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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Zito Not Flying High

- Just one major Derby prep set for this weekend, because who the hell wants to run their horse five weeks before the big race? In addition to keeping an eye on the entries for Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream, handicappers will be watching the weather maps, hoping for a fast, dry track that Barbaro has never run on (so far, so good according to And that’s only one of the questions to be answered by Michael Matz’s undefeated colt, as he has mapped out a most unorthodox schedule in which Saturday’s race will be his only one in 13 weeks prior to Kentucky.

The race is not coming up strong, as horsemen deliver their verdict to Frank Stronach on his realignment of both the Gulfstream track and the prep schedule. Barbaro’s main rival figures to be Flashy Bull, who just seems to me like a second-tier contender at best. He hasn’t done anything terribly wrong and thus is hanging around as a contender; in fact he’s done a good job in his two Gulfstream stakes overcoming poor posts. But he has yet to make anything near a statement that he’s top flight material. However, a win in the Florida Derby would make his three-year old form a bit reminiscent of that of McLaughlin's Closing Argument, second in Kentucky last year.

Other than those two, the big question according to the Form, is which horse or horses Zito will enter in defense of his title (he won with High Fly last year), and that’s not saying much for this race. His top two candidates for the race are said to be Hesanoldsalt and Doc Cheney, and that being the case, perhaps it’s time to dial 1-800-NODERBY, and vote Zito off of the Derby trail altogether.

We all love Nick, he’s a nice guy and a wonderful spokesman for the sport, but this seems like a case of trying to get blood from a stone; let’s face it, he just doesn’t have the horses this year. Hesanoldsalt was dismal once again in the Gotham and Doc Cheney was unable to handle Saint Augustine in a slow nine furlong allowance. Fabled was nowhere in the Rushaway on Saturday. Great Point is gone with injury. Who else? Little Cliff? Even Haskin, who could probably even make a case for a third term for Bush, could come up with little better than pointing out that he had been beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Bluegrass Cat in the Sam Davis and finished 3 1/2 lengths behind him in the Tampa Derby. That’s progress for you. We hope to see Nick in the winner’s circle with Bellamy Road sometime soon.

- The Wood Memorial has taken some hits with the defections of Corinthian and Achilles of Troy, but the race is making a comeback with the addition of Strong Contender and now, Bob and John. With Keyed Entry also slated to go, as well as the unbeaten Showing Up, the speedy Like Now, and possibly Sweetnorthernsaint, it’s still shaping up as the most intriguing of the remaining Derby preps.

- Strong Contender breezed what for him was a lazy five furlongs in 1:01.60 (6/10) at Gulfstream. Missing the Lane’s End was, I believe, a big blow to trainer John Ward’s Derby hopes with him. He was looking forward to racing him on the kind Polytrack surface, and he would have had the option of getting another race into him if he wished. Now, he’s looking at one shot to get the graded earnings he’ll need to even get in, and, if he does, will be sending a 4th-time starter with one stakes race to the Derby. Of course, Discreet Cat would be doing the same, unless he goes in the Blue Grass, but he just seems further along than Ward's colt at this point.

- High Fly, last year’s Florida Derby winner, is standing at Live Oak Farm in Florida for $5,000.


Walter said...

...i don't understand why Ward isn't running Strong Contender in the Florida derby this weekend...i mean, the horse is based down there, he's known to relish the surface, and he needs Graded Earnings, as you mentioed, the race is coming up much softer than the Wood's also give Ward the option of squeezing one more race in before the Derby, say the me, that's make more sense (from a Derby standpoint) than going make-me-or-break-me in the Wood....

Walter said...

...i need to start getting my facts straight before i open my mouth...the King George is NOT run during the Royal Ascot meeting...Royal Ascot runs only 5 days, from June 20-24...the big 1 1/2 mile race @ Royal Ascot is the Prince of Wales...the King George is run @ Ascot roughly a month later...sorry about the confusion...

alan said...

I guess we were both confused.

Ward said he's skipping the Fla Derby because the horse missed a workout due to his expected participation in the Lanes End.