HALLANDALE BEACH FL, April 6, 2022 – With victory unattainable with a furlong remaining in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby, it’s possible that, while it hurt at the time, losing the place in the final strides to Barber Road might have been the best thing for Secret Oath’s future.
Had she secured second and gained 40 points, the temptation to run in the Derby would have been there and, in our view, would not have been in the filly’s best interests down the road. And questions remain. To wit:
Is she an Oaklawn horse for course, or can she take her game on the road? While faster on figures, does she class up with the male competition she’s face on May’s first Saturday? As it is, will she out-finish Gulfstream Oaks winner Kathleen O on May’s first Friday?
HRI regulars are aware that we are not in the habit of jockey bashing, knowing that I wouldn’t have the guts to do what they do for a living. I have a hard enough time with paper cuts and carpal tunnel syndrome. And I admire horsemen who show loyalty, but Luis Contreras is a bad fit.
She’s been in trouble in two straight now, jammed up inside before being fortunate enough to find a hole on the Honeybee fence, ultimately proving much the best. She was the fastest horse on figures entering the Arkansas Derby. But the Classics spotlight is intense and she will need an elite partner.
As for Cyberknife, much respect for the big move between rivals approaching the five-eighths, holding his contending spot into the lane, separating himself, then driven out while drawing off in an excellent effort.
But Cyberknife snaked his way home. Given his boyish mind, and despite having enough experience going into Oaklawn, these are concerns when he meets 19 rivals and 150,000 race fans on Derby Day. We love the Gun Runners, but the Derby is a big ask at this time.
Poor Barber Road. He never has it easy, but that is the plight of all deep closers. But say this for him; he loves a fight. He knocked Un Ojo into the rail mid-far-turn while making his run, then found his own trouble the length of the stretch.
Sandwiched and buffeted about throughout the lane, he reached deep down to earn the place with a final-strides surge. He’s a money threat whatever the competition, but he will need room to run if he wants to win one of these. The big Derby field figures to compromise him, too.
In Florence, Kentucky meanwhile, Tiz the Bomb was the bomb. His victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks was even more impressive than his Battaglia prep and is one of those horses that get stronger with every lengthened stride. Synth and turf suit; dirt’s a different ballgame, of course.
I capital L love the points system. It has done its job, allowing the cream to rise on almost every occasion. But the system favors trainers with deep shed-rows.
Tiz the Bomb is in the Derby because he has the points and Ken McPeek holds a strong hand for America’s Race. Every horse he–or anyone in his position—enter to keep rivals at bay. Yes, it happens every day all over the world but the Derby is one of those once in a lifetime things.
Of course, Saturday’s Blue Grass, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby will complete the picture. Can’t wait…