Friday, April 20, 2012
Last Chance to Dance--and Bet--on the Prep Trail
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 19, 2012—Now this weekend is it, right? You mean it, yes? This is the absolute, complete, final, odds-on definite end to the Triple Crown chase.
The Grade 3 Lexington can provide another Kentucky Derby starter. Bob Baffert has entered Castaway, winner of a division of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes before setting a pressured pace and getting crushed as the Sunland Derby favorite in a subsequent start.
Baffert said he could run him back in the Derby, or not, for the Coolmore people who probably wouldn’t mind being a part of May Madness, getting a nice view of the proceedings from the fifth floor at Churchill Downs.
Given the way Baffert’s been going lately, winning the biggest race of his life in Dubai three weeks ago, and a couple of other races recently, too, the public is likely to fancy Castaway, the 3-1 early line favorite.
Eleven sophomore races were entered on Wednesday and I do believe only two don’t have much of a chance but six of the 11 have a lot more than a puncher’s chance to win the Lexington, including the race’s sponsor, the aforementioned Coolmore folks.
I sometimes confuse two of the other five: I know Gold Megillah and Morgan’s Guerrilla; just have a dickens of the time remembering which is which. So, as Casey once suggested, I looked it up.
But shouldn’t both names really be combined into one, something like Megillah Guerrilla?
Anyway, Morgan’s Guerrilla (6-1) was second in the G3 Illinois Derby to Done Talking. Yes, I know, they came the final eighth mile very slowly but this guy forced the mid-race action while making a very wide run from post 12: I’m not going to punish him for that.
Besides, today he’s reuniting with the meet’s leading rider, Julien Leparoux, and draws the pole. In three lifetime starts, he’s never taken a backward step on the Equiform scale. Then neither has undefeated [on turf] Summer Front (9-2).
Then there’s Johannesbourbon (8-1) who enters this off a 9-3/4 length maiden win on Turfway Poly, worked a bullet best of 96 among his peer group for the week, and trainer Kellen Gorder is a profitable 26% efficient first-time going long.
The ubiquitous Mr. Pletcher has entered the late developing Holiday Promise (6-1), that’s coming off a lifetime best in his Poly debut in Turfway’s G3 Spiral when second to the same stable’s [Team Valor] Went The Day Well, who already is assured a spot in Derby 138.
And, oh, yes, Gold Megillah, who’s developing nicely, albeit slowly, for Graham Motion and the West Point people. He showed laudably improved energy distribution while finishing third in the Rushaway, his Poly debut. It’s not often you get a 10-1 bid on Team Motion/Velazquez without even asking.
If pressed, it appears Holiday Promise is the right one. He trimming five pounds from his most recent impost, has improved since blinkers, and blazed a half-mile in :47 in preparation.
Frankly, I was surprised to learn that Pletcher is a profitable 26% efficient lifetime on All Weather surfaces and has been hot shipping into Lexington, sporting a (9) 3-2-1 before racing commenced Thursday.
The Jerome is just as difficult, but it figures to likely make more of an impression on the Preakness than the Derby.
The Grade 2 mile attracted seven, including two uncoupled Bafferts, one Pletcher, and an unusual Mike Hushion, in that Hushion’s bringing back The Lumber Guy (5-2) on two weeks rest after setting a runoff pace then a stoutly restrained lead in the Wood Memorial.
Note, however, that in his prior, he overcame a bobbled beginning to win the one-turn 7-furlong Miracle Wood at Laurel, earning the best Equiform figure in the group. He is co-highweight with Adirondack King (12-1) at 120, as they spot the remainder of the field fur pounds.
Baffert’s pair of Brigand (4-1) and Stirred Up (2-1) both have merit, of course, but Pletcher’s Dan and Sheila is a bit too slow. While Term Loan (8-1) comes from a rapidly run mile, it was a two-turn inner-track mile and came vs. maidens.
Right To Vote (5-1) is interesting. Third to Union Rags in the Champagne, a physical issue kept him out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He returned with a hard-fought allowance win at Gulfstream Park in March now tries graded company once again. Eoin Harty is a profitable 21% in second-off-layoff scenarios.
Like The Lumber Guy, Adirondack King (12-1), third in the Southwest two starts back, benefits from today’s conditions. A one-turn mile should suit his style nicely. He’s well positioned outside, posted two sharp works back-to-back for this, and switches to Kendrick Carmouche. Five weeks spacing is ideal and early line odds very tempting.