Huge 2013 Kentucky Derby, and 2013 Triple Crown, implications on the line this weekend as we will be looking at two major prep races in this weeks Horse Racing Race(s) of the week.
We will be taking closer looks at both the 2013 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in Florida where three top flight three year olds, Shanghai Bobby, Orb and Itsmyluckyday are scheduled to clash in the 1 1/8th miles event. We will also be looking at the 2013 Louisiana Derby at The Fair Grounds in Louisiana where Revolutionary has been installed at the 3-1 morning line favorite. He’ll be facing an eye popping 13 other Kentucky Derby hopefuls including Palace Malice, Code West and the stretch running Departing in the 1 1/8th miles contest.
The Florida Derby has produced a long list of classical winners including Nashua (1955), Tim Tam (1958), the great Northern Dancer (1964), Forward Pass (1968) Alydar (1978), the greatest horse I’ve ever seen run live, Spectacular Bid (1979), Swale (1984), Snow Chief (1986), Unbridled (1990), Thunder Gulch (1995), Monarchos (2001), Empire Maker (2002), the ill-fated Barbaro (2006), and the dominant Big Brown (2008).
Although not as long in tradition or history, the Louisiana Derby certainly had its fair share of big named past winners including Risen Star (1988), Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone (1996), the speedy Peace Rules (2003) and gorgeous Friesan Fire (2009)
Both tracks, Gulfstream and the Fair Grounds, also have tremendous under-card races as well.
Other highlight races at The Fair Grounds include the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (Race: 7) where, albeit Flashy Gray has been installed as the 6/5 morning line favorite, I like the undefeated Unlimited Budget, the 9/5 second choice in that one. It also appears that So Many Ways, a winner of 3 of 4 life-time starts (6/1) has a good chance in that race as well.
The very next race on the Saturday’s Fair Ground card is the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap. The 1 1/8th miles race looks wide open on paper where Flat Out, Bourbon Courage, Mark Valeski and Donn Handicap upset winner Graydar are all scheduled to run.
The race after the Louisiana Derby is the Mervin H. Muniz at 1 1/8 miles on the turf where budding turf star Optimizer will square off against 9 others including Willcox Inn.
Saturday’s card at Gulfstream will feature the $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks (Race: 8) where the good looking and talented Dreaming of Julia will make her second start of the year (after finishing second in her debut).
Skipping up to race 10 on the card is the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes and, like the New Orleans Handicap, this one is wide open. 10 horses will run with half of the field having a good chance to win it. Eldaafer, 2012 Travers dead heat winner Golden Ticket, Gourmet Dinner, Pants On Fire and my pick, 2012 Florida Derby upset winner Take Charge Indy all lining up for the 1 3/16’s miles race.
Lastly, albeit I’m not a big advocate of shipping horses around the world and back, this weekend also marks the world’s richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racetrack in Dubai.
The three major U.S. representatives are 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, two time Eclipse Champion Royal Delta, and good looking Dullahan.
Animal Kingdom, who became the first horse ever to win the Kentucky Derby in his first ever attempt on dirt, finished a solid second to turf monster Point of Entry in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap Feb. 9 in his first and only race this year.
Dullahan has the advantage of a race over the track and, although he finished a distant 11th in the Grade: 3 Burj Nahaar, it should help him come Saturday. Add to that fact that trainer Dale Romans said Dullahan “looks better now than he did before the Burj Nahaar” and that (in my opinion) he moved to soon (halfway up the backstretch) in that race, I expect a much better performance from the strapping chestnut colt.
Royal Delta returns to Dubai World Cup for the second time. (Last year’s result in this race was a total flop; she finished ninth, beaten 8 1/2 lengths). Trainer Bill Mott is “confident” she’ll make a better showing of herself.
The American trio drew well in the 13-horse field, with Animal Kingdom in post 12, Royal Delta in post 8, and Dullahan in post 3.
“To tell the truth, I was glad 1, 2, and 3 were already taken,” said trainer Graham Motion. “I talked to (Animal Kingdom’s former rider) Ramon Dominguez and he said that we wouldn’t want to see him caught on the inside. Hopefully Joel Rosario will have him in a good spot. Our tactics won’t change and he’s capable of coming from off of it if he has to. After all we won the Derby from post 16.”
“Post 3 is alright,” trainer Dale Romans said of Dullahan’s draw. “It’s a good spot and we’d rather not (start) from the outside. He’ll probably settle and come running. Gary Stevens and I will study the race and come up with a strategy.”
Royal Delta’s trainer Bill Mott said “I just decided to take one post outside of 7; last year we were 7, the filly did well coming into the race last year, but we didn’t have the easiest of trips, so we decided to come back right then and there. She is bigger and stronger this year.”
Even if the Americans can overcome the surface change and the traveling thru some 13 time zones, there will be some top notch competition to deal with.
2012 World Cup winner Monterosso is back even though he finished a remote 10th in the Al Maktoum Challenge, which is a prep for this.
The morning line favorite is, Hunter’s Light, an Irish-bred 5-year-old who is coming off impressive victories in both the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and Round 3, winning both by wide margins.
Fair Grounds – Saturday, March 30, 2013
Race 9 – 5:44 PM
LouisianaDerby (Grade: 2)
For Three Year Olds
One And One Eighth Miles.
|1||1||Hip Four Sixtynine||3/C||L||J Theriot||122||B C Barnett||30/1|
|2||2||Palace Malice||3/C||L||E S Prado||122||T A Pletcher||5/1|
|3||3||Revolutionary||3/C||L||J Castellano||122||T A Pletcher||3/1|
|4||4||Golden Soul||3/C||L||C H Borel||122||D Stewart||20/1|
|5||5||Whiskey Bravo||3/C||L||J Grah||122||J K Desormeaux||30/1|
|6||6||Sunbean||3/C||L||C J Hernande||122||A M Stall, Jr.||12/1|
|7||7||Departing||3/C||B J Hernandez||122||A M Stall, Jr.||8/1|
|8||8||Code West||3/R||L||M Garcia||122||B Baffert||9/2|
|9||9||Proud Strike||3/C||L||C S Nakatani||122||S M Asmussen||10/1|
|10||10||Titletown Five||3/C||L||J K Court||122||D W Lukas||8/1|
|11||11||Mylute||3/C||L||S Bridgmohan||122||T M Amoss||12/1|
|12||12||Brazilian Court||3/C||L||M Mena||122||M J Maker||30/1|
|13||13||Ground Transport||3/C||L||M Guidry||122||M Stidham||20/1|
|14||14||Nina’s Dragon (CA||3/C||L||J Couton||122||L C Mason||30/1|
1) Revolutionary- I have him ranked #3 on my Kentucky Derby contenders list mainly because I still can’t get over that Withers Stakes win in his last start.
In that race, this regally bred colt (War Pass- Runup the Colors by A.P. Indy) was last at the head of the stretch then dove down towards the rail as they straightened away for home, maneuvered his way around horses down the stretch before splitting two horses about 100 yards from the wire and got up to win by a neck.
Now, I realized that race was on the Aqueduct Inner Track, in February and against inferior competition, but still, that was a heck of a race he ran. Here it is one more time…
2) Departing- is unbeaten (3 for 3) and untested thus far vs. softer competition. He now moves into the big leagues and I absolutely think he is ready to.
Once again, I realize he’s been beating up on clearly inferior horses but if you look past that and watch this horse in action, he certainly looks like something special.
I watched his last two (hand ride) wins carefully and each time, when his rider asked him at about the 3/16ths pole, this horse levels out and explodes down the stretch.
I like the generous 8-1 morning line odds and the fact that obviously likes this track (2 for 2 over it). What I don’t like about him, and this might be the only thing I don’t like, is the slow fractional and finishing times of those same last two races. But, I’m going to blame it on the track conditions/surfaces and move on. Can you say the 2013 Kentucky Derby sleeper horse?
3) Palace Malice– is clearly a talented horse as he ran into all kinds of problems in his last race (the Grade: 2 Risen Star Stakes Feb 23), yet still was only beaten a half length for all the money.
The Risen Star was just his second start in the past 7 months so logically we can expect improvement.
I like that last 5 furlong work (In company with Shanghai Bobby) to as he finished in 1:00 flat. Evidently, trainer Todd Pletcher liked it too
“I thought Palace Malice worked super”, Pletcher said. “He finished up great and galloped out strong. It seems like he’s been doing really well since the Risen Star.”
Code West has never been off the board in now 6 career starts and you have to love the way he ran in the Risen Star too. In that race, he engaged in a protracted speed dual and then began to fade at the quarter pole….I thought he was done but he wasn’t. He dug in, fought back and “came again” late to get beat a nose. A repeat of that race on Saturday afternoon would make him tough as nails to beat. Golden Soul (20-1) and Nina’s Dragon (30-1) have both have shown some stretch running capability should be looked at as extreme long-shot possibilities.
Gulfstream Park – Saturday, March 30, 2013
Race 12 – 6:19 PM
Florida Derby (Grade I)
For Three Year Olds
One And One Eighth Miles
|1||1||Shanghai Bobby||3/C||L||R Napravnik||122||T A Pletcher||
|2||2||Pick of the Litter||3/C||L||J L Castanon||122||D L Romans||
|3||3||Itsmyluckyday (||3/C||L||E Trujillo||122||E Plesa, Jr.||
|4||4||Pontiff||3/C||L||A Garcia||122||D L Romans||
|5||5||Frac Daddy||3/C||L||C J Lanerie||122||K G McPeek||
|6||6||Orb||3/C||L||J R Velazquez||122||C R McGaughey III||
|7||7||Indy’s Illusion||3/C||L||R Maragh||122||B Tagg||
|8||8||Merit Man||3/C||L||K J Desormeaux||122||R B Hess, Jr.||
|9||9||Are You Kidding Me||3/C||L||J Lezcano||122||R L Attfield||
|10||10||Narvaez||3/C||L||P Lopez||122||A C Bezara||
1) Orb– I’ll tell you, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a race set up so perfectly for a horse as this race does for this colt by Malibu Moon.
This horse has improved leaps and bounds in his last three races (all wins) and is two for two at Gulfstream as well. He’ll get p-l-e-n-t-y of early speed (Shanghai Bobby, Merit Man, Pick of the Litter and possibly Itsmyluckyday) to setup his potent late run and on top of all that, he gets a terrific post position draw at #6.
2) Itsmyluckyday– comes into this off back to back monster efforts (he won the Gulfstream Park Derby by almost 7 while getting a mile in a sizzling 1:34.1 and then won the Holy Bull Stakes over Shanghai Bobby by 2 in 1:41.4.)
I like the versatility a lot also as he can win from on or off the pace and he hasn’t even had one hiccup all year long.
The only part that bugs me is this is his first race since the Holy Bull on Jan. 26….that’s about 8 weeks ago.
Trainer Ed Plesa Jr. doesn’t seem to be fazed by that. After watching his horse work a half mile in :49.2 last week Plesa Jr. said:
“It couldn’t have gone any better, he galloped out strong. Everything in his training since the Holy Bull has gone on schedule”.
If you are going to bet this horse to win, let’s hope that :49.2 half and that stamina building mile work (1:46) on March 9 is enough to get his tight enough for this.
3) Shanghai Bobby– I know what you’re thinking….you’re thinking “Gerard, how do you pick this horse third after having him ranked #1 since late last year on your Kentucky Derby hopeful list?”
It’s easy actually, as good as this race sets up for Orb, is as badly this race sets up for this good looking black colt by Harlan’s Holiday.
He has several factors going against him going into Saturday’s race. One, like Itsmyluckyday, this is his first race since Jan 26. He is being asked to run further than he’s ever run before off an 8 week layoff …Will he be tight enough? Two, if he is tight enough… can he get the distance? He hasn’t proved, either way, whether he can or cant yet. Three, he will break from the #1 post position. Rosie Napravnik will undoubtedly be forced to go to the lead early and with other (quality) speed in here?….that’s not a good scenario for him either.
Something similar happened to him in the aforementioned Jan. 26 Fountain of Youth. He broke from the 1 hole, was forced to the early lead, ripped off sizzling fractions (half-mile in :46.3 and six furlongs in 1:10.3) and, understandably, tired to finish second. It’s not hard to see that sort of thing happening again.
Record: 5-14 = 36%
2012: 24-74 = 32%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** undefeated Black Caviar easily notched victory #24 in a row in the $400,000 Hacer Group William Reid Stakes last Friday at Moonee Valley in Australia.
The super mare settled in third early off a solid early pace set by stable-mate Karuta Queen and took command of the race when cued by jockey Luke Nolen
She cruised past Karuta Queen and drew off to a four-length win.
“She put on a wonderful show,” trainer Peter Moody told News Limited Network. “She’s going super; it’s scary how well she’s going. Just the way she let down and quickened. What do you say. I’m lost for words.”
Black Caviar was timed in 1:11 flat for 1,200 meters (about six furlongs).
Black Caviar’s next goal is the $1 million T. J. Smith April 13 at Randwick (in Australia).
`**** Trainer Steve Asmussen moved ahead of Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg into second place for most lifetime training victories when favored Jake Jourdan won by 5 1/4 lengths in the fourth race on March 28 at Fair Grounds Race .
The victory was #6,418 for the 47-year-old.
“It feels very good,” Asmussen said. “It’s obviously very significant and it proves we’ve been doing it a while, if nothing else. We’ll hope for a bunch more winners. Racing’s kind of a funny game, you know, and everything will be alright as long as the next one wins.”
Asmussen is an 11-time Fair Grounds training champion and leads the current standings at the Fair Grounds.
Asked how he’s had so much success wins at a relatively young age, Asmussen laughed and said, “You just keep at it, I guess.”