- Completing my run down and thinking aloud about the horses I'm considering, Z Fortune was set at 30-1 in the morning line. I hope he's less, so that I can at least say that my futures bet, at 37-1, was a bargain. I bet him in the first futures pool even after Pyro blew by him in the Risen Star; it was only his 4th start, and I liked the way he'd quickly developed after dominating NY-breds in his first two starts.
The Rebel, in which he was a no-shot fifth at 3-5, was a big disappointment. I've never seen any excuse for that; in fact, Asmussen admitted that the colt had "no visible excuses."
"A very humbling sport, it can be....I've never been so sure a horse would run well in a long time. [DRF]But he certainly ran well in the Arkansas Derby, finishing within a length of Gayego despite an extremely wide trip. He has a solid foundation of four races this year - if that means anything at all these days - and is another who seems poised to move forward off a career best effort.
However, I am concerned that the effort was too much considering the ground loss, and I'm even more concerned that Asmussen seems concerned about it too; to the point where he has trained Z Fortune rather tamely this week.
"I have a huge concern with Z Fortune. He had a very hard race in the Arkansas Derby from a wide draw. It was his lifetime best race. He will have to move forward off that race to win this Derby." [NY Post]You don't often hear a Derby trainer speak like that before the race, and I don't really know what to make of it. I also don't really know what to make of his pedigree. He's by the Brazilian stallion Siphon, who, though he himself won the Big Cap and the Hollywood Gold Cup at a mile and a quarter, brings a lot of unfamiliar names to the mix; and his foals have an average winning distance of 6.6 furlongs. Out of a mare by Fortunate Prospect, he has a rather middling distaff family. He has a low dosage of 1.67, but has a scant profile with only four chefs-de-race.
However, the reports on his training and appearance have been extremely favorable, and I'll be using this one throughout my exotics, probably simply letting my futures bet ride as far as the top slot goes.
- I wrote about how I've come around on Visionaire in this post (scroll down to #9). Some have expressed doubt about his pedigree, and I certainly see the point. Grand Slam, though from the desirable Raise a Native line, is not known for siring distance horses - his foals have an average winning distance of 6.8 furlongs. His distaff family doesn't seem to add much stamina either.
His second dam, 10-time stakes queen Silver Tango (Silver Badge), was a hardy campaigner on the Mid-Atlantic circuit. From 47 starts, the Maryland-bred visited the winner's circle 17 times, and all but one of those victories came in sprints. She is transmitting that speed to her offspring. Of her six winners, five are pure sprinters. Silver Tango is the product of rather plebeian parentage, which does not enhance Visionaire's Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects. [Kentucky Derby site]By the way, detailed pedigree analysis such as this one is available on all of the horses, on the Kentucky Derby website. Visionaire's workout on Tuesday did not get rave reviews: Mike Welsch wrote that he was under some pressure to complete his final furlong around the turn in 13:04. Nonetheless, he's been consistently firing in the stretch, even in his no-shot Blue Grass effort, has a trainer with Derby winning experience, and still has a spot in my exotics, though probably more towards the bottom.
- I had written that I thought that Eight Belles could vie for a spot in the second tier of favorites behind Big Brown and Colonel John, but early indications are that I was very wrong about that. She's been set at 20-1 in the morning line, and I've been reading dismissive comments regarding her chances. Hmmm. I think that this filly
has the perfect running style for the Derby. She doesn't want to mix it up early, but she has excellent tactical speed, and the kind of middle move that could have her in the clear and in striking position turning for home. She certainly has the speed figures to be competitive, and her pedigree seems fine - she's by the Juvenile/FL Derby/Wood winner Unbridled's Song, from the Raise A Native line which has accounted for 12 of the last 21 Derby winners, through Fappiano (and check out Jim Squires' take on that one's distance influence here), out of a Dixieland Band mare.
If Eight Belles didn't have that little circled F in her running lines, I think she'd have to be like 4th choice, doncha think? I think there's a little sex discrimination going on here! Her races are punctuated with comments such as "wrapped up," "much the best," and "sudden burst, handily." Then there's her last race, the Fantasy, which doesn't seem so impressive on paper, with her getting up late in a four horse field. But she took a hop at the start (which obviously would eliminate her on Saturday), allowing Alina to get loose on the lead to a half mile in 48 flat. As I related in this post:
Alina then went 24.34 and 24.19 to the sixteenth pole, and Eight Belles had to get that final half furlong in 6.23 seconds to finally get up. She looked beaten at the eighth pole, and showed a lot of guts in running down a filly who has been a different animal since switching to the Asmussen barn two races back.Of course, there's concern about her getting knocked around in traffic early, but that pertains to everyone. Breaking from the five post, she has the plodding Court Vision inside, and the mid-pack type Z Fortune outside. So she may be OK coming out of the gate, and might have only Cool Coal Man, breaking from the rail for the 4th consecutive race, to contend with early in a second tier. I think she's a real contender, and haven't eliminated her from consideration for the top spot.
So that's it for my contenders. One more note about Big Brown - I noticed just recently to my surprise that the Times edited out a sentence from the first paragraph of my post; it was something to the effect that the horse is either the monster Dutrow says he isn't or he's not. The point being that if he is, then I don't think the 20 post amounts to a hill of beans anymore than the 12 at Gulfstream did. If he's not, then of course the post can get him beat. (And what these front wraps mean in this case, I have no clue. Favoritism for Colonel John perhaps?)
So it looks like I'm down to Pyro, Colonel John, Z Fortune, Eight Belles, and maybe Monba for the top spot; and Gayego, Visionaire, and Big Brown for minor shares only. But later on, either before or after what will very likely be the Rangers' final home game of the year, I'll take a second look at a couple of horses that I'd eliminated before.