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Sunday, April 03, 2005

5 Weeks to Go....

- High Fly has done little wrong, but I find that I can’t really get excited about him. Indeed, he’s one bad trip third away from being undefeated; but as bad as that trip was, his trips in his last two wins were perfect - he’s had most everything his own way in beating up basically the same cast in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, with Noble Causeway playing the “promising colt making his stakes debut” role that Bandini played in the FOY. He’s been able to twice track a willing target in B.B. Best, move by him fairly easily and have enough in the stretch to hold off his challenger. But how much does he really have in the stretch?

While jockey Jerry Bailey may have ''throttled down'' on the horse in the final yards of the Fountain of Yourh, Bailey said of Saturday’s race

"Knowing there's five weeks to the Derby, I asked him to finish to the wire and gallop out a little bit," Bailey said. "It wasn't like anybody was flying at him, so in my mind it was pretty impressive." [Louisville Courier-Journal]

But even with Bailey riding him out this time, it took High 13.36 seconds to get the final furlong and the final 3/8ths went in 39.51 seconds in the Derby. A NW1 allowance for 3 year olds earlier in the card was only .32 seconds slower than the Derby. While Noble Causeway ran a fine race in his stakes debut, given the fast pace that B.B. Best set and that High Fly stalked, it’s a little disappointing to me that he wasn’t able to close any ground late on the winner.

Having expressed my qualms about High Fly, it must be said that a horse like he with such good tactical speed is able to create his own good fortune and puts himself in a position to win. He’s proven his quality with consecutive graded wins. But in Kentucky, he’ll no longer be facing this same group, and will be faced with a large field; these last two races have really played out more like four horse fields for him, given the lack of depth of the fields and the problems faced by the horses in the outside posts. And there’s that five week thing that both High Fly and Noble Causeway will face. Does anyone think the latter can move forward enough in the Derby off of a five week layoff?

- Vicarage had some trouble at the start, but his 6th place finish was not particularly flattering to High Limit, who will have to prove himself all over again in the Blue Grass, shaping up, appropriately enough given its proximity in terms of time and distance from the Kentucky Derby, as the definitive Derby prep this year. Here we’ll hopefully finally get an idea of the relative strengths of some of the different regions we’ve seen thus far. Whereas the Florida, California, Louisiana and Arkansas-based horses have basically raced against themselves, the Blue Grass will perhaps give us an idea of how some of the horses that have raced in different preps around the country stack up against each other. We’ll see a little of that this weekend when Going Wild and, hopefully, Bellamy Road take on the New York pretenders in the Wood, which should be a great betting race at least, and in California, where we’ll get an idea of the relative strengths of the different genders.

- Sweet Catomine worked five furlongs in :59 1/5. Don’t Get Mad posted a five-furlong work in 1:00 2/5 and his trainer Ron Ellis seems serious about not running him on another sealed racetrack.
"I hope the rain holds off or it's not enough (to seal the track.....We don't want to have to scratch and ship (to the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park the following week)."

A full field of as many as 12 sophomores may line up for the Santa Anita Derby.

"That's nuts," Ellis said of the possible large field. "We definitely don't want to draw the outside. But I guess if we're eventually going to run against 20 we might as well run against 12 now." [Bloodhorse]
Ellis apparently reasoned this out for himself. Since when is a 12 horse field madness, anyway?

- As far as Rockport Harbor goes, at this point I’d be surprised if he’s a starter for the Derby. How many setbacks can this colt endure? And now events have turned just plain weird with Servis’ initial refusal to disclose what the problem is, saying "I don't want to speak out of turn," and the subsequent disclosure that the colt has a blood clot believed to be caused by an injection. He’ll go to the Lexington if he can’t make the Arkansas Derby.

Greater Good worked out.
Clockers caught Greater Good’s opening quarter in: 13.87, a quarter-mile in: 27.39, and threeeighths of a mile in: 40.77. Greater Good, who worked in company with stablemate Copy My Notes, galloped out three-quarters of a mile in 1:17.70.
Greater Good broke off several lengths behind Copy My Notes before pulling even with his regular workout partner this winter on the outside entering the stretch. [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]