Friday, February 21, 2014
Fountain of Youth, Risen Star Will Help Focus Derby Picture
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., February 21, 2014—The Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Season is over and now it’s on to the Championship season.
I’ll see your 10 points and raise you 50.
Two real good races are on tap Saturday, both from a sport and betting perspective. Full fields on display with nary a layover in either event.
In South Florida, 13 will answer the starters’ call with what should be co-favorites, Commissioner (3-1) and Top Billing (7-2), having drawn the pole and the 12 post, respectively, the latter having a short run to the first turn and the former the shortest way home, assuming a clean break.
Additionally, the race will end at the first finish line, a sixteenth of a mile down the stretch from, well, the finish line.
Meanwhile, down on the Bayou, the Risen Star is so attractive that it even includes two also-eligibles, bringing the total number of entrants to 16.
If you have an opinion, bring money.
The Todd Pletcher and Shug McGaughey trained three year olds are meeting for the second time at the meet when Commissioner won a head-bobber over Top Billing at 9 furlongs, his season’s debut.
His fans will point to the fact that he looked his rival in the eye and stared him down. Top Billing fans will counter with having the tougher trip, especially when made a sandwich in midstretch.
In a Fountain of Youth context, both were flattered when Top Billing came back to win a first level allowances at today’s mile and a sixteenth with an electric, circle-the-field, see-you-later last-to-first romp.
If you blinked, you missed it.
Meanwhile, General a Rod (5-1), winner of the Gulfstream Park Derby over Wildcat Red (6-1) on New Year’s Day has been storing his energy and has worked brilliantly for his return.
His trainer, Mike Maker, is winning with just about one of every three starters this meet. He’s been winning most of those races recent with Javier Castellano, who abandons Wildcat Red for “a-Rod.” His pedigree wants all of today’s trip.
Wildcat Red has been slighted by some believing he’s a sprinter/miler type. Ultimately, that might be true but, for now, his tour de force in the shorter Hutcheson has him razor sharp for today’s trip, which he should handle. Luis Saez is a more-than-capable pinch-rider.
In Nola, Pletcher will be represented by Intense Holiday, a late running third behind impressive winner Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull. He finished one-paced but made a big run to get there.
The Holy Bull was the colt’s first start since last year’s sneaky-good fourth in the Remsen Stakes. Race shape dynamics at Fair Grounds is much more suitable to his late-run style. Mike Smith rides Intense Holiday (8-1) from post 9.
This wide open mile and a sixteenth features a number of major contenders, from the rail out:
Albano was a very game, wide-run second to runaway winner Vicar’s In Trouble in the G3 Lecomte, his two turn debut. Albano (12-1), a tactical speedster, breaks from the rail beneath Kerwin Clark.
If it’s Fair Grounds that must mean Tom Amoss, who will saddle the very formidable Rise Up (4-1) with main southeast man Gerard Melancon from post 2.
Amoss is having his usual good Fair Grounds session, batting 27% from 95 starters through Monday’s racing, and last year’s G3 Delta Jackpot winner, fastest in the field on our own performance figures, is working strongly for his season’s debut. He figures to be in the race from the start.
Steve Asmussen will find out if he has another serious Derby runner in addition to Tapiture, who freaked winning Monday’s Southwest, when he saddles Gold Hawk (6-1) beneath Corey Nakatani from post 6. Empire Maker colt was a little obstreperous while being loaded into his Lecomte slip but still managed third.
Bob Baffert is shipping Hoppertunity in from the West Coast and is bringing Martin Garcia along with him. That team leaves from post 8 at 8-1. Hoppertunity broke maiden by 3 impressive lengths last out and Bullet Bob is 30% efficient with his shippers and 32% effective with last out maiden winners.
Commanding Curve (20-1) earns good energy figures with consistency for Dallas Stewart and main man Robby Albarado and 20-1 on the early line seems, well, way out of line.
Favorite Vicar’s in Trouble (5-2) is saddled with post 14 for Mike Maker, Rosie Napravnik and the Ramsey family. He’ll need all his brilliance to handle that assignment—that, and a tougher crew than he vanquished in the Lecomte.
The Into Mischief colt stalked the Lecomte pace before taking over before blowing the race wide open at headstretch, drawing off to win by nearly 7.