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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Derby Top Ten

- Here we go again. Time for the Left at the Gate top ten of who we think will be making headlines on or around the first Saturday of May.

1) Hesanoldsalt – Well, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s either another absurd pick that will quickly blend in with all of my others, or a stroke of genius for which I’ll be remembered for years. After totally dominating the run-up to the Derby last year, Zito is under the radar this year – none of his horses were listed in the first futures pool. Forget Great Point and Superfly, this is the one who I think Zito believes is his best prospect. He skips the flawed Gulfstream prep series and ships to Tampa this weekend, so we’ll know if I’m way off in just a few days. A winner at nine furlongs by Broad Brush, an old-time campaigner who survived the Triple Crown series to become a handicap star at four, out of personal fave Cox’s Ridge, he has the breeding and the running style to step up big time.

2) Bob and John – Love the way Baffert has put some foundation into this one, and he looks to be progressing at a suitable rate to be at his peak in May. I’m way into progeny of Seeking the Gold these days, and the distaff family doesn’t get much more classic than this, with his third dam being Too Bald, the dam of Exceller, Capote, etc.,

3) Charles Hayward – With construction still not underway on the Aqueduct casino, the embattled NYRA chairman takes matters into his own hands and starts to build the facility himself. He announces that he expects to have four machines in operation by the fall, along with one hot dog stand, a keg of beer, and live entertainment recruited from the Times Square subway station.

4) Cause To Believe – Plenty of foundation for this one with eight races to date, including his stylish win in the El Camino, his second win in two tries around two turns. We know that Maria’s Mon can sire a Derby winner, and some nice class on the distaff side, being out of a Storm Cat daughter of Grade 1 winner Cuddles.

5) Stevie Wonderboy – The juvenile champ suffers a setback in his recuperation from ankle surgery when Merv Griffin, attempting to season a dinner of quail, accidentally peppers his horse in the face when he sneaks up from behind without announcing himself. Stevie rears up, suffers a bad jolt to the head, and temporarily thinks that he’s the Vice-President of the United States. He’s seen the next day on the barn phone extension listening in on Griffin’s phone calls, and cruelly tortures a stable cat by hanging it upside down and forcing it to watch old reruns of Rin Tin Tin.

6) Keyed Entry – Lauren Stitch in the Form has him on her list of fast horses that lack Derby breeding, pointing to his sire, the miler Honour and Glory. At the same time however, she acknowledges the stamina and class in his female family (as I did in this post). He’s the most impressive three-year old we’ve seen on the track thus far this year with his blazing Hutcheson complete with the 1:07.61 three-quarters, and his two-turn debut, possibly in the Rebel, Gotham, or Tampa Bay Derby, could very well be the pivotal moment of the Derby prep season.

7) Barbaro – Honestly, I still have my doubts about this one. Yes, he won in the mud in the Holy Bull, and Edgar Prado insists that he had more horse than it appeared visually, when he switched leads near the wire. However, he still has to show that he can run on a fast track. (Though what if it rains on Derby Day?) He merits a spot here because he’s undefeated and proven around two turns. A fast track win in his next race, possibly the Fountain of Youth, could very well vault him to the top of many Derby lists, if he’s not already there.

8) Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones – With his Phoenix Coyotes out of the NHL playoffs (and the Rangers in), the Great One and his wife head to Louisville for the big race. But they’re seen leaving town the day before the race after Ms. Jones loses a reported $100,000 on the post position draw. Gretzky says “I wasn’t involved,” and Jones drops an unspecified amount on a wager that he wouldn’t say that again.

9) Jazil – Possibly the best-bred horse of the entire lot, he’s another son of Seeking the Gold who traces directly back to blue hen mare Blush With Pride, his third dam. He has a big closing kick, which he showed last fall when closing from 18 lengths back to miss by a nose to highly regarded Steppenwolfer at seven furlongs. He was a very game second to Corinthian at nine furlongs earlier this month at Gulfstream in his first race at three. Trainer Kiaran McLauglin nearly got the roses with Closing Argument last year, so he knows how to get them ready, and could have a real handful with this one.

10) Point of Impact – Pretty impressive losing maiden races and working in the A.M., but Baffert needs to get going with this one, starting with his race on Friday. I suppose I’m buying into the hype on this one, but it sure would be nice to see a son of Point Given in the winner’s circle at Churchill.

10A) Itsallboutthechase – Gets another chance after being extremely wide in the Gulfstream slop.

4 Comments:

thecalicocat said...

We need better names for horses.
One of the reasons I never warmed up to harness racing was the stupid names they gave to the horses.
A good horse name is Smarty Jones or Afleet Alex or Dr. Fager, where if you get near the horse you can say "Hey, Smarty," "Hey, Alex," or "Hey, Doc."
Like really -- "Your Tent or Mine." I'm going be there yelling "C'mon Tent."
Give me a break.
"Bob and John?" -- Who do I root for, Bob? John?
I really believe that horse namer should be an honorable profession.
And we all know the story about how Highland Cat didn't get a good name.
I've had it with bad horse names.
What was wrong with Silky Sullivan? -- great name.

Walter said...

...i predict Your Tent Or Mine will make big news on Derby Weekend by posting his first recorded workout of 2006... 8^P

Walter said...

...just caught Point of Impact's maiden-breaker...my impressions:

POSITIVE - He won. Yaaayyyy!!! He alss showed a very nice turn of foot when making a wide, ranging move on the turn.

NEGATIVE - He looked green as grass once making the lead in early stretch, running with his head cocked sideways and failing to change leads thru the entire stretch run. Last sixteenth in a very uninspiring 7 seconds flat, and that came after some very soft early fractions.

...bottom line, there's no doubt this colt has ability...but there's also no doubt he's way behind his barnmate Point Determined right now, and i think he's behind Royal Legacy as well...it's very hard to gauge this one, because he has obviously isn't showing everything he has...it's quite possible that'll explode onto the scene at some point with a gigantic performance, but he's clearly a work in progress...unless he develops very rapidly, you can forget about the Derby...

Green Mtn Punter said...

Still laughing over thecalicocat's comments on standardbred vs thorougbred horse names.How about Albatross, one of the all-time great harness horses as pointed out by Alan in today's post? "C'mon Albatross!" "C'mon Alby!", might be better? Or Messenger? Or Cardigan Bay? Or Nevele Pride? They just don't stack up with Man O' War, Gallant Fox, War Admiral, Citation, Bold Ruler, et al, et al, et al, - no doubt about it, thoroughbred names are more macho, more aristocratic- they don't call it the "Sport of Kings" fer nuthin'! Remember, however,that Standardbred racing grew out of the county fair circuit where farmers raced their lowbred horses and thus the names are, well, more plebian. OK, history lesson for the day is over. Nonetheless, harness racing is still enjoyable to me because it involves horses!