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Friday, April 07, 2006

Wood Memorial a Keyed Prep

- Keyed Entry and Bob and John, two of my preferred slightly-under-the-radar Derby horses go head to head in the Wood on Saturday. The assumption is that the track is going to turn up sloppy - rain is expected most of the day Friday into early Saturday - and that may mean that the race will lose at least one contender. Trainer Tom Albertrani said that if it rains, "we might be out as well," referring to his Tampa Bay Derby winner Deputy Glitters. With Like Now and Showing Up having been withdrawn due to a fever and bruised foot respectively, the absence of Deputy Glitters could mean a lone speed scenario for Keyed Entry. Add in sloppy conditions, and Pletcher’s colt could freak as he did in the Hutcheson, and we could have a wet version of Bellamy Road’s tour de force in last year’s edition.

But I love Keyed Entry in the Wood under any track conditions and even if the contenders who’d scratched hadn’t. Many people took his defeat in the Gotham as an indication that the horse is a miler like his sire Honour and Glory; and that he won’t go any further. I disagree. The race was kind of a training exercise for Keyed Entry, as he showed a different dimension, relaxing comfortably a few lengths behind Like Now, even as that front runner slowed the pace to :47 3/5 to 1:12 1/5 after an opening quarter of :23 1/5. Like Now’s trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, conceded afterwards that “[Prado] had the horse to go past us, but he decided to sit off us." Coming out of the turn, he set off in pursuit, changed leads professionally at the top of the stretech, even as Like Now, having been given a bit of a breather, picked up the pace a bit in the 4th quarter, and slowly cut into the lead as they hit the wire,

Perhaps some are put off by the fact that it wasn’t really a furious close, and I can’t say that he would have zoomed by if the race was a few yards longer. But taking a look at the head-on shot of the finish (and you can do so at the Cal Racing site), Like Now bore out as they approached the wire, driving Keyed Entry out in the process, and it seems to me there was even some contact there right towards the end. I’m a little surprised that Prado didn’t object, actually. But even forgetting that, remember that Keyed Entry had every right in the world to regress a bit (or more) in the Gotham, after running six furlongs in 1:07 3/5 en route to his 110 Beyer in the Hutcheson, the highest by a three-year old this year. As Pletcher said, "He accomplished everything we hoped except winning." [NY Post]

Pletcher also reflected the options he now has with the colt after that performance:

"He can run from off the pace if we need to do that, but maybe letting him be a free-running horse is his best style…We're certainly not going to try to take him off the pace. The most likely scenario is he's going to be on the lead, but if somebody else wants the lead then that's fine, too." [Daily Racing Form]
The only possible challengers for the lead look to be Deputy Glitters (Deputy Commander) or longshot Marco’s Tale (Tale of the Cat), who was specifically entered for that purpose when Like Now and Showing Up defected. However, he’s simply not fast enough. Deputy Glitters is an interesting case; was his improvement in his last two due to him racing around two turns, as Albertrani claims ("Running him longer -- that was the whole key"), or was it instead due to the quirky Tampa Bay track that he perhaps took a liking to? In any event, I don’t think he’s fast enough either; and besides, he looks more like a stalker than a horse who wants the lead.

I’m also very high on Bob and John (Seeking the Gold) as a Derby prospect, though honestly, I’m surprised that he was installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite in this race over Keyed Entry. Besides his classic pedigree, I love the way Baffert has campaigned him, bringing him along slowly but surely, and making progress every race. And yes, that includes his troubled third in the San Felipe, in which he was far further back than usual, recovered, circled five wide into the turn, and finished a game third. Assuming he reverts to his more natural stalking style in the Wood, he should be able to track Keyed Entry and make a run at him in the stretch. I think he’ll come up a bit short, but a solid effort would do nothing to dim his prospects in the Derby, a race which will obviously be a far different scenario. Baffert has expressed some concern about the weather, but Bob and John has a Tomlinson rating of 404, for whatever that means.

Greeley’s Legacy (Mr. Greeley) finished pretty well for 4th in the Gotham, and is moving in the right direction, and can’t be ignored for exotics.

Jazil (Seeking the Gold) is an interesting case; I’d been very high on him, based on his rousing closes, and his tremendous pedigree, which I wrote about here. He was a dull and disappointing 7th in the Fountain of Youth, after finishing less than length behind Corinthian a few weeks prior. But McLaughlin, who has been coming with some novel excuses of late, particularly the electrolyte imbalance that caused Flashy Bull to make rumbling noises in the Florida Derby, claims that he bled despite the fact that he’s always raced on Lasix. What then, is to prevent him from bleeding again? Yeah, it’s hot in Florida, but it was hot the prior race too. And if, as Haskin claims in touting Jazil as the Wood winner, you have to like him if you liked Corinthian, why was he 24-1 in the Fountain of Youth, while Corinthian was the 7-1 third choice? Still, he’s had two big efforts on this track, and it wouldn’t take much for me to grow to like him again, given his closing style and breeding. I’ll have to throw a couple of bucks on him as a saver.

- The folks who determine the betting interests for the Derby futures pool didn't buy the electrolyte excuse for Flashy Bull, and left him out of Pool 3. I think he's a candidate for 1-800-NODERBY.


thecalicocat said...

Good luck with Highland Brat today.
I think his career will be in the movies. Very photogenic colt.
I know I'm literally beating a dead horse, but it just seems that everyone accepts that a mare could smash Secretariat's Belomont record by almost a full second. Not even a flicker of doubt that the Gulfstream Turf course could be mismeasured?

t said...

Excellent horse racing analysis as always, Alan, but I'm rather disappointed in your post today. Maybe you're off your game with the impending start of HC, but your readership has come to expect a little politics gently folded into the mix. I mean, Bush approved the leak the he previously said he would investigate and fire those involve. Where's the outrage? Good god, man, if we've lost you, there's no hope for all of humanity.