ELMONT, NY, April 22, 2013—Suitably underwhelmed by this weekend’s last chance to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate—the Derby Trial remains as the final 20-pointer but let’s keep it real--and with the Illinois Derby now a stepping stone to the Preakness, there has been absolutely no change from any of the HRI staffers in the HRI Derby Power 10, Week 8.
Which is not to say that Lexington winner Winning Cause wasn’t good; he was, as was the Illinois Derby winner, Departing. As for Winning Cause, considering his 3-for-3 record at Keeneland owing to a strong, two-sided, all-weather pedigree, the transition to dirt in two weeks is hard to fathom, especially with Todd “Five Weeks” Pletcher calling the shots.
But the Derby is one of those races where the owner really has the last word, so who knows? His 20-point win might get him a seat at the table, depending how things shake out in the next two weeks. Whether he will become Pletcher’s sixth Derby entrant is likely to be determined in the next 24-48 hours.
For his part, Departing was even better, drawing out under no urging in the final strides, his nine furlongs timed in 1:50.78 with a final three furlongs in a workmanlike :37.75, his final furlong in a very solid :12.63; racehorse time, especially considering he was on his own in the last sixteenth. He’s in good hands with Al Stall Jr., of course.
With an appropriate dozen days remaining until the Run for the Roses, here’s how the HRI Power 10 shakes out:
1. Orb (40) has lost Johnny Velazquez, committed to Verrazano, but his replacement Joel Rosario is on track to set a riding standard at the present Keeneland meet. Orb’s workout (5F in 1:02), with a very strong gallop-out at his Payson Park base Sunday, has Shug McGaughey over the moon. Arrive at Churchill Downs Monday morning with a work over the track next weekend.
2. Verrazano (38) Velazquez is expected to return from injuries suffered in a spill next Wednesday, and there’s been no adjustment to that schedule or announcement indicating that that won’t be the case. Had a good company work at Churchill Sunday (5F in 59.95) with a gallop out that impressed trainer Todd Pletcher. Scheduled to work again come Sunday.
3. Goldencents (30) won the fastest most recent Derby prep at Santa Anita and looked good doing it, showing none of the distance concerns raised in prior efforts. With the perceived lack of “sprint speed” signed on, his tactical quickness could prove a huge weapon. Doug O’Neill thought he relaxed nicely during last week’s breeze (4F in :48.40), and he liked the gallop-out a lot.
4. Revolutionary (24) has lost Javier Castellano to Normandy Invasion but has picked up three-time Derby winning Calvin Borel who was aboard the colt for the first time Sunday. He breezed a half-mile in :48.73 at Churchill Downs, getting over the surface nicely while continuing to gallop out well. Can win from anywhere on the racetrack.
5. Overanalyze (23)won the Arkansas Derby with drawing-away authority but did so in slow time over dubious competition. Not getting a lot of respect for the win from pundits but Rafael Bejarano lobbied to retain the mount for the Derby and got his wish. Hard to conceive him raising his game enough with two only weeks remaining.
6. Normandy Invasion (17) had a very good week settling in at Churchill then showed his freshness working a half-mile in :48.12 for Chad Brown, who said afterward that he really wasn’t looking for anything more. Retaining Castellano, the Derby will be the colt’s third start off the layup and now that Brown has him where he wants him, he needs to keep him right where he is.
7. Itsmyluckyday (15) As stated previously, only one member of the 2013 Derby class has run as fast around two turns this year, Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents. His pedestrian Florida Derby placing could be the result of a two-month absence. He’s been legging up and getting sharp at Calder. Will he duplicate his excellent Gulfstream Park form in Louisville? He will need to do that and then some.
8. Will Take Charge (14) has earned this ranking based on a strong come-from-behind Rebel score. Ho owns Derby style and has the right connections. The Coach took a page from the Whittingham playbook, working him a mile in 1.41.75 at Churchill Downs. Lukas opted to train him up to the race, wanting a fresh horse. He will have one considering he will enter the starting gate for the first time in seven weeks.
9. Java’s War (11) doesn’t make the strongest impression with observers because his Blue Grass score came on Polytrack. But his previous start also indicates that he can be a major contender with a strong-finishing placing to undefeated Verrazano, the likely Derby favorite, on dirt at Tampa Bay. He is a three-surface winner, which speaks to his inherent class.
10. Oxbow (6) As stated last week, if Normandy Invasion is capable of being overbet in the Derby then Oxbow can come into the Derby way under the radar. A victim of poor racing luck recently, his Arkansas Derby was a complete mystery. He never had a chance with nowhere to go the length of the stretch, but he never really fired and may be worthy of a mulligan. Galloped strongly this week and is scheduled for one final highly anticipated work very soon.