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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Derby Top Ten

- Here's the LATG Kentucky Derby Top Ten - the horses, people, and things we think will be in the news on and around the first Saturday in May.

1) Great Hunter (Aptitude) moves to the top of my list with his dazzling brush on the turn of the Bob Lewis to win his first race in four months. He ran a lifetime best Beyer of 101; that's 11 points faster than he'd ever run before, but it did not seem to be a taxing effort, and O'Neill said: "He came out of it in great shape....What I really liked was his gallop-out." [Daily Racing Form] The two-prep strategy is a concern, but he did run seven times last year, so it doesn't seem quite as much of one as it is to me in cases like Ravel and, to a lesser extent, Street Sense (who ran five times at two).

2) Any Given Saturday - Pick a Pletcher horse, any Pletcher horse. So how about this one? At least he's scheduled to race three times before the Derby. (Not so for Deadly Dealer, now officially on the Derby Trail after winning his sprint allowance at Gulfstream on Saturday with a Beyer of 104. Pletcher told the Form that he'll give him one shot to earn his way in, either the Arkansas Derby or the Wood. Like Ravel, he would go to the Derby in his 5th lifetime start.)

Any Given Saturday just exudes a lot of class to me; even just on paper, with his $1.1 million price tag, and his nearly unblemished record, which looks even better now looking at his easy win over Sam P last year. That was the allowance race in which the son of Distorted Humor was caught unbelievably wide from the nine post; he looked like the eight horse at Yonkers entering the first turn. Then he made a move on the turn that track announcer Kurt Becker called "breathtaking." He's done everything right - other than getting beat by Tiz Wonderful - since then. Could he be the one to finally get the Toddster on with Bob Costas in the winner's circle?

3) TVG Senior VP David Nathanson remains steadfast even with the announcement by the new franchise holder in New York (wouldn't you like to know?) that they will not renew their contract with the network. "With our exclusive deal with the Meadowlands, thoroughbred racing is diminishing in importance to our business," he says. Nathanson dismisses the Kentucky Derby as "just one of hundreds of graded stakes," and announces that on Derby Day, Ken Rudolph and Todd Schrrmmpff will broadcast live from the sack races at the 23rd reunion of the Merchant Marines Class of 1984.

4) GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney visits the red state of Kentucky, and holds a fund raiser on Derby Eve. He speaks eloquently about the Derby as a way of American life, and assures the generous audience that he backs racing's exemption from online gambling prohibitions. The former governor of Massachusetts is seen having a high old time on Derby Day, even engaging in a friendly contest with rival candidate Rudy Giuliani as to who could change his position on abortion the most times during the most exciting two minutes in sports. The next day, Romney tells a conservative group in Texas that he opposes gambling in all forms, including horse racing, and refers to Kentucky as "center stage" for moral degeneracy. "Sort of Las Vegas-east, Harry Reid-style."

5) Scat Daddy - I picked this horse in the Juvenile, though I didn't bet him because he was a huge underlay at 7-2, drifted up from 5-2. I also liked him against Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Holy Bull. Then I soured on him; his front-running effort in that race was a little weird. But in retrospect, and especially if you accept Pletcher's explanation that he wasn't cranked up, maybe it was just a training race for him - to give him a different experience, and let him get a little tired to get some conditioning. In the Fountain of Youth, Scat Daddy may not have run a big fig and he certainly took advantage of tiring horses. But it was yet another gritty win for this son of Johannesburg; he's shown a lot of heart in his wins, and I see no reason why he won't run on as he stretches out.

6) Nobiz Like Shobiz runs loose and kicks over a drum containing toxic chemicals, spilling its contents into a storm drainage system and causing an ecological disaster. When asked why he did it, he says: "[snort] Heh heh heh, call me green, will ya?" [Bada-boom]

7) Notional / Liquidity / Great Hunter / Doug O'Neill / J Paul Reddam / What / the / hell? How can two guys, neither of whom is named Todd Pletcher have this many really good horses on the Derby trail? We mentioned Great Hunter up top, but all three of them seem virtually the same to me. Their running styles may differ, but they all run close almost every time (just twice out of the money in 18 starts combined). They've all had solid starts to the year, and they all train on Cushion Track. We'll find out more about Liquidity this weekend. Walter pointed out that his prior trip out of state was poor, but the Champagne was just his second lifetime start; and he had only trained once on the just-opened Cushion Track at that point. I think there could be something to that angle, but we shall see.

8) Zanjero - OK, Patrick turned me on to this one. But I'm always willing to take a tout on a live longshot. He did show some nice steady improvement through his five races at age two, culminating with his second in the two turn Remsen. That was the day that Nobiz Like Shobiz had things his own way, and gave us a glimpse of his immense talent, something we haven't seen since. Zanjero was very wide and very good in the Risen Star, sweeping to the lead on the turn. Though he couldn't hold on, he could certainly move forward in the Louisiana Derby this Saturday with Garrett Gomez in for the ride.

9) Genealogists for the website, which determined that the Rev. Al Sharpton's great-grandfather was owned in slavery by ancestors of Sen. Strom Thurmond, announce that their research shows that conservative crackpot Ann Coulter traces back to thoroughbreds.

She's by Talk Is Money, out of a dam by the stallion Dike.

10. Hard Spun - Trainer Larry Jones now says that he'll likely run his son of Danzig in the Lane's End at Turfway rather than in the Rebel. The colt just doesn't seem to care for Oaklawn, and his coming back tired after a workout on Monday was the last straw. "He just really doesn't seem to handle this track...There's different horses for different courses, and I just don't know that he's the horse for this course." [Daily Racing Form] That is of course unless the horse is.... Oh, sorry. As I've said, I gained respect for Hard Spun after his loss in the Southwest, which should have served as a good experience mentally and physically if nothing else. And if you're buying Jones' theory that he just doesn't care for the track, then he could be worth picking up in Pool 2 this weekend while he's out of favor.


Patrick J Patten said...

a picture is worth a thousand words, those 2 are priceless

Anonymous said...

A priceless blog entry, made my day and it's not even 9 AM.