- Bandini (Fusaichi Pegasus) sure landed in a tough allowance spot at Gulfstream on Wednesday. Many considered him to be the most physically impressive horse going into the Derby last year; he was the 6.80 to 1 third choice and finished 19th and that was it until now. And who would doubt that Pletcher could have him ready. He brought Monarch Lane back off a similar layoff earlier in the meet and he won by six; Keyed Entry hadn’t raced since July before the first of his two spectacular wins this year.
At 3-1 in the morning line, he’s second choice to Silver Wagon (Wagon Limit), forever known as the winner of the Hopeful. That was back in 2003, and since then he’s won once – an allowance race at Gulfstream last year. On first glance he looks like the type who just doesn’t like to win, but he really has been running in tough company – four Grade 1’s just last year – and doing so quite competitively. However his last effort in the Kenny Noe was a bit disappointing, losing at 4-5 to a couple of slugs in Mister Fotis and Storm Surge. So maybe he really doesn't like to win.
Wanderin Boy (Seeking the Gold) has run triple digit Beyers in the second race of his cycles, and he comes off a reasonably good second in his first race since last March. That was a long layoff, and for some reason I get the feeling he may need another race this time. Record Buster has been gone since running last in an allowance at Saratoga. Do you think maybe it wasn’t a great idea to run him in a Grade 1 in his 4th career start? Still, he could give Wanderin Boy a tussle up front.
So it’s all Bandini, with Dark Cheetah coming along for the exacta. It would seem from his form that he doesn’t want to go this long, but that was before Dutrow took over and he switched to the dirt. He’s coming off a win at six furlongs in which he closed after a poor start, and there would seem to be no reason, at least pedigree-wise, why this son of Storm Cat out of a half-sister to Bernstein and Caress couldn’t get this one mile distance.
- Strong Contender is fast becoming one of the more intriguing of the cast of characters; not too much unlike Bandini was last year, though the latter had a bit more experience. John Ward told the Albany Times-Union :
"I think he has made kind of a buzz down here,'' Ward said from Florida. "We saw a great, big, strong dynamic horse who ran very big. He is on the Derby trail. If you looked at his eyes after that race, you saw no tired glaze.''Look for him to take his share of action in Pool Two this weekend.