- Country Star worked six furlongs, in company with Ginger Punch, in 1:11 over the Cushion Track at Hollywood.
Country Star will make her first start of the year April 5 in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland; Ginger Punch runs the same day in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. [Daily Racing Form]Should Country Star dominate in the Ashland as she did in her races last year, I imagine that we'll hear calls for her to try the Derby, even off of only that one prep. Michael Hammersly made his emphatic case for just that in the Form over the weekend, pointing out that at this relatively late stage, instead of the males solidifying their spots among the Derby elite, their failures are raising more questions. But first things first; let's see her back at the races first.
Colonel John worked out on Tuesday at Santa Anita, preparing for the SA Derby; and you can watch all the action on You Tube, along with some cheesy musical accompaniment courtesy of Peter Gabriel. I have to admit though that my heart is not going boom, boom, boom over the California Derby prospects as of yet. I know that I boldly stated here a few weeks ago that I was going to ignore the synthetic track factor and base my opinion of them strictly on the usual factors. And I don't believe that it's the track surfaces that's giving me a tough time drawing a bead on these horses; rather, it's that the races have been slow, the trips for the winners advantageous, and the pedigrees uninspiring. In other words, they're like many of the contenders all over the country.
Though Colonel John was officially clocked in 1:13.60, Eion Harty's assistant got him in 1:12.40. Colonel John galloped out seven furlongs 1:25.20 and a mile in 1:39. [DRF] He earned a mere 86 for his win in the Sham, but the slow pace precluded a faster final time, so that figure may be as meaningless as the 90 that Pyro earned in the Risen Star. He's done little wrong, really, which you can certainly also say about El Gato Malo (whose Sham effort I actually liked better than Colonel John's), and Georgie Boy, who a few people I know really like. My reservations about the latter, besides him being by a son of Storm Cat, stem largely from the fact that his San Felipe win was accomplished against others with questionable distance prospects trying two turns for the first time; and it returned a modest Beyer of 92. However, you had to like the determination with which he finished after having to find some room in the stretch. So, I'm keeping an open mind on this group, and I'm most anxiously looking forward to the SA Derby, which will hopefully help us get a better handle on their relative merits at a distance of ground.
- Garrett Gomez rode Colonel John in the Sham, but will skip the SA Derby and instead ride Court Vision in the Wood Memorial a week from Saturday. His agent, Ron Anderson, told Haskin:
“He closed on a track that you can’t really be that far back on, it’s Bill Mott, he’s won at Aqueduct, he’s well seasoned, WinStar owns both horses, Colonel John has never run on dirt, and I think Kathy Walsh’s horse (Georgie Boy) is going be very tough in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)....It wasn’t an easy call, but I really like my horse.” [Bloodhorse]Out of the three prospects whose 2008 returns were considered to be the biggest flops - Majestic Warrior, Tale of Ekati, and Court Vision, the latter's effort was clearly the best, though that's not saying too much. In past years, I could have gotten enthusiastic about it as some fans have. But these days, with layoffs seemingly less significant, and with only two preps in mind, I personally am looking for more. Court Vision had a nice pace setup, and some very slow fractions to close into. He himself ran the final furlong in a plodding 13 4/5, according to Formulator. Combine that with his slow Remsen win, and Court Vision will have to show me an awful lot in the Wood in order to win me back over.
Tale of Ekati will also have a chance to redeem himself in the Wood; and Majestic Warrior is a possibility for either that race or the Florida Derby this weekend (and I've seen the Arkansas Derby mentioned too).
Thanks to the readers who informed us that NBC will be carrying the Wood, Illinois Derby, and SA Derby on April 5. I still haven't seen that, and the only note on the NBC Sports web page is something about "Santa Anita" on April 12; which isn't when the race is. But I'll take your word for it, and that's certainly good news. Also good, I think, is that I'll be in the Big A pressbox on Wood day, and I'll be doing the live blog thing, so you can read me losing in real time, which should be a lot of fun.