If the “tennis star” gets beat in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at 1-1/16 miles, Bob Baffert has his built-in excuse: He drew the rail. Then, there’s the blinkers off excuse, which could go back on for the Arkansas Derby if all does not go well Saturday.
There’s the first-time two-turns angle or the wet track, for which there’s a 90 percent chance that could occur. On the other hoof, he’s bred for both scenarios on two sides: Blame, from a Pulpit mare.
But let’s face it, he has no excuses. His best weapon is his speed, according to his trainer, he has pole position, a short run into the turn, Joel Rosario in the boot, and he owns paired 3-3/4s in his two starts at graduating trips of six and seven furlongs. Explosive, at the Sheet guys say.
But he’s isn’t the fastest on the Thoro-Graph scale. That would be Grade 1 Hopeful winner Basin–by 6-1/2 widening lengths on a sloppy Saratoga surface. It’s a tough spot for a season’s debut, but he earned a 2-1/4 TG figure as a Spa juvenile. So, how’s he training?
“Like a Grade 1 winner,” said his trainer, Steve Asmussen.
Basin has 10 works coming into this race and also is bred for distance. The work pattern is not one that suggests he needs a race, but only the horse knows for sure. Nine of the works were at his New Orleans base, and he shipped here for a soft, typical Asmussen blowout. Javier Castellano rides.
Asmussen has three of the eight to line up, including season Silver Prospector, a winner of the G3 Southwest after first getting a run in the Smarty Jones. Both, like all horses here, need Kentucky Derby points, of which 50 goes to the winner, a ticket into the Derby 146 starting gate.
Asmussen’s other starter is Excession who was outrun in his last two routes at the Fair Grounds–broke through the gate pre-race in the Risen Star–but whose maiden breaker was in the slop at Churchill, so there’s that.
But, wait, there’s more. Tom Amoss ships in with No Parole, 3-for-3 vs. Louisiana breds, doing so impressively–and did we mention they were La-breds? So, yes, this is a huge test.
And dare we forget the old ball coach. NFL Hall of Famer Bill Parcells’ Three Technique, who is very gifted, repeating his impressive seven-furlong maiden breaker at the same trip in a preliminary allowances, then was an excellent, excuse-laden second in the Smarty party at Oaklawn in January.
The Smarty Jones was his two-turn and three year old debut.
So it’s a fascinating puzzle. We’ll be back tomorrow with a vertical plan and a look at the G3 Jack Ruby Steaks [no typo] to be run over Turfway Park’s synthetic surface at nine furlongs.
i’ve gotten away from stakes for young horses.
too crazy for me, sudden improvements, like the Asmussen that ran second at 80/1.
Older horses, fine, them I can handicap.
Den, bettors should never stray too far from their comfort zone; going with what works best, well, works best!