- I have no doubt that Belgravia will win the Lexington on Saturday, nor that Patrick Biancone and his ownership team of Zayat Stables, Tabor, Smith & Co. will run him in the Derby if he gives them reason to, which would have to include finishing at least second in order to qualify on graded earnings. Marty McGee wrote in the Form that he's far more likely to wait for the Preakness, but Biancone supplied the usual qualifier: "..owners and trainers, they change their minds. Everything can change with racing." Besides, that group didn't spend $2 million with the Preakness in mind, though it certainly wouldn't be a bad consolation.
Biancone said that the son of Mr. Greeley "is perfect now," and I think there's little reason to doubt that. It's his first race since running 4th, beaten less than two lengths, to Stormello and Liquidity in the Hollywood Futurity, a race in which he lost much ground on the first turn after breaking from the ten post. Biancone has been bringing his horses back extremely sharp off layoffs at Keeneland. On Thursday, he scored with Danzon, last seen running tenth, by just three lengths, in the G1 Martiarc in November. On Wednesday, Asi Siempre had that super-sharp and impressive return in her first try since the Breeders Cup. He's also won with Stream Cat, who'd last raced in July, and Quasicobra, last seen at Saratoga. Flawless Treasure lost by a nose in his first try since May; Her Majesty by a neck in her first appearance since the Juvenile Fillies. They all had quick five furlong works as part of their preparation, as does Belgravia.
If he is ready, he should handle this field. Pletcher has Soaring By, who bounced back from his poor Louisiana Derby in a weak allowance field at Gulfstream. Forty Grams, who vied for the lead in the Winstar Derby, and Lukas' Starbase, who did so in the Lane's End, are likely doomed after dueling to a half of 54 seconds. Joe Got Even, who has proven himself to be a reliable sort, has the preferred closing style and trainer Phil Sims, whose runners have been very sharp in limited starts at the meeting. I look for him to run well, and maybe create just a little value in the exacta if Pletcher's horse gets overbet. But the way Biancone has his returnees primed, I'd be surprised if Belgravia doesn't get home first.
- Dial 1-800-NODERBY and vote Doug O'Neill's Cobalt Blue and Liquidity out of the Derby. The connections of each are forging on to the Derby despite strong indications that they don't belong. Merv Griffin is showing the same good judgment with his colt as he did in politics when he donated $25,000 to the Republican National Committee before the 2004 election.
I was interested to see O'Neill quoted in USA Today as saying, of Great Hunter's Blue Grass, "I was shocked they didn't claim foul." Corey Nakatani had said that they were beaten anyway, and I guess he only would have moved up one place to 4th. But that would have meant a bit more purse money if nothing else. Remember, O'Neill didn't make it to the race, and I wonder if there would have been a claim had he been there.
- Thanks to reader Benjamin for mentioning the article in the Albany Times Union the other day in which Jerry Bailey revealed who he'd like to ride in the Derby.
"Any Given Saturday regressed a little bit in the Wood and the only other times he got beat he was hung out wide....I look for him to run a big race in the Derby. That would be my pick to ride."Thanks Jerry, but I'd actually prefer those who share that opinion to keep it to themselves at this point!
- I outsmarted myself in the Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland on Thursday. I'd had Moudez (Xaar) on my watch list after his impressive rally in winning his last race. But when handicapping the race, I used Formulator to take a closer look at the competition in that race, and concluded that it was just a moderate field, and that others had faced better. So I picked him to be just third in the Special, though he moved up to the second choice when In Jest scratched. Too much information, in this case.
- Looks like it's going to be the first-ever Ugly Breeders Cup, when the World Championships move to Santa Anita in 2008. Everything can change, and the landscape of the sport is certainly doing just that.