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Monday, January 16, 2006

Weekend Action

- Stevie Wonderboy’s second in the San Rafael was fine and his supporters can spin it as a perfect tune-up. But I think the horse loses a bit of his luster with the effort. Horse and rider were working hard around the turn as Alex Solis on Brother Derek was seemingly taking a breather. Garrett Gomez said “My horse is so big, I was really asking him going to the quarter pole, but Alex was just cruising and we just couldn't quite make up that much ground." Brother Derek, who took significant late money getting pounded to 6-5, may have gotten away with a fairly moderate half mile of :46 4/5, but he cruised with little seeming effort through a third quarter of :23.2 as Gomez was pumping and driving to keep up on the favorite. The six furlong split of 1:10.2 was 4/5ths faster than the pace in the G2 San Fernando for older horses. And though he slowed to a final quarter of :25.3, Stevie was unable to run him down, foiling Merv’s plans for a big celebration.

Brother Derek is a Cal-bred, and unlike Funny Cide (NY-bred) and Smarty Jones (PA-bred), who both have Kentucky-based sires, he’s a pure Cal-bred, being by regional sire Benchmark (Alydar). His breeding seems modest even by recent standards as I mentioned in this post. There’s nothing much to see other than modest winners when you look back at his distaff side. It’s hard to buy this one as a Kentucky Derby winner pedigree-wise, but he’s three-for-three around two turns, and by beating the two-year old champ, has to be considered the top Derby prospect at this point. However, Stevie will have a chance to redeem himself if things go well and both make their next start in the March 4 Santa Catalina.

- Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr) is another three-year old that has proven to be flawless thus far around two turns (on the dirt anyway). He’s run for a 50K tag and as a maiden six times before graduating. He was two-for-two at two turns on the dirt coming into Saturday’s Risen Star; and though he had set slow paces in both races, it was notable the way he came home so quickly. This time he set much fairer fractions of :47.1 and 1:11.3, but still kicked strongly clear to hold off Mark of Success, who was live on the board at 7-2. "Every time I've called on him, he's given me that extra kick at the end," [John] McKee said. [New Orleans Times-Picayune] He got the final 2 ½ furlongs in a quite respectable :31.2.

I actually liked the first two finishers, but I didn’t like the exacta prices and gave up on betting the race. In the end the winning exacta had drifted up to $31, which in retrospect represented decent value considering I had tossed the favorite Saint Augustine, a Pletcher underlay as the 5-2 favorite. In Lawyer Ron, trainer Robert Holthus seems to have another unlikely looking Derby prospect, though style-wise he’s the total opposite of late closer Greater Good.

Nick Zito is definitely under the radar this year compared to last, when he had several of the leading Derby contenders. He has some promising colts that are yet untested in stakes company, and two of them ran in allowance races at Gulfstream this past weekend. Fabled ran second at even money in the 4th at Gulfstream on Saturday, and while it was a decent enough closing effort after he got bounced around a bit between horses in the stretch, he was easily out closed by last-to-first Rehoboth, a horse who has been no match for stakes company prior to this. So Fabled will have to show more if and when he tries two turns.

On Sunday, Zito fared better with Hesanoldsalt (Broad Brush). In his first try around two turns, he rallied smartly late to beat Pletcher’s highly regarded Sunriver, Ashado’s baby brother and the 4-5 favorite. (Pletcher added three more winners on the weekend.) The race reminded me of that of Noble Causeway when he debuted at two turns last year, the way he angled off the rail midway through the turn and swept by on the outside.

Another nice looking three-year old on Sunday was Darley Stable’s Barbican, who took a one mile allowance race (with another Pletcher favorite, 9-5 Mantoloking, running up the track). This son of A.P. Indy swept around a seemingly contentious field four wide around the turn and drew off impressively to win by 4 ½. If you simply bet the best last-race Beyer in the field, you’d have had the $10.80 win mutuel; he’d run 16 points faster than Pletcher’s horse. This one has true classic breeding, being out of Color Char, a stakes winning Mr. Prospector mare who is also the dam of two-year old filly champ and Barbican’s full sister Tempura, and two European stakes winners.

- What a weekend for sire Benchmark; in addition to Brother Derek, his four-year old filly Proposed took her first stakes, and it was a graded one, the G2 El Encino at Santa Anita.

- Patrick Biancone took the 7th at SA with European shipper Kitty Hawk (Danehill Dancer), live on the board as the 2-1 favorite and monstrous on the track coming from far back to sweep by the field in a 24 second final quarter. This three-year old is the third Euro shipper that Biancone has sent out for owner Lewis Lakin in the last two weeks. Cheerily (Danehill Dancer) ran second at 9-2 at SA on 1/6; and Always a Star (Danehill) won on the polytrack at Turfway at 6-5 on 12/30.

6 Comments:

Walter said...

...i thought Brother Derek looked very sharp, and it wasn't unexpected...but to be honest, he didn't do anything we didn't already KNOW he could do...i mean, we all know he can score a smart front-running stakes win going a two-turn mile or mile-and-a-sixteenth, so i don't see how this changes anything (although the result certainly flatters Your Tent Or Mine)...as for Stevie Wonderboy, he looked to be spinning his wheels a good bit of the time...he definitely lacked the same punch he was showing in those one-turn efforts...perhaps it was because he lacked fitness, or perhaps he's just more of a miler...hard to say at this point...what strikes me most in retrospect are the comments from my clocker, who said of Stevie last month, "Thickish, blocky sort does not look like a prototypical route sort"...now, that doesn't mean he can't route, i'm not saying that...but just maybe there's something to that...

Walter said...

...almost forgot, i had something to say about Benchmark...now, i'm not a pedigree expert, i leave that to other people...i don't know anything about Benchmark's ancestors...but what i DO know is that Benchmark was one fine animal...i had the pleasure of watching him a few years back, and he stood out as a real runner, one of the best on the circuit...in addition to Brother Derek, he has also sired Silent Sighs, who was a VERY promising 3yo filly a couple of years ago...better than Proposed, who i believe is her younger sister...so regardless of whether Benchmark or Brother Derek are Cal-breds or whatever, there's some obvious quality in this family...

alan said...

Interesting comment by your clocker on Stevie given his performance. O'Neill insisted that Stevie was 90-100% fit; I wonder if he'd like to reconsider that statement.

Benchmark didn't win any stakes until he was six; in fact, that was the only year he did, but he won three Grade 2's that year. He only raced six times until that season, so he obviously had some serious physical issues which it seems he has not passed on to Brother Derek.

Hey Walter; when did you say we're going to see Point of Impact again?

Jolene said...

Not only a pure Cal-bred sire-wise, but out of an Oregon-bred mare! Needless to say, we're all cheering for this not-so-blueblooded horse. ;)

Walter said...

...yeah, Benchmark was one of those highly-talented, highly-fragile sorts...i'm trying to remember who trained him, but i can't...i'm pretty sure he was owned by the Wygods though...incidentally, he did his best work in the 1 1/16 range, which of course is where Brother Derek is at right now...he might've won at 1 1/8, but again i can't remember...at any rate, he was in-and-out of training so often that you couldn't really point to him not being able to stretch beyond that...he just kinda ran when he could, and when you're coming off a layoff, you're generally not going 1 1/8 or 1 1/4...looking at Brother Derek though, i don't think distance will be a huge issue...i'm more concerned about his ability to rate, which he did show to a small extent in the Futurity...he also showed some resiliency by not letting that jarring collision at the gate faze him any...interestingly enough, the strongest evidence of his off-the-pace ability came in his debut going 4 1/2 @ Hollywood...it was a remarkable effort, and also worth noting that he beat the precocious 2yo Bashert in that one...Brother Derek has certainly beaten some fine horses in his young career...i just wish he could've won the Breeders Cup @ 56/1...uggghhhhh...

...as for Point of Impact, i haven't heard anything more, though i did read that Baffert is gonna take it slow with him and let him run thru some conditions before tackling stakes types...we'll see...i can't wait to see the report on that 57 flat workout the other day...it's not often you something like that, especially from a horse like Point of Impact, who didn't appear to have much early speed???...i've gotta think he'll turn up by the end of the month, but who knows...

Walter said...

...i was just checking out the Stable Notes on the SA site, and Baffert says he caught Point of Imnpact in 58.4 the other day, not 57.0...that seems more realistic, though Baffert has been known to lie on occasion...i'll reserve judgement until i see the report...

...and speaking of fast workouts, i have nice report on a 5/1 shot in Race 4 today...and P-Val has been named, gotta think this one will run well...

MARYFIELD (Jan 6, 58.4)

Terrific drill in blinkers over this tiring track, breezing home in a strong 34.0, 58.0 finishing on his own power late. Have to really like this. Grade A-