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Friday, March 03, 2006

Fountain of Youth

- You know it’s Derby fever time when a horse like Beacon Shine (Montbrook), one of four Nick Zito three-year olds on Saturday’s Gulfstream card, is lumped in as a “Derby prospect.” Not that he’s not a nice young horse, but does a maiden win, a five furlong June juvenile stakes win with a 69 Beyer against four horses, and a riderless jaunt in which he “beat” four horses really make this horse a prospect? Why don’t we wait to see how he fares in the Swale Stakes tomorrow before we label him as such?

Zito also has Superfly (Fusaichi Pegasus), his full brother to Andromeda’s Hero, facing Sunriver (Saint Ballado), Pletcher’s full brother to Ashado, in an entry-level allowance, and two entrants in the Fountain of Youth. Hemingway’s Key (Notebook) looks to rebound from a poor effort in the Holy Bull; he may not have liked the slop, an excuse every horse that ran poorly can use. But Great Point (Point Given) will probably attract the most attention of any of Zito’s quartet off his fast closing second in the Holy Bull.

That race continued a pattern of improvement for the colt, and for the first crop of Point Given in general. But I think that too much is being made of his number 12 post position in the Holy Bull. Yeah, that post sucks, but Jeremy Rose somehow managed to steer him directly to the rail before the turn, so he actually saved far more ground that most of the others. And, just as one can use the slop to excuse a poor performance, we can also use it to explain an unexpectedly good one. Still, he was almost 20 lengths back at one point, and will obviously be in a far better position breaking from the rail.

What to do about the Fountain of Youth? First Samurai (Giant’s Causeway) is an imposing presence, even if he hasn’t yet been two turns. His Beyers tower over the field, and his three-year old debut in the Hutcheson was excellent. But there are some intriguing horses here that have done far more towards being labeled “prospects” than Beacon Shine, so why not take a shot. Itsallboutthechase (Devil His Due) deserves another chance after being ridiculously wide in the Holy Bull, and he may not have liked the slop. My Golden Song (Unbridled’s Song) is trained by Todd Pletcher, and, well, he’s trained by Todd Pletcher. Flashy Bull was a close second to Bluegrass Cat in the Remsen, and ran quite creditably for 4th in the Holy Bull.

I like a couple of horses coming out of an allowance race last month – Corinthian and Jazil. Corinthian (Pulpit) has a bit of an aura around him; he’s been pounded at the windows every start, even in the one he didn’t make, when he acted up at the gate before the Aventura. In fact, he’s been a bit of a bad actor, according to his trainer Jimmy Jerkins. "We've had our hands full with him (pre-race behavior), but he has so much talent he' worth the trouble." [Lowell Sun] He got off last in his debut, but rallied for second, and is two-for-two since then, holding off Jazil in that allowance effort.

I do really like Jazil (Seeking the Gold) a a prospect, not necessarily in this race or in the Derby; but the Derby isn't the only race in the world, right? I do like him in this race enough to take a shot though. I wrote in detail about his royal pedigree in this post, which I've linked to several times now, but hey, as I said, I like this horse. I’ve also conceded that he’s just the kind of Derby horse that gets me suckered – a beautifully bred dead closer. Besides the second to Corinthian, his 4th start, he shows a fast-closing two turn win, and a nose loss, once again from far back, to Steppenwolfer, who moved up in the Derby rankings with his second in the Southwest. His debut race looks ugly on paper, but his trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says to take a closer look.

McLaughlin believes Jazil was some 30 lengths off the early pace in the 5 1/2-furlong race before he came on to finish sixth, beaten 15 3/4 lengths by Noonmark, who went on to win again and who will likely be favored in Saturday's Swale Stakes at Gulfstream. The past performance chart had him 13 lengths off the lead at the first call.

"I promise you he was 35 lengths out of it at the three-eighths pole," McLaughlin said. "He was in a different area code. Then he came flying and he galloped out past them all except the winner. The chart makes it look like he ran even." [Daily Racing Form]
So I’ll take a shot with Jazil, and use Corinthian and probably a couple of others underneath.

- Here’s something I haven’t seen in years, literally. Dick Downey of The Downey Profile likes Jazil too, though for second behind McLaughlin’s other entry Flashy Bull. Check this out:
Something that caught our eye is JAZIL's speed/track variant combo of 102 in the race where he broke his maiden on Dec. 7. While he only earned a Beyer of 78 in that race, it came on an absolutely dead Aqueduct track. This speed/track variant total is among the highest in the field.
Whoa, I haven’t read anybody mention those old Form numbers (just to the left of the top three finishers) in a decade at least! Do you guys even know what they are? I’ll get into that another time as this post is too long and time too short, but suffice to say that they served me, and many other handicappers quite well until Andy Beyer came along with his speed figures...which, as we know, are supposed to already take the absolutely dead track into account.