HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 27, 2022 – If what’s past is prologue, the second half of the Derby season should be even more entertaining than the tradition-laden three-year-old fixtures of spring.
And this includes what was displayed in Saturday morning’s Irish Derby at The Curragh. Westover won in a romp, showing a devastating late turn of foot that previously was only good enough for a show finish in Surrey.
On that occasion, the 243rd renewal of the Epsom Derby, Desert Crown gave Sir Michael Stoute his sixth Epsom score with the enormously impressive Desert Crown.
Not only did Westover confirm the Epsom form, he, too, was a dominating winner, taking Europe’s most recent sophomore fixture in the same decisive manner that Desert Crown blew open the storied British classic.
Hopefully, one will show up at Keeneland on the first weekend in November, even though currently it appears that Desert Crown is the least likely of the two.
Whatever happens over there will not spoil what happens in the sophomore division here. What happened in North Randall, Ohio Saturday afternoon confirmed the form of America’s traditional classics.
The Ohio Derby exacta finishers Tawny Port and White Abarrio both competed in Louisville: Tawny Port was a tough-trip seventh but beaten only by 4-3/4 lengths.
White Abarrio, eliminated by an 8-10 wide Derby journey, conversely was in perfect position Saturday, stalking dueling leaders throughout, got first run, but was no match when Tawny Port came calling in midstretch.
Given what happened Saturday afternoon, and considering the developmental dynamics of each, it appears late developing Tawny Port would be the divisional leaders’ most challenging rival.
For now, Belmont Stakes winning Mo Donegal is the consensus leader, but Derby winner Rich Strike, deserving of another chance, is still in the conversation until proved otherwise.
Brown’s pair, Preakness winning Early Voting, and Blue Grass-winning, Derby runnerup Zandon while formidable, may be no match for the brilliance of their stablemate Jack Christopher, who has distance questions to answer.
But a three-year-old who does not, and has been all but forgotten recently, is Epicenter. Remember the colt who led the NTRA poll for nearly three months? Steve Asmussen does.
And what of the regrouping Cyberknife and Messier? Are they not capable of rejoining the elites at the top of the class?
Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath was compromised by race dynamics and made a premature run in Baltimore, but she, too, rates to be in any three-year-old conversation.
And the Belmont Stakes filly runnerup, Nest, in the end might not need to back a backseat to any of her contemporaries.
But that division also got deeper over the weekend when Gerrymander delivered on her promise, taking Saturday’s G2 Mother Goose at 1-1/16 miles.
As a half-sister to redoubtable American marathoner Lone Rock, Saratoga’s Alabama, one week before the Travers, could set the divisional championship table nicely. And if Nest shows up in this 10-furlong test, what an Alabama it will be.
Gerrymander does have a two-turn question to answer, in the manner that Juju’s Map is proven rounding a second turn but could not manage the intense pace pressure at the start of an elongated sprint.
That’s just as well for the Cox outfit that has Acorn heroine Matareya for Grade 1 one-turners up to a mile. But she, too, could run on, who knows until proven otherwise, though one suspects routes are not in her wheelhouse.
The two-turn question is less speculative in the case of Mother Goose runnerup Shahama.
A winner of the UAE Oaks this winter, her scopey frame and long stride will be much better suited to longer trips around two turns. Chasing rivals sprint-style is simply not what she’s made to do.
Either way, racing’s glamour division is deep in talent whatever the distance.
High class sophomores are everywhere in 2022, yet no clearly dominant equine has emerged–then that’s what summer and fall racing are about.
So, to paraphrase and invert an old limerick, run another verse, same as the first.