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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Stakes Recap

- You gotta love Greater Good (Intidab), whether or not you think his win in the Rebel in a slow 1:44 4/5 makes him a legitimate contender to win the Kentucky Derby. He just always fires, and is now 4 for 4 around two turns. It was a really strange race on many counts. For one thing, the eventual winner actually found himself on the lead shortly after the start, a position that prompted owner Lewis Lakin to say, "What’s happening?" [Arkansas Democrat Gazette] Rockport Harbor, who got off to a horrible stumbling start, rushed up three wide around the first turn and was taken in hand setting slow fractions of 47.25 and 1:12.54 to 6f, and it took him another nearly 26 seconds to get to the sixteenth pole, by which time Greater Good, who had dropped back to around no more than 6 lengths off the lead and swung 4 wide in the stretch, had engaged the leader. Rocky was game in his first start in almost 4 months and fought back, but to no avail. Nonetheless, trainer John Servis was understandably thrilled.

"I'm tickled to death....I've never been so happy about getting beat in my life. He ran a great race and will move forward." [Bloodhorse]
Meanwhile, Afleet Alex, who stalked the leader until the top of the stretch, then shockingly quit and faded to last, burning over $400,000 in show money. But he has an excuse.
J. J. Graci, a spokesman for the colt’s owner (Cash Is King LLC), said Afleet Alex was suffering from a lung infection, that on scale of 1 to 5, was a "3."

Graci said there was mucus coming out of Afleet Alex’s nose and even more was detected in his lungs by an endoscope, an instrument used for direct visual inspection of a hollow organ or body cavity.

Graci said Afleet Alex will be treated with antibiotics for five days and then resume training for his scheduled start in the $1 million Grade II Arkansas Derby on April 16. [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]
And Graci told the Form, "It's just a little bump in the road." Should all make for a fascinating rematch in the Arkansas Derby, where we’ll have to determine how Afleet Alex bounces back and if Rockport Harbor can move forward; and as for Greater Good, I get the feeling he’s the type who will have his doubters no matter what he does up until Derby day. But there seems little doubt that he will make it there barring any unforeseen troubles.

- Oh man, did you see the way Consolidator (Storm Cat) came barrelling down the stretch in the San Felipe like a quarter horse despite being involved in a grueling pace?? He stalked longshot Lucky J.H. on the outside through an opening half of 46.02 with a second quarter of 22.58, and 1:09.74 through 6f. Around the turn, Wilko and Giacomo looked like they might sweep by, but Consolidator swung into the lane, switched leads, put his head down and stormed down the lane like a man with a mission, getting the mile in 1:34.03, a quarter of 24.29 seconds, and smashing the 25 year old stakes recond by a full second (over an admittedly lightning fast track) finishing in 1:40.11. Wow!! Giacomo, Don’t Get Mad and Wilko ran 2-3-4, likely good enough for each to continue to the SA Derby. Roman Ruler ran last as the favorite.

Lukas repeated his assertions that he hadn’t had Consolidator ready for the Sham, and displayed some well-deserved bravado as well.
"I think maybe I overestimated his ability. I was a little bit light on him; I probably pampered him a little bit. But I know how to get there (Kentucky Derby). I've been there before (with 41 horses since 1981, winning four times). I know what to do. And he was a different horse.”
Lukas also indicated that he may send Consolidator to the Blue Grass rather than stay for the SA Derby. ("It gives us an extra week....and he has an affinity for that track." [DRF]) That could set up a confrontation with High Limit, which would be a showdown between the two horses which, in my opinion, are the two most impressive Derby prep winners thus far.

It would also present the real possibility that Sweet Catomine will indeed be favored in the Santa Anita Derby.

- Another who could be in the Blue Grass, which is quietly shaping up to be a mammoth race, is Sun King (Charismatic), who did not disappoint the bridgejumpers who pumped more than $800,000 into the show pool for the Tampa Bay Derby, though he gave them a bit of a fright when he let challengers draw along each side of him around the turn and into the stretch. He set slow fractions on the lead of :23.78, :48.65, and 1:13.54. When challenged, Edgar Prado went to the whip and Sun King responded got the next quarter in 24.24 and finished up in 1:43.98, a couple of ticks off the track record.
"I'm very happy with the way he ran," said winning trainer Nick Zito. "I was surprised he went to the lead. I think [Prado] wanted to school him and see how much horse he really had and he did a good job. Sometimes you have to do that. The horse is versatile." [Bloodhorse]
This is what Prado had to say:
``You have to prepare yourself for whatever comes in the future. He comes from behind, and he comes from the front. When he fell into company of the horse coming, he switched to another gear.'' [Tampa Bay Online]

- And in the wildest race and finish of the day, Survivalist (Danzig) rallied to prevail in a blanket finish and withstood a claim of foul to take the Gotham, in a race that saw Pavo’s rider Alan Garcia lose his irons and smack Naughty New Yorker in his snout with his whip. Still, trainer Shug McGaughey is unsure about the Derby.
“How far he wants to run, I don't know.....What I'm going to do with him, I don't know. I'll talk to Mr. Phipps when the time comes. I would think the Wood Memorial is a good possibility." [NY Times]
Galloping Grocer, moved to 2nd on Pavo’s DQ, did sit off the pace and only missed by a length; I imagine he moves on to the Wood.