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Friday, May 06, 2011

If We Must, We Must....

This is the third year in a row that the Wood Memorial winner didn't make it to the Derby due to injury; and this year it was the hat trick, with the top three finishers, Toby's Corner, Arthur's Tale, and Uncle Schmo, all faltering due to various reasons. Grimmer still, it's the third consecutive year that the probable or, this year, possible Derby favorite ran in the Wood and then didn't make it to Churchill. Not a good thing for NY's big Derby prep, which hasn't produced a winner since Monarchos in 2001, and which has produced Derby disappointments such as Bob and John, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Bellamy Road, and Tapit.

Well, I guess I have to declare who I like. I suppose that it's required to go on the record, so then I can write about how my picks suck. (Drape is likely to extend his streak with his flailing stab of Animal Kingdom.)

I'd actually like to keep my options open, and be free to change my mind, inspired perhaps by an unexpected overlay, an incisive insight by Gary Stevens (or maybe even Mike Battaglia?), or simply a last-minute hunch.

However, if we must (though I reserve the right, in this specific case, to change my mind without sending any tweets).... Archarcharch (12-1) drew the dreaded rail, but I'm sticking with him as the top selection (albeit in large part because I simply don't like anyone else in the field [at least at the anticipated odds] enough to change my mind).

I read somewhere, and I don't feel like looking for it right now, that the one post has actually produced 12 winners, tied for the most in Derby history. However, here in the era of 20 horse fields, it hasn't produced a winner since Winning Colors...and she simply outbroke the field and wired the field. With Archarcharch likely to attempt to reproduce his deep close in the Arkansas Derby, jockey Jon Court might want to take a look at the way Ferdinand won from the rail in 1986.

Just love the way this colt has improved in his four starts this year, even, Beyer-wise, in the Rebel after he was kicked repeatedly by the horse in the adjoining stall. He's reportedly made great strides in his training at Churchill, and I can't help but feel that this colt is coming on, and coming up to a big effort. Excellent tactical speed could help him avoid trouble, but he showed the ability to close from a ways back in the Arkansas Derby, blowing by the leaders in the stretch after being just about widest of all while gaining ground on the far turn. He's a son of Arch, from the Roberto sire line, out of a mare by the Irish champion Woodman. Solid 1.73 dosage number, and a number of distance stakes winners on his distaff side. Will need some luck, but so does everyone else.

Midnight Interlude (10-1) really was quite impressive in the Santa Anita Derby, very wide on the first turn, and having to stop and shift out a path in the stretch. Don't know what he beat, but do know he ain't running against all that much here either. A couple of bullet works over the track; despite that, a mediocre assessment by the Form's Mike Welsch, but that could be too much information in this case. Seems to be getting ignored by the pundits, which I consider a good thing. Tactical speed and a good closing kick could put him in the mix.

Santiva (30-1) gets a pass for his disappointing Blue Grass, which came after he impressively built on his two-year old year with a bang-up, and very wide, second in the Risen Star. Son of Giant's Causeway has nice Tomlinson and dosage numbers which perhaps are more important than the sprint names we see on his distaff side. Another with the tactical speed to stay close and out of trouble.

I see that Beyer likes Shackleford (12-1) to win the whole thing. I dunno, I can't imagine him staying ten furlongs, even if he's trained well since the Florida Derby as reported. He did indeed show some real grit hanging on after being kept busy defending his lead throughout the race. Could see him hanging on for a share but would be pretty shocked if he takes the big prize given the way he tired at Gulfstream.

I discussed Soldat (12-1) in the last post, and El Angelo wrote in to report that he'd read where McLaughlin said that he hated getting dirt kicked in his face in the Florida Derby. That would explain why he's successfully rated on the grass, but has only been successful on the lead on dirt. That could definitely be a problem in this race. So, I've soured a bit on this colt. On the other hand, maybe the dirt in the face served as a learning experience, and El Angelo will have talked me off a live horse.

Nehro (6-1) has declined in stature for me, in part because of his draw in post 19, and additionally because everyone else seemed to like him. Now, with a final workout which was reportedly lackluster (and a lack of activity since, according to Welsch), he seems to have lost some buzz. Still, this one-time winner closed like gangbusters in his close second place finishes in the La. and Ark. Derbys. Worth taking a peek at the board to see if he's offered at significantly higher odds than his morning line. Otherwise, I'll pass.

Dialed In (9-2), as I've written before, is a nice young colt who is eligible to improve; but needs everything to fall his way, and is therefore an awful favorite here.

Brilliant Speed (30-1) is picking up some attention based on how good he's reportedly looked training over the dirt track. Has shown the kind of improvement we love to see; and, being a son of Dynaformer out of a Gone West mare, certainly has license to run well on dirt. And maybe his two dirt races were bad because they were sprints. Still, the history thus far of Poly horses in this race compels me to disregard him, as well as Animal Kingdom, and Twinspired.

Pants On Fire (20-1) is one of the speed horses who we're all just assuming (well, me, anyway) will race each other into submission and set it up for one of the closers, be it midpack or deep. But this horse perhaps deserves a closer look based on his game Louisiana Derby win over Nehro, who will be sent off at far lower odds.

I still don't like Mucho Macho Man (12-1) at all.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Winning Colors broke from the rail...wasn't it post 8?

Either way, I feel for poor Arch3. That was my pick and now I'm flailing at Animal Kingdom as well!!

Good luck on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Archarcharch - Obvious "now" horse. Rail difficulties will be overrated due to Lookin at Lucky's travails in Derby136.

Dialed In - No major knocks against gritty little horse. Will have difficulty passing them all though.

Midnight Interlude - Might be more talented than people give him credit for being. His SA Derby seems to be underrated, but he's basically as fast as anyone and can win this with slight improvement.

1,8,15 / 1,4,7,8,13,14,15,16,19 / same 9 in third.

I think I'll barely miss the triple when some synth longshot hits the board. Enjoy this great day, folks! -jp

Anonymous said...

Alan, thank you for posting the '86 Derby win by Ferdinand. He was my last minute hunch play when I decided that Charlie Whittingham and The Shoe were not in Louisville to hob nob.

This year's Derby is again a yawner due to the fact that it has become more a social event than the classic race that it once was. Owners are interested in being there and bragging that they have a horse in the Derby. Big Whoop.

Interesting piece in yesterday's NY Post on how today's 3 YO's are so lightly trained and raced that it is no wonder that most of them disappear after the Derby. Racing is supposed to improve the breed, not make it weaker.

It is the big payoff in breeding that has brought us the decline of the KY Derby and the Triple Crown Series. And the Breeders Cup has diminished the Grade I schedule as owners aim most of all not to lose a race during the summer and early fall. Is there a better approach that can work in terms of the economics involved?

Anonymous said...

ArchArch has a bigger problem than the 1 hole. Jon Court riding in a 20 horse field....yikes !

Figless said...

A lot of love for the Spiral (G3, undeserving) winner, here and elsewhere, jeesh, this is not my father's Derby. Damn, too bad Powahawton(sp?) County didnt enter, he might be third choice after handling AK in that turf allowance.

Seriously, all these turf/awt horses in this race are just crowding up the gate, doubt any of them are even legit G2 animals on their preferred surface, much less on the dirt.

But yes, AK does appear best of those, he would be 1-5 if they ran a separate derby restricted to 3yo's than ran their last race on AWT in America.

But IF you are willing to try a surface switch why not Master of Hounds? At least you are getting a legitamate G1 animal who is certain to get the 10f. His BC Juv Trf try only two weeks after runing third in a legitamate G1 was ok, beaten only 2 lenghts by Soldat and a head bob by Banned, who appears a monster yesterday.

Then he loses a head bob at 1 3/16 to a 4yo after a 4.5 month layoff. Not a shabby prep, and he figures to move forward as he has time to recover. And he gets big race riding Gomez instead of a Eurojock.

Wish they shipped him here earlier but that is the way they do things.

Like many I am trying to beat Dialed In while acknowledging he is the most likely winner. Fair odds too at 9-2 currently and he was flattered by Equestrios showing yesterday in a tough renewal of the Alysheba (g2).

I have spent hours trying to find a true dirt horse I can back at odds justifying playing against the likely winner, but alas, I have failed.

High Fig Soldat interests me, as does Stay Thirsty, Santiva and even Shackleford, but the arguments against outweigh the pros.

Part of my standard handicapping methodology is the willingness to ignore one bad race in exchange for value, but I simply cant get past the "needs to finish in top four in final prep" rule in the Derby, even with legitamate excuses for Soldat (dirt in face), Stay Thirsty (blinkers attempt) and Santiva (surface). I really want to like these horses but cant pull the trigger, at least not in the win slot.

I cant get past Shackefords sprint pedigree, and in no way can I imagine him not getting caught up in a duel so he is off the ticket completely.

I revisited 3Arch and Nehro, but they have their own obstacles to overcome and I am convinced the LA and ARK derbies were second rate, a conclusion drawn from Mucho Macho Man's sudden improvement upon departing the Sunshine State.

As for MMM, he does not appear likely to get the added distance and likes to settle for minor awards. Off the ticket.

One more trip back West of the Mississippi and I find a lackluster rendition of the SA Derby where a last out maiden winner wore down a proven sprinter at 14-1. If MI was trained by anyone other than Baffert would anyone take it seriously?

Baffert got to trash talking about how well this colt was doing in the Oaks winners circle yesterday, which peaked my interest until I realized this is standard operating procedure for him. Looks like a genius when he wins, the jocks fault when he loses.

MI is on my tickets, but I dont expect to see him in the Winners Circle.

Calvin and Sunland again, maybe? I dont want them at 8-1, thats for certain, but they will be longer in the exotics.

Considering the Oaks winner ran a much faster race at Sunland than Borels mount did, not likely. And unlike MTB this guy is bred to be a sprinter. Against.

So MASTER OF HOUNDS it is, currently at 19-1. If it stays that price I am all in.

Will box with Dialed In and include Soldat, MI and Stay Thirsty underneath.

Good luck to all, and more importantly have fun.

ballyfager said...

Well, you ruined my day by saying that Joe Drape likes Animal Kingdom because I like him too.

Soldat made not like dirt in his face but he sure seems to like slop which we're likely to get.

I'll take:

Animal Kingdom

Figless said...

I LOVE Smart Bid in the Woodford Reserve.

8-1ML is way too generous battaglia is a joke.

Court Vision 4-1 fave in this race, half the field has beaten him recently.

El Angelo said...

No intention of talking you off horse, sir, but I don't like Soldat at all. So he'll win going away, of course.

steve in nc said...

I'm going with MMM. Really don't like Dialed In. Arch and Nehrol should bounce. I'm worried about Baffert and the Hound wouldn't be a shocker to me. Let's hope the rains hold off and they all come home safe.

Figless said...

I apologize for my disparaging comments about the Spiral Stakes as a Derby prep, obviously it is a top notch event that should be on everyones radar going forward and will undoubtedly recieve a deserved upgrade to G2.

Could not have been more wrong yesterday, but thankfully I bailed out on the undercard (Thanks Tom Bush, Get Stormy and Smart Bid!) and drew Animal Kingdom in the pool at my favorite pub so all is well.

On to Sunday at Belmont.