Well, this past weekends Horse Racing action certainly shook up the 2012 Kentucky Derby picture now didn’t it? Let’s see, my #1, #4 and #11 horses in my 2012 Countdown to the Triple Crown (Union Rags, El Padrino and Mark Velaski respectively) all got beat.
To make matters worse, Mark Velaski got beat by a horse (Hero of Order) that was 109-1….109-1? What the heck? The other two got beat by an 8-1 shot, not as bad…but it was still unexpected.
I thought I had a pretty good grasp on this year’s Derby horses but perhaps I need to rethink things. I can’t help but to wonder what surprises are in store for me these next two upcoming weekends as the Santa Anita Derby, the Wood Memorial, Arkansas Derby and the Bluegrass Stakes are all scheduled to be run.
Obviously, I’ve made some changes on the list this week. I moved several horses up the list by default. I mean, it’s kind of crazy but several horses moved up without ever having left their respective barns.
One last thing I want to mention. Horse Racing is a lot like other sports in a sense that sometimes it’s not the best horse that wins the Kentucky Derby but which horse is peaking at the right time (and the one who gets the best trip also but I’ll save that comment for another day). Kind of like say the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals (for whom yours truly is the correspondent for here at isportsweb). I didn’t think they were the best team in the Major Leagues last year but guess what? They got hot at the right time and won it all. I believe the same can be said for the New York Giants in the NFL. I thought Green Bay and New Orleans were better teams but again, after a 7-7 start, the Giants got hot at the right time and won the whole enchilada.
From where I sit, there is not a whole lot of difference between Horse Racing and others sports. The one thing that stands out is the gambling aspect. For instance, let’s say you want to bet on (hypothetically) the Dallas Cowboys. If you bet the Cowboys or the under/over and you have a 50% chance of winning. Either the Cowboys will cover the spread or the game will go under or over the total. That’s a 50-50 chance. You want to bet a horse race with say 10 horses in the race? You now have a 10% chance of winning (one of 10). Now try the Kentucky Derby where 20 horses will run….you have a 5% (pick one of 20 as opposed to 1 of 2) chance of winning.
I hope that makes sense to you. I guess what I’m trying to say is be wary of the horse peaking at the right time. Regardless of whichever horse you like, the one that is peaking on the first Saturday in May (and again, the one with the best trip) usually wins. That’s the explanation of longshot horses winning the Derby over the past 20 or so years. I didn’t think Gato Del Sol (1982), Sunny’s Halo (1983), Strike the Gold (1991), Lil E. Tee (1992), Go for Gin (1994), Giacomo (1995), and more recently Mine That Bird (2009) or Super Saver (2010) were even remotely close to being the best three year old in their respective years, but they all peaked in the first week of May…..Hence they all won.
2012 Countdown to the Triple Crown
1) Union Rags: Yea, I know, he got beat in the Florida Derby and one would think that would be grounds for an immediate drop on the list. But I’m going to hold off on that for now. He had several excuses last Saturday. First of all, he lost a show in the paddock, ok not a big deal but still something that raised a few eyebrows. Second, he had a pretty bad trip. He was “parked” on the rail the whole time with nowhere to go while Take Charge Indy was basically loping along on an uncontested lead. Thirdly, on the turn for home he was “blocked” behind two horses that were going nowhere fast.
He finally got some running room as they straightened away down the stretch and when he did, he dropped his head and began to close ground at a rapid pace. When it was all said and done, and after all the trouble he got into, he was beaten a little more than one length. After all that? He only lost by one length? That, to me readers, is not a bad race.
I’ll keep him perched on top for now but make no mistake, should #2 ranked Creative Cause win this weekend’s Santa Anita Derby and win it impressively? I’ll have a hell of a decision to make.
2) Creative Cause- ok so let me get this straight, last week he worked five furlongs in :59.4 than bounces back this past week and drills six furlongs in 1:12.4? Goodness gracious, his foes in the Santa Anita Derby this weekend better be wearing their “running shoes”. I repeat (from last week) he appears to be coming up to the SA Derby beautifully which in turn means he should be sitting on a big race.
3) Hansen- went five furlongs in :59.4 and galloped out a sixth furlong in 1:14.3…nice work. His connections changed their plans last week and are heading to the April 14 Bluegrass instead of the Wood Memorial. That’s fine, because whether you run in the BG or Wood, he will be tested. As I said last week, I really don’t care if he runs in China or against Santa’s reindeer at the North Pole; he must once again show us he can relax off the early pace. If he can, he’ll be as dangerous as any horse out there on the first Saturday in May.
4) I’ll Have Another- is the first of several that move up by default. He hasn’t raced since February but he’s been burning up the racetrack in the mornings of late. Over the past several weeks he’s recorded seven furlongs in 1:26, another seven furlongs in 1:26 1/5, a mile in 1:42 3/5, and six furlongs (between races) in an eye popping 1:10 flat.
Not crazy about only running him once the past two months but he is certainly training well. But, in my opinion, he still needs to prove his win the aforementioned February race (the Robert B. Lewis at 43-1) was no fluke. He’ll get an opportunity this weekend in the Santa Anita Derby against Creative Cause and possibly Bodemeister.
5) Alpha- Breezed a half in :49 last week and will finally face some stiff competition in the Wood Memorial after a two easy races earlier this year. Another who doesn’t necessarily have to win but he MUST run well.
6) Bodemeister- moves up by staying in the barn….sort of. I mean, he didn’t run in any races but last week sizzled in a half mile work (:46.4) then came back this past week and drilled six furlongs in a bullet 1:10 2/5 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:23 1/5.
He does not have history on his side and has the “Apollo curse” to contend with. (No horse has ever won the Derby while being unraced as a two year old since Apollo in 1881). I guess if the Boston Red Sox can snap a curse….perhaps this guy could too. I will be watching his next start (either the SA Derby or the Arkansas Derby) closely.
7) Dullahan- he popped a splint last week but trainer Dale Romans says he is sound as a dollar. I didn’t believe a word of that until he worked five furlongs this past week in 1:02.
I still like him…a lot actually. His Palm Beach race was much better than it appeared. If you recall, he came second to Howe Great but ran the last quarter of a mile in less than :23 seconds. That, my friends, is impressive, especially since he did that off a four month layoff. He has a big, big test coming up as he is also entered in theBluegrassin 2 weeks.
8 ) Gemologist- He’s still unbeaten, by Tiznow, and has won over the Churchill Downs surface already. Next stop the April 7th Wood Memorial at Aqueduct where he will lock horns with Alpha. If he wins, he cracks the top 5 for sure and possibly goes higher depending on the outcome of the other races.
9) Secret Circle- I’m still leery of this colt…no doubt about that, but you have to give credit where credit is do. He is 6 for 7 lifetime and has already gone longer (won at 1 1/16ths miles) than I though he would.
He ripped five furlongs in :58 2/5 this past week as he prepares for his final test before the Kentucky Derby in the Arkansas Derby. His drop in speed figures from two races ago to his last race is cause for concern but he keeps on winning.
Again, I’m still not totally sold that he’ll get a mile and quarter on the first Saturday in May, but he has surprised me before. Let’s see what happens on April 14th (in the Arkansas Derby).
10) Mark Valeski- Not sure he’ll even be on the list next week because, at this writing, he threw a shoe in the Louisiana Derby and came out of the race lame. He ran well for only having three shoes (came 2nd) but still, how do you lose to a 109-1 shot? I have to put him in a holding pattern for right now.
11) El Padrino- takes the biggest drop of anyone this week. I think his rider (Javier Castellano) was too concerned with Union Rags in the Florida Derby and didn’t ride this horse correctly. That being said, with all the problems Union Rags had (before and during the race) he still finished in front of this horse. Logically speaking, that means if Union Rags didn’t have all that trouble, he would have defeated this horse by a much wider margin. Don’t get me wrong, this horse is still dangerous but, he did disappoint me last Saturday.
12) Went the Day Well- yet another who moves up without ever having to leave the barn. He won the Spiral Stakes last weekend and is definitely improving. My concern about this horse is still genuine as he is scheduled to run again in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes on April 21st. Does he need another race? Maybe….but do I want to run him just 2 weeks before theDerby? And hypothetically, if he wins theDerby, you would have to go in the Preakness 2 weeks after that right?…so let’s see, that would be 4 races in an 8 week period? Wow…that’s asking a lot.
13) Castaway- yep…just as I thought, most people are throwing him out after his disappointing effort in the Sunland Park Derby. But I’m sticking to my guns with this colt because I hear he has talent and because of the ride he received in the Sunland Park race was nothing short of atrocious. I doubt he runs again before the Kentucky Derby, which in turn, means his odds on Derby day will be astronomical. I’m telling you now; I will have money on him in some capacity in theDerby
14) Optimizer- was flying late in the Rebel and nearly caught the winner (Secret Circle) at the end (at 28-1). If what trainer Wayne Lukas says is true (and it probably is), that this horse will only get better as the distances get longer, then I’ll move him up the list quick. His next start is Arkansas Derby too and I’ll need to see that big closing run again before I totally drink the Kool-Aid…you know? Breezed a half in :49 last week and the Arkansas Derby is a key, key, key race for him.
15) Sabercat- disappointed in his last (6th) in his three year old debut in the Rebel Stakes a few weeks ago. He did, however, run a much better race than I originally thought. He made up a ton of ground late in the race while dodging “traffic”. His next start is the April 14 Arkansas Derby where he’ll meet up with Secret Circle , Optimizer etc which in turn, should make that an interesting little horse race. He too doesn’t have to win but a good performance is a must.
16) Daddy Knows Best- Not a real big fan of this horse ….yet….but he’s has my attention. He’s big, good looking, almost broke the track record in winning the Sunland Park Derby, he ran a mile and a eighth 3 seconds faster that Went the Day Well and it was over 7 lengths back to the show horse, again, in the SPD. I’ll keep my eye on him for now.
17) Take Charge Indy- literally stole the Florida Derby last Saturday as, for the most part; he enjoyed an easy early lead. It takes a great horse to win the Derby wire to wire (Seattle Slew, Bold Forbes etc) and albeit he is improving at the right time, I just don’t think he is flat out good enough. That being said, this is Horse Racing and even more, it’s the Kentucky Derby and we know in either case, anything is possible.
18) My Adonis- I might have him too low on the list. He has shown he can be competitive against the elite three year olds of 2012 twice already. Next stop, the Wood Memorial, where he needs a good showing to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he can beat these horses on his best day. Because right now? I’m not completely convinced he can.
19) Prospective- in the Tampa Bay Derby, he showed great guts and determination after being passed in the stretch and fought back to regain the lead and win. As I said in the past, guts and determination are just as important as speed and talent in this sport. He needs to stay on the radar screen for now and he needs a boost in the speed figure department
20) Liasion- this horse is making me nuts. I know he has ability but has yet to really show it in 2012. I mean, simply put….he is not “in form”. But, and that a big but, did you see he worked six furlongs last week in 1:11.1? Holy cow! Could that be a signal he is rounding back into his best form? His next race (the SA Derby) will tell us for sure.
21) Najjarr- was last in the Rebel and, at one point; he was some 19 or 20 lengths behind. Yet, he unleashed quite a run from about the half mile pole to home and finished just over five lengths behind the winner. Bottom line is he made up some 14 or 15 lengths and that, readers, is a fact we must respect.
22) Street Life- I moved him from on the bubble to on the list even though he’s pretty far down. Two reasons why…1) I saw some video of his last couple of races and boy, he can turn on those afterburners down the stretch and 2) he is entered in the Wood Memorial and if the pace is fast, he could come calling late….definitely a “watch” horse
On the Bubble;
Trinniberg- Blitzed the field in the Swale Stakes; Can/will he stretch out?
Jake Mo- late runner might be a tad below the elite 2012 three year olds.
Hero of Order-pulled off a shocker in the Louisiana Derby, but where did that effort come from? And can he repeat it?
Discreet Dancer- is hanging on by a thread here, I’m still not completely certain he is even still pointing to theDerby
Off the Triple Crown Trail
Algorithms (popped a splint)
Out of Bounds (condylar fracture)
Thunder Moccasin (being kept to sprint races)
Fed Biz (hind end problem)
Spring Hill Farm (fractured knee)
Empire Way- (connections had a change of heart and the Derby is no longer their primary goal).