Saratoga Springs, NY, March 16, 2009--The stunning defeat of the divisional leader and the emergence of filly among the best of this year’s three-year-old class made a major impact after the first Super Saturday of Kentucky Derby.
As it turns out, Old Fashioned might--just might--be the second best three-year-old on Larry Jones’ shedrow and the filly’s connections have no interest in meeting the boys.
But Derby Fever is a particularly virulent strain, so we’ll see what happens as May’s first Saturday draws closer.
Now we’re not jumping to conclusions here, but this conversation needs to be had. Upon further review of the Rebel Stakes, won by the 56-1 Win Willy, Old Fashioned did not run as badly as he did at first blush.
And that could be a blessing come May 2nd.
In getting the undefeated monkey off his back, Jones cut himself some slack. Hard enough to go into Louisville as one of the choices. Harder still to ship in there with a target on your back.
The Rebel was Old Fashioned first’s run over a wet racetrack. And did anyone notice that the colt had only one published workout between the Southwest and Rebel? That was no accident but by design.
This winter and spring, Jones has given the impression that he is somewhat in awe of the gray colt’s ability. And as he has said many times, too, that horses can’t peak in March and May.
Actually, they can, of course, but you’ve got to let them down sometime before building them back up. (See John Ward and Monarchos). But Jones is doing it differently with Old Fashioned.
Some have blamed Ramon Dominguez for having Old Fashioned to close to the pace of speed burner Silver City or moving too soon.
As for the first knock, what should he have done breaking from the rail with the speed outside him? Take back like Desormeaux did in the Belmont?
Dominguez established his position, made Silver City work just a little harder to reach the front, then tried to settle the favorite off the leader’s flank going down the backside.
But it didn’t appear Old Fashioned wanted any of it. He was still too keen and quite fresh, no surprise given the light training regimen.
As for the second, Old Fashioned moved at Silver City at about the same juncture when he won the Southwest.
However, it was alarming to see Ramon reach for his stick entering the straight, the colt appearing to be running on one line at the time.
Dominguez straightened the colt and opened ground quickly, then, almost as quickly, he began to shorten stride just as the mighty Win Willy was making his rally down the center of the Hot Springs oval. Mission accomplished: Jones got his horse tired.
Now he can build him up to the Arkansas Derby, tighten most of the screws, then try to hold him there until May. Or not. But if he wants to be a serious Derby contender, Old Fashioned must move forward in the Arkansas Derby. If he doesn’t it will raise serious questions as to his development from 2 to 3.
Friesan Fire was all man, sweeping the New Orleans road to Louisville with his comprehensive Louisiana Derby score. He handles a wet track just fine, thank you, showed explosiveness, power, and was striding out generously in the final furlong.
Looks like Jones is, as he suggested in a national conference call last week, “on a teeter totter” with him now. It will be interesting to see how Jones handles the colt from this point forward. Friesan Fire looks like he’s already there.
Can we please stop bad-mouthing Pioneerof The Nile? It seems every time he wins some sort apology is in order. Too slow; not compelling. So how did I Want Revenge and Papa Clem run after getting off Pro-Ride?
His San Felipe was a first rate prep. Taken out of his game by a slow pace, he was made to move prematurely and wide, forcing Garrett Gomez to tap on the breaks, ‘Nile’ needed to make a second move to the lead just as the cavalry began to move in and, despite tiring or waiting on rivals, he appeared to stride away approaching the finish.
All ‘The Nile’ does is answer every questions in the affirmative. He now tops the HRI Derby Ten for the first time this year, narrowly over Friesan Fire. As for dirt, we all need to wait and see.
Hello Broadway had never run a poor race until he shipped north for the Tampa Bay Derby won by the developing Musket Man, who got up in time with a powerful late run beneath Tampa’s leading rider and burgeoning star, Daniel Centeno.
Eibar Coa won a couple of races on the Tampa Derby undercard, but was no help to Barclay Tagg’s colt. Seemingly needlessly, Hello Broadway raced very wide nearly every step, something that just won’t work on that sandy, cuppy track.
Hello Broadway finished a bit better than one-paced and should benefit from his two-turn debut if Tagg decides to go on with him. He has no reason not to. Many shippers do not handle the Tampa oval, underscoring the need for a race over the track.
Does anyone know how good Rachel Alexander is? Hard to tell; she wins so very easily. Her connections have ruled out a chance to become the fourth filly to win the roses. Let’s see what happens after Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes.
The HRI Derby Ten, Week 6:
1-Pioneerof The Nile (29): Like old man river, The Nile just keeps rolling along. The battle for West Coast supremacy will be joined in the Santa Anita Derby, his final scheduled prep. But remember that Baffert will be looking down the road in that spot.
2-Friesan Fire (28): I can visualize Larry Jones seeing his wife Cindy for the first time after the Louisiana Derby and, as newly elected Senator Bill McKay asked his campaign manager in the final scene from the 1972 political classic The Candidate and asking: “What do we do now?”
3-I Want Revenge (27): Still living off his impressive and very fast Gotham win, connections are counting the days until the Wood Memorial. And who could blame them? Must avoid the dreaded “bounce,” which seems highly unlikely. Monarchos, anyone?
4-The Pamplemousse (18): After his powerhouse Sham win, everyone’s been saying how he runs like a dirt horse over the Pro-Ride surface. They may be right, but first he needs to beat Pioneerof The Nile, a definite possibility in the Santa Anita Derby.
5-Old Fashioned (17): Drops four spots following his stunning defeat in the Rebel and deservedly so. Should he win the Arkansas Derby with authority, Dominguez may be waving his forefinger in the air as he crosses the finish line. And deservedly so.
6-Quality Road (16): Despite his comprehensive Fountain of Youth victory, fast figures, strong dam’s side pedigree, he’s still flying beneath the radar. Florida Derby win should change all that providing that two turns are at least as good as one.
7-Desert Party (15): News traveling slowly out of the United Arab Emirates, so who knows? But the UAE Derby vs. “older” Southern Hemisphere three-year-olds should provide an answer. Two-year-old foundation augurs well and handles any surface.
8-Dunkirk (8): He’s in a possible must-win situation heading into the Florida Derby because the undefeated allowance winner has no graded earnings. In his corner is a visually impressive surface win at the Florida Derby distance. Working up a storm at Palm Meadows.
9-Rachel Alexander (2) [tie]: Her connections shouted “no, no, no, no” after her laugher in the Fair Grounds Oaks, saying they would be thrilled to win the Kentucky Oaks. Let’s see what happens after the Ashland. Either way, she deserves recognition among the HRI Power 10.
9-Papa Clem (2) [tie]: An ordinary speed type might have weakened totally after racing on a realistic pace throughout, but only Friesan Fire zoomed on by. This guy determinedly denied the talented, late-running Terrain the place.