- First Samurai (Giant's Causeway) is listed as the 6-5 choice for the Hutcheson on Saturday at Gulfstream, his long awaited three-year old debut. He was probably the first two-year old last year to be mentioned in the same sentence as ‘Kentucky Derby’ (without the Yum!). In fact, Haskin had him as a potential triple crown winner; at least until Stevie Wonderboy came around. The headline in the Racing Form reads First Samurai faster than rivals, and while that may be true, will that be the case in this race? His owner Bruce Lunsford said "I don't think he's going to be at 100 percent making his first race after three months…..He shouldn't be at his sharpest, nor would you want him to be." [AP]
This colt still has things to prove – he hasn’t raced around two turns, he’s had some really slow come-home times, particularly in the Champagne, in which he took advantage of a ridiculous :52 3/5 second half to rally past an exhausted Henny Hughes, and who has he beaten, really, other than Henny Hughes, who he did not beat in the BC Juvenile? Well, he did beat Brother Derek that day, though we know about that one's preference for two turns. Still, I think it can be argued that the Juvenile, in which he finished third, was his best race.
I’m not really looking to bet against him, but I will be keeping an eye on Keyed Entry (Honour and Glory), stretching out a bit after his spectacular six furlong allowance win in which he breezed home in final eights of :11 4/5 and :12 1/5. I think he’ll take enough money to make it not worthwhile, but this could be a serious contender for Pletcher. More on Keyed Entry in this post.
- In the 5th at the Gulf on Saturday, Steve Asmussen’s Noonmark (Unbridled's Song) makes his first start since a ten-length maiden win at Belmont in which he earned a 97 Beyer. Superfly (Fusaichi Pegasus), Nick Zito’s full brother to Andromeda’s Hero, who will later run in the Donn, makes his first start since running 5th in the Juvenile.
- Bob Baffert is prepping Bob and John (Seeking the Gold) for the Derby the old-fashioned way – by racing him. He’ll start in Saturday’s G3 Sham Stakes just two weeks and a day after his allowance win, but Baffert says of that race: "It was a workout….He's a big, beautiful horse. He looks the part and he needs to learn a little more." [DRF] I like the way Baffert is bringing this horse along, and I’m pinching myself a bit for not putting down a few bucks on him at 31-1 in the futures pool. We’ll see how I feel about that after the Sham, though it’s hardly a definitive prep given the fact that Going Wild won it last year. That would actually make it an anti-prep.
Also in the race is Sacred Light, who rallied well for third in the allowance race, and Genre, the lucky beneficiary of Bob and John’s controversial DQ in the Real Quiet.
- For those of you playing the races from Oaklawn, you should probably check out this article by Robert Yates in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette about an apparent strong bias towards closers and horses starting from, and racing on the outside during the first two weekends. I’ve mentioned my skepticism of track bias claims that seem to be based on flimsy evidence, but there are times when one should pay attention.
“I think it [the surface ] was deep,” [jockey John] McKee said. “I think it was real tiring. It hurt the front-runners real bad [during the opening weekend ]. Anybody near the pace was dead.”Even if the bias is no longer apparent this weekend, take note of horses who run back after racing there the first two weeks.
The outside three post positions (Nos. 10, 11, 12 ) have already accounted for 12 victories in sprints — seven more than at this point last year — and five victories in route races.
Two of the route winners broke from post 12, normally a black hole at Oaklawn. From 1991-2005, post 12 yielded only 19 winners from 552 starts, according to statistics in the Oaklawn media guide.
From just 12 starts, Post 10 has already produced three route winners, equaling the total for post Nos. 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8.
- Neil Howard will give it another shot with Music School (A.P. Indy), hoping for a fast track at Oaklawn on Sunday, when he’s entered in the 7th at one mile.
- Highland Cat breezed five furlongs in 1:02.06 (11/36) on Thursday.
- The Head Chef and I are going to see human beings race at the 99th Millrose Games at the Garden tonight. I can’t bet on that stuff, right?