- Private Vow (Broken Vow) is near the top of many prominent Derby polls despite not having started since Nov 26, and his trainer Steve Asmussen remarked, “If this keeps up, if we train Private Vow up to the Derby, he’ll be No. 1.” [The Downey Profile] He was kidding, of course, but how long before we actually see that? Barbaro will come pretty close to that, as he’ll have one race, the Florida Derby in the 13 weeks before the Derby. And should Private Vow win the Derby despite not starting until March 18 and having just two preps, it could start an unfortunate trend in which top contenders start later and run less. What would we do all winter? Haskin might have to start writing about something else, say, politics.
Though Hilary Clinton remains the clear front-runner, watch Wesley Clark, who finished a sneaky third in South Carolina, while Russ Feingold impressed observers in a mock debate the other day...Private Vow’s form looks impressive when you toss out his Breeders Cup debacle, but he may have to improve upon his lifetime best Beyer of 96 in his first race in almost four months to compete with Lawyer Ron. That seems a lot to ask for a colt who made hay last year against mostly second stringers in the two-year old division. Asmussen admitted: "I can see how he might not be 100 percent." [Dallas-Ft Worth Star Telegram] The thought here is that he may be a bit overrated.
Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr) comes off his win in the Southwest in which his Beyer of 95 was 11 points lower than his lifetime best, earned in his prior win in the Risen Star. Is that an indication that his long campaign – 12 races without a layoff line since last July – is finally taking a toll? Or a masterful job by trainer Bob Holthus of tamping him down in preparation for a run-up to the Derby? The trainer, obviously, opts for the latter. "He's still maturing. Amazingly, he's putting on weight with training and racing, which is a pretty good sign." [Daily Racing Form] Lawyer Ron got a huge break when he drew the rail, and should be able to throw down the gauntlet as he did in the Southwest, when John McKee had his hands full rating him to a 48 second half. Holthus actually wishes there was more speed in the Rebel, so that the colt could get some more experience rating. "I was really hoping Keyed Entry would come here.....He would have given us something to rate behind."
Steppenwolfer (Aptitude) drew the outside post, and will be at a disadvantage if Lawyer Ron has his way up front. Trainer Dan Peitz expressed unease. “I am concerned that there will be enough early speed to help us....It takes my horse some time to get to running. He doesn’t pick it up on his own, but has to be encouraged to make his move." [Downey Profile]
Music School is entered, but is 50-50 to run according to Neil Howard. This is one of those horses I talk about when I wonder if connections have their horses’ best interests in mind when it comes to the Derby. He has just three starts, and despite his obvious talent and stellar pedigree, seems to still have a ways to go. However, Howard seems to be cognizant of that and I get the feeling that he’ll opt not to run.
“This a nice colt, no question about it.....Now, maybe his best is going to be later on, which, you have to remember, is pretty typical with 99 of out 100 A. P. Indys. It’s maturity. But he’s doing well.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]Red Raymond (Deputy Commander) has been getting a bit closer and could show further improvement if an unexpected speed duel materializes up front. Well Said (Aptitude) is on the improve, but may be outclassed here.
I remain extremely skeptical about Lawyer Ron as a Derby winner, but I sure like him in the Rebel. Not expecting any exotic surprises, with Steppenwolfer and Private Vow following him home.