- With blinkers on, Nobiz Like Shobiz ran straight down the Aqueduct stretch, cotton balls in his ears to drown out the noise from the few thousand (maybe) out of the 7,848 reported to be in attendance who were gathered outside to watch. Barclay Tagg may have to fit him with an IPOD to try and drown out the noise four weeks hence in Kentucky, but at least he's made it there with a solid, if unspectacular performance. He turned back the challenge of Any Given Saturday, and then Shug McGaughey's Sightseeing, the object of the Head Chef's affection and attention before the race (I may never hear the end of that one).
Todd Pletcher professed to being letdown after the race - “I was disappointed in the last sixteenth of a mile.” [NY Times] But I think that the race should serve him extremely well...if, that is, he's as good as I think he is. It was just three weeks after the Tampa Bay Derby, a blink of the eye in Pletcher-time, and John Velazquez somehow managed to have the horse four wide in a six horse field around the first turn. He continued wide around the second turn, engaged the winner coming into the stretch, but I don't think even the late, great Chic Anderson would have thought that he ever had a head in front. Any Given Saturday tired late, but he should benefit from the conditioning and be a much better horse after getting the rest that Pletcher prefers.
It reminded me somewhat of Genuine Risk's third place finish in the 1980 Wood, which at first prompted her trainer Leroy Jolley to declare that she wouldn't run again against the boys. "I found out what I wanted to learn," Jolley said the next day. "There's no sense in shipping her 1,000 miles to find it out again, as long as I couldn't beat him [Plugged Nickel] yesterday." (The Wood drew over 44,000 that year, thanks in part to a mailing of free admission coupons and daily double bets. NYRA didn't spend one red cent on promoting the race this year, perhaps because they had to spend $100,000 on Spitzer's integrity review.)
But she ran and she won, and I'm certainly not counting Any Given Saturday out of the Derby picture based on this race. True, the race was not particularly fast at 1:49.46, and the final eighth was a mediocre, at best, 13.44. (By comparison, Magna Graduate took the Excelsior in 1:48.10, final eighth of 12.80.) But the ground loss seemed pretty significant and Velazquez said “I had to go sooner than I wanted to at the half-mile pole to get up with him.” Add in the fact that I just don't think he was fully cranked for the effort, and I'll hold my spot on the bandwagon while others bail out.
Cornelio Velasquez had a real handful trying to keep Nobiz Like Shobiz from dashing off down the backstretch. Breaking from the rail, the rider found himself in an awkward spot, trying to maintain a stalking position behind two front-runners that weren't going very fast - 47.26 to the half. "He was really pulling me the whole time." [NY Post] Tagg said:
“(He) throttled him back a little bit....I’m glad that he did. I didn’t want him to get into a duel. I thought Cornelio handled everything really well and the horse handled everything well.” [Bloodhorse]The trainer is hoping for a better scenario in the Derby: "I'd like him to sit fourth or fifth." [Washington Post] That would be nice, but it's usually wishful thinking to hope for any particular scenario to play out to one's liking on Derby Day. It's going to be a whole different ballgame for this still-developing colt in that 20 horse maelstrom than it was in the familiar surroundings of the relatively serene Aqueduct.
- Cowtown Cat won the Illinois Derby for Pletcher, and though the final time of 1:51.21 is rather slow, he finished strong after setting a slow pace, coming home in 12.75 for the final eighth, 37.65 for the last three-eighths. Fernando Jara said: "He was still strong after the wire." Cobalt Blue was nowhere at even money in what was a bad day for Doug O'Neill. His Liquidity had a rough day, enduring a slight bobble at the start, and a wide trip to end up 4th in the Santa Anita Derby. "He's still a little green," jockey Corey Nakatani said. "I don't think we've got to the bottom of him yet."
As for Tiago, I welcome his appearance in the Derby; as a half-brother to Giacomo, he's a nice story which should generate some good publicity, and also hopefully entice a lot of people to bet on him too. Mike Smith said "He finished today like Giacomo did in the Kentucky Derby." [LA Times] I can almost guarantee that, come May 5, if Tiago finishes like Giacomo did when he staggered home to win his Derby, he will finish well out of the money.