Another week closer to the derby and another installment of Steve Haskin’s derby dozen. I think hes spot on here as usual, Exaggerator ran huge, I think Nyquist is starting to seperate himself, and I dont think Shagaf ran as terrible as other seems to think…
Unbelievable weekend of racing just passed with a few horses stamping their tickets to the Derby while other contenders failed to impress. While the derby preps get all the attention, some of the undercard stakes really stole the show. Of course weather had to play a factor in 2 of the derby preps which might have made for more questions then answers. Lets dive in….
At Aqueduct Saturday we saw a very slow running of the Wood Memorial won by the immensely talented in only his 4th career start over 80-1 maiden Trojan Nation. Final time was the slowest of any Wood in history and no one came home particularly fast. Some may not have cared for the muddy track (shagaf?) or maybe it was just a weak group to begin with. Everyone klnows ive been on Shagaf’s band wagon for a long time and I am still driving that wagon. I don’t think he liked the mud and I really didn’t care for his trip to much. Fell to far back, made an eye catching move to get into contention on the turn, but ran up on heels instead of goiong around the tiring speed, and could never really re-rally. I still love his chances going to the derby, as I do with Outwork as well, who has worlds of talent. If I am right about Shagaf I will be rewarded handsomely as his odds are surely to rise.
In the undercard races, Salutos Amigos finally got his Grade 1 win in the Carter, which he rallied widest of all to wear down a stubborn Calculator and Dad’s Caps. A great win for the old veteran and he might be rounding back into form. Lewis Bay won the Gazelle for 3yr old fillies but not gets rewarded with a match up against the dominant Songbird in the Kentucky Oaks.
In Kentucky, The Blue Grass had a big field, but not much quality in my opinion, and to no surprise, besides favorite Zulu running out, it was very form full with Brodys Cause making a wide run and exploding down the lane to win his second Grade 1 on this Lexington track. My Man Sam and Cherry wine also rallied from well back to get the minor awards, all but assuring themselves into the derby. It didn’t receive a high beyer speed number, but Brody’s Cause couldn’t have looked any better running off like that.
In the Madison stakes, we saw 3 horses who last started in the Breeders Cup last fall and all 3 ran to their class. Sheer Drama, who was running at a not ideal distance was gritty down the stretch under Joe Bravo and wore down Stopcharginmaria late. It was a great race from start to finish. I really thought Clothes Fall Off would run better but really showed no energy at any point in the race. The Ashland was a 3 horse race on paper. but someone forgot to tell Weep No More who ran by the heavy favorites late in the stretch at 30-1. It looked like favorite Cathryn Sophia didn’t want to go that long, while Rachel’s Valentina ran unbelievable off the layoff to just miss, she might be a play back in the Oaks, if there was no Songbird running there.
Out west, Exaggerator blew his rivals off their feet in the Santa Anita Derby with a last to first sweeping move on the far turn. Mor spirit and Danzing Candy had no answers at the top of the stretch with Mor Spirit finishing second by default, with Danzing Candy fading badly down the lane after possibly running off with Mike Smith through very quick fractions on the sloppy track. I don’t know what to make out of this horse, after last race I thought he didn’t want to go this far and he proved me wrong, but was it the slop that moved him up so much? Mor Spirit didn’t handle it at all and might be live on Derby Day. In the co-feature Songbird did her usual thing and toyed with a bunch of overmatched fillies in the Santa Anita oaks, no doubt she will be a heavy heavy favorite in the Kentucky Oaks come May, she’s just unreal!
What a day of racing we have from across the country. Something like 14 graded stakes with 6 of them being grade 1’s, and then out of those, 3 being major final Kentucky Derby preps. There is a multi track pick 4 between Keeneland and Aqueduct as well as a guaranteed 300,000$ all stakes pick 4 at Keeneland. Lots of opportunities to make some money out there, lets just hope the weather cooperates. All of these picks are before scratches and assuming grass race stay on the grass. So lets begin at Aqueduct…..
Aqu Race 3-The Excelsior has a short field and wont be much of a betting race. No-one really wants to show much pave here but I’m going to pick KID CRUZ hoping he can sit on the lead or right off of it like he did in his last. He also likes the main track at Aqueduct.
Aqu Race 6 is a OC62k/N2X on the turf that looks pretty deep. I’m leaning towards the Clement horse, IROMEA, coming off a slight layoff. Last 2 races were very good and should come running for Johnny V. OFF LIMITS should also be tough with a clean trip.7-6-4
Aqu Race 8-The Gazelle. LEWIS BAY probably needed her last race while making a solid move to come up to superstar Cathryn Sophia who would be 1-9 here. With some speed signed on, she should get a suitable pace to run at and will be tough to deny 2nd off the layoff. ROYAL OBSESSION is a longer shot that looks interesting.2-5-1
Aqu Race 9-The Bay shore. I think Cocked and Loaded will be over bet here and that will make the price on my top choice, AWESOME GENT, creep up. Love that he was able to sit second in his last and with the same trip should be able to wear down UNIFIED as he tries winners for the first time off a great debut race. 4-5-6
Aqu Race 10- The Wood Memorial. New York’s big derby prep worth 100 derby starter points and 1 Million dollars. Doesn’t get much bigger then this. Really competitive field here but I have to lean on the favorite and my early derby choice, SHAGAF. I think you might get better then 2-1 because I think MATT KING COAL and OUTWORK will both take some money. I also feel they might get hooked early and set it up for a horse who can sit right off, and that horse is SHAGAF. At a price I would also look at FLEXIBILITY and TALE OF S’AVALL, to round out the exotics. 1-5-4
Aqu Race 11- The Carter. Another Grade 1 here and a great field has lined up for it with all the usual cast of NY sprint characters. I think SALUTOS AMIGOS is back to his old form and if that’s the case he will be dangerous tomorrow. 7F isn’t his ideal distance but he should have enough pace upfront to run at. Look for him to mow them all down late. Same can be said for CALCULATOR who ships in from California. Should be rolling late. A horse who might get overlooked in the wagering is ANCHOR DOWN and that might be a mistake, I love the cutback from a mile to this 7F and should be tight, third off the lay off. 5-7-6
Kee Race 5 – This Allowance race on the turf looks pretty good so lets take a look. I’m looking for DEA to turn the tables on SYMPATHY for Mark Casse. Last 2 races have been really good for this filly and should be able to get the jump on her main rival today. 5-9-2
Kee Race 6- The Ashland. A grade 1 for fillies aiming at the Kentucky Oaks, this short 5 horse field has 3 standouts and from those only one has raced this year and that is Cathryn Sophia. She looks to over power these but I will take a shot with RACHELS VALENTINA for the upset. Todd knows how to get them ready off a layoff, and this might be a prep for the oaks, but I cant take low odds on SOPHIA. 4-3-5
Kee Race 7 _ The Commonwealth for sprinters going 7F is a deep race with no clear standout. I am leaning towards comebacker HOLY BOSS here for Asmussen, who has put a steady diet of works into this stakes winner. Didn’t get beat much in the Breeders Cup sprint on this track in his last and has fired fresh in the past. BARBADOS on the outside looked good in his first start of the year, and should sit a good trip also. 9-10-8
Kee Race 8- The Shakertown. Always a fun race, this turf sprint looks like a great rendition. POWER ALERT is such an honest horse. Almost always runs his race and knows how to win. Back to back super races at Gulfstream, he should be able to sit right off the pace, and if he can swing out should be tough in the stretch. SUMMATION TIME is a closer for Christophe Clement and Castellano who should get a good pace to run into, just needs to stay clear of traffic. 1-3-8
Kee Race 9- The Madison. A great Grade 1 race every spring, this years field will not disappoint as you have multiple grade 1 winners in the field. I am going to go with 2 longshots on top here as they have the recency edge over the 2 favorites. They are CLOTHES FALL OFF and DANCING HOUSE. Both trained by Kiaran Mclaughlin, and both coming off impressive wins. Both can sit close and make a run and should get the jump on probable favorite Wavell Avenue. 8-7-3
Kee Race 10-The Blue Grass. Another Grade 1, million dollar derby prep and this one got a field of 16 to sign up (with only 14 being allowed to run). I am going with a price and that horse is STAR HILL for Rusty Arnold. Loved his maiden breaker and I’m going to excuse his Tampa race. Ran good, but didn’t have the kick I thought he would. He also was running into a slow pace and that track can be funny. Shows 2 great works for this race, breeding says he will love the distance, and just needs to get over to save some ground from the 13 post. Same for MY MAN SAM who ran a great second in an Aqu allowance race last month. Should drop down easily as he comes from behind. 13-14-3
SA Race 5- The Providencia With the weather possibly being an issue and the chance for a wet turf course very much in play, I ended up on MIRAGE here, last 2 wins have been great and both come over a good turf course. Can sit and make a run which looks like the perfect set up here. 2-5-9
SA Race 7 The Santa Anita Oaks. Theres really nothing to say here, Songbird should dominate here.
SA Race 8-The Santa Anita Derby. The last Derby prep of the day and Santa Anitas biggest race of the meet. A great field here as the top 3 return from the San Felipe. Im going MOR SPIRIT here. Had a weird trip last out and those last 2 works make you think Baffert is tightening the screws now as the big derby is approaching. Should get some pace to run at as DANZING CANDY should have more pressure up front with Iron Rob and Uncle Lino. 4-2-3
SA Race 9-The Thunder Road is a great race full of comebackers and grade 1 winners. Not bad for a ungraded 100k stakes. It looks to me like a 2 horse race between possible lone speed WHAT A VIEW and comebacker TWENTYTWENTYVISION with me leaning towards the latter. I think he will be close to the soft pace and should be able to quick home a head. Mandella 21% with this type of layoff horse. Dangerous. 7-12-9
Good luck everyone, any questions or comments feel free to ask me on twitter and ill get right back to you.
So yesterday the New England HBPA released an article pretty much saying they have made a coalition with horsemen to go forward with a plan to create a equestrian center somewhere in mass that will be owned by the horseman and not a private company. This plan would create a racetrack, polo grounds, indoor/outdoor areans for all types of equine competition and access to public trails. I personally feel like its a great idea and could be the future for New England horsemen who have felt like there is no light at the end of the tunnel lately. Of course a lot of approvals need to be put in place and the funding has to be there but this is a great step to bring back full time racing back, not just a 6 day Suffolk Downs meet.
R5 The Skip Away stakes looks like Valids race to lose, but i really love Team Colors today and goibg forward in the older dirt division. He could be a major player. 1-5-6
R7 The Florida Oaks. Paola Queen interests me a lot, love the stretch from 7f to this and he breeding says she’ll love it. Great rider switch to Castellano and looked good in her last race. Off The Tracks will be tough but will be overbet. Not for me 1-7-5
R8 The Appleton. Long on Value likes this course and distance and should be tighter second time back for Mott/Lezcano. Im not giving up on All Included, I dont think he wanted to go that far in his last and this might be his best distance. 4-1-6
R10 The Sir Shackleton. Anchor Down might not have wanted to go the mile last time and cuts back to 7f which i think is ideal for him. Shown some real nice works for this since his last race. Squadron A dropped Saez in his last when Saez tried to fit into a hole that wasnt there. It was baffeling to me as he was full of run and could have easily gone around to win. Should be tough late. 6-4-5
R11 The Orchid is a wide open race. I landed on Phot Call here. She had the impossible task of chasing Tepin in her last and I think she wants to go longer which is what she gets here. Suffused will be tough if ready off the bench for Mott/Juddmonte. 4-3-1
R12 The Honey Fox is also wide open but i found the Favorites tough again. Lady Lara wasbt going to beat Tepin in her last and had to be closer to the pace in that race, shouls be able to sit and make one run here with more pace signed on. Tammythetorpedo has won 2 straight here but agaisnt lesser. 6-5-4
R13 The Pan American. Wake forest goes first time for Chad Brown and word is this horse is the real deal. Very excited to see him run today. Jay Gatsby could be a longshot to watch for. Breeding says he’ll love the the distance and can sit close and pounce. Dangerous. 7-2-1
R14 The Florida Derby. Finally the main event. The showdown we’ve all been waiting for. Im taking Mohaymen here. Hes already run 2 big races on this track and has won at the 1 1/8 distance in the Remson. I dont think Nyquist wants to go this far. He was getting gained on at the end of the Juvenille and now hes flying across country for this test. Great horse just dont think today is his day. 9-4-3
So ill start by saying I WAS WRONG! I didnt think Chrome would be competitive in the world cup and wow was I way off. Not only did he win, he turned in one of the more impressive world cup performances in recent history, all while his saddle was slipping down towards his hind end! So once again I was wrong! He raced 3 or 4 wide on both turns (which is his prefered running style) and when Victor asked the question, he exploded down the lane. Hopertunity ran his usual race and got up for third for a nice 1million dollar payday. Msawish faed down the lane and my choice Frosted kind of ran an even race to get 5th. Make you sad to think that Chrome and Pharoah never got to face eachother. Last years Classic could have had Chrome, Pharoah, and Shared Belief which would have been an amazing race. Lets hope he makes it healthy all year and his owner doesnt ruin him somehow. Congrats also to Art Sherman who did a wonderful job starting from scratch with him and having him ready to peak Saturday night.
So we are a few hours away from the worlds richest horse race,. The Dubai World Cup, worth 10 million dollars. Not a bad pay day for 2 minutes of running! Everyone is excited to see California Chrome run and try to improve off of last years runner up finish. A lot of people were concerned about the wide post but if you remember Chrome does his best running outside of horses and doesn’t like to be down inside. I know its a unpopular opinion but I just don’t think he’s good enough. Even though he runs better wide, he is still going to lose ground doing it. That might work against lesser competition in the San Pasqual, but against the worlds best he wont be able to lose that ground and still kick on down the lane. Just one mans opinion. He also hasn’t run a really fast since the 2014 BC Classic.
My pick is not surprising if you’ve followed this blog, Frosted is in my opinion the best handicap horse in training currently. Any other year, he would be a classic winner, possibly duel but he had the misfortune of being born the same year as American Pharaoh. His races away from Pharaoh were very impressive winning the Wood and Penn Derby. His prep for this was visually impressive and should be set to run big from just off the pace. Also Mshawish could be set to run a big race off his awesome Donn Handicap win. Regardless its going to be one hell of a race!