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.

Moquett: “I’m Sick of Baffert”

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 20, 2016—It’s been quite a week for Thoroughbred racing’s one percent. On Thursday, Todd Pletcher, who has Zulu ranked 10th in HRI’s Derby Power 10, won his 4,000th career race.

On Saturday, Bob Baffert won his sixth Rebel Stakes and now has two horses on the hit parade; Mor Spirit at #7 and Rebel hero Cupid, who entered the poll at #9, breaking the heart of Whitmore and his trainer, Ron Moquett.

Then again maybe everyone should have seen it coming: A $900,000 auction purchase winning a $900,000 “prep.”

“As bad as I felt all day and night [food poisoning],” Moquett exclaimed, “I'm more sick of Bob Baffert. [Cupid] was able to get his second quarter in twenty-four. These caliber of horses don't come back from that.

And they especially don’t come back from middle half-miles in pedestrian 50.83.

“When you're a $900,000 Tapit, bred to be what he is, they don't back up... nobody went with him. I thought somebody would go with him.”

Actually, it wasn’t all that surprising that no rival did. Oaklawn Park, known for its far turn sweeper dynamics and, traffic notwithstanding, horses usually come on in the late stages to nail the top prize. It was a perfect storm of events that kept Cupid from being caught.

Speed was holding quite well yesterday at Oaklawn Park, not biased in any way, just speed-kind. Of the seven two-turn events, two were won by front-enders while pace setters and stalkers hit the board in all other races except the finale.

Many of the Rebel’s main contenders found trouble, not at all surprising considering 14 three-year-olds left the starting stalls. From the runnerup through the fifth-finishing favorite:

Whitmore, “five wide” on final turn; Creator, “five wide” turn; Cherry Wine, “traffic” and Suddenbreakingnews, “traffic, lost action, steadied…”

As the racetrackers say, Cupid never had a straw in his path and much of that was a tribute to his ability. He is a good colt, the best that $900,000 can buy.

It’s not easy shipping cross-country off a maiden score, step into a Grade 2 on a foreign surface not all horses can handle well, then repel a nice colt who had dead aim inside the final furlong, Cupid separating himself again as the wire neared.

Baffert indicated post-race that if all goes well he’ll be back for the Arkansas Derby, which is a week after Mor Spirit runs in the Santa Anita Derby. If anyone’s sick of Baffert now, just wait…

(featuring a dead heat at the top):

1-MOHAYMEN (42): Another perfect, soft work and strong gallop-out before the big drill next Friday--on a collision course with the co-leader in the Florida Derby in two weeks. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will not see the next live; he’ll be in Dubai saddling Frosted on Saturday.

1-NYQUIST (42): Also had an excellent, purposeful work this week and is scheduled to deplane in South Florida March 28. He’ll be stabled at Gulfstream Park. Doug O’Neill’s itinerary is set, landing here on the 29th, then it will mornings with the colt, evening’s at his favorite restaurants and late evening’s at Solid Gold, or Pure Platinum, or…

3-SHAGAF (28): Remains on schedule for the Wood Memorial and may have a stablemate with him, Flexibility, a recent sharp worker more likely Blue Grass-bound but one which ran very well behind Mohaymen in the Nashua on the Big A main track last fall.

4-DESTIN (23): Not that he needs justification, but he was flattered Saturday when Morning Fire, a good, pacesetting third in Destin’s G3 Sam F. Davis, returned to win the Spectacular Bid sprint with authority. Pletcher also will be in Dubai by Tuesday.

5-GUN RUNNER (21):
Has drawn the rail and will face 10 rivals, including Grade 1 winner Greenpointcrusader, who drew the adjoining stall, for Saturday’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, significant in that the NOLA will mark the first of the graded nine-furlong preps.

6-DANZINGS CANDY (20): Broke into the Power 10 with a victory in Santa Anita’s San Felipe. But now that Cupid is on board, and what with Zulu holding on to his ranking, three of the pollsters are speed types--and this is only one list, with only with 10 runners. Something will have to give.

7-MOR SPIRIT (16): The first of two from Baffert, his San Felipe defeat better than it appears on paper. The nagging feeling is that he will be much, much better three weeks from now. Both of his recent races appeared highly educational.

8-MO TOM (14): Normally we don’t buy into deep closers stretching out, especially those not especially bred to the task. But this guy looks like an exception; he’s a late-turn-of-foot type as opposed to a grinder. Then he just might always be a troubled trip waiting to happen.

9-CUPID (10):
Perhaps Messrs. Tabor, Magnier and Smith were tired of fighting the Baffert Triple Crown machine and decided to join it, the $900K representing a tad more than monopoly money at their level. An HRI contributor said they should give Tapit the ‘Sire of the Year’ trophy right now. Point taken.

10-ZULU (8): Maybe Bob has two in the Power 10 now, but Pletcher was here first. There will be no Florida Derby for him, which leaves graded nine furlong races Hot Springs, Lexington and Queens as options.

Outwork, Whitmore

Written by John Pricci - Comments (8)


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