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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Winners and Losers (and in between)


- Keyed Entry (Honour and Glory) – You knew it was going to be a surprising day of Derby preps when Keyed Entry was rating several lengths behind Like Now, who was cutting out a moderate pace of 47.78 and 1:12.30 in the Gotham. The fact that the 8-5 second choice wasn’t quite able to catch the longshot winner, who came home from there in 24.38 and then a final sixteenth of 6.49, didn’t at all diminish his status as a leading Derby contender in my eyes.

"I thought it was a perfect trip," Pletcher said. "The strategy was to try and get him to settle. It might have backfired a little today, but it may prove to be the right thing in the long run." [Sun-Sentinal]
Exactly. The colt passed his two-turn and rating tests and the second place finish is meaningless in the long run. Remember, he was certainly entitled to bounce after his blistering Hutchenson too. Having displayed this versatility, I think he becomes a more serious contender in defeat.

- Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr) – Wow! So much for his being one-dimensional!
"He settled in real nice down the back side. I had three horses up ahead and while it looked liked like we were losing some ground around the turn I think the best part of the track was three or four lanes off the rail, which was exactly where Bob told me he wanted to see the horse."

"In the stretch he really kicked it in and gave me a big move," [jockey John] McKee said. [AP]
After tracking second and third quarters of 24 and 25 1/5, Lawyer Ron exploded to the lead in a quarter of 23.86 and coasted home in 6.33. Was that me who wrote that I had my doubts about him as a Derby horse?

- A.P. Warrior (A.P. Indy) – Call it the John Sherriffs effect, or maybe he’s a horse for the course; or perhaps the $1.2 million colt just ran to his ability. In any event, he’s back in the picture after two disappointing starts for former trainer Eoin Harty. Despite being four wide all around the turn, jockey Corey Nakatani said he had plenty left when challenged late. "When [Point Determined] came to me, he pinned his ears and dug in like I thought he would......He's a very, very versatile horse. I really think the sky is the limit with him. I'm excited.” [LA Times]

- Like Now (Jules) – And John, for picking him. Well, I really don’t think this colt is going to soon be able to again get loose on a lead with a moderate pace like he was allowed to in the Gotham, but Kiaran McLaughlin will press on and run him in the Wood. The trainer conceded that “[Prado](on Keyed Entry) had the horse to go past us, but he decided to sit off us."
"I thought [the pace] would be a little quicker," McLaughlin said, "and [Jara] did a great job; had a hold on him the whole way. The last time he ran the outrider had to pull him up so we thought he would get the distance. We thought he would be successful stretching out, but you never know until you try. [Newsday]
- Deputy Glitters (Deputy Commander) – Nice price ($18.80). After all, he only lost to Bluegrass Cat by a length and a quarter in the Sam F Davis. Without all the hype on Pletcher’s horse, beaten at 2-5, Deputy Glitters would have paid a price closer to his 5-2 morning line. Trainer Tom Albertrani mentioned the Wood or Blue Grass as his next start.

Honorable mention – Point Determined (Point Given) finished well and proved that he at least belongs in stakes company.


- Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat) – No, a second place finish doesn’t mean he’s no longer a contender, but he certainly lost some of his luster when you saw Velasquez whipping and driving, to no avail, around the turn. The fact that he settled down and finished well, after giving a scare to the bridgejumpers who wagered over $300,000 on him to show, perhaps gives the excuses cited afterwards some credence. Pletcher said: "[Velazquez] said the ground seemed to slip away from him a couple times on the far turn.....He seemed to lose all position going into a pivotal point in the race." [Sun-Sentinal]
"It seemed like he was slipping a little bit going into the second turn," Velazquez said. "It was going well and then all of a sudden he couldn't get his footing. He lost his momentum. It was one of those things. He was not focusing today. I will throw [this race] out." [Tampa Bay Online]
- Achilles of Troy (Notebook) – A bad start, and a worse finish, as he was vanned off the track. The NYRA vet said that he "seemed a little sore in his right-front [leg]. We'll check on him tomorrow morning and talk to their vets. At this point, there was nothing we could see or feel." [Baltimore Sun] Even a bigger loser could be the colt’s new trainer, Frank Amonte Jr. It didn’t take long for him to draw the wrath of his tempestuous owner.
Paragallo said the problem surfaced Friday and he wanted to scratch Achilles of Troy but was talked out of it by his trainer, Frank Amonte Jr., and others. Amonte was hired a week earlier to replace Jennifer Pedersen.

"I'm not very happy with him," Paragallo said of Amonte. "I called him five times today to check on the horse, and every time he told me he was doing great." [NY Times]
Considering that, I guess the biggest losers of all were those who bet on Achilles of Troy at 3-2, not knowing of any concern about the colt’s physical condition. Shades of Sweet Catomine?

- Private Vow (Broken Vow) – So much for that strategy, which didn’t seem to make much sense to start with. Still, Steve Asmussen seemed undaunted. "It wasn't a bad race and one that will help him....We were stalking early and it looked like we were ready to pounce. I liked our position. He needed the race and will improve." [Daily Racing Form] This was the only one of the preps that I bet on, with the strategy to leave Private Vow out and find some value in the exacta. I missed by two necks with Well Said, and kicked myself a bit for not using runner-up Red Raymond (possibly headed for the Illinois Derby).

In Between

- Steppenwolfer (Aptitude) ran creditably for third in the Rebel. He always seems to fire, but doesn’t seem to be in the same class as the race winner. Still, he's another one whose pp's are starting to look like Giacomo's.

- Bob and John (Seeking the Gold) got off to a bad start and did pretty well to get third despite being five wide coming into the stretch. "I kind of lost my position right out of the gate," said jockey Victor Espinoza. "There was just a little too much ground to make up. I think it turned out to be a good experience for him, getting dirt kicked in his face and all." [AP] He can be credited with an excuse I suppose, but he didn’t really do enough after the poor start to get me excited about him; on the other hand, nor does the effort eliminate him.

- Sweetnorthernsaint (Sweetsouthernsaint) put in a really nice effort for third in his first try against top company. ""My horse was very impressive," Desormeaux said. "You don't have to worry about a longer distance. He had a lot more to give." [Baltimore Sun]


Tote Board Brad said...

Great breakdown, Alan. This is why your Neilson's continue to go up.

I particulary agree that Point Determined is very worthy of an honorable mention. Had he been able to make one run & start it earlier, maybe he does even better or takes down the top spot.

what do you think about TVG cutting coverage of Oaklawn? Gamesmenship, as the contract expires?

Walter said...

...i was particularly struck by Lawyer Ron, i thought he looked fantastic yesterday...not only did he drop back along the rail and settle well early, he was very wide towards the end of the backstretch and was rolling to the lead while still in hand...i didn't look to me like he was even asked to run until they turned for home and he already had a length or two on the field...very, very impressive performance, and one that certainly bodes well for his Derby chances, given the fact that he settled well in a large field and showed a great deal of handiness and tractability...i'm not sure he could've looked better...i also noticed that Private Vow was totally in hand, and he looked like he might be full of run once he got into the clear and was finally turned loose...but he really petered out in the lane...not sure if he fighting the jockey while being held (didn't really look like it), or if maybe he has some distance limitations...either way, it probably didn't help that this was his first start back in ages...i'm not ready to give up on this one yet, i think there's a decent chance he'll run a good one next time out...but he did look outclassed by Lawyer Ron...him and the rest of the an aside, i think it's important to remember something i mentioned here a while back...Oaklawn appears to produce very fast finishing fractions, probably because the run-up to the wire goes slightly downhill...i was looking over the charts yesterday to see how fast (or slow) the track was playing, and i came across Race 6, a maiden race run at the same distance as the Rebel, they hit the mile mark in 1:40 1/5, obviously very slow (Lawyer Ron went 137 3/5)...and despite that, they finished in 146 1/5, for a final sixteenth in 6 seconds a maiden can go a mile in 140 and change, then get the last sixteenth in 6 flat, that's totally beyond me...just keep in mind that the final quarter/sixteenth at Oaklawn plays faster than normal... for the San Felipe, nice effort by A.P. Warrior (especially after his recent debacles), but as they mentioned on tv, he's gonna have to do better than that to compete with Brother Derek...Point Detemined showed, well, a determined late rally, but i was watching that one pretty closely and he was being pushed on real hard almost the entire way around the track...i was shocked he had enough horse to make it close, it looked to me like he was beaten soundly before they even left the turn...some horses are weird, and simply require a strong ride like that, but Point Determined has never been that way before...i don't know what to think about that, could've had something to do with the rider change but i doubt it...i guess you could make the case that he didn't bring his "A" game, and was still right there at the finish...but again, it looked like Brother Derek would run that bunch ragged...if he makes it to the Santa Anita Derby healthy, he looks every bit an even-money favorite... for Keyed Entry, i agree with Alan's take to a certain extent, but i would've expected to see a stronger move from Keyed Entry, particularly off such a moderate pace...looked to me like he was running on evenly, same deal with Sweetnorthernsaint btw...he's certainly eligible for improvement with the initial route race under his belt, but he didn't look like anything Brother Derek or Lawyer Ron need to be concerned about...

...coupla big-time prospects go next weekend, in Strong Contender (Turfway) and Discreet Cat (Dubai)...despite their inexperience, i rank those two #4 and #5 on the list right now (i have Cause to Believe #3)...i guess Barbaro deserves to be in there somewhere too...those are my Top's hard to see either Strong Contender or Discreet Cat cracking the Top 2 next weekend, but they can certainly solidify their credentials with strong performances next weekend...and i suspect they'll do exactly that...

Walter said...

...oh, i almost forgot...nice effort from Point of Impact yesterday, running DEAD LAST in that turf stakes as the 3/1 second choice...i still have no idea what THAT was all about, and apparently neither does anyone, because he was completely omitted from today's Stable Notes section, which inluded plenty of notes & quotes from yesterday's action...i guess Baffert wasn't in a very talkative mood after the race... 8^P

alan said...

I can't believe he was 3-1!

suebroux said...

I usually refrain from commenting on this blog because you are way too smart and I sound like a naive ninny but I think that Red Raymond might need a mention or two. He ran into the trifecta in the Southwest at 32-1 and then yesterday was disregarded once again in the Rebel. I couldn't believe he was sitting up there at 23-1 before post and I felt that this colt had an excellent chance to move forward and hit the trifecta once again. I had read ... somewhere, someplace ... that Bob Holthus had initially been more impressed with Red Raymond than with Lawyer Ron. (See? I can't even quote the source!)

Walter said...

...the winner of the turf stakes was a nice Frankel import named To Sender, who won down the hill first time out and was bet down to even-money yesterday...Point of Impact has his supporters, no doubt, but it didn't take much imagination to know there were some red flags surrounding him yesterday...the fact that Baffert was passing on the San Felipe (but still saw fit to run Sky Diving???), and was running Point of Impact in an ungraded race, on grass, during Derby Season...well, something just wasn't right there...and while his workout going into the race was okay, it wasn't exactly stellar either, so Point of Impact wasn't gonna pull any sharp on-track, you know how Frankel-crazy the crowd can get (usually for good reason) when Bobby has a nice one entered in any kind of turf stakes...

...btw, speaking of Point of Impact's odds, i was @ the Palms on Wednesday night, and they had him listed @ 8/1 for the Derby...if you hurry down there, you may still be able to get him at that price... 8^P