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Friday, April 06, 2007

Wood Memorial

- I'm maybe just a tad surprised that Nobiz Like Shobiz is the morning line favorite in the Wood, though he does have the home field advantage. It was at the Big A that he put in his most dominant and professional performance when he won the Remsen by 6 1/2. Barclay's Tagg's colt is more accomplished than Any Given Saturday in the sense that he's won two graded stakes races. But Pletcher's colt has run faster according to the figs, and has faced and acquitted himself quite well against what are I think are some tougher horses in Street Sense and Tiz Wonderful. Whatsmore, he's been more professional in doing so. Nobiz Like Shobiz may have the most potential in this entire crop, but I recall what the writer in the Guardian wrote about Discreet Cat: never again must we place the value of potential above proven performance. In my opinion, and I know this is subject to debate, Any Given Saturday rates higher than Nobiz Like Shobiz in the proven performance category.

Having said that, and despite the fact that I've had Any Given Saturday at top of my top ten list, I like Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood. He's been working with a purpose with the addition of blinkers, and I for one get the feeling that the new equipment could very well help him get his mind on business (and what should be a relatively sparse crowd could help too). But I also think that his connections are more focused on winning this race than those of Any Given Saturday.

There's been a lot written, of course, about how the Tampa Bay Derby might take something out of both Any Given Saturday and Street Sense, with much talk that both would be better off without another such grueling effort this time. I see signs that Pletcher is trying to see to it that that's the case. For one thing, it's only been three weeks since that race, and it's well-documented that the trainer prefers longer rest to have horses at their best. He's had only one workout, that a rather leisurely five furlong breeze in 1:02 1/5 (10/11); in the past, he's worked quicker in the A.M. Perhaps Pletcher is aware that horses who didn't win the Wood have used the race as a springboard to Derby glory - Genuine Risk, Monarchos, and Funny Cide come to mind.

Though Pletcher won't come out and say that he's using the race strictly as a prep, as John Ward did in 2000 2001 with Monarchos, I think that's the case. He does have to run well, and I'm sure that Pletcher would like to be at least second in order to secure a Derby berth (a third would vault him to #14, but several others he would pass would have chances of their own to recoup). But he doesn't have to win, and I don't think he will. That wouldn't necessarily diminish his Derby prospects in my mind, and might even enhance them, depending on how he runs.

As for some others, Sightseeing knocked heads with Michael Matz's talented Chelokee for Shug McGaughey in allowance races at GP, but it doesn't seem as if he's yet improved enough to make up the 11 lengths he was beaten by Nobiz in the Remsen.

Summer Doldrums is said to have "scoped dirty" after his disappointing run in the Gotham, in which he was wide both turns and didn't run that badly in any case. He could be the target that Barclay Tagg would like to have for Nobiz. Mike Luzzi said he could “do what I want” from the five post.

I’ve definitely got options with him. After looking at the race, we might decide we want him on the lead. We’ll figure it out.” [NYRA Barn Notes]
Reptilian Smarts is a son of Include, a sire who I've been noticing more and more of late. He's an improving sort, though he beat a pretty weak field last out, and this seems a bit out of his league.


El Angelo said...

I think the Monarchos parallel (2001, fyi) is dead-on; Any Given Saturday needs to run well as a prep for the Derby, but does not need to run all-out to prove anything, and would be well-served by a nice 2nd and to get the $$$ needed to make the field. Nobiz But Shobiz, by contrast, I think actually needs to show something; you know Tagg won't run him in the Derby with anything shy of a very good prep race.

Alan Mann said...

>>I think the Monarchos parallel (2001, fyi)

Thanks for the correction; I should know that since it's the last time I had a nice score on the Derby.

Harl said...

I think it's gonna be tough to find value in the three Derby preps this weekend. In the Wood, I like NOBIZ LIKE SHOBIZ to show some professionalism and maturity since his last race, but he won't offer any value at the window. SUMMER DOLDRUMS might be the value play, but does he really stand a chance here against the top two choices? If you can draw a line through that last race and he runs back to his Whirlaway performance, he has as much a chance as anybody, but I just don't see him finishing in front of AGS and 'NOBIZ'.

In the Illinois Derby, I am a big fan of COBALT BLUE, but again, he won't offer any value. Of the relative late-comers to the Derby trail, COBALT BLUE might be the best of them (sorry, fans of CURLIN). I can't wait for a week full of Merv Griffin quotes in early May. Something to look for in the Wood and Illinois Derby (I'm not sure which goes off first) is the performance of the two runners coming out of the Gotham (COWTOWN CAT and SUMMER DOLDRUMS). If the first one to run on Saturday turns in a big performance, you might upgrade the other.

The Santa Anita Derby is the best chance to find some value, maybe in the form of BWANA BULL or the horse making his first North American start (his name escapes me for the moment). Or, maybe TIAGO. But, for me, I am a big fan of Doug O'Neill and he keeps touting LIQUIDITY as his #2 horse behind GREAT HUNTER. He ran poorly in the Louisiana Derby, but O'Neill took the credit for that. I expect to see this one to bounce back and at least prove he is Kentucky Derby worthy on Saturday. I found it odd that SONG OF NAVARONE was not entered in the SA Derby. Did I miss an injury report on this one? He won that big race at Sunland, but it was ungraded and he must be way down the graded earnings list.

I'm usually not this chalky, but it's tough to look past the top choices in each of these three races.

Alan Mann said...

Kevin -

Song of Navarone has a foot injury, but they're hoping to make the Preakness. Article here.

Anonymous said...

What is the deal with Air Comander? Has Baffert given up on him, or is he hurt.

I am very intrigued with both Boutrous and Level Red in the SA Derby. Byanose

Anonymous said...

Look for Nobiz Like Showbiz to rule the day in the Wood. Any Given Saturday may have left his chips in Tampa. The last thing he needs is another bitter battle thru the stretch. A late run for second seems more appropriate to his 'needs' (ie. Graded Earning - Derby Set Up). More important: I wish people would stop bashing Discreet Cat with this 'potential vs performance' nonsense. Discreet Cat was not right for the DWC and never ran his race. Seems to be bad form to proclaim 'performance defeated potential' in this instance. Hopefully Discreet Cat will regain his health and return to his freakish ways in New York this summer. I believe the D Cat show is far from over...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mike. The people saying Discreet Cat can't stay a mile and a quarter based on last week are idiots. If he led for the first mile and tired that would be one thing, but clearly something was wrong since he was never in contention.

Anonymous said...

AGS needs to run big here, while I do believe he is very talented I think it is a mistake to just assume he can treat this race like a workout.

He NEEDS to run second just to make it into the gate in KY, horse racing is way too unpredictable to just tell a jock to ride for second money, especially with a well bred horse that is not even a grade one winner at this point.

He is in it to win it, for stallion value as much as anything. If you think otherwise you are over analyzing the situation.

If he loses it will not be because of some underlying strategy to save him for Derby Day, it will be becuase he isnt as good as the winner.

Anonymous said...

AGS wins this for fun, Summer Doldrums holds on for the place. NLS off the board. All the horses from FLA are overrated.


Mr. Ed

Anonymous said...

excuse me-haven't AGS's last two races been in Florida. Last I checked Tampa Bay was in Florida!!

Alan Mann said...

>>He is in it to win it, for stallion value as much as anything. If you think otherwise you are over analyzing the situation.

If he loses it will not be because of some underlying strategy to save him for Derby Day, it will be becuase he isnt as good as the winner.>>

Well, perhaps I could be over analyzing here. It just seems to me that the two trainers have taken distinctly different approaches to the race, and that Tagg has been training his horse with more urgency. I don't think that AGS is running with the intent of finishing second or third. I just don't expect him to be at his best just three weeks and one lethargic workout after the TB race. We know that Pletcher really prefers more time between races than that. I don't necessarily agree that if he loses to Nobiz, it's because he's not as good a horse.

But we'll find out soon; good luck to all.