Horse Racing: 2013 Countdown to the Triple Crown: Week-5, March 19, 2013

A few more changes in this week’s 2013 Horse Racing Countdown to the Triple Crown as only the 2013 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which was won by Will Take Charge, was run as the only major three year old prep race for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

In the Rebel, Will Take Charge broke well but was taken back to sixth early as Title Contender showed the way followed by Super Ninety Nine. Title Contender clicked off a quarter in :23.1 and a half in :47  flat with Super Ninety Nine just 1 1/2 lengths back.

After three-quarters in 1:12.1, Super Ninety Nine took a brief lead on the turn for home but began to retreat shortly after. Oxbow, who was running fourth, engaged Super Ninety Nine from the outside. Will Take Charge was fifth, but took dead aim down the lane. He closed relentlessly to finally wrestle the lead away from (stable-mate) Oxbow to win by a head

Den’s Legacy and Texas Bling were third and four respectively, while Southwest Stakes blowout winner and 6-5 betting favorite Super Ninety Nine faded to fifth, beaten over 8 lengths. 

“I was feeling pretty good 100 yards from the wire,” D. Wayne Lukas said after his horses ran 1-2. “The competition was so tough. The hill gets a little steeper from this point.”

 “Will Take Charge is a fair-weather horse,” Lukas added. “He said he didn’t feel like running in the rain last time. He had been doing well all week.”

“Wayne told me how well he’s been doing and he had him tuned up today,” winning jockey John Court said. “The race was executed to plan. It worked out perfectly. I was able to position him where we wanted. He was very professional today.” 

“No real excuses at this point,” assistant trainer for Bob Baffert, Jim Barnes said of Super Ninety Nine’s disappointing effort.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano said, “We had the trip we expected. He was able to sit off the pace like we wanted. I was really comfortable in the beginning, but then my horse flattened out after that.”


2013 Kentucky Derby


1) Shanghai Bobby– will remain in the top spot until I see his next race (The Florida Derby March 30).


 2) Verrazano– I still don’t know exactly how good he is….and that’s a scary thought. Next start: Wood Memorial April 6.


3) Revolutionary– at this point, trainer Todd Pletcher looks to be sitting on a Derby win being he (in my estimation) has the top three 3 year olds in training today. Next start Louisiana Derby on March 30.


4) Itsmyluckyday– after two big wins, I hope he didn’t peak out too soon. Like Shanghai Bobby, his next race (Florida Derby March 30) should tell us where we stand with him.



5) Orb-   looks like trainer Shug McGaughey has a stretch running tiger on his hands. Next start: FloridaDerby March 30.



6) Vyjack– at this point, this gelding clearly needs to be respected. He’s on a collision course with Revolutionary for his next start. (Wood Memorial April 6)


7) Will Take Charge– debuts at #7 based off come from behind win in the Rebel this past weekend. I said (in my Rebel preview) he might bounce back off a poor (sloppy track) performance in the Southwest Stakes and he sure did.



8) Flashback– was the victim of a horrendous ride in the San Felipe from where I sit. This is a good horse and I won’t be the least bit surprised if he bounces back in his next race (Santa Anita Derby April 6).




9) Oxbow: ran another big one in the Rebel while getting nipped by his stable-mate (Will Take Charge), but is he an “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” type horse?


10) Capo Bastone– won his 2013 three year old debut signaling he’s come back fine.

He could climb the ladder quickly depending on his performance in the Spiral Stakes Keeneland next week.


11) Normandy Invasion– was disappointing 5th place in the Risen Star Stakes and I have to drop him in position

Next start: the Wood Memorial April 6 where he will have to show me more….and he very well might.


12) Rydilluc– if he converts his turf form to dirt….look out!


13) Departing– won Texas Heritage Stakes by three. Those three lengths just don’t do the win any justice. I mean, he ran his final quarter-mile in 24.2 seconds while under a hand ride (again), he completed the mile distance in 1:37.4, and received a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure. (His last race was an 85).


14) Palace Malice: was 3 wide on both turns in the Risen Star Stakes and was “weaving” down the stretch like a drunk driver 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 might peak out at the right time. Next race: LouisianaDerby March 30


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. Next race: Spiral Stakes March 23


On the Radar Screen:


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. I saw he came home the last quarter in :23.3 in his maiden race, which is far superior to (#12 ranked) Departing. 


Tiz A Minister also needs to be mentioned. The more I watch that San Felipe the more I’m impressed with his performance. He came from last, some 18-19 lengths out of it, to finish third, beaten a length. His race before that (Cal Breeders Cup Championship) he did something similar. He closed a huge gap (17 lengths?) back to win going away. As I said in Revolutionary’s paragragh, its running styles like that win Kentucky Derbys….that being said, he is asking for traffic issues


Code West: came out of obscurity to get beat a nose in the Risen Star Stakes. 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 because if he continues to improve, if only by a few lengths, he would still be on the cusp of the upper echelon three year olds.


Power Broker: continues to coming along well but it looks as though he’ll have only one start before the Derby…is that going to be enough? I doubt it…


West Hills Giant is another who came from relative obscurity to almost take the Gotham field wire to wire at 34-1….guess we’ll need to see where he goes from there. Next race April 6 Wood Memorial.  


Hear The Ghost: was the beneficiary of a wicked speed dual and came from behind to win the San Felipe last weekend. I’m not really sold on him as the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner but he needs to be mentioned based off that win as he could be getting good at the right time. Next race:  Santa Anita Derby April 6.


Super Ninety Nine– beaten favorite with a disappointing effort in the Rebel this past weekend….has he reached his distance limitation?


Goldencents– I obviously still like this colt a lot, truth be told, even while being cooked in that speed duel, he was soundly beaten by both Flashback and Hear The Ghost and was out of the race as early as the quarter pole in the San Felipe. Next race: Santa Anita Derby April 6. He’ll need a good performance in that race to gain back some respect.



KentuckyDerby Works:

**** Fountain of Youth winner Orb worked a quick half mile in :48 flat at PaysonPark yesterday morning (Monday) for trainer Shug McGaughey.


**** FrontRunner winner Power Broker, who is trying to get into the Derby off one prep, drilled six furlongs in snappy 1:12 3/5 yesterday morning as well


**** Tiz the Truth turned in a half-mile work in :47 4/5. Trainer Bob Baffert is looking at the Wood Memorial for his next start


**** San Felipe runner-up Flashback went a half in  :48 2/5.


**** Hear the Ghost, winner of the San Felipe Stakes, didn’t waste any time getting back to work breezing an easy half in :50 4/5 at HollywoodPark on Sunday  


**** Wood Memorial hopeful and Gotham Stakes runner-up West Hills Giant worked a half in :48 4/5.


**** At Fair Grounds Race Course, Departing, winner of the Texas Heritage Stakes, breezed a half in :50 3/5 for the Louisiana Derby.


**** Merit Man, winner of the Spectacular Bid Stakes before coming fourth in the Hutcheson Stakes early last month, worked seven furlongs in 1:29 flat for the Florida Derby.


**** 2012 two year old champion Shanghai Bobby breezed five furlongs (in company with Palace Malice) in a minute flat.

Prompting trainer Todd Pletcher to say: “It went really well, they finished up well, head and head, and galloped out strong.”

“I think he’s (Shanghai Bobby) training as well as he was going into the Holy Bull, maybe better. He’s a horse that’s always run well, so we’re not expecting him to all of a sudden change,” Pletcher said. “We’re hoping for more of what we’ve been seeing, and that’s what we saw this morning.”

Incidentally if you hadn’t noticed, the March 30 FloridaDerby is shaping up quite nicely. At this point, Orb, Shanghai Bobby and Itsmyluckyday are all pointing to that race. 


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