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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Derby Top Couple, Maybe a Few More

- It’s actually this week’s Derby Top Ten, but in John Bolton-speak. The president’s anti-U.N. nominee as U.N. Ambassador told a Senate committee under oath that he had sought the identity of Americans speaking or spoken about on intercepted communications “on a couple of occasions, maybe a few more.” Later, he acknowledged that the number was really ten. That’s just one of the concerns that spurred the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to a furious rally in deep stretch (with key help from Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio) to delay the vote on Bolton’s nomination by up to 3 weeks. Considering the rate at which new stories of his abusive behavior towards subordinates emerge, especially concerning those who don’t agree with him, as well as comments like those of Colin Powell's chief of staff, who said he'd be "an abysmal ambassador," who knows if he’ll even make it to Derby Day. Anyway, I digress. This is the Top Ten of who I think will be making headlines on and around May 7:

1) Bellamy Road - The favorite blossoms further in the final weeks, blows off his final workout to appear on Larry King, and wins the Derby even though George Steinbrenner gets nervous about Javier Castellano and turns to his longtime Yankee pilot Joe Torre. Ex-Red Sox season ticket holder Chris House tries in vain to punch the colt in the snout as he cruises through the stretch with a terrified Torre, resplendent in the Yankees’ road grey, holding on for dear life.

2) Afleet Alex - Jeremy Rose has been retained for the Derby. When asked shortly after the race on ESPN if he would stick with Rose, trainer Tim Ritchey couldn’t possibly have been more dismissive of the question, so I'm quite surprised. My sources tell me that Stewart Elliot was interested in the mount last Saturday; and with Rockport Harbor’s uncertain status and Elliot’s Smarty experience, he could have been a good fit. Rose more or less admitted to getting rattled when he heard the crowd of over 70,000 roar, thinking Greater Good was coming, and he whipped and drove him hard to the wire, at least until he started pumping his fist.

3) Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith - With Spanish Chestnut in the entries, Tabor once again has to answer questions about whether he's using him as a rabbit to soften the pace for Bandini, whom he also owns. They continue to issue denials, even after the colt emerges from his stall with a little cotton tail and greets reporters with “What’s up, doc?”

4) Bandini - They’ll be questions about the slow way he came home in the Blue Grass, but he improves every time, and the distance may only help.

5) Noble Causeway - Another one who is eligible to improve, but those 5 weeks off, man!

6) Buzzard’s Bay - I was going through some races I’ve recorded and saw his 3rd in the El Camino Real; and you can see him dig in and battle when engaged in deep stretch. He showed the same kind of gameness winning the SA Derby, but the California contingent he beat has been mostly discredited, with the possible exception of...

7) Wilko - He was wide both turns as his jockey seemed more interested in boxing Sweet Catomine in. He’s one of those horses that always seems to have some kind of excuse, and I think having two California horses on this list may be two too many. After he worked 5f in 58.90 59.80 at Hollywood Tuesday Craig Dollase said, "He's on edge. I'm starting to get Derby fever." He's starting to get Derby fever? Wilko may have been off the Derby trail long ago given his physical problems if his connections weren’t nearly delirious with it!

8) I don’t really care for High Fly.

9) Governor Jeb Bush - The governor, unsuccessful in his attempts to limit the gambling that was approved in Broward, now declares that voters there voted for neither Class III slot machines nor Class II bingo-type slots, but rather for Candyland, Duck Duck Goose, and the Mr. Potato Head Memory Game.

10) Sun King, Consolidator, Greater Good - The three horses whose last were too bad to be true. Some may suggest that the first two didn’t handle the track and were poorly ridden, and that the latter was too wide and had the pace against him. I’m through with Greater Good as far as the Derby goes; given his pedigree, only a perfect run-up to the Derby could have gotten me to believe. Either of the other two could conceivably bounce back at a price.

- Wayne Lukas is adamant about Going Wild going to the Derby; so much so that he says that"regardless of how he does Saturday at Keeneland, we're in Derby Day." Even if he loses by 41 lengths and doesn’t have enough money to qualify? He’s one who should be voted out right now!

- Disappointing sale at Keeneland. with the average price down 25% from last year. and a 40.3% buyback rate. The highest bid horse actually didn’t sell because the $1.150 million high bid for the Unbridled’s Song colt was beneath the reserve.

But once the sale began Tuesday, it quickly became apparent that there was not enough strength at the upper end of the juvenile market to sustain the Keeneland sale. There were a paucity of trainers on hand and those in attendance did not represent principals known for spending large sums for 2-year-olds.

"I am shocked and a little disappointed," Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said. [Bloodhorse]
A softening of the market now is just wonderful news for me, as the Tactical Cat 2 year-old in my partnership is scheduled to sell at the Ocala sale next week. He breezes on Saturday.