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Friday, March 28, 2008

Florida Derby

- Elysium Fields was the best horse in the Fountain of Youth, having conceded loads of ground to the winner Cool Coal Man. The latter hugged the rail as Elysium Fields was a solid five wide around the first turn, and then three deep around the second. So it was little surprise when Cool Coal Man was able to swing off the fence and sweep to the lead entering the stretch. Elysium Fields would not quit though, and was coming back at the end. Barclay Tagg's son of El Prado has shown some solid improvement since adding blinkers two races ago. He'll have to overcome an outside post again here, but several contenders break even further outside.

The win by Fierce Wind in the Sam F Davis was not quite as easy as it may look on paper; Zito's colt was a solid four wide all the way around the final turn as he circled those in front of him. He looked vulnerable in deep stretch, but gamely held off Big Truck, who, as you know, went on to take the Tampa Bay Derby. Son of Dixie Union figures to save tons of ground from the rail, and has amply proven his affinity for two turns. Tough to beat in this spot.

Tomcito could be 12-1, or he could be 4-1; could be good enough to take advantage of a good post draw and leap into the Derby picture, or he could simply be outclassed. We won't know until they open the gate, and your guess is as good as mine. The tote board dictates whether he's worth taking a shot.

Face the Cat represents part of the fading Derby hopes of the Toddster, as he tries two turns for the first time in his first start for the trainer after a dominant one-turn mile allowance win over repeat winner Nistle's Crunch. This son of Tale of the Cat, out of a Forty Niner mare, would certainly seem to have the breeding for at least this trip; but the outside post makes him an iffy proposition in only his 4th career start.

Majestic Warrior had excuses in the Louisiana Derby, hung out four wide on both turns in a most difficult spot to be making his three-year old debut; but that makes two ugly running lines in a row after his Hopeful win against three others at Saratoga that, in retrospect, may not have been all it was cranked up to be at the time. Bad post doesn't help, and I'm waiting to see more from this well-bred son of AP Indy.

You've heard the hype on Big Brown, seen the imposing running lines, read Kent Desormeaux talking about him being possibly the best horse he's ever ridden, and Richard Dutrow disdainfully dismissing questions about his post. And you've also seen the questions about his soundness, the dismal stats for outside posts at the route, and the questionable quality of the four horses he beat in his off-the-turf allowance. If, by some chance, the naysayers win out on the tote, and he's second or third choice, then I say fire away. But as the favorite, he demands an opposing stance. Could be the Derby favorite or just another false hope, stay tuned.

Nistle's Crunch has never been out of the money in six starts on synthetic, turf, and dirt, around one turn and two. Nice effort at this route in his last, cracking the 13 second mark in the final furlong. Picks up Leparoux in his test for class, and draws an excellent post. Smooth Air has also finished in the money in each of his starts, and was just 1 1/4 lengths behind Fierce Wind at Tampa. Hey Byrn has won his last two over the track by a combined 20 lengths, and also gets his class test here. Any one of these three could jump up at double digit odds without it being too much of a shock.

PICKS: I would hardly call Elysium Fields "terrific value" if he goes off at 3-1, as Mike Watchmaker contends. 3-1 from the eight post in this field?? What's the big guy smoking this week? The Watch-man thinks that Tagg's colt will be the favorite, whereas I think that Big Brown will take the money despite his post. But either way, Elysium Fields looks like the colt with the most proven talent and gets the nod here. Fierce Wind has the rail and is unbeaten around two turns. Tomcito seems worth a shot at even half his morning line odds.

- Christophe Clement has two interesting entrants in the G3 Palm Beach on the grass for three-year olds. Sporting Art missed by a neck to the three-time stakes placed Run Sully Run (also in this field, in the outside post) in his North American debut. He's by the Seattle Slew stallion Doneraile Court, out of a Run Softly (Deputy Minister) half sister to Man O'War winner Defensive Play. His second dam, the G1 winner Safe Play, is a half to the 1000 Gunieas winner Musical Bliss; so a lot of grass pedigree here.

Flying Dismount comes out of an entry level allowance, but has really turned things around in his two starts since coming over from the Pletcher barn. In his last, he broke last in the field of ten, encountered some early traffic before settling in, and swept by the field impressively, striding out powerfully to the finish. This son of Proud Citizen, out of a Regal Classic mare, is a half to Cool All Over, stakes placed on grass at Turf Paradise last year.


Anonymous said...

Nice writeup Alan. Not sure what odds Big Brown will go off at, but I think Majestic Warrior looks good here at a nice price, 2nd off layoff, love the breeding. 15-1??? I'll be boxing with Fierce Wind. Love Kent D. but not sure that BB is the real deal.

Harl said...

NISTLE'S CRUNCH. Improving Beyers, woke up on dirt, equipment change. Only real competition hung outside in post 12.