- John Ward talked to Bill Finley in the NY Times about Strong Contender:
"It's amazing how experienced he was when he won his second race.....You'd be amazed at how good and how professional he was. Other horses challenged from the inside, from the outside. He had a lot of horses come at him.”It would be pretty exceptional indeed if he passes this test, and I think there has to be some value in order to bet on him. So, this will probably be a post time decision; I think you gotta demand at least 7-2. But you never know what's going to happen on the tote board; I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s second choice, and I could go to Bluegrass Cat if that’s the case.
“He is a late foal. He was born May 15, which makes you a little bit cautious about maturity. But he has done some exceptional things. He has done things that good, older handicap horses do."
But how about someone else - anyone have any bright ideas? Some people like Little Cliff, and Zito has been on fire at Keeneland. Haskin claims that the horse didn’t like the track at Tampa Bay, but it doesn’t really make sense to me that Zito would run him there twice if that was the case. His Beyers have shown improvement, but he really hasn't shown that much this year. I get the feeling that some people are just trying to will Zito into the Derby this year, but I think that he just doesn't have the goods.
There’s Sinister Minister, who showed good speed in his first try around two turns, but he wasn’t flattered by Cause to Believe in the Illinois Derby. I’m not buying Seaside Retreat. Court Folly broke slow and rallied for third behind Sharp Humor and he’s won over this track; but his one two-turn race was poor.
So, I’ll probably stick to the top choices unless someone convinces me otherwise. I’ll try to create some more value by hooking my choice up in the late double with Rush Bay in the 10th. He’s making his first start since last July, when he was far back on a yielding course in the Virginia Derby. But you may recall how this one took to the turf after a brief excursion on the Derby trail. In his two grass tries prior to his last, he displayed exhilarating late closes that got him a win in the G3 Jefferson Cup, and an excruciating nose loss in his grass debut, the G3 American Turf. Trainer Tom Amoss has been sharp lately with returnees. On March 22, his Monkey Hill won an allowance at Oaklawn in his first start since July 23 as the 2-1 favorite. There’s some sharp-looking horses for Rush Bay to contend with – Remarkable News, Harbor Master, and Pulpit Talk, but if Amoss has him cranked, I think he’s better than those, and perhaps he’ll be a decent price too.