Thursday, March 28, 2013


It’s Do or Die for Bobby


Bruce Springsteen said it best when he stated that it takes a red head to get a dirty job done. No more true is that than this Saturday when Rosie Napravnik gets a leg up on Shanghai Bobby, the 2012 juvenile champion.

The Kentucky Derby winner is coming out of this Florida Derby, and for Rosie it’s time to break into the A+ tier of riders. Some may say she’s already there with any number of Grade 1s in her purse and riding titles but she needs a Hall of Fame-ride in a Hall-of-Fame scenario.

Shanghai Bobby has much to prove. Shanghai Bobby has been tagged with the distance question, which is like getting yips on the greens. Frankly, none of them can get the distance. The final furlong is a war of attrition. The best horse is probably the one who hits the quarter pole first. The race then devolves into a bunch of toddlers running in moon shoes.

Shanghai Bobby ran a spirited Holy Bull back on January 27 when he was defeated by Itsmyluckyday (who set a track record that day). It appeared on replay that it was your classic “this horse needed the race” kind of effort for Shanghai Bobby. After all, who wants their horse to run their eyeballs out on January 27? Certainly not trainer Todd Pletcher. Certainly not Red Rosie.

In watching the Holy Bull a few times, you can tell Napravnik isn’t asking her horse to gut this one out. She went to the stick a few times, but when it was clear she'd lose at sixteenth pole she let him cruise to the wire second best. In this prep, losing by three while coasting versus a driving length is about as easy a decision as there is.

Given that his connections are taking the newly traditional two-race path to Kentucky, getting the lungs expanded during training seems to be all the more important. All March Shanghai Bobby drilled 5/8ths. His previous four workouts to his Holy Bull effort were also five furlongs. He's had two half-mile workouts post-Holy Bull. This strikes me as a pattern indicating that they feel a need to train him hard. Either that or they fear that he may have distance issues. If you’re gonna run long, you had better train long.

Napravnik, in an interview with the Courier-Journal, said, "Last time I worked him he just did what he had to do, nothing more. He’s doesn’t feel the need to show off or beat another horse just for the sake of beating them. He just fools around, yet does what you ask him to do. He knows the morning work is not the big show."

Ah, but the morning is the big show. If a horse can't take its workouts seriously, how can it win? We'll see if he was getting by on natural ability or if he really the cream of this crop. Just check out his friends.

Stablemate Overanalyze recently drilled three consecutive half-miles. Revolutionary’s last workout was four furlongs, and Verrazano, the latest chart-topper in the futures poll, mainly drills half miles. It appears that Pletcher is working Shanghai Bobby longer for a reason.

It will be up to the talented Napravik to ration Bobby's speed. Jack Wolf, one of the principals of Starlight Racing, said during an NTRA teleconference, “She’s just unflappable. She’s cool. I mean—and she’s obviously comfortable on these horses and the horses respect her and get that. But for a person her age – I think she’s 24 or 25 – the [one way] to describe her is she is very cool under fire, so—and actually, she’s a very talented rider too, so—she’s young and she’s got a tremendous future ahead of her.”

For Rosie that future is now. Whether or not she has enough horse will be entirely up to her--and the colt.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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