Horse Racing: 2013 Countdown to the Triple Crown- April 2nd,2013…With a New #1 Contender

Radical changes in this week’s Horse Racing 2013 Countdown to the Triple Crown list. With just about 5 weeks remaining until the 2013 Kentucky Derby, the picture has become clearer especially with the nothing short of smashing wins by Orb in the 2013 Florida Derby and Revolutionary in the 2013 Louisiana Derby this past weekend.

At the start of the Florida Derby, Merit Man sent the early pace with 100-1 shot Narvaez close by, followed by Itsmyluckyday, and Shanghai Bobby at the rail. Merit Man set very realistic fractions for the first three-quarters of a mile. ( :24.3, :48.2, and 1:12.4.)

Itsmyluckyday, who was ridden very well by Elvis Trujillo, moved first and went three wide on the turn for home before taking the lead at the quarter pole.

Itsmyluckyday led past the eighth pole, but when confronted by Orb, he could not stay with the eventual winner as Orb drew off impressively.

Orb won by almost 3 lengths while completing the 1 1/8-miles in 1:50.4.

Winning jockey John Velazquez said “Orb didn’t get off to a good start but he found a spot on the first turn where he could follow Itsmyluckyday, he wanted to avoid passing the leader too soon in the stretch, so he sat against Itsmyluckyday”.        

“Once we did that and I asked him he responded right away,” Velazquez said. “It was impressive. Once I asked him he was there for me and I couldn’t ask for a better feeling than that.” 

“Johnny did a good job getting him in position,” winning trainer Shug McGaughey said. “I got a little nervous on the turn when it looked like he backed up a little bit, but he switched on his right lead and came with his run. I do think he beat a nice horse that finished second.”

“From the Fountain of Youth to now, he’s a different horse, physically and coat-wise,” McGaughey said of Orb. “Hopefully, he’ll keep going forward. It’s really exciting. I’ve never won the Fountain of Youth and now to win the Florida Derby it’s exciting. I’m happy for all the people who have put so much work into it. I’m just tickled to death for the Janneys and the Phippses (more) than I am for myself. It’s a big thrill for me.”

“The Derby is my dream, but we never tried to overdo it,” McGaughey added. “Hopefully, this is the one who can take us there.”

Itsmyluckyday was 2 1/4 lengths clear of third-place Merit Man, with Narvaez five lengths farther back in fourth.

“I expected him to win and he didn’t,” said Eddie Plesa Jr., trainer of Itsmyluckyday. “Am I disappointed? Yes, but I’m also very proud of him too. He’s done everything we’ve asked.

“He ran his race. He just got outrun. The winner ran a fantastic race. We finished second and that’s good enough to get to the Derby, which was our goal. I thought we were sitting in pretty good position and moved for the lead on the far turn but Orb just outkicked him.”

2012 two year old champion Shanghai Bobby, who suffered his second career defeat in as many races, had several problems during the race. By drawing the #1 post he was in tight early while stalking the pace, a position he is not familiar with, on the inside for jockey Rosie Napravnik into the far turn, the dropped back further down the stretch.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said, “We got crowded going into the first turn with everyone going for the same spot. It got a little rough going into the first turn. He was always kind of stuck on the inside with everyone jockeying for the same position. He seemed to be in a tough spot all the way around. Rosie said he just never really relaxed in that scenario. We’ll see how he comes out of it before making any decisions for the future.”

As impressive as Orb was in the Florida Derby, Revolutionary was just as impressive if not more so being he has a much tougher trip in his race but yet still finished in a slightly faster time.

In the Louisiana Derby, (another) 100-1 shot Hip Four Sixtynine and 15-1 shot Titletown Five were battling for the early lead thru fractions of  :22.4 with the half in :46.1 and three-quarters in 1:11.4.

But Revolutionary, who commenced his rally from about the half mile pole, came with a big 5 wide run at the top of the stretch to assume command in mid-stretch.

The race was by no means over at that point as 19-1 Mylute, racing without blinkers for the first time, came from last, with a six wide move. From the angle I saw, it looked as though he actually put his head in front in deep stretch. Whether he did or didn’t, it didn’t matter….Revolutonary would have none of that and continued to run on gamely to win by a neck.

The final time for the 1 1/8-miles was 1:50.1; Departing finished third while Golden Soul came fourth.

“He’s a very brilliant horse, a smart horse,” winning rider Javier Castellano said. “He’s a 3-year-old but he acted like a 5 or 6-year-old. His temper today, it was good. It was a big field of 14 horses and he handled it so well. In the first turn I saved all the ground and the last part when the other horses were backing out I had no choice, I went around all of the horses and it was very impressive the way he did it. I’m looking forward to the Kentucky Derby big time.”

“He’s learning all the time,” said Elliott Walden, president and racing manager of WinStar Farm. “I loved the race he ran last time at Aqueduct, (me too Mr. Walden) I think he’s got all the experience he needs for Kentucky and he’s got the points. He just does everything right, he doesn’t turn a hair, and when you get to Louisville those kind of things matter. We’re excited. Javier got him into a real nice rhythm; I was a little concerned going wide on the far turn but he still had plenty of run.”

Also in the news this week, Shanghai Bobby is officially off the Derby trail.

The 2012 champion two year old male will be given time off and be pointed to a late summer or fall campaign. Shanghai Bobby appears to have come out of the Florida Derby in good shape but trainer Todd Pletcher believes the energy level is not where he’d like for it to be. 

“There’s nothing obviously wrong with him but we will go over him thoroughly and give him some time off to fully recover from his long campaign,” Pletcher said Monday. “He’ll be sent to PaytonTrainingCenter today and allowed to have the down time that he seems to need right now.”

“Obviously we’re disappointed because of the timing but we need to do what’s right for the horse and it looks like he’s ready for a break,” said Starlight co-managing partner Donnie Lucarelli.

He needs time off from a long campaign? Really? Three races in five months is a long campaign? ….ooooooh-kay.

 

2013 Kentucky Derby Prospects:

1) Revolutionary- I’ve been going back and forth as to who should be ranked #1 between this horse and Orb since Saturday evening.

After much debate (with myself), I’m giving him a slight edge based off his Saturday’s Louisiana Derby win. As we just went over in the paragraphs above, this colt showed me several things this past weekend.

One, he showed me he wasn’t intimidated by the large field he was facing. (That’s something he is going to need in the Kentucky Derby for sure) He was well back of the pack early, but calmly weaved his way thru traffic and accelerated nicely, albeit 5 wide, around the turn and down the stretch.

Two, and probably more importantly, it certainly appeared to me that 19-1 shot My Lute, who ran a huge race, actually poked his head in front in deep stretch but (if you watch closely) you can see Revolutionary did not want to lose….he dug in and kept fighting to win by a neck. After Saturday’s win and his Withers win in his last start, it certainly appears this horse has a heart and the courage the size of North America.

Three, he has now (at the very least) run well over 4 different race-track surfaces. This, in turn, shows me he can handle any footing which he’ll also need for that quirky Churchill Down surface.

Four, the Louisiana Derby was his third win in a row and it should set him up perfectly for the Derby as it looks like he is peaking at just the right time.

 

2) Orb- showed a very impressive and powerful stride from about the eighth pole to the wire in Saturday’s Florida Derby. I mean, he was miles the best in that race.

Granted it, the race set-up perfectly for him but when I was watching the race unfold, I noticed the pace, or fractions, were very pedestrian like (1st quarter in :24.3 and three quarters in a shade under 1:13?) yet he still was able to wallop this field.

In fact, when I saw the 3 opening splits, I was concerned for him but those concerns quick diminished when he kicked in down the lane. He is another who looks to be peaking at the right time and should be dangerous on Derby Day.

Sorry, having problems linking the Florida Derby video…but you can just click the link below to see it again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyqkslVR8uQ

 

 3) Verrazano- I dropped him one slot only because Orb and Revolutionary were both so impressive this past weekend. This colt will need to answer back in the Wood Memorial (this coming weekend) and I’m sure he will, but just for this week, he needs to be placed third.

This unbeaten, and so far, untested colt had his last major work this the Wood as he went 5 furlongs in 1:01 flat at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida on Easter Sunday.

With John Velazquez aboard for the work, Verrazano was, once again, sent in company with Discreet Dancer (winner of the Gulfstream Park Handicap)

“I thought it was another excellent work, pretty much what we have come to expect of him in the morning,” Pletcher said. “It was very good, and a strong gallop out; very pleased.”

“We felt like he got a little bit of experience in Tampa in that he got behind a horse and got a little bit of dirt,” Pletcher said. “Some experience certainly can help you in what I’m sure will be a full gate at Churchill. (Additional experience in the Wood) and the mile-and-an-eighth distance should also be helpful, hopefully, in preparing him for the Derby if we’re fortunate enough to go that route.”

 

4) Vyjack- this stretch running winner of the Gotham followed up a 5F in :59 last week with a 1:12.3 six furlong work this past Saturday and looks to be sitting on yet another big race.

Vyjack began three lengths behind stable-mate Aussi Austin, before getting on even terms with his work mate about 3 1/2 furlongs from the finish. Vyjack finished a head in front at the wire.

Gustavo Rodriguez, brother of trainer Rudy Rodriguez, said teaching the gelding to settle behind another horse was what they were trying to accomplish.

“We wanted the other horse to go and for [Vyjack] to relax,” said Rodriguez. “We want him to be relaxed, because when he runs in the Wood we want him to come from behind. I’m very, very happy with the work. We didn’t want to go like last time—we wanted to go a little slower.”

Vyjack appears to be all set for his sternest test to date when he faces Verrazano and Normandy Invasion in the Wood Memorial this Saturday. Enjoy that race folks; it should be a good one.

 

5) Itsmyluckyday- this horse is a runner for sure. I’m not going to totally kill him off his second place finish in the Florida Derby; however he was definitely looked like a “short” horse to me.

He was the recipient of great ride in the Florida Derby but was simply outrun by Orb down the stretch.

I’m sorry but I blame the trainer….I understand you want a “fresh horse” for the Triple Crown series, but it had been 8 weeks since he ran last and with only 2 or 3  serious works, that just wasn’t enough to get him fit enough and it shown when Orb came to him down the stretch in the Florida Derby.

Ed Plesa Jr., who trains this colt, is an amazing trainer, so I don’t mean to criticize him. In fact, he is probably the best trainer no-one knows about.

I am expecting Plesa Jr. to really turn the screws on this horse between now and the Derby and I am still expecting a big performance from him in the Kentucky Derby. But that will remain to be seen.

If you want to look at the bright side, I’m sure a lot of people will back off on betting him on Derby Day, which, in turn, will increase his odds immensely.

 

6) Flashback- I believe, even after his San Felipe debacle, (he was burned out in an early speed duel) he is the best three year old on the west coast and yes, I moved him up 2 slots this week even though he never left the barn.

That being said, he will have his hands full in (this weekends) Santa Anita Derby. He’ll be facing Goldencents, Hear the Ghosts and Power Broker.

Drilled a half mile in :48 flat this past Monday.

Like this weekend’s Wood Memorial, the Santa Anita Derby should be a spectacular race and it should also helps us out on figuring out who stands where.

 

7) Will Take Charge- Rebel winner bounced back in a big way in that race off a poor effort in the Southwest Stakes. He could move up the list further depending on how he fairs in the Bluegrass on April 13.

 

8) Departing- I have to drop him a bit even though he was a pretty good late running third in the Louisiana Derby.  I mean, he was only beaten a little more than three lengths to Revolutionary after being wide 3, 4 and, at times, 5 wide throughout.

With a little more distance and a better trip, I’m sure he would have been a lot closer to my new #1 Derby horse. This horse is still a threat in my mind.

 

9) Normandy Invasion- has been working up a storm in the mornings and appears set for a big effort in the Wood Memorial…..he’ll need one too as he will be facing Verrazano and Vyjack.

Trainer Chad Brown seems to be happy with this colt’s progress:

“He went very well” Brown said after watching the horse work a half mile in :47.4 at Palm Meadows this past week. “He did an easy half within himself, although the time was very quick he did it very easy. I’m happy with the way he was moving and the way he came back.”

“He came out of the race (the Risen Star) in good shape,” Brown added. “He probably needed that race for the last bit of fitness after the freshening. He’s very fit right now, so I expect him to move forward off the race.”

 

10) Uncaptured- still like him based on the fact he is 2 for 2 at Churchill Downs and was put in a tough position by his handlers in the Spiral Stakes two weeks ago. He is scheduled to run in the Bluegrass (April13) and I am looking forward to that race, especially if he improves off the Spiral effort like I think he will.

 

11) Palace Malice- wow, what an absolutely horrendous trip in the Louisiana Derby. I mean, he was knocked around like a pinball several times from the 3/8ths pole all the way to the wire.

I posted the replay under Revolutionary’s area but when you get a chance, watch it again and watch what happens to this colt.

Also, pay close attention to the “middle move” he makes…the move he makes to get himself into contention is very impressive but he gets snarled 2 or 3 times from that point on. That seventh, beaten over 7 lengths, is not nearly a true indication of the race he ran last Saturday. He is still a major Derby threat from where I sit.

 

12) Rydilluc- could be lying in the weeds…literally. He’s been a monster on the turf in his last couple of races and will try the dirt (again) in the Bluegrass. Listen, if he wins or even runs well we got a serious Kentucky Derby horse on our hands here.

 

13) Hear The Ghost- I had him as an “On the Radar” screen last week, but the more I watch that San Felipe, the more I like him.

I originally thought he just was the recipient of a wickedly fast pace that collapsed in front of him, but that may not be the case.

Really looking forward to how he fairs this weekend’s Santa Anita Derby.

 

14) Oxbow- still not sure what to think about him. He has ability and should have no problem handling 10 furlongs in a few weeks, but the fact still remains he is 2 for 8 life-time and I wasn’t enamored by the 1:16 and change six furlong move the other day.

 

 

On the Radar Screen:

 

Tiz the Truth- 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. He is scheduled to run next in the April 6 Wood Memorial but there is a wicked rumor floating around that he is off the Derby trail due to an “issue”…(injury?)

 

Tiz A Minister- a “from out of the clouds” late runner goes next in this weekends Santa Anita Derby and you’ll probably get a good price on him. I love the way he can make up 15-20 lengths late in his races and I will not be surprised if he hits the board come Saturday. But, still, he is just 2 for 10 in his career, which makes me hesitate…

 

Speak Logistics- Itsmyluckyday stable-mate heads a field of eight for the $250,000 Calder Derby this Saturday at Calder Casino & Race. He’ll be a heavy favorite and he’ll need to perform like one to get him back among the elite three year olds.

Power Broker- another heading to the Santa Anita Derby, he continues to play catch-up as he still hasn’t started since the BC Juvenile (in Nov). He might just flat have ran out of time. He is talented none-the-less- and we’ll see how he runs this weekend.

 

My Lute- ran his eyeballs out at 19-1 against Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby with the renmoval of blinkers. Is he a one hit wonder or did removing the blinkers move him waaaay up?

On The Bubble:

Super Ninety Nine (drilled an half in :47.1 and heading to the Santa Anita Derby), Goldencents (worked 6F- 1:14 and also heading to the Santa Anita Derby) and Capo Bastone (heading to the Bluegrass) all must atone for poor last race performances.

 

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