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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

THE GOOD, THE BETTER, AND THE BEST OF SATURDAY’S KENTUCKY DERBY PREPS

Now 3-for-3 since adding blinkers, including a seven length romp in his three-year-old Grade 3 debut in Gulfstream Park’s Swale Stakes last month, Mischevious Alex Gotham victory was hard fought, driving to keep Untitled safe by two lengths, needing 26.30 to do so over Aqueduct’s winterized strip.

Parenthetically and for the record, I like whimsy but hate purposefully misspelled names in an already dumbed-down culture. Who needs further mindlessness already present in our daily lives.

That notwithstanding, however, fans of Mischevious Alex have to be heartened by the fact that eight furlongs is well within his scope. As for his distance-getting prospects, he will be given the opportunity to prove he can:

“As long as he comes out of it well, John Servis told the NYRA press staff, “I think it’s worth taking a shot.” And why not? There is nothing to lose, now that especially now that Cash Is King et al are playing with house money.

Untitled was a good second, thus far showing he may be suited better by one-turn racing with respect to pedigree even if he was a good second to Gouverneur Morris at Tampa Bay Downs, as well-backed Attachment Rate, who ran well enough, appeared a tad challenged by New York’s deeper surface.

Victor Martinez Has a Dream Today

If you don’t care for the dreamy story-line, think of it this way: Legacy trumps birthday gifts–maybe not every time but certainly in the 2020 Tampa Bay Derby.

And it might turn out that King Guillermo is an all-star, too, like his owner, five-time Major League Baseball All-Star, Victor Martinez, who dreamed of wanting to name a horse after his father by considering mama Margot’s sage counsel, that “dreams are for free.”

Now Martinez is living his dream of honoring his father who passed away when he was six years old. However, if today he is conjuring Kentucky Derby dreams, now would be a good time to nominate his colt to the Triple Crown series.

Fittingly, King Guillermo came with a performance that could only have come from the spirit world, such was his thoroughly comprehensive 4-3/4-lengths victory.

And he might have paid a C-Note to win, but he was not entirely bereft of past performance portfolio.

After his lead-throughout, open-lengths maiden score around two turn in a turf debut at Gulfstream Park West, he finished third in the Pulpit-B Stakes, taking the lead on turn but was the favorite was no match for the winner Sole Volante, the G3 Sam F Davis upsetter and Tampa Bay Derby favorite.

But when ‘King Willie’ took the lead at headstretch yesterday at in Oldsmar, he was gone, leaving the favorite and 10 other rivals in his wake. By Uncle Mo, his Dixieland Band mare Slow Sand has now produced six winners from six foals, and his pedigree hints there may be more to come.

While Sole Volante didn’t win, he did the next best thing: Finished up strongly along the fence after racing 11th down the backside then needing to thread his way between rivals at the turn. He could not have gotten a better Derby education.

Long-winded, stoutly bred, and good-tripping Texas Swing proved best of the Todd Pletcher triplets–third 1-3/4 lengths behind Sole Volante, in a mile and a sixteenth that took 1:42.63 to complete on a surface appearing to cup-out. The time was the third fastest in Tampa Bay Derby history.

Yes, Authentic Is the Real Deal

He could have fooled me, and did. Saturday’s G2 San Felipe winner Authentic was not the same horse that snaked his way home in the G3 Sham Stakes, however easily. Yes, that was his two-turn debut, but I never saw a Bob Baffert second-time starter perform like that before.

Authentic was a perfect gentleman in Saturday’s San Felipe. Rating kindly beneath Drayden Van Dyke, he dared challengers to test him all the way around the mile and a sixteenth after getting the lead. Whenever a rival got close enough to breathe on him, Van Dyke let out the tiniest notch of rein, totally in control.

But it wasn’t as if the trip was completely uneventful. He did bobble a bit at the break and needed hustling at the first turn to gain and maintain a clear margin. He was ridden hard in upper stretch then, when a safe, unbeatable distance from home, he was geared down.

The only thing ordinary was the time of 1:43.56, the final five-sixteenths in a logy 32.24. He might have run faster had he been pressed. Baffert saw it this way:

“Turning for home, I saw Mike Smith coming with that good horse [Honor A.P.] and said, ‘We’ll see what he’s made of’. I was hoping he wouldn’t do his shenanigans.”

Third-time starter and layoff returnee Honor A.P. was a good second, the scopey Honor Code colt returned with a nice effort to build on as the dynamics weren’t exactly in his favor.

Storm The Court, a good third, should marching in his third start of the campaign as he continues to be handled and performing with purpose and precision. Thousand Words’ effort was demonstrably disappointing; one-paced throughout and ultimately fading to fourth.

Perhaps Mr. Baffert was only concentrating on Authentic yesterday, who now tops the Kentucky Derby leader board with 60 points. Thousand Words has 25, or five fewer than Solo Volante.

There was also important, interesting racing elsewhere, including sophomore fillies and older runners of either sex on both dirt and turf…stay tuned

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15 Responses

  1. Nice to see four races from different tracks and regions within 90 minutes !Gotta give you the ‘gimmick’ because the top choice came in second since the other two picks sandwiched it between them. Why can`t the fractions Always be posted as the race goes on? Is`n`t it important enough to check how fast/slow the pace is going ? Final times don`t tell me as much as pace,trip. When Joe Talamo won i was thinking about jockeys and their importance [ 10-15 % ? ] and since the same half dozen of jocks seem to have the best opportunities of getting the favs and the other top choices , i was wondering how much the usual Beharano,Rosario,Ortizes,Castellano ,Franco would be winning if they were riding the horses that guys like Lexcano,Alvarado and other get, and vice versa and not have big name barns supplying them with ready to win horses. .Same yrs ago when i`d be rooting for Davis,Vasquez,Santos ,Antley when riding against Pat Day`s and Cordero`s favs and Bailey`s . Well,we no longer see a movie because of the main actor/actress and we don`t really automatically bet on a good winning % jock but how much difference would it make if the sixth or ninth leading jockey rides a horse instead of the top two or three ? Better prices? J.Talamo`s move would it have been made by someone else ? “The jockey knows the horse’ ,and vice versa ?Jockeys have come and gone while Mike Smith at his old age Still finds himself with some of the best choice$,,and in a smaller scale,with long shots,even Prado gets in there first once in a while.,,like the best drivers in Formula 1 .. Like the old ‘Hertz’ commercials,let`s hope the second tier gets more chances with single digit rides once in a while. Any of them should be able to get into the $ with odds -on favs,after all , its those equine athletes who do most of the work… Enjoy the ride !

  2. I thought Honor A.P. ran a fantastic race – class jump, hadn’t raced in 5 months…kudos to John Shirreffs for getting him to run so well. He was finishing strongly, too. I can’t wait to see the rematch in the SA Derby…He’s my Derby horse…

  3. I also wanted to ask – I was rooting for Market Analysis in the TB Derby. It looked to me like he was still green – and he didn’t actually give up. I think he‘s got real potential ..am I crazy?

  4. I was more impressed with Authentic than J.P.
    He did what I said in my preview. He got to the front, dared anyone to challenge him, then put them away when they did.
    Every horse who came up to him wound up well behind him. This includes Honor A.P., who looked like he was going past until DVD let out a notch. Then it was nice seeing you, but I have more to do.
    **
    Just a note. I read somewhere that Mischevous Alex was unintentionally misspelled. The owner was in a hurry and apparently didn’t hit his spell-check. I don’t expect that the guy who paints the Derby winner’s name on the Churchill Downs facade need worry about it. But Alex would be a tough beat in the Pat Day Mile.

  5. Are you responding to me or John’s comments? Because if to mine, that’s nice, but I wasn’t commenting on Authentic. Objectively speaking, I find it hard to believe that anyone could come away unimpressed with AP, but that’s what makes horse racing.

  6. Betsy, I like Honor A. P. a lot, for the reasons you mentioned, and Shirreffs is one of the game’s masters. If all goes to plan, he improves in SA Derby and peaks in Kentucky, should he get that far. Unlike me, he has a great body.

    Need to go back and rewatch Tampa Derby; was concentrating on others but from the little I saw of Market Analysis, I thought he raced greenly. He’s better than his race indicates and will improve. By May, with this crop? That would be a tall order. I know the outfit is very high on him.

    1. Hi John!

      I couldn’t think of a better trainer for this colt then John Shirreffs. He took a lot of guff for not running Zenyatta enough, but he takes such good care of his horses, and Honor A.P. is so big ….he needs a trainer that will take their time with him. I agree that if he gets to KY, he’ll be at his peak, but I’m crossing my fingers. I still haven’t gotten over AP Indy being scratched on Derby eve….LOL you and me both – I need a trainer of my own!

      Oh I’m not thinking Derby with Market Analysis – despite how little racing most of these colts seem to have. I look forward to following him, see the where Todd goes next with him.

  7. J.G.

    Agreed, will get into the weekend simulcast picture Monday. Tracks, or their race callers, do a fairly good job posting fractions but of course there are glitches. Sometimes, when the fractions don’t make good sense, track will not post the fractions live and come back with hand-timed fractions that are more reliable.

  8. TJ,

    Never questioned Authentic’s brilliance, only his deportment. I didn’t know if he would pull his snake act again, and was really impressed with how professional he was on Saturday. As stated, I never saw a Baffert second-timer [Sham Stakes] race that greenly, two turn debut or not.

    I didn’t know which Authentic I would see, just as I didn’t know–also pre-race–what we’d get from Dennis’ Moment. Certainly didn’t expect that, and I wanted to see Authentic again before seriously considering his prospects at odds-on.

    I was/am a Thousand Words fan and was really surprised he raced as dully as he did. Like Betsy said, that’s horse racing.

    On Alex, I thought I heard an analyst say that misspelling was intentional. I will revisit that tape, too; I might have misunderstood. If so, will make the correction…

  9. Vegas result in Tampa Bay Derby (11-7). Even race caller said, “do you believe this?” as King Guillermo coasted home at 49-1. And, like Mr. Romano said above,”the top choice came in second (Sole Volante).” Easiest kind of winner. Reminded me of the movie, The Sting: “I told you to bet Lucky Dan to PLACE.” Damon Runyan once said, “I long ago came to the conclusion that all life is 6 to 5 against.” All hail the King (Guillermo) on this day.

    1. Sole Volante, Flying Horse in Italian.Wonder how some names come about. Funny thing when a long shot wins,,looking for any clue,indications ,excuses like an obscure workout, for how it came in while the ‘handicappers’ have nothing to add besides trying to find reasons why the top choices failed. Yes,it reminds of Giacomo`s win at the 2005 Kentucky Derby..Holy Bull,Stop The Music , I was born Giacomo.No better reason to bet on a 50-1 ” longhie ” !! PS; When running a Grade mile at a big track at 1:38 plus there isn`t much to brag about unless it`s cheap claimers and the ‘track variant ‘ gives out more input.Is the T.V. still used like some of us added it to our deductions [ SR+TV+Beyer+ $ X race+ D ] yrs ago ??? Thanks,Mr.Russ Harris ! RIP.

      1. Flying Sun,Not horse !! Gotta stop sipping Chianti when reading/writing on HRI ! Sole Volante; Flying SUN !Pardon !

  10. C,

    I had forgotten the Runyon line. (Computer bets just came in late; it’s now 8-5 against).

    And, to be exact “I said place it on Lucky Dan, that horse is going to finish second…”

    1. You are the movie expert so I won’t argue. Great movie. Robert Shaw perfect in the role. As good as Cpt. Quint in Jaws. Also loved Roy Scheider. I saw the DR line in yesterday’s NYT magazine section. Check it out, good read. I thought King Guillermo win was a hoot. The horse jogged. How do you explain it, JP?

  11. TTT

    If the misppellang was unintanshunal, it’s even worse. Illiterate owners and jockey club, who should be questioning such things before name is approved. I presume they have a telephone and a number to contact the owner? They now also approve vulgar names to make their way through. This was not my Father’s game.

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