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Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday Night Notes - Apr 17

- With A City ran last in the Arkansas Derby, but his owner Ron Peltz told the Form: "We're not letting it deter us at all." (You have that phone number, right?) And why should he let a 50 length defeat persuade him to give up his spot on the earnings list in favor of a horse who has a shot for at least a share of the purse? What, he should give up his seats? Maybe he figures that the pace will be so fast that With A City will just need to stay on his feet in order to pick his way past through all the pooped horses collapsed on the track.

The discussion has started here, and will continue everywhere during the next three weeks, about what the pace scenario will be. I try to learn from mistakes, so I’m taking my cue from last year. Like now, there was a lot of talk about all the speed, but I was among some who questioned that, claiming that contenders like High Fly and Flower Alley were really more stalkers than pure speed, and that they would patiently sit off the leaders and not get caught up with the pacesetters (as Bellamy Road swept by on his way from just off the pace to a dominating win). This year too, horses like Brother Derek, Barbaro, Sweetnorthernsaint, Discreet Cat and, especially, Lawyer Ron, have shown too that they can win off stalking trips, and any of those could conceivably simply replicate their prior efforts and win the roses.

So in 2005, the stalkers indeed sat a bit off the pace as Spanish Chestnut and Going Wild set the fast pace. The problem was that the pace that they were stalking was so fast – six furlongs in 1:09.59 - that all the pressers other than Closing Argument had nothing left for the final furlong. And this was with two horses with no shot at all to last as far as midway ‘round the far turn; what do you think is going to happen with a legitimate contender on the lead? I think part of this is the fact that this is the Derby, and people and horses get a little hepped up. What were talented riders like Jerry Bailey, Javier Castellano, and Jorge Chavez thinking about as they committed pace suicide? Or was it just that their horses’ natural style was to press (in Bellamy Road’s case, to lead), and they will tend to do so regardless of a fast pace?

Whatever the case, I’m going to be betting that the same thing happens this year. Brother Derek, thinking he’s just going out for another jog with a few friends, is going to be like “Whoa, dude! What’s with all these other guys?” Edgar Prado will have to strangle Barbaro to keep him back. Lawyer Ron looked a lot like a horse who prefers to be in the clear, and the only way he’s going to do that in a 20 horse field is to be moving towards the leaders. Discreet Cat doesn’t seem like the type who would be content to be 8th for too long. Ditto Sweetnorthernsaint. I think they’ll all be in hot pursuit as they once again go 1:09 and change, and that it could very well be another wild finish with an unexpected result. It’s more fun to bet it in that manner, anyway; getting beat with the 5-2 favorite last year was no fun.

- Jay Privman reports that Churchill Downs officials have heard from Godolphin, and expect Discreet Cat to come. Racing secretary Doug Bredar told the Form: “They haven't confirmed anything yet, but it sounds promising. I'd be surprised if he didn't run."


thecalicocat said...

The more I read about Steppenwolfer the more I like him.
He has a beautiful long stride when he gets rolling and was able to close with vigor after a punishing 1:10.98 six furlongs at Oaklawn, which is possibly equivalent to about 1:09 anywhere else. He also had to check at the top of the stretch and come on again.
His regular jockey, Alborado, is a capable rider.
I see Steppenwolfer as the best legitimate closer in this race. He will probably have to come on the far outside to get a clear run.

Anonymous said...

Because of the expected pace scenario, I have to believe that Sunriver could have a breakout race should he make it in despite his current 25/26th place earnings. If my understanding is correct he had a rough trip in the Fla Derby, and closed strongly against a decided speed bias to catch 3rd. In addition, he is quite experienced around two turns, unlike many others. In order to maintain his currently expected longer price on Derby day, I would prefer if Pletcher waits for defections rather than trying to earn his way in by running Sunriver in the Lexington.

If it were run today, I would guess that Sunriver would go off at 20-1 (given Pletcher's profile). He could add punch to any exotics and, if they go a little too crazy on the front, ......