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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Morning Notes - April 15

- For those who believe that Street Sense will still be the favorite in the Derby once the dust settles and reason prevails, you might want to take a peek at the futures pool, where he's currently being offered at 8-1. (And if you think that Dominican is more than just a Polytrack specialist, check him out at 24-1.)

The Juvenile champ confirmed his talents in the race, but his erratic behavior in the stretch may be a cause for concern.

“He started looking around at the crowd,” Borel said. “If someone would have gone with us, I could have got him running.”

Instead, Borel had to ask Street Sense, the son of Street Cry, to find his explosive kick. Street Sense did not cooperate immediately. He ducked toward the rail once, twice, and finally a third time. Each time, Borel had to wrestle him back to a straight line.
“We ran a winning race,” said a crestfallen Borel, “but I had to grab him three times and it cost him.” [NY Times]
Carl Nafzger seemed encouraged, despite the fact that his colt did a fine imitation of Nobiz Like Shobiz down the stretch: "I'll see you in Louisville.."
"The horse made mistakes....He tried to run in three times down the lane, but he just got beat on the nod, anyway. He'd never done that in his life. I don't know why he did it. He wasn't paying attention." [Lexington Herald-Reader]
Not really a good time of the year for a horse to be running greenly in the stretch. And if he was busy looking at the mere 18,000 or so in the crowd on a miserable day at Keeneland, what will he be doing when he sees the masses at Churchill?

Dominican presents what may be the first major Derby conundrum of the Polytrack era. This colt's form is like night and day - well, maybe night and day is too strong, but there's certainly a distinct difference between his dirt and Poly form. On the other hand, he certainly didn't embarrass himself in his dirt tries in graded stakes last year, and it's certainly possible that he's just improved and matured at the age of three. That's something we can only find out by seeing him run on natural dirt, and 24-1 certainly seems like a fair price to find out.

As for the once high-flying Doug O'Neill, it was not a good day at all. Notional is out of the Derby after suffering a fracture during a routine gallop on the Polytrack. He and owner J. Paul Reddam missed the Blue Grass due to a mechanical failure of the owner's private plane. And then, Great Hunter settled for fifth in the Blue Grass after a troubled stretch drive during which he was taken up when Teuflesberg drifted out. It appeared as if he was beaten anyhow, and Corey Nakatani said he did not claim foul because "I was beat." [Daily Racing Form] Nonetheless, he wasn't beaten by much considering the trouble, and he covered the second most ground in the race, just two feet less than Street Sense. So I think he's still a top contender, though he'll have to move forward in three weeks.

Curlin's 10 1/2 length margin of victory in the Arkansas Derby was the largest in the race's history. Steve Asmussen explained why he thinks he'll be saddling the Derby favorite, an assessment with which I agree.
“I watched the other preps — and accomplished as they are — I think everybody’s looking for brilliance and a little distance between the winner and the rest of them, and that’s kind of what this horse is giving them right now.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]
No matter that he beat a highly suspect field, nor that he hasn't faced any top competition. (In fact, what really qualifies as top competition this year?) I think Asmussen is right on about the spectacular nature of his past performance lines being enough to make him the betting choice. I don't think they're necessarily enough to make him the Derby winner. That can be an attractive combination.

- Asmussen had a Pletcher-type day at Oaklawn, with five winners in total including the two other stakes on the card. His Cream Only, a 30-1 won the Instant Racing Breeders Cup, edging out her stablemate Nice Inheritance. -
The first Blue Grass over the synthetic Polytrack went in 1:51.33 for 1 1/8 miles, the slowest time for the stakes since Peace Rules -- who finished third in the Kentucky Derby -- won over dirt in 1:51.73 in 2003. Only one other Blue Grass has been slower than those since 1989. [Louisville Courier-Journal]

- And the Rangers defeated a chippy and frustrated Atlanta Thrashers squad 2-1 on the road, silencing a raucous crowd and taking a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series back home for Games 3 and 4 this week!


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Street Sense has already won in front of a large crowd @ Churchill Downs...

Alan Mann said...

>>I'm pretty sure Street Sense has already won in front of a large crowd @ Churchill Downs...

True that! Still, the rider said he was distracted by the crowd. The horse hadn't been off the rail in quite some time, so maybe he was just checking out the scenery.

El Angelo said...

Is this Derby going to have *any* pace? Besides Teufelsberg, are there any real front-runners? I feel like this race is just asking for someone to steal it on the front end.

Alan Mann said...

>>Besides Teufelsberg, are there any real front-runners?

Here's the graded earnings list of eligibles, see for yourself. The only one that jumps out is Stormello....and his trainer wants to make him a closer! Other than that, Cobalt Blue is still being considered, but he sure didn't show much speed in Illinois. Hard Spun maybe?

Anonymous said...

Sure Lukas will lob some sprinter in there for the week of free publicity.

AGS and NLS have speed and will be forwardly placed. Cowtown Cat may be Todd's rabbit.