Monday, February 28, 2011

"Soldat Stamps Ticket" - Derby Top 21 for February 28th.

SOLDAT made a nice move in the Fountain of Youth, jumping from post position #1, to take the early lead into the clubhouse turn. He never looked back, stamping himself as a legitimate Derby contender.
The front running style was reminiscent of THE FACTOR, another War Front colt.

Soldat wins the Fountain of Youth. Photo: Joe Ganley/EquiSport Photos 1/1000 @ f//4, iso 500, 200mm
Soldat, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Alan Garcia, won for the first time on a fast dirt track. A point that had raised a few question marks.
“Going into the race, I wasn’t concerned about that at all. He’s always trained extremely well over a fast track, but it is nice to finally get it in print that he likes it fast,” McLaughlin said the day after the race.

 So what I'm trying to figure out, from my Monday morning quarterback chair, is why do I have Soldat at #5 and The Factor at #21? Both colts, graduated from Allowance company, to won in gate to wire fashion in their first Stakes race.
The big question is the pedigree... can the War Front colts make the classic distance.
Soldat's performance was certainly the more visually impressive in winning the Fountain of Youth, setting reasonable fractions and drawing away in the stretch. The Factor, in contrast, set suicidal early splits, and just held on at the wire to a fast closing SWAY AWAY in the San Vicente.
We would hope for the question to be answered in the next starts by these two, Soldat is bound for the Florida Derby, while The Factor's next start appears to be the Sunland Derby. Hmm... will the Sunland Derby really tell us anything?

GOURMET DINNER also proved he belongs in the Derby conversation with a nice 2nd place in the FOY under Ramon Dominguez. Having won the Delta Jackpot Stakes, and accumulating enough graded earnings last year, one could only wonder if the qualifying criteria should be changed. But much to the credit of trainer Steve Standridge, the Trippi colt has shown up to gamely challenge his peers. 

TO HONOR AND SERVE seemed to get enough out of the race to continue forwardly. With already plenty of graded earnings, the son of Bernardini made good use of his first start since the Remson last November. He appeared in good form finishing 3rd in the Fountain of Youth, ridden by John Velazquez.

To Honor and Serve finished 3rd in Fountain of Youth. Photo: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos 1/1000 @ f/4, iso 640, 140mm

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
4 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
5 SOLDAT (War Front)
6 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
8 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
9 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
10 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
11 SWAY AWAY (Afleet Alex)
13 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
15 ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie)
16 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)
17 FLASHPOINT (Pomeroy)
18 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)
19 WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid)
20 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
21 THE FACTOR (War Front)

That's it for now... mw.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"A Derby Factor?" - Derby Top 25 for February 21st

The San Vicente raised more questions than it answered. The biggest.. can THE FACTOR go the distance? The War Front colt jumped out of the gate, set blazing fractions, and just outlasted a charging SWAY AWAY by a length.
Trainer Bob Baffert's 'go to' rider, Martin Garcia, said of The Factor after the race "I just let him break by himself. The more you fight, the more he’s going to take off. He doesn’t want to be behind horses, so I just let him be comfortable and he kept going. He is still learning."
The Factor, nearly collared by Sway Away at the wire, will have to rate off the pace if he's going to have enough gas to get the classic distance.

The Factor wins the San Vicente. Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos 1/1000 sec @ f/3.5, iso 1000, 400mm

Was SWAY AWAY, who moved from dead last to nearly catch the winner at the wire, perhaps the more impressive? Another sixteenth would have changed the outcome of this 7 furlong test.

Sway Away (outside) nearly runs down The Factor. Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos 1/500 @ f/3.5, iso 800, 300mm
Sway Away, trained by Jeff Bonde, seems to be one to watch. And the Afleet Alex colt should have no trouble with the classic distance.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose, but that’s the way the game goes. This horse is the best (Kentucky) Derby chance I’ve had in many years." said Bonde after the San Vicente.

Sway Away is certainly is going on my Top 25. A few spots in front of The Factor... for now.

MUCHO MACHO MAN finally prevailed, in his 4th stakes race, in the hard fought Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fairgrounds Saturday. After finishing 4th last time out in the Holy Bull, this well traveled son of Macho Again beat a quality field including second place SANTIVA, and third place ROGUE ROMANCE.

Mucho Macho Man. Photo: Joe Ganley/EquiSport Photos 1/1000 @ f/3.5, iso 800, 108mm.
Mucho Macho Man also finished second in both the Nashua S. and Remson S. as a two-year-old for trainer Kathy Ritvo. “He goes two miles like he’s out to jog. He’s just going to get better the further the distances get,” Ritvo said.

ARCHARCHARCH gritted out a tough win Monday in the Southwest Stakes, (G3) at Oaklawn Park, over a classy field. Highly respected JP'S GUSTO, the betting favorite, finished second in front of a fading ELITE ALEX.
Jon Court rode the winner for his father-in-law, William 'Jinks' Fires. Coming out of the turn into the short Oaklawn stretch, the Arch colt responded when asked, opening up a 2 1/2 length lead on the field.
JP's Gusto, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, got bottled up in the turn. “At the quarter pole, when I wanted to move, there were horses around me and I couldn't get out," Dominguez said.  

This Week's TOP 25 DERBY TRAIL

Rank Horse (Sire)
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
3 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
5 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
6 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
7 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
8 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
9 SWAY AWAY (Afleet Alex)
11 WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid)
12 SOLDAT (War Front)
13 RIVETING REASON (Fusaichi Pegasus)
14 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
15 THE FACTOR (War Front)
16 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
18 TIZ BLESSED (Tiznow)
19 ELITE ALEX (Afleet Alex)
20 ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie)
21 SHACKLEFORD (Forestry)
22 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)
24 SWEET DUCKY (Pulpit)
25 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)

That's it for now.. mw

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Oh Brethren.. Where Art Thou?" - Derby Top 25 for Febraury 14th

BRETHREN, in winning the Sam F Davis Stakes, was the only Derby Top 20 horse that moved forward on the Trail this week. A half brother to last year's Derby winner Super Saver, the 3-year-old son of Distorted Humor easily dispatched an outclassed field.

Brethren, purple cap, dusts the field coming out of the turn, coasting to a win in the Sam F. Davis. (Photo: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos, 1/1600 @ f/5, iso 1000, 500mm)

BRETHREN delayed the start momentarily by loading poorly into the gate, and then broke late from post 10, giving his rivals a couple of jumps. But he easily settled into a stalking 2nd place position behind Ribo Bobo by the time the field had rounded the clubhouse turn.

Brethren, extreme outside, breaks poorly from gate. (Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos, 1/1600 @f/6.3, iso 800, 35mm)
Trainer Todd Pletcher watched the race from Gulfstream Park, and said after the race, “He didn’t break great but he recovered quickly, settled into a good rhythm down the backside and went impressively from there. Obviously we have some things to work on at the gate but all in all I thought it was a great effort.”

Eclipse winning jockey Ramon Dominguez, who scored a hat trick in winning all three stakes races on the card, eventually coasted Brethren to an easy score in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.

Brethren cruised for home under Ramon Dominguez. (Photo: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos, 1/2000 @ f/4.5, iso 1250, 300mm)
"He won it like a good horse should," Dominguez said in recapping the race. "We set up and relaxed just off the lead  in the first turn and I was able to wait down the backstretch. I asked him in the turn and he came away very nicely. I took a look on both sides in mid-stretch and there was nothing coming so I was able to wrap up on him going to the wire and out. The distance was no problem for him at all."

Still, one has to wonder what Brethren got out of the race that was not really much more that a $225,000 workout against an outclassed field. His earnings of $120,000 for the race puts him solidly in the Derby field for now. But, will Brethren will be back here to challenge stablemate Uncle Mo in the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. It's doubtful.
 “We talked about him having only two races before the Derby," said Pletcher, "and this puts us in the position we want to be. It gives us some latitude. We got some graded earnings if we only want to run him once more but this didn’t look like a particularly taxing race either. Where he goes next depends upon a lot of different variables, including where some of our other 3-year-olds wind up going.”

Not that Tapizar (Robert Lewis S.) or Comma To The Top (El Camino Real) needed to post a win, but those two both faded badly coming for home.
So what was going on with TAPIZAR in the Robert Lewis? Garrett Gomez had his hands full. The unruly 3-year-old was rank all the way down the front side, settled reluctantly on the back, but there was nothing left when heading for home.

Tapizar proved to be a handful in the Robert Lewis. (Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos, 1/1600 @ f/3.5, iso 160, 400mm)

ANTHONY'S CROSS, meanwhile, prevailed in a thrilling stretch dual over RIVETING REASON.

Anthony's Cross, inside, prevails over Riveting Reason. (Photo: Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos, 1/1600 @ f/3.5, iso 160, 400mm)
Trainer Eoin Harty had Anthony's Cross cross entered in the El Camino Real, but opted for the Robert Lewis. "With the exception of Tapizar, the rest of the field was unproven, a bunch of turf horses. We didn't know if we'd win (with Tapizar in the field), but we thought we'd run a good race," Harty said.
The next major stepping stone for Anthony's Cross in the quest for the "Preakness 5.5" bonus would be the April 3rd Santa Anita Derby. "I've got to decide whether to give him one more start before the Santa Anita Derby or just sit and wait," Harty said. "It's a long time between now and then so it takes some serious consideration.”

Also making a move this week was SILVER MEDALLION, winner of the El Camino Real. In a well timed move by jockey Russell Baze, the Steve Asmussen trained son of Badge of Silver fired just in time to clip Jakesam at the wire.
"He was calm and very relaxed today," said Baze, "I was a little concerned he might be sick because he was so calm going to the gate. He's a nice little horse to ride."

The "WORD". Top 25 (or so) Kentucky Derby Trail.
Rank Horse Sire
1 UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie)
2 TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini)
3 DIALED IN (Mineshaft)
4 BRETHREN (Distorted Humor)
5 SANTIVA (Giant's Causeway)
6 STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini)
7 JAYCITO (Victory Gallop)
8 ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie)
9 SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver)
10 SOLDAT (War Front)
11 WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid)
12 RIVETING REASON (Fusaichi Pegasus)
13 ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones)
15 TAPIZAR (Tapit)
16 COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie)
17 TIZ BLESSED (Tiznow)
18 SHACKLEFORD (Forestry)
19 JP'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal)
21 SWEET DUCKY (Pulpit)
22 THE FACTOR (War Front)
23 MACHEN (Distorted Humor)
24 MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno)
25 ELITE ALEX (Afleet Alex)
26 CASPER'S TOUCH (Touch Gold)
27 TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road)

More later.. mw