Gunnevera Takes Xpress to Top of HRI Derby Power 10
Can’t say we didn’t warn you last week—that there would be a shakeup in HRI’s Derby Power 10 this weekend. With the start of the 50-point Derby round of preps, horsemen begin to get serious, especially with only nine weeks until May’s first Saturday.
The first thing to note is that Gunnevera leap-frogged from a dead-heat for fifth last week to the top of the HRI charts in Week 4. His Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth runnerup, Practical Joke, who barely made the list at #10 last week, completes the HRI exacta.
However, as Hyman Roth might say, relatively this was “small potatoes.” Remember the 2016 Eclipse champion juvenile Classic Empire? And former undefeateds; Irish War Cry and El Areeb?
Well, all three dropped out of the Power 10 but, respectfully, cling to hope on the HRI Also-Eligibles. But they all took serious hits to their reputations and probably rightly so. Now is the time to be moving forward and not going the other way.
But there’s no need to pass out Valium and razor blades quite yet. There’s still the all-important 100-pointers of April. But this weekend, and next, can become worthy cries for help, especially for Classic Empire who suffered another setback to his training schedule.
Parenthetically, we spoke to neither Mark nor Norman Casse yesterday but did observe them from afar at the races yesterday. They appeared to be their usually stoic selves but, if we could read into the body language, neither appeared particularly happy.
And that despite the fact the Casse family brought us two victorious Tapits yesterday; Inheritthewind, an impressive [turf] winner on debut, and Dream Dancing, winner of the G3 Herecomesthebride, heir apparent to 2016’s Catch a Glimpse and a star in the making.
The latter, incidentally, was a good second in her four-year-old debut but was no match for the older Celestine in the listed Sand Springs, a good 2017 launching pad for both. [But more on Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth card--yet another record setter--Tuesday].
A quick glance at Saturday’s three Kentucky Derby preps—that’s right, three.
In the majors, Gunnevera was most impressive and runnerup Practical Joke gained a lot of fans despite finishing 5-3/4 lengths farther back. Clearly, it was a great race to build on.
And, speaking of fans, let’s hear it for Three Rules beneath a new, more suitable partner, Luis Saez. They were pressed throughout but still forced Practical Joke to his utmost to secure the place.
As for Irish War Cry, Graham Motion tweeted Saturday night that his formerly undefeated chestnut came out of the race fine. Something might surface later on but he would be deserving of a mulligan.
Besides, it’s one thing to stalk a fast pace but quite another to force one. What the hell were those tactics all about; we still don’t know.
There was some karma to J Boys Echo perfect-trip score in the Gotham. At once, it validated the opinion of those who doubted El Areeb was as good as his undefeated record indicated although he, too, is very likely better with a target than providing one.
True Timber and Kendrick Carmouche just wouldn’t leave El Areeb alone!
Meanwhile, Dale Romans, who shipped to New York along with his colt, got a glimmer of hope from the Derby gods that--this time, with this colt—the Louisvillian will make it into the Derby starting gate. Highly likely, he’s already “in” with 53 points.
As for Saturday’s the third Derby prep, the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park, the HRI staff--on balance are no fans of artificial-surface racing and subsequent dirt form—acknowledges that It’s Your Nickel might be a worthy exception.
On debut as a Spa juvenile, the Ken McPeek trainee was no match for the brilliance of the promising New York-bred, Bobby on Fleek.
Subsequently, the long-striding colt returned from a freshening to break maiden on turf before finishing a close second on the dirt at Fair Grounds.
Elevated to first following a disqualification, the “winner” returning to take his next start, yesterday’s impressive turn of foot display helped turn the Battaglia into a key race.
It’s Your Nickel’s manner of his victory invites closer inspection. After stalking the pace from close range on Fair Grounds dirt--like Gunnevera, and like a second come-for-the-clouds prep winner by Dialed In, this athletic colt drew off to win by 6-1/2 lengths.
Needing Derby points, he can return for the Spiral, a 50-pointer back in Cincinnati three weeks hence. A win and he’s in.
The HRI Kentucky Derby Power 10, Week 4
1-GUNNEVERA (41) [pictured here] is #1 with a bullet—as in finished like one. Yes, he got the perfect hot-pace setup, unlike his tough-trip Holy Bull placing. As mentioned often here, two turns have made all the difference. Florida Derby is next for this old-school racehorse.
2-PRACTICAL JOKE (27) Ran to his brilliant workline with a bold move on the final turn from sixth, briefly looking like the winner before finishing one-paced in a worthy three-year-old debut. If we were calling the shots, we’d be looking for Florida Derby redemption.
3 (tie) McCRAKEN (25) Yes, the wrenched ankle, which will force him to miss Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby, was a setback. But if he wins the Blue Grass to remain undefeated, the Churchill lover easily could regain the top spot.
3 (tie) MASTERY (25) Continues to impress in his morning trails for Bullet Bob, getting his final preparation over and done yesterday for Saturday’s San Felipe. That Grade 2 mile and a sixteenth could have a profound effect on new week’s poll, one way or the other.
3 (tie) ONE LINER (25) Bidding his time since remaining undefeated by winning the Southwest impressively, he most likely will return to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel. There are 900,000 reasons to do so. But he also might bob-and-weave his way into the Louisiana Derby.
6- GIRVIN (22) Talented and late developing, the perfect-trip but strong gallop-out winner of the Risen Star in only his third lifetime start, we see no reason for Joe Sharp to move him out of bayou country.
7-TAPWRIT (17) Sam F. Davis Memorial runnerup among the top choices, if not the favorite for Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby, his proven affinity for the Oldsmar strip and a pace that promises to be lively given an expected large field, will suit his style.
8-UNIQUE BELLA (13) Her Santa Ysabel was a subtly impressive score. She bulled her way between rivals early, was schooled down the backside, was on her own into the lane and needed several reminders to hold runnerup safe before drawing out at the wire. The question: Is the Santa Anita Derby, or some other challenge vs. colts, next?
9-J BOYS ECHO (11) He’s finally is learning what the game is all about and this letter could not have timed it better, just like his run in the Gotham. Robby Albarado could not wait to get his mount rolling on the outside and the colt obliged. Most likely, the Blue Grass is next.
10-GORMLEY (10) A real fighter who could be compared favorably to East Coast battler Practical Joke, he continues to train right along for the ever patient John Shirreffs. And this colt had better be set now; the San Felipe and Mastery are up next on Saturday.
Also Receiving Votes: American Anthem, Classic Empire, Cloud Computing, El Areeb, Irish War Cry, Lookin At Lee
photo by Toni Pricci
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 5, 2017
Written by John Pricci - Comments (21)