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Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Look Back, A Look Ahead

- Brad Free in the Form (sub. only) takes a look back at some of the Derby preps, and finds that for all the talk about the strength of the Florida contingent, it seems like the skepticism about the new Gulfstream configuration and schedule was right after all.

Despite winning twice at 1 1/8 miles, High Fly's campaign left him unprepared for the Derby. He was not alone. Sun King romped in a first-level allowance over a one-turn mile, then tailed off. Bellamy Road won a one-turn mile by more than 15 lengths, scored a more dramatic victory in the Wood Memorial, then finished nowhere and was injured in the Derby.
At Gulfstream, the stakes program for 3-year-olds consists of only two parts - one-turn races at a mile and two-turn races at 1 1/8 miles.

Gulfstream is becoming similar to Keeneland in one regard - prep races there must be discounted.

That happened again this spring in Kentucky. The Blue Grass attracted a deep field, and Bandini turned the race into a farce, winning by six lengths. His poor showing in the Derby is tradition - Strike the Gold, in 1991, is the last horse to win the Blue Grass and Derby. [Daily Racing Form]
Incredibly, there are only two of the prime Derby candidates (and that’s including Giacomo, who one can argue barely fit that category) left standing at this point, and they came from the Arkansas and California divisions. It’s funny to think back to the days when names like Declan’s Moon, Rockport Harbor, Sweet Catomine, and even Scipion were at the top of the list of prospects. It makes Afleet Alex's accomplishments all the more impressive, especially considering that he had to overcome physical problems as well.

- One of those who dropped off the trail, Rockport Harbor, is working his way back for trainer John Servis.
Servis reported that Rockport Harbor, his talented 3-year-old colt, galloped Wednesday at Philadelphia Park for the first time since finishing sixth in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23.

"He's been training for five days,'' Servis said. "Today we turned him around and galloped him and he went super. We're moving forward.'' [Daily Racing Form]
The Smarty Jones crew will be at Belmont on Saturday with Round Pond for the G1 Acorn Stakes for 3yo fillies. She flew 5f in 57.71 on Monday. "She's a late May foal and it took a little time for her to come around.''

- Though the suspected case of strangles at Belmont has still not been confirmed, NYRA officials are taking no chances and have set up a separate barn for all the shippers coming in for the Belmont.
We are fixing up a barn, which right now is barn 14, that will be completely secure and open to all shippers coming in for races on the Belmont Stakes Day card," New York Racing Association racing secretary Mike Lakow said Wednesday. "There are about 30 stalls there, which will be power washed, disinfected, painted and made totally secure." [Newsday]
Scrappy T will hopefully be amongst those taking up residence in barn 14, though I imagine he will be placed as far away from Afleet Alex as possible in case there are any hard feelings between the two over the Preakness. Scrappy T is supposed to have worked at Bowie this morning after which his connections will decide. I think this colt has a big shot in the Belmont. His Preakness continued a string of steadily improving figs, and it would have been higher if not for the incident. His sire Fit to Fight could win at any distance; he swept the old NYRA Handicap triple, taking the Met Mile, the Suburban at a mile and a quarter, and the Brooklyn at a mile and a half in 1984. He also had a second in the 7f Vosburgh to his credit, and Scrappy T has shown the potential to have the same kind of versatility. He’s out of a mare by Derby winner Sunny’s Halo, has inbreeding to Princequillo, speed and stamina, and I think he can get the distance as well as anyone else.