Sunday, April 20, 2014

Let the Waiting Begin

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ, April 19, 2014—Well, the two final Der.., er, Preakness preps have been run--but more on that later.

To say that Cairo Prince’s 3-year-old season has had its ups and downs following a thoroughly comprehensive victory in the Holy Bull Stakes early in the season would be an understatement.

First, came the Florida Derby disappointment which might have been able to be remedied; everything else being equal, which, of course, it never is.

Then following defections at the top of the Churchill Downs points leader board, he was able to draw into the field at #20. That was just; he deserved a spot in Derby 140.

Now comes the unfortunate ankle injury, the source of which remains a mystery to his connections at this writing, that has knocked him off the Derby trail but hopefully will not force him to enter the breeding shed prematurely.

The defection moved Vinceremos up to #20, giving Todd Pletcher a fourth Derby entrant should the status quo be maintained.

We’re not sure that the Sam F Davis winner and Tampa Bay Derby runnerup even has a puncher’s chance with this Derby class but one supposes that for the five-time Eclipse Award winner there is safety in numbers.

With respect to the HRI Derby Power 10 and beyond we’re certain very little will change when the NTRA Poll is released later Monday afternoon. In all likelihood the rankings will be based on voter projections of the likely winner and serious contenders.

At Pimlico, King Cruz did what he had to do, i.e., win as the heavy Federico Tesio favorite. But it would have been interesting to see what might have been the result had Sassicaia found a seam, any seam, anywhere, between the five-sixteenths pole and the wire.

In the language of the place where I witnessed the festivities, the New Meadowlands Race Track, he was raging with pace. While I can’t say I saw the entire gallop-out, the segment I did see had him in front of the winner, and I don’t believe at that point it was that far beyond the finish line.

Sassicaia has always been highly regarded, is in top hands, and will be, with normal development, a player within the division, everything else being equal which, of course, it never is.

Mark Casse called a hell of an audible, and Miguel Mena rode a hell of a race to upset Illinois Derby favorite Midnight Hawk by a last-jump nose with a recent maiden graduate, Dynamic Impact.

Casse cross-entered the colt in the $200,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland--where the colt had been training lights out--but at decision time opted for the $500,000 dirt race at Hawthorne.

Mena, from his pole position, actually pressed odds-on Midnight Hawk from the rail position around both turns, a tack that works--I don’t know—maybe once every thousand races?

Midnight Hawk finally cleared Dynamic Impact at mid-turn but Mena stayed on top of the colt, indeed asking to go after the favorite again after shifting course outside at headstretch.

Did Midnight Hawk stay the nine furlongs? Not likely, but he was game, and a lesser recent maiden would not have come up with that final surge RIGHT at the wire.

Watching live, it appeared that the favorite had prevailed but thanks to a brilliant slow-mo of the finish by the closed circuit boys at Hawthorne it was, “hey, just wait a minute.”

Dynamic Impact is coming to hand quickly and could be a factor later on--like four weeks from now. With no qualifying points available—not that he was likely to come back in two weeks anyway—there is no Derby in his future.

Here then is the HRI Derby Power 10, Week 9 Edition:

1. California Chrome (36)
2. Hopportunity (26)
3. Wicked Strong (25)
4. Intense Holiday (22)
5. tie-General a Rod (18)
5. tie-Wildcat Red (18)
7. Danza (12)
8. Samraat (11)
9. Vicar’s In Trouble (6)
10. Candy Boy (3)

Written by John Pricci

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