- Lawyer Ron will now take on 12 opponents, as Well Said is out due to an ankle problem. He’s won five in a row since switching to dry, non-Poly dirt surfaces, and displayed some surprising and remarkable versatility in his last when he came from off the pace to win. (I love the trip comment in the Form: “ranged up, delivered.”) Since then he’s delivered two blistering bullet workouts, most recently, five furlongs in 59 seconds breezing with a gallop-out in 1:10.91 and, reportedly, in 1:23.46 for seven furlongs.
"That's the best work I've seen since Smarty Jones, prior to his Arkansas Derby," said Jim Hamilton, the state clocker at Oaklawn since 1992.Brother Derek isn’t the only horse whose jockey is equivocating him with an outerwordly beast. "He's just a monster right now," said John Mc Kee.
"He did it with ease, and just kept going," said Betty Fetters, a clocker for 14 years at Oaklawn. [DRF]
From the four post, it would seem that Lawyer Ron can do whatever he wants, but trainer Bob Holthus said "I'd like to lay third or fourth, three or four lengths off the lead." A couple of speedy types, Simon Pure and High Cotton, could make for willing targets. The horses you may consider to be the main contenders have already been beaten by Lawyer Ron. It seems to me that unless Private Vow can move forward off his disappointing return, Lawyer Ron should be capable of beating these again. And Private Vow’s trainer Steve Asmussen didn’t sound too overly enthusiastic to me in these remarks to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
“He got real tired in the Rebel….Disappointing race. Has trained pretty good. His work [April 4 ] was flat. I was expecting him to work better. But he had a good week and breezed nicely [Tuesday ].”Steppenwolfer will try again; he only lost to the favorite by 3/4’s in the Southwest, and was five wide in running third in the Rebel. So Dan Pietz is remaining optimistic, and is looking forward to the extra distance here. “I can't get to a mile and an eighth fast enough." [DRF] His last work of five furlongs in 1:00 3/5, was the second fastest of the day to Lawyer Ron’s…which shows you fast the favorite's workout was! Steppenwolfer is nothing if not ultra-consistent, and should at least get a piece of the purse…but with only $30,000 in graded earnings, he’ll need a very big piece to qualify for the Derby.
If the favorite does falter, I think that Red Raymond could be the one to surprise. I’m going to reprise here what I posted after watching the Rebel replay.
He broke a bit awkwardly ….. and then, while already towards the back of the pack, got caught in a squeeze entering the backstretch and found himself dead last. He was still trailing as they approached the final turn, but Luis Quinonez swung him out six wide to circle the field; and this is the interesting part of the race to watch. He really just seemed to glide past horses on the turn, as Quinonez did not start his drive until he straightened for home; in fact, the race chart, which doesn't usually editorialize, called it a nice move.Holthus told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (whose always excellent Oaklawn coverage has gone wall-to-wall for this climactic week there):
“If you lined up Lawyer Ron and Red Raymond and had to choose which one would win the Kentucky Derby, it would be Red Raymond….He’s a good-looking horse.”Still, it seems to me that the main question in the race is whether Lawyer Ron can get his Beyer up to a level competitive with those of Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint. His lifetime best was a 106 in the Risen Star, but he’s earned 95 and 94 in his last two. Those seem kind of slow, and there was some question about the applicable variant for the Rebel.
I’ll be checking out the exacta payoffs with Lawyer Ron over Red Raymond….but I will have it reversed too, just in case.
- I’m not alone in my belief that Brother Derek perhaps didn’t get everything that he needs out of his Santa Anita Derby. Gary West of the Dallas-Ft Worth Star Telegram thinks the Derby winner is running somewhere tomorrow, because quite simply, they're better preps.
Their fields are full, or nearly so, and their fractions should be lively, and so they could come closer to simulating the most frenetic two minutes in sport than, for example, the recent Santa Anita Derby.And there’s also Bob Holthus, not an objective observer to be sure, who told Sports Illustrated of Brother Derek: "He ran against four horses with no pressure….I'm not sure his trainer got the race he needed.''
Brother Derek won the Santa Anita Derby, getting a comfortable lead in sleepy fractions while defeating four rivals, and with a string of four stakes victories behind him, he'll go to Churchill Downs as the Kentucky Derby favorite. But what do easy leads and five-horse fields prepare you for?
A stroll through the park, perhaps, or a parade down Easy Street, or maybe a merry search for Easter eggs, but certainly not for that turbulent, volatile, raucous scrum of a horse race known as the Kentucky Derby. No, the pace burns, the traffic bangs, and then a tsunami of noise floods the senses -- that's the Kentucky Derby.