- The Head Chef and the girls are off to IKEA, which leaves me home alone. A full day ahead with some interesting stakes, the return of Stevie Wonderboy, and some other three year-olds to watch. There's nothing quite like the feeling of hopeful anticipation immediately preceding a day at the races (even if it's from home); the endlessness of the possibilites seem even more so than anywhere else, doesn't it? Besides the racing, the Rangers are in Detroit on NBC at 2 PM. Don't know how I'm going to juggle this, but I imagine the DVR will come into play.
- Responding to complaints, Frank Stronach has rescinded the $10 charge to walk into the clubhouse building at Gulfstream...at least for now. [Scott] Savin said management will make an assessment by the end of the month. [Sun-Sentinal]
- Todd Pletcher continued his one-a-day routine at Gulfstream, where, I must say, there seem to be a lot of claiming races here in the opening weeks. He picked up his 9th winner in 19 starters on Thursday with Monarch Lane (Maria’s Mon). This four-year old was making just his 4th career start, and his first since running a distant second to Greeley’s Galaxy in the Illinois Derby last April. He was quite impressive, disposing of one-time Derby aspirant Kansas City Boy (also making his first start since the Illinois Derby, in which he was beaten by 38 lenghts) while in hand, and drawing off when asked to a six length win. Watch out for this one in the handicap division; he’s out of stakes winner Surprising Fact, and from the family of Grade 1 winner Lovlier Linda and the late stallion Old Trieste.
Pletcher actually lost on Friday with favored Unbridled Belle in the 9th. The race was won by three-year old filly Bushfire (Louis Quatorze). Don’t know what the motivation for the horse’s naming was, but in light of recent statements by the president confirming that he feels that he's above the law, consider that this filly’s grandsire is Sovereign Dancer, and her maternal grandsire is Mo Power.
Gary West in the Dallas Star-Telegram takes a look at some of Pletcher’s Derby candidates, including Keyed Entry, who we mentioned after his impressive sprint victory at Gulfstream last weekend. Pletcher said he’s a “completely different horse, much bigger and stronger” than when he won his debut last July, after which he was sidelined by sore shins. He mentioned the Hutcheson and the Southwest Stakes as possible next starts.
But from the sound of it, Pletcher is pinning his Derby hopes largely on Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat). “To me.....he’s the perfect kind of [Triple Crown] prospect. He has all the tools, the right pedigree, the right temperament. And he’s a very efficient mover.” He’s training up to a February return.
- Giacomo continues to progress in the morning, getting seven furlongs in 1:26.40 at Hollywood on Friday.
- We’ll be watching Zito’s Fabled in an allowance at Gulfstream today. Another of his prospects, Doc Cheney (Saint Ballado), coming off an allowance win at Calder, turned in an impressive five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Gulfstream today, third best of 41 at the distance. He's out of stakes winner Lady Melesi, and traces directly back to La Troienne, his 7th dam.
- Contrary to earlier reports, Merv Griffin apparently will be on hand to watch Stevie Wonderboy in the San Rafael, and he says of the race, "I'm edgy, very edgy.”
"He won the Breeders' Cup, and you know how important that is. That gets you to thinking he will win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont. I have already accepted the $5 million bonus check in my dreams." [NY Times]I guess nobody told Merv that there is no $5 million bonus as of now. Maybe he should become the new sponsor.