- Big weekend for the Derby trail coming up after a week off, and Nobiz Like Shobiz, at or near the top of many Derby lists these days, is actually going to race - again! - as the Juvenile champ Street Sense is amongst the hopefuls who will still be without a race after the weekend. I was thinking that if Nafzger chooses the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway as his debut instead of the Tampa Bay Derby, both of his preps, with the Blue Grass a definite goal, will have been on Polytrack. I can say with some assurance that no horse has ever won the Derby off two races on Polytrack.
A couple of contenders will make their three-year old debuts - one place or another. Bill Currin wants to ship Stormello to Gulfstream to make his against Nobiz in the Fountain of Youth, but is having trouble with his travel arrangements. He has two potential flights for his horse on Wednesday, but as of late Monday afternoon, Stormello was not confirmed on either one. [DRF] Whether or not he makes it, and hopefully he's not booked on Jet Blue, or ends up in the Bob Lewis at Santa Anita instead, it will be his first race since his win in the Hollywood Futurity late last year. This colt had gotten some buzz before the Juvenile after beating Principle Secret in the Norfolk, but they were both kinda dead on the board on BC day. They came home slow in the Norfolk, and I didn't like Stormello in the Juvenile. Come to think of it, I might have bet against him, unsucessfully, in the Futurity. I don't think he has much of a shot if he comes to Gulfstream, despite his sparkling bullet work (of 63) of five furlongs in 58.2 over the Cushion Track on Saturday. As for his Derby prospects, I'm not crazy about his breeding - Stormy Atlantic out of a Carson City mare - and he's not high on my list of probable winners.
Great Hunter also makes his sophomore debut, he in the Bob Lewis. I did like him in the Juvenile; he was stopped cold behind a tiring horse on the turn of the Breeders Futurity, in which he beat Circular Quay and Street Sense, and demonstrated a lot of athleticism in quickly getting into the outside flow and going on to win. In the Juvenile, he had tons of trouble, yet actually had the lead between calls at the top of the stretch as Street Sense cruised unmolested up the rail. He has a solid string of works for his return. Great Hunter is by Aptitude, three times a graded winner at ten furlongs; and is inbred 5x4x5 to Buckpasser. If you go back a bit in the pedigree of his dam, who is by Roy, you'll find a couple of classic runners in Star of Cozzene and Sid Watters' splendid Alabama and two-time Beldame winner Love Sign (the second dam of the latter is the 4th dam of Great Hunter). This one I like, though he's never run very fast, so we'll be looking for some improvement in the Beyer department.
Baffert is planning to start Saint Paul in the Bob Lewis; it will be the colt's first start for the trainer. He was purchased privately on the trainer's recommendation out of his last effort, an eight length win in his two-turn debut at Calder on December 29. It was his fifth race, and first win after trying sprints and the turf. He's by Sweetsouthernsaint out of a mare by Twining, who won the Peter Pan and Withers in 1994 for Flint Schulhofer. Saint Paul is a half-brother to Canadian stakes winner Halo Steven; and this is the distaff family of the Secretariat winner Ghazi.
According to the Form, he didn't work very well when Baffert first got him out west, but he's picked up the pace.
A 46-second half-mile workout Feb. 9 was the fastest of the morning; it was followed by five furlongs in 58.40 on Feb. 15. Solis worked him Wednesday, and Saint Paul dropped his head into the lane, left his workmate in the dust, and smoked seven furlongs in 1:24.80.Walter dropped me a note to tell me that those works on 2/9 and 2/15 were in company with Tough Tiz's Sis, a nice Tiznow filly that won overcame a lot of trouble to win in allowance company for Baffert on Sunday.
"Very nice," Solis said after the work. Added Baffert: "I'm excited."
- Reader Lenny advises us that the word on the backstretch at Laurel is that Hard Spun will ship north for the Gotham at the Big A.
- And a hat tip to Bank Check for tipping me off on Discreet Cat's scheduled return in Dubai on Thursday.