- It's feast or famine these days - either there's very little going on, like last weekend, or there's far too much to give every race its proper due. It's the whole "big day" syndrome inspired by the Breeders Cup that I'm always bitching about here, but at the risk of beating a dead horse (oooo....can't believe I've never used that one before), there's very little space devoted in the press devoted to horse racing to start with, so how does one expect that there will be any meaningful coverage when there's too much to cover? (On this issue, I apparently am in total disagreement with the Las Vegas Review Journal's Richard Eng.)
I say what's wrong with stakes races during the week like the old days? No one goes to the track anymore anyway (well, mostly), and the ones that do will go to see a good Grade 1 or two with a solid supporting card anyway. And since most bets are made off track, and as fans and bettors are able to access more live race video on the internet moving forward (hopefully), what difference does it make which days the races are run on? I know you guys and girls will log on to wager on and watch a weekday stakes race. Look at all the handle one sees on big Pick Six jackpots that occur during the week. I'm not talking about the Grade 1's of course, but I don't see any harm in running, say, the Hutcheson on a Thursday. It would certainly present a far better chance of newspaper editors devoting some meaningful space to the race instead of the one or two lines it will probably get on Sunday.
Anyway, this weekend we have of course the outstanding card at Gulfstream, with the Fountain of Youth, and Corinthian set to wow us again in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Forefeathers and a couple of Pletcher horses, King of the Roxy and Out of Gwedda, meet in the Hutcheson. Half Ours and Diabolical in the Richter Scale. A couple of Derby trail dark horses from Shug McGaughey, Sightseeing and Rescue Party, compete in separate allowance races. And on the West Coast, Lava Man makes his 2007 dirt track debut in the Santa Anita Handicap (though don't plan on seeing it unless you have HRTV); and Great Hunter makes his long awaited three-year old bow in the Bob Lewis. Argh, I don't even know where to start.
So, instead, here's some odds and ends that caught my attention today:
- Trainer Bill Kaplan sends out Drums of Thunder, one of his three Derby hopefuls, in the Fountain of Youth. I quite liked his wide second place to Nobiz in the Holy Bull. Kaplan amazingly has just eight horses in his stable at Calder!
"Either I'm an unbelievable trainer, or I have a tremendous eye, or I'm the luckiest son of a gun on the face of the earth, or I have been blessed by a supernatural power....I have a feeling it's the latter two. I'm really amazed myself." [Louisville Courier-Journal]The other two are Imawildandcrazyguy, who will run in the Louisiana Derby next week, and Storm In May, entered in the Hutcheson. He paid a total of $92,000 for the three of them, man!
- As always, keep in mind that these Derby preps are just that, preps, especially for horses making their first starts of the year. Doug O'Neill said, of Great Hunter:
"He's doing great, but we're not going to have him super involved early in the race. That's not his style....If they're not going overly quick, he might not be able to get there, but fitness-wise, we've got him pretty close to where we had him going into the Breeders' Cup." [NTRA]As for Notional, O'Neill's brother Dennis told Jerry Klein, doing his usual excellent weekly column for FOX Sports: "He'll probably run once more, in either the Florida Derby, the Wood or the Arkansas Derby." Er...thanks, that's really helpful.
- Nobiz Like Shobiz is another one that's being mentioned for the Wood (yay!). Gary West of the Dallas-Ft Worth Star Telegram, has an interesting take on the horse that many consider the Derby favorite at this time. He feels that the son of Albert the Great hasn't improved measurably since he won his debut in September at Belmont Park. Any horse's journey to the Kentucky Derby is all about development and progress, and he hasn't taken a significant step forward.
Nobiz Like Shobiz indeed has not made much progress on his Beyers; the numbers read 96-92-97-98. More importantly to me is the fact that he looked every bit as green in the Holy Bull as he ever has, having trouble changing leads and seeming to look around in the stretch. West also feels that the colt has benefited from racing on larger circumference tracks that favor his sheer talent and forgive his lack of grace; and points out that the last Derby winner to never have previously raced on a track as small as Churchill's one mile circumference was Seattle Slew.
- Wait A While makes her four-year old debut in the Honey Fox Handicap at Gulfstream on Sunday.
- John Pricci notes on MSNBC.com that Street Sense is really picking up the pace in his morning workouts, and doing so when it counts.
Over a demanding Palm Meadows surface Tuesday, Street Sense worked five furlongs in 1:00. But the real story were early splits of :12 2/5, :25 and :37.2/5, meaning he finished up in :22 3/5. He galloped out completing six furlongs in 1:11--that’s another furlong in :11 4/5--and out seven furlongs in 1:25 2/5.- Pegasus Wind is off the Derby trail with a cracked bone, but Wayne Lukas has high hopes for Flying First Class, whose 107 Beyer, earned when he graduated in his second race on Feb 19, is the highest by a three-year old this year. Robert Yates reports in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that Lukas has coaxed Edgar Prado to travel to Oaklawn to ride the colt in the Rebel on March 17. “[Prado's agent] Bob Frieze and I are friends....I told him I’ve got one he [Prado ] needs to test drive. I think he felt like he was good enough of a horse.”
Talk about obscure breeding, this colt is a son of Perfect Mandate, a winless Gone West stallion standing in California for $5,000; and he's out of a mare by Flying Sensation, a Flying Paster stallion who won just once in 23 tries (though he earned over $350,000).