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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Derby Top Ten

This is the LATG Derby Top Ten of horses and people who I think will be in the headlines on or around Derby Day:

1. Pioneerof the Nile got a big boost from the convincing win by I Want Revenge in the Gotham.

Or did he? In terms of class evaluation, definitely, but just because one synthetic horse liked the dirt doesn't mean that he will. Baffert's son of Empire Maker worked five furlongs in 58.2 preparing for the San Rafael Stakes on Saturday. “He went really nice — all systems are go," Baffert said. But Joe Drape, reporting in the NY Times, notes that Bob Baffert, warns, however, that Derby colts are best assessed after their final prep; that would presumably be the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. With his Derby slot ensured, no reason for this colt to be fully cranked on Saturday.

2. I have Friesan Fire highly ranked based on the determination and class he showed bulling his way out of tight quarters and home to an impressive Risen Star win...following up a solid Le Comte win in which he came home in 23 4/5. To me, this is a classic case of a horse who showed promise at two, but which has steadily matured at three.

However, this doesn't mean I think he's a lock in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday. Friesan Fire is just one of several horses who are solidly on the upswing - Papa Clem - also flattered by I Want Revenge - Uno Mas, Flying Pegasus, Patena (first time Dutrow), and even Soul Warrior and Free Country all come off lifetime best Beyers and are eligible to further improve.

3. Rush Limbaugh, the spiritual leader and spokesperson of the Republican Party, says that, as a conservative, he is opposed to NTRA regulation, and that he wants its Safety and Integrity Alliance to fail. "I hope this prolongs the cheating," he tells Steve Byk on his satellite show. "I hope this prolongs the fatal injuries."

4. Old Fashioned worked five furlongs in 59 seconds for Saturday's Rebel. I saw in the comments section of Paulick's top ten survey this week an exchange between LATG reader Glimmerglass, who noted that Alex Brown was the only participant to leave Old Fashioned off entirely, and another guy, who wrote, "I read somewhere that Alex Brown removed Old Fashioned from his Derby List because he didn’t like the way the colt was training at Oaklawn. No details." Here are the details from Alex's website:

However, I remain unimpressed with the way he goes. Two other horsemen were with me when we watched him in the final eighth of the work. They concurred. And I could only observe the final eighth as I was aboard another horse about to start his gallop. I am assuming reports of the work will be positive, based on the time alone!
Well, there's one...or rather...three men's opinion. I myself was unimpressed myself with his slow come home time in the Southwest, and can't help but notice how poorly the other Remsen horses have fared since then. Then why do I have him ranked so high? Must be peer pressure; and besides, otherwise, Erin would call me eclectic!

5. His Derby status in doubt, The Pamplemousse appeals his 30-day suspension for the positive alcohol test of his trainer Julio Canani. "It was not the fault of my client that Canani was inadvertently exposed to vodka tonics," explains his attorney, Lawyer Ron.

6. Considering that Dunkirk will have just one chance to earn his way into the Derby - and in a race at a distance subject to post position woes - makes me wonder just how serious Pletcher is about making the race. With just two lifetime starts, both this year, one might surmise that the midsummer stakes at Monmouth and/or Saratoga might be a more reasonable goal. Yes, he's following in Big Brown's path, and he (and Barbaro) overcame poor posts to win the Florida Derby on their way to Derby glory. However, this crop appears to be far stronger and deeper than last. Still, one of these days, a horse who hasn't raced at two will win the Derby - Big Brown's two year old race was really just a technicality - and a big win at Gulfstream would absolutely electrify an already intriguing Derby season.

7. Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, from whom we haven't heard the faintest peep since he was named to....well, do something regarding the abovementioned NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance five months ago....not even when the group announced...well, something last month, shows up at the Derby and explains "I've been very sick. I was in the bathroom for a really long time," adding that at least it had given him the opportunity to read up on Native Dancer.

8. Man, talk about air out of the balloon, even her own connections have gone barreling off the Stardom Bound bandwagon after she won - yes, won- the Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday. I'm still not buying it. Iavarone actually disparaged those of us who think she proved herself worthy.
“Anybody that knows the game comes out of the Santa Anita Oaks saying, ‘Let’s just regroup and try to understand why she didn’t win the race as easily as we all expected her to. [Bloodhorse]
Well Mike, I might not know the game as well as you, but even I can understand that the horse was ten wide turning for home, got impeded at the sixteenth pole and showed championship class in managing to get up. And I saw the Gotham, and know how much those synth Beyers mean. So go ahead, send her to the Ashland, tell us that Patena is your main hope. But you'll be changing your tune dude, if your colt flops and the filly destroys whoever shows up at Keeneland. You'll see.

9. I was as impressed as anyone by I Want Revenge; but let's keep the race in perspective; 113 Beyer, fine closing fractions, and all. As I opined before the race, he was easily the class of this field which was filled with question marks. He stalked a moderate pace set by a horse moving up to a graded stakes from an entry level allowance, and it was little surprise to this observer to see him easily pull away. An exciting prospect to be sure, but want to see more against more seasoned competition before rating him higher.

10. After a fierce shotgun competition for the Aqueduct racino following the collapse of the Delaware North deal, Governor David Paterson awards the project to Caroline Kennedy. The governor, his approval ratings down to his immediate family and Joe Bruno, tells the press: "Told you there were no hard feelings." Asked about her plans for the site, Ms. Kennedy says: "Well, you know, slots."


El Angelo said...

I'm going to note this in more detail later, but I disagree that Big Brown's one start at age 2 was a "mere technicality". The fact of the matter is that before the first race, there are months of training and preparation that get the horse ready to be in race shape, all of which counts in terms of preparation for the Derby. That can't be discounted, and I think that's why we haven't seen someone break Apollo's curse.

A much better example would have been Fusaichi Pegasus, who didn't race until late December. He, however, was immensely talented, if operated under very odd circumstances.

Anonymous said...

All (#3) Rush needs is another shot of bute and he might just move up a ranked point or two come the First Saturday in May.

Why no Kenneth Parcell errr I mean Bobby Jindal on this list? He might just be that stalking horse everyone least expects.

Seriously though as to why some advocate that I Want Revenge's romp somehow means that Pioneerof the Nile will find the same on dirt at Churchill 'just because' is weak. If that logic was creditble then someone needs to explain why Axel Foley didn't come alive on that surface too. He finished 6th yet was 4th in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) at GGF.

steve in nc said...

Well, I guess you hadn't been kicked by the dittoheads in the last few days. You don't want to let things get boring, do you?

Anonymous said...

A derby list like no other...very funny

HoohWhy, who ran third in the SA Oaks, ran a close second to Patena in a small stake at Woodbine in December. Another consideration in evaluating Stardom Bounds Oaks performance. She wasn't running against tomato cans.

Erin said...

Dear Alan,
I'm here for your eclectic-ness. Never relent!

your PR Derby Index picks are looking a little cliche.

Anonymous said...

We may not have to worry about the Belmont....Delaware North just pulled out of the VLT contract. Link here:

John said...

Great Stuff Alan

Vincetastic said...

This is a really great top ten list, thank you for helping to keep horse racing alive. Here in CA we are always on the edge of losing it. Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows in Nor Cal have been in jeopardy, and hopefully mainstays like Santa Anita and Del Mar can hold on. You can post this to our site and then link back to your site. We are looking for top ten lists and our users can track back to your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.