditionally important preps.
But there could be added Derby starter depending on the results of Saturday’s Grade 3 Derby Trial, a prep which in modern times has served the Crown’s second jewel better than it has the first.
The obviously talented and impressive winner of the Bay Shore Stakes, Eightyfiveinafifty, is expected to run in Saturday's flat-mile Churchill Downs lid-lifter. Modern day significance notwithstanding, it’s a great way to get those Derby juices flowing.
But a victory in The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial victory could put Eightyfiveinafifty in the Derby field next Saturday. And that would be bad news for not only the colt but how the big race might play out a week hence.
For all his speed and ability, this colt does not yet know how to run. He runs ####-eyed, literally. If you don’t believe that, check out the Bay Shore replay and see the colt #### his head toward the rail for the first furlong on that sprint.
Then try to put out of your mind that in his previous start, the Whirlaway, his first around two turns, he bolted to the outside fence and did a failed impression of a steeplechaser approaching the first jump.
As eye-catching as the Bay Shore win was, it was an indictment of the colt’s present mental status. Breaking from the rail position didn’t help, but there’s no telling how he would have reacted in his post-Whirlaway start regardless of starting position.
I’ve never seen a horse do what he did in quite that fashion. Perhaps he wanted to make sure the fence didn’t attack him instead of the other way around. Ultimately, he settled down, then held a classy SoCal sprinter at bay and drew off to win with authority.
Presume for a moment that Eightyfiveinafifty wins the Trail handily. What do you do, then?
My choice is to go out and purchase a new HD TV so the colt can watch the Kentucky Derby from his stall, praying that all the Derby speed horses knock themselves out so that he could have the Preakness pace all to himself.
OK, we’re kidding about the TV part, but not about what his next start should be. He has no business in the Derby field under the circumstances.
He would have no chance to win the 10-furlong rodeo, could screw up the race’s dynamics but, worse, do himself and his future potential harm.
And neither does thr event nor the sport need an accident reminiscent of the one two years ago.
Since Eight Belles, the ubiquitous mantra of horsemen has been “doing what’s best for the horse.” In no way does a Kentucky Derby run constitute doing the right thing by Eightyfiveinafifty.
Meanwhile, the Coolmore Lexington proved only two things: that Polytrack can be speed biased: Exti was the seventh front-running winner on Saturday.
And that Todd Pletcher completed the most dominating year a trainer has had in the history of Derby preps. Just what he needed: A little more pressure to win the Churchill Downs feature on May’s first Saturday.
Here, then, HRI’s Derby Power 10, Week 12:
1. Eskendereya (36) Had his final work at his Palm Meadows base, a workmanlike five furlongs, before shipping to Churchill Downs. He’ll have one more over the Derby track this weekend. Pletcher just needs to keep the worthy Derby favorite in his same cycle.
2. Lookin at Lucky (26) Worked sharply recently and will have one more serious move before the big race. Perhaps the blinkers sharpened his speed a bit too much hindering this rider. No blinkers on Derby Day.
3. Sidney's Candy (25) Heretofore synthetic specialist had strong work over the Churchill track that had his trainer John Sadler all smiles. “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun,” he told the audience on yesterday’s NTRA national media teleconference.
4. Endorsement (19) The most lightly raced member of the group, he will try to become the first horse since Big Brown to win the Derby off four lifetime starts. “I’m more excited about the timing,” said Winstar racing manager Elliott Walden. “He’s put on weight and his coat is blossoming.”
5. Ice Box (13) Had a useful maintenance breeze recently and will work again sometime this weekend at Churchill. Won’t be short of conditioning considering he’s had three races at nine furlongs this year, including his Florida Derby score.
5. Super Saver (13) Moved forward incrementally on performance figures in the Arkansas Derby, which is all you can ask. Loves the track and has Calvin calling the shots. Rated OK in Hot Springs and owns enough pedigree.
7. Dublin (12) We’ve upgraded his chances despite disappointing prep season given his forward move in the Arkansas Derby and subsequent strong work. At once up front and crafty, Wayne Lukas knows how to do this.
8. Noble’s Promise (11) His next workout will prove key given his disappointing final prep in which he was nicked up leaving the starting gate and subsequent tough trip Taking a line through Lookin at Lucky, he’s difficult to ignore.
9. Awesome Act (9) Will hopefully will have a better trip next Saturday than his trainer had in trying to reach Louisville for his important final work. Owns an electric turn of foot and will benefit from the speedy race shape.
10. American Lion (3) Soft-pace winner of the Illinois Derby on dirt after being unable to take back off very slow early fractions on Santa Anita’s Pro Ride. A forwardly placed racer, there’s no proof that he can’t rate off a hot Derby pace.