- As I mentioned before, Denis of Cork, who got tossed from my contenders list, got the nod from Mike Welsch based on the way he trained during the week; and the reports on him have been near unanimous in their praise. Welsch wrote:
His final Derby workout was as good as it gets as he hugged the inner rail and exploded through the stretch, then was a handful for jockey Calvin Borel to pull up until halfway down the backstretch. Perhaps not quite Street Sense-like but pretty close. With his running style and Borel aboard, would have preferred to have seen him with an inside post, but love his chances if he can reproduce that final workout on race day. [Daily Racing Form]I remember reading about how Street Sense hugged the inner rail during his much lauded pre-Derby workout last year. So it's worth taking a second look I suppose. I am willing to excuse his Illinois Derby. I honestly don't know whether or not the track was biased. But I do know that the closers faced a difficult scenario in that race, with a front runner, who had set a comfortable pace to the half mile after a second quarter of 24.47, actually accelerating home in splits of 24.20 and 24.05. I don't believe it's too often really in American dirt racing that closers have to overcome a pace scenario like that; in harness races perhaps.
I've been hesitant about Denis of Cork less because of that race than the way his campaign was altered when the owner decided to time his next top effort, anticipating a bounce after the Rebel. It seemed the horse was really starting to develop and then they pulled the rug out, laid him off for six weeks and ran him on a track not suited to his style. Maybe my concern about his untraditional prep schedule is old school, and I'm willing to overlook it somewhat in a case like Monba. But I don't know how good his Rebel really was anyway. It was an aberrantly fast pace in that race as I've written before, with a first half of 45.1 followed by a closing one of 52.3.
Nonetheless, it was a visually impressive move, and if you figure he bounces back here and runs back to that effort, then you have to be encouraged by the clocker reports. Not thrilled about his post position - he's going to have to come a long way and probably have to cover a lot of ground. But I guess I'll stick him into my triples.
- Tale of Ekati is another one in my discard pile; like Court Vision and Anak Nakal, he comes out of the Wood, and I've thrown them all out on principle. It makes me almost angry to think that horses that came home so slow in their last prep could win the Derby. But I was reading somewhere the other day, maybe in Beyer's chat, that Randy Moss was saying that Tale of Ekati ran very fast through the early stages of the Wood in order to stay within striking distance of War Pass, and could therefore be excused for coming home in 40 1/5....and for having to summon every last resource in his equine body to get by an exhausted and lame War Pass in the final yards.
So I took a look, and indeed, Moss' numbers have him running very fast. In fact, he has second and third quarter figs there that are quite comparable to those of Big Browns' Florida Derby. If you accept those numbers, then there's certainly a case that Tale of Ekati ran better than the raw times may suggest, and gained valuable conditioning as well. And that he could be coming up to a big effort in his third start of the cycle.
I can of course still make the case that he's slow. But perhaps I'll find a spot for him somewhere; I did really like him coming into the year after all, and I suppose I'd feel a little silly if he busted up all my tickets.