- Highland Cat seems to be ready for his first start as a gelding; he completed his preparations for Saturday’s race, a maiden special at a mile and seventy yards on the Big A inner track for a fat purse of $44,000. He got a half mile in 49.43 breezing, the 6th fastest of 27 at that distance.
- I missed the story about Michael Matz deciding to hold Barbaro out until the Florida Derby, and then the five weeks up until the Derby. That’s considered to be an unusual approach, and James Scully on Brisnet.com lets Matz have it.
Only one start in the 13 weeks before the Kentucky Derby? Say it isn't so. No tiger has the same stripes and all horses are different, but the Kentucky Derby is a 1 1/4-mile beast that eats up lightly raced horses. Matz, who owns no Kentucky Derby experience, couldn't be taking a bigger chance with the future of Barbaro. No horse in his lifetime has won the Kentucky Derby with only one race in the previous 13 weeks, and I would ask him who is the last horse to enter the Kentucky Derby under the same scenario (or worse) and then capture a Grade 1 event later in his career? Barbaro's connections can only hope that he will be the first.However, last year, Closing Argument took a similar route; after winning the Holy Bull, he didn’t race again until the Blue Grass on April 16. Thus he also had one prep in 13 weeks, though that prep was more ideally situated three, instead of five weeks before the big race. Though he didn’t win, he was quite possibly the best horse in the race. So perhaps in this day and age, it’s not quite as unorthodox approach as it may seem. The one thing I fervently hope for is that the track is fast for the Florida Derby, so we have an idea one way or another about Barbaro on a dry fast track.
Monday’s cancellation at Oaklawn means that Music School may start in the rescheduled Southwest Stakes on Saturday.
The way that Bluegrass Cat returned to the races last weekend doesn’t make me anxious to go against High Cotton in this allowance at Gulfstream on Wednesday. But in the unlikely event that Strong Contender goes off at his morning line of 6-1, he’d have to be worth a shot. John Ward is still quite serious about the Derby for this one, looking to use the Wood or Blue Grass as a final prep. When he worked in :59.60 on Friday, he completed his final eighth in 11 seconds before galloping out a mile in 1:41 and change.
Bob and John worked a half in 49.40 (34/70). Baffert seems undecided whether to race him in the March 4 Santa Catalina, or wait until the March 18 San Felipe. Itsallboutthechase worked five in 1:01.20 (6/19).