Yep….it is definitely Triple Crown time again. Do you know how I know that? Because, like every year, the road to the Kentucky Derby is always a bumpy one and it looks like the road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby will be no different. I mean, it’s only the end of February and already we’ve had the previously unbeaten two year old colt champion (Shanghai Bobby) beaten, we had a highly regarded colt (Violence) fracture a sesamoid bone and be taken off the Derby trail completely and we had an eye popping 135-1 shot (I’ve Struck a Nerve) win the Risen Stars Stakes. The zaniness is back, which in turn, must mean spring, and the Kentucky Derby, are around the corner.
Shanghai Bobby was beaten two lengths in his seasonal debut (The February 26 Holy Bull Stakes), which, in turn, fueled even more speculation that this colt will have distance limitations. He has won at 1 1/16th miles but whether he can get the classical 10 furlong distance remains to be seen.
Even in defeat, Violence ran very well this past Saturday in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. The good looking son of Medagia d’Oro broke well and secured an excellent stalking position down the backstretch. He took command of the race at the quarter pole and opened up a 1 ½ length lead down the stretch but was challenged, and eventually overcome, by the stretch running Orb.
Violence also suffered his first defeat ….and probably his last for a while as he came out of the race with a fracture to his right front medial sesamoid bone. (The sesamoid is a small bone located under a horse’s ankle and works as a “pulley” for the deep digital flexor tendon and suspensory ligaments that run down to the horses hoof).
The part I liked was that when Orb came to Violence in the stretch, Violence dug in and tried hard to fight back. Violence absolutely did NOT give up and continued to fight on all the way to the wire. ( I apologize in advance as I can’t find the video replay of this race).
No timetable has been set for Violence’s return, however, speaking from 34 years of experience, the injury could sometimes be career threatening. In the meantime he will be shipped to owner Steven Marshall’s Black Rock Stable’s Farm in Versailles, KY this week for further evaluation and recuperation.
“It’s such a disappointment to see such a promising colt sustain an injury,” said trainer Todd Pletcher on yesterday (Monday) morning. “He’s been training beautifully and made such an impressive effort in his second-place finish yesterday.”
So we move on without Violence and I, obviously, had no choice but to remove Violence from the list and add Orb, who has now won three straight races and is “improving at an incredible rate” according to trainer Shug McGaughey.
A few other notes about the FOY, Speak Logistics, although beaten over 7 lengths, did close well late in the race. He’s Had Enough, after running Shanghai Bobby to a life and death struggle in the BC Juvenile, continues to disappoint. He got off bad start and was far behind early. He made a little run late but never threatened.
I’m not sure what to make of the Risen Star Stakes. I mean, come on….135-1 shot wins the race?
I’ve Struck a Nerve was last early on but kept grinding and kept grinding and eventually poked his nose in front on the wire to beat 7-1 shot Code West, won also ran a good race.
Palace Malice finished well to be third and perhaps he is past the shin injury he suffered last year.
It looks as though I lied about Oxbow, who I said in my preview “we should know more about him after the Risen Star”….well…we really don’t. I mean, he surprisingly was taken back off the early pace (I thought he’d be on or close to the lead early), took the lead on the turn for home and was game while beaten a total of less than a three quarters of a length for all the money….Overall, it was a good effort but the fact still remains he was overtaken in the stretch by a 135-1 shot, so I’m still not sure what to make of him.
3-2 post time favorite Normandy Invasion broke from the gate slowly and then stumbled right after that. He was last at the beginning of the race and was still last after the first half mile. He made a move late but didn’t show that big closing kick he normally does.
I’m not sure what to make of him either….I mean, did he need the race? or did he lose a step in the transgression from 2 year old to 3 year old?
1) Shanghai Bobby– I’ll probably take a lot of heat for putting him at #1 because there are lots of people who think this good looking colt by Harlan’s Holiday can’t get the classical distances and they very well may be right.
That being said, several things stand out to me about his horse. 1) If you recall, he was dead game in the BC Juvenile. I mean, he came off the turn and about mid-way down the lane this was a tired race horse yet, he dug in and refused to be passed. Guts and determination go along way in my mind. 2) Absolutely nothing wrong with his three year old debut race. Yes, he was beaten soundly by Itsmyluckyday, but look closer you’ll see he (like the winner) set a track record also that day while scoring a triple digit Beyer Speed Figure off a 10 week layoff….keep looking and you’ll see it was 11+ lengths back to the third place finisher. Next start, the Florida Derby March 9
I’m going to leave him on top for now because he still hasn’t proved to me he can’t get longer distances….his next (and last race before the Derby) is the March 9 Florida Derby. That is going to be a huge one for him
2) Revolutionary– Wow! Did you see that stretch run in his last race (the Withers)? In case you didn’t, he was last at the quarter pole, snarled in traffic along the rail but found a hole, split horses and blew thru it to get up to win by a neck…. this after blowing away maidens (by 8 lengths) in his previous start.
Now I realized this was a race at Aqueduct, on the inner track and in February so the company maybe suspect but still….I was genuinely impressed. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is again. Next race: The Louisiana Derby March 30
3) Verrazano– what have we here? Can you say total freak? So far, that’s the only word that comes to mind after looking at his first two races.
On New Years Day, he won first time out while blowing out maidens (won by 7) at 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.2. Then comes back and annihilates $75,000 optional claimers by 16+ lengths, getting a mile in 1:34.4 and scoring an eye popping 105 Beyer Speed Figure.
His next start is the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby where he will be trying better competition and two turns for the first time…and I, for one, can’t wait to see how he fairs.
Worked 5 furlongs in :59.1 on Monday (2/25) morning.
4) Goldencents– is 3 for 4 life time and versatile too as he can win from on or off the pace and is another who has won on both coasts.
Into Mischief colt burning up the racetrack (like another Doug O’Neil horse….I’ll Have Another) in the mornings including two sub 1:10 six furlongs works recently and a 1:12.2 about 2 weeks ago.
He still needs to mature a little bit but as of right now, in my eyes, he belongs high on the list until proven otherwise. Next race: the San Felipe March 9
5) Itsmyluckyday– I’ll probably take some heat for putting this guy to low. He’s been nothing short of spectacular in his last two races including an almost 7 length trouncing of his competition in the Gulfstream Park Derby and followed that up by knocking off Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull Stakes last month.
The only reason I put him this low is I can’t quite tell if this colt, by the wickedly fast but ill fated Lawyer Ron, is just finding himself or peaking out (too soon?). Like the rest of the horses in here….time will tell. Next race: the Florida Derby March 30
6) Orb– debuts at this position based on the fact he displayed yet another powerful stretch run while overtaking highly regarded (and now injured) Violence in the stretch to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes this past weekend.
He won his 2 previous starts in the same fashion and now must be consider a top Derby prospect.
The Malibu Moon colt came out of the race in good order, but his next race is undecided according to trainer Shug McGaughey.
“He came back fine,” McGaughey said. “It (The Fountain of Youth) was great. We got a good pace, but for him to be able to catch up from where he was over this kind of track, twice, is saying a whole lot.”
“He’s come so far over the winter,” added McGaughey, “My people have done a great job with him. If he keeps improving, maybe he’ll be something.
“I would never have thought when I brought him down here that he’d be where he is today. He just kind of grew up.”….Sounds like he is growing up and maturing fast doesn’t it? Maybe I should take lessons.
7) Flashback– is unbeaten and clearly talented as he came from behind to cruise in his maiden win (by 3), then jumped right into a Grade: 2 race (The Robert B. Lewis) and wire the (albeit short) field.
Kind of hard to get a gauge on that Robert Lewis with such a short field, but regardless he’s won his career starts easily and I hate to put him at #8… but I need to see a little more. Next race: the San Felipe March 9
8) Capo Bastone– is another who owns a big late run as demonstrated in the BC Juvenile. Take a look at that race again, notice he was ninth early but finished third beaten a little over (just) 2 lengths.
He won his 2013 three year old debut signaling he’s come back fine….30-1 on the first (early) Kentucky Derby Pool?….wow….I was thinking 15 or 20-1. I understand he is going to train up to the Kentucky Derby. If that’s true, that’s an awfully brazen move by his connections.
9) Super Ninety Nine– you know, I originally thought this colt by Pulpit was purely a sprinter. I could not have been any more wrong.
On Jan 31, he cruised to a 3 length win in a (one mile) $80,000 optional claimer race at Santa Anita, then shipped to Oaklawn this past weekend and walloped the field in the Southwest Stakes by 11 ¼ lengths in the slop.
At the end of last year, I had him ranked (in my mind) at like #20 or 22….not anymore. Next race: undecided at this point.
10) Normandy Invasion– broke his maiden by 9 and then closed like the proverbial freight train in the Remsen to get beat a nose in the Remsen last November.
I like horses that possess that big, late kick… it’s what wins most Kentucky Derby’s.
I’m definitely not enamored with his so-so showing (5th place) finish in the Risen Star Stakes and I have to drop him from last week’s position (#7). Next start: the Wood Memorial April 9
11) Overanalyze– broke his maiden in fine fashion, then ran in four straight graded races where he won two of them but finished up the track in the other two. Nice colt, but I’m not crazy about the inconsistencies. Next race: The Gotham Stakes this Saturday.
12) Vyjack– is unbeaten (3 for 3) and won the Grade: 2 Jerome at Aqueduct after a being carried out on the first turn and bumped hard in mid-stretch….watch for more improvement. Next race: The Gotham this Saturday.
13) Falling Sky– well named colt by Lion heart is 3 for 4 in his career and is another who has won from on and off the pace.
Showed a lot of courage in his last (The Sam F. Davis) at Tampa Bay Downs as he was dead game in holding on to win by a neck.
14) Palace Malice:has evidently come back ok from his shin issue injury last year. He was 3 wide on both turns in the Risen Star Stakes and was “weaving” down the stretch like a drunk drive down a street on a Saturday night in that race , yet still was beaten just a half length for all the money.
He needs even more experience (than that of which he gained in the Risen Star), and if he gets it anytime soon….he could catapult up this list quick. Then again…Next race: the Kentucky Derby May 4
15) Uncaptured– is 6 for 7 in his career, but more importantly he obviously loves the Churchill Downs surface as he is 2 for 2 over it. That’s huge….I give major credit to horses that like the CD track, it usually goes a long way.
The reason why he is #15 is because he suffered a foot injury and his training has been put on hold for while. Next race: the Tampa Bay Derby March 9
On the Radar Screen:
Delhomme: not much of a quarterback but a nice little racehorse. Speedy colt by Union Rags was dead game while giving Overanalyze and stretch running Normandy Invasion all they could handle in the aforementioned Withers at 1 1/8th miles. He certainly looks like he can get another furlong. Next race: the Rebel Stakes March 16
Dynamic Sky: ran the best race of his life while getting nipped at the wire by Falling Sky in the Sam F Davis last time out. If he continues to improve (and mature…he has lead change issues and shied from the whip in that race) he could make a little noise in this division. Next race: the Kentucky Derby May 4
Tiz the True: has an enormous stretch kick and he could easily leap into the top 6 or 7 after his next race if he continues the way he is going. Next race: the Rebel Stakes March 16
Departing: won an allowance race by almost 5 under a hand ride….wonder what he would have done should they have asked him for his best? He was scratched out of the Risen Star Stakes for reasons (at this writing) that are unclear. I’m going to leave him on the list for now because he’s been so visually impressive thus far.
Oxbow: came out of nowhere to blow away the Lecomte Field at Louisiana Downs in his last. But the D. Wayne Lukas trainee was allowed to lope along on an easy lead before opening up to win by 11+ lengths. I’ll need to see how he performs with a little pressure in his face in the early stages because when that’s happen in the past….the results were not good.
They had a change of tactics in the Risen Star and he seemed to take to it well. He is yet another who I need to see more of but I won’t. Next race: the Kentucky Derby May 4.
Code West: came out of obscurity to get beat a nose in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday. He ran a huge race as he battled for the early lead for the first half mile of that race, dropped back to fourth as they turned for home but came on again to finish a “just miss” second. He is a must add to this list off that race.
Speak Logistics: closed ground late to get third in the FOY and even though he was beaten soundly by the top two, he at least needs to be added to the list.
Let’s not forget about Power Broker so fast. Trainer Bob Baffert said he needed some time off to “put a little weight on” and if he does, he has the ability to be a force on the west coast.
To receive an email each time a new Horse Racing article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form
Thanks for reading….