After Saturday's Arkansas Derby demise of The Factor, The Donald has now been tabbed as the "preliminary" morning line favorite for the Derby by Churchill Downs' oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. Donald Trump immediately demanded to see the birth certificates of the other contenders to confirm that they are all three-years old. Like him.
Yeah, that's silly, I know, but why not....can anyone possibly guess who will be the favorite at Churchill in three weeks time? Uncle Mo and his questionable gastrointestinal tract? Dialed In off his desperate Florida Derby win over a 68-1 longshot? Either of those would be tentative choices at best in my view. Why not at this point the sure-to-be wise guy horse Nehro, who closed fastest of all and, given the buzz he'd already earned with his second in the Louisiana Derby, was quite possibly the biggest winner of the weekend even though he didn't win (nor get a call until the race was over)?
Like Uncle Mo, The Factor in fact also apparently has a medical excuse. For heaven's sake, here we go again....
“When they sent hard and then they squeezed him down on the rail [Martin] had to grab him,” Baffert said. “I think he displaced [his palate]. They’ll displace if you grab them too hard. So he came back, and all the sudden you could hear him, the breathing, gurgling up.” [Daily Racing Form]But watching the race again, I'm really not sure exactly where The Factor had the kind of incident that the trainer refers to. He was cleanly outsprinted by 33-1 J P's Gusto before 29-1 Dance City ranged up and edged ahead of him approaching the first turn. And while that one did appear to force the favorite toward the rail, I don't see him taken up in any manner in the way Baffert describes. Besides, does anyone believe that the horse had any shot once it was clear he was being taken out of his game? Shows the hazard of betting on any pure speed horse in the Derby, when you know that it's not going to be alone winging out there early. Methinks that we won't be seeing The Factor in the Derby anyhow.
Archarcharch ($52.40) had an excuse of his own for his third place finish in the Rebel, when he was kicked in the legs by a horse in the adjoining stall. Whatsmore, he also was said to have been injured when he ran 4th in the Smarty Jones. If you buy that, then this horse has never run a poor race. What was most impressive to me on Saturday is that he showed a new dimension, closing from far back for the first time after breaking from an outside post. We certainly like a horse that demonstrates that kind of tractability going into the big race. Archarcharch ia a son of Arch (sire of Blame), out of a Woodman mare, with inbreeding to Northern Dancer, Raise A Native, and Nashua. Nice dosage (1.73), and a bunch of Euro stakes winners in the female family. If this horse goes off at higher odds than Nehro, then I think he would have to be the bet between those two on value, if nothing else.
Nehro comes in over the mythical 4.0 dosage standard for the Derby; though there seems nothing wrong stamina-wise for a son of Mineshaft out of an Afleet mare. His half brother and sister Saint Marden and Sweet Lips both won modest two turn stakes races.
The Blue Grass once again proved inconsequential as far as the Derby goes, but we more or less knew that going into the race, didn't we? That doesn't necessarily make it a "bad" race. It's a graded stakes for three-year olds on Polytrack and the centerpiece of the prestigious Keeneland spring meet that still attracts a large and lively field. It is what it is, and it was a lot of fun to handicap and to watch...especially if you had, in any denomination, the superfecta which paid at the rate of over $129,000 per $2 bet.....and produced a thrilling flying finish in a final furlong of 11.69 for Brilliant Speed ($40.20). That was a way overlaid win price for a 6-1 morning line who really had as much of a right to win the race as anyone.
Brilliant Speed is a son of Dynaformer, the sire of course of the Derby winner Barbaro, out of a Gone West mare who's a half-sister to the graded stakes (on dirt) winner Serenading. His second dam is a half to the Belmont winner Touch Gold, and to With Approval, whose surface versatility Brilliant Speed will try to replicate. Go back a little further on his distaff side, and you'll find accomplished dirt horses such as Haynesfield, Healthy Addiction, and Izvestia (another turf and dirt star). He may have only gotten an 87 Beyer for his Blue Grass win, but he's legitimately earned his way in, and breeding-wise at least, he has as much of a shot as anyone in this fractured Derby year.
- Interesting tote scenario in the finale at Keeneland yesterday. Off-the-layoff ace Roger Attfield had two returnees, and Perfect Shirl seemed to have an edge on No Explaining based on the former's defeat of the latter in the Lake George last summer and her subsequent third in the G1 Del Mar Oaks. Thus, Perfect Shirl was rated at 7-2 in the morning line while No Explaining was third choice in the race at 4-1. Yet it was No Explaining who went off as the 5-2 favorite, and she justified that faith with a neck win in her first race since last October.