HRI's Triple Crown Power Rankings

The HRI Triple Crown Power Rankings is a consensus opinion of HorseRaceInsider's editorial staff compiled and written by executive editor John Pricci. It is an amalgam of achievement and opinion relative to the merits of the 2013 Triple Crown. The HRI Triple Crown Power Rankings will be adjusted each week following significant prep race developments.

No Changes at Top of Power 10; Shagaf Breaks Through

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 6, 2016—A pair of majors and a pair of minors make next weekend an active one for HRI’s Derby Power 10 and beyond but, prior to that, a reviews of Saturday’s three-year-old stakes action.

The skinny is that Shagaf showed he is for real by overcoming a speed-biased surface to the Grade 3 Gotham and his stakes debut while on the left coast, Songbird did little to temper the enthusiasm of those who’d like her to run on May’s first Saturday.

But thus far the connections have stuck to their guns, targeting the Kentucky Oaks following a go in the Santa Anita Oaks. As we indicated last weekend, we’re keeping her options open as late Triple Crown nominations don’t close until March 20.

In the interim, she will be relegated to the “Also Receiving Votes” category until March 21 when she will either rejoin the Top 10 are remain on HRI’s also-eligible list.

Once again, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was nothing short of awesome, even if there were very little behind her capable of mounting a serious challenge.

No disrespect for Land Over Sea, the distant runnerup (3-3/4 lengths) and 13-1 second choice to the geared down, undefeated five-cents-on-the-dollar victress, no filly out West can make her run faster than she wants to.

The only filly who has the kind of lick it takes to seriously challenge Songbird is the East Coast dominatrix Cathryn Sophia, also undefeated and also very fast. But that’s a story for some other FRI-day.

At Aqueduct, meanwhile, the surface was as biased as I have ever seen in a half century of race watching; truly. An abomination of a highway conveyor, eight of the nine other races were won wire to wire; the other “deep closer” came from second!

Shuffled back to fourth after having traveled a half mile as runners outside pressed in their attempts to gain position and put pressure on loose leading Laoban who stopped the timer in a moderate 47.16, Irad Ortiz Jr. angled Shagaf out into the 4-path at headstretch ad gamely wore down the bias-aided frontrunner.

Considering the bias, the two-turn debut and the fact the Gotham was the first time he dealt with kickback, Shagaf did well to win in full stride, drawing away at the end. What tempers enthusiasm were the final fractions. The third quarter-mile was a pokey 27.11, and the final sixteenth took 7.10 seconds to complete. Still, it was an extraordinary run.

"I'm very proud of his effort,” Chad Brown told NYRA press staffers. “Our plan was to be able to teach him something and possibly still win…The fact he can secure a spot early with his positional speed is going to come in handy later on…The plan is stay here in New York for the Wood Memorial…He broke his maiden on the outer track here at Aqueduct.”

As a result of his Grade 2 victory around two turns and his remaining undefeated, Shagaf debuts in HRI’s Derby Power 10 at #7, replacing Greenpointcrusader due to his lack of recent activity.

The latter can go in any direction for his second and last Derby prep, including a spot alongside Shagaf in the April 9 Wood. Next Saturday, scores can change big time with the San Felipe and Tampa Bay Derby on Saturday’s docket.

And one never knows, Turfway’s Battaglia Memorial and Laurel’s Private Terms might jump-start a classics campaign for some heretofore unknown prospect.

Mohaymen and Nyquist, 1-2 in last week’s initial poll, are the winning exacta once again. Each remains on schedule for their titanic match in the April 2 Florida Derby. The HRI Derby Power Rankings, Week 2:

1-MOHAYMEN (45): Exited the Fountain of Youth in excellent condition and is scheduled to have his first breeze for the Florida Derby next weekend.

2-NYQUIST (39): Trainer Doug O’Neill has one eye on El Nino, one eye on the Florida Derby and a third eye in the Herpes virus quarantine situation in South Florida.

3-MOR SPIRIT (29):
No aborted workout yesterday in advance of Saturday’s San Felipe as he drilled a sharp, strong 6-furlong company work Saturday beneath Martin Garcia.

4-SONGBIRD (28): As stated, will remain eligible here until March 20. Sorry, but once again she gave a performance in the Santa Isabel that conjures up the ‘R’ word: Ruffian.

5-MO TOM (22): Deeply troubled Risen Star third continues his quest via the Louisiana route. A talented, proven Churchill performer, it hasn’t been easy getting a line on this circuit’s three-year-olds.

6-GUN RUNNER (17):
Back on the work tab with an easy 5-furlong breeze in 1:02 4/5, his Risen Star score was at once a giant step forward and a needed conditioner for the Louisiana Derby.

7-SHAGAF (15): Irad Ortiz Jr. after his Gotham dismount, “Chad is going little by little with him. I think we could see him in the Derby; he's good, we have to see what happens." Damning with faint praise, or something lost in translation?

8-EXAGGERATOR (13): Runnerup to Nyquist in the San Vicente, worked with purpose and crispness in his San Felipe drill. It may not be Mohaymen v Nyquist, but Mor Spirit v Exaggerator is alight, alright, alright.

9-SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (11): Silky Sullivan-type breezed an easy half in 51 1/5 in advance of the Rebel. Sure would like to see if his big kicker last out was an aberration or for real.

9-ZULU (11): His second to Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth, a fast-track and two-turn debut was excellent, especially in light of post parade behavior. If he acquits himself well in Florida Derby, he belongs in the top Derby stratum.

Also Receiving Votes, ranked in order
: Greenpoint Crusader, Brody’s Cause, Forevamo, Swipe and Destin.

Written by John Pricci - Comments (9)


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