Wood, Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby All Prove Useful Barometers
SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY, April 10,2016—The glamour division of Thoroughbred racing, Derby-aged colts, geldings—and fillies, too—put on quite of show in Saturday’s major races.
In addition, another potentially major three-year-old emerged in the seven furlong G3 Bay Shore, but Mark Berner will have more on Unified Tuesday.
[Mark earned that distinction by voting him 10th in last week’s HRI poll off a single six- furlong maiden win at Gulfstream. We hate show-offs].
Anyway, Saturday’s Super Prep Saturday, like all races, had their heroes and disappointments but I must say, on balance, there were more things to like than dislike.
Whether any or all of this, in addition to Saturday’s Arkansas Derby, ultimately results in the upending of the undeniable king of the three-year-old colts, Nyquist, is a query to be answered next month.
Another thing for certain is, the preps, whether they result in Triple Crown victories or defeats, keep the sport going at a lively and entertaining pace.
Here, then, including a thumbnail review of Saturday’s top performances, is HRI’s Triple Crown Power 10, Week 7:
1. Nyquist (48) we're in racing's kooky season, when newly created equine stars become the subject of stories with more flash than substance. Meaning, did we really need to know about the undefeated champion's white blood cell count? Most probably the result of routine shipping malaise, this is more hype creation than transparency. If it were anything more serious, the resumption of strong gallops this weekend indicates that all is well. And we couldn’t be happier about this heading into Louisville.
2. Gun Runner (34), given his comprehensive Louisiana Derby victory, his status remains high because the win underscored that the Risen Star was not an aberration and indeed a precursor of what was to come. As stated previously, Gun Runner owns the proper style and kick to fit the Derby's dynamics, likes the Louisville surface and has, at this juncture, only Nyquist and history in his path: It’s not because only two prior La. Derby winners repeated in Louisville, with a race in between, the more pressing urgency is the six weeks between final prep and big dance.
3. Exaggerator (30), speaking of handicapping what-have-you-done-lately angles, it must be noted what can happen when long sustained runs are made at the proper time. His tiring after the huge mid-race San Felipe move even caused trainer Keith Desormeaux—if he wasn’t blowing Cajun smoke—to question his colt's ability at nine furlongs. Question answered, with authority, as he blew the Santa Anita Derby wide open with a devastating late move, as if another furlong would be no mountain too high to climb. The most important aspect of the victory is his underscoring of Derby-owning style--making a strong turn move and keeping that momentum all the way down the lane.
4. Brody's Cause (24) trainer Dale Romans gets harder to read by the day. If you consider how Keen Ice ran following his awful prep for the Dubai World Cup, and then the subsequent poor performance, the only dynamic resulting in his blowout Blue Grass victory is that it came over the track at he experienced previous Grade 1 Grade 1 in 2015's Breeders’ Futurity and a worthy BC Juvenile show finish. Since he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs, his Blue Grass from should transfer north, and recall that Romans excels in LAY-3 scenarios. I would expect that new rider Luis Saez will retain the mount.
4. Destin (24) here’s what you need to know about the first of two Todd Pletcher runners in this group. His Tampa Bay Derby score was his second without defeat on the Oldsmar surface, in which he beat Outwork in the process, the latter coming back to win Saturday’s Wood Memorial--an instant key race. Even longshot Star Hill was competitive before tiring in the Blue Grass. An hour earlier Weep No More, 2-for-2 at Tampa, came back to shock three brilliant fillies in the G1 Ashland. It’s a wonder why more talented three-year-olds don’t stable or at least ship to Tampa to leg up for the spring classics?
6. Outwork (20) his performance, gamely withstanding a late stretch challenge after being engaged through a very fast early pace speaks to his late development and class. Trainer Todd Pletcher had it exactly right in his post-race remarks: "Forget the Derby, forget everything other than the fact it was a huge win in only his fourth lifetime start. To win a Grade 1 in his fourth start is extra gratifying for our team because five years ago Uncle Mo didn't win the Wood Memorial." Pletcher can begin thinking Derby tomorrow.
7. Cupid (16) some added replay work this week shows that this colt’s Rebel victory was as impressive visually as the first few times we saw it and that Cherry Wine came back off his fourth place Rebel finish to pose a solid threat in the Blue Grass, eventually nailed for place by My Man Sam in the final strides. Training brilliantly—what else?—Bob Baffert will take this love child back to Arkansas where, given his success rate, would be grounds for taking up permanent residency.
7. Mohaymen (16) certainly was not flattered by Zulu’s finish in the Blue Grass, nearly erasing any doubts that Classics colts based and raced in South Florida this winter have returned to perform sub-standardly. Equally amazing to us is how other observers re-boarded after the race that there were obvious chinks present in the armor prior to the Florida Derby, citing that as fact. We still like this colt but whether there remains enough to him as an individual to enable him to rebound and win the Derby would be a huge leap of faith.
9. Mor Spirit (10) while he handled the Santa Anita slop very well, Exaggerator appeared to revel in it, allowing him to blow the race wide open strides leaving headstretch. What needs remembering here is that Mor Spirit was going in the right direction at the finish under what appeared more educational, careful handling from Gary Stevens. The learning process is now complete, and strong, sharp works in Kentucky could prove to be Nyquist’s major concern.
10. Mo Tom (6) as previously stated, believe that Tom Amoss’ decision to keep Corey Lanerie on the stretch-running son of Uncle Mo is the correct one. And Amoss’ thinking sure looks a lot clearer after Lanerie was able to engineer a 30-1 upset with the My Old Kentucky Home-reminiscent Weep No More. Yes, the Grade 1 Ashland was a five-horse race set up by a fierce battle among three very talented fillies. Lanerie used his preferred inside-out tack he likes to employ with late runners. Maybe this colt can make it around there cleanly in four weeks--difficult, not impossible.
10. My Man Sam (6) was absolutely killed by the #14 post position, requiring him to save as much ground as possible early—meaning drop far back—then make one gallant late surge. Entering the stretch extremely wide, he rallied with unwavering courage down the lane, able to secure the place in the final jumps. Like so many of yesterday’s competitors, he was going in the right direction at the finish. Looks like this Derby is going to have its fair share of speed, mid-pack and late runners; a heady handicapping mix to be sure.
Ratings are the consensus opinions of HRI staffers and contributors. Points are assigned 12 for #1, 9 for #2, 8 for #3, etc., etc. Barometers include accomplishment first, then suitability to the task, late development...
Written by John Pricci - Comments (20)