Technically, this blog is still called Breeders' Cup Chat, with Triple Crown Talk not officially returning until the start of the New Year. But in my mind it is never too early to start talking about the Kentucky Derby, especially after the performance we saw from Old Fashioned last weekend in the Remsen.
If you missed it or haven't gotten around to watching Old Fashioned's eye-popping 7 1/4-length score at Aqueduct, do yourself a favor and check it out. What you will see is your early Kentucky Derby favorite. That's right. I'm saying it now. Forget about Vineyard Haven, Midshipman or the other impressive 2-year-olds we've seen so far; Old Fashioned is the one to watch when the Triple Crown trail begins in a couple months.
It is impossible not to be impressed with Old Fashioned so far. After breaking his maiden at first asking, the son of Unbridled's Song caught everyone's attention next out when he devoured first-level allowance company at Delaware Park, winning by more than 15 lengths on Nov. 3.
In the Remsen, Old Fashioned flashed early speed, was under a Ramon Dominguez stranglehold until inside the eighth-pole and still destroyed the field without being asked. When Dominguez peeked back at the quarter-pole and drew away with ease, I had flashbacks of Kent Desormeaux doing the same thing on Big Brown in his allowance race at Gulfstream. It was an awesome sight to watch.
For people who were not overly impressed, I know what you're saying: Old Fashioned had things his own way on the lead and the fractions (:24.41, :49.44, 1:14.18) were very soft. But I'll counter that by telling you he ran the final 3/8th of a mile in :36 and final eighth of a mile in :12 1/5th, all without ever being asked! I don't care how slow you go early, if you come home in those splits, you're something special. Plus, in his allowance race he ran a :47 1/5 half and 1:12 for six furlongs while being pressed.
When I spoke with trainer Larry Jones on Thursday, he was also shocked by Old Fashioned's closing time in the Remsen.
"That surprised me more than anything else," Jones said. "We knew he had had good speed and turn of foot, but when I saw he got that last three-eighths in a little over 36 seconds and was still galloping, that impressed me.
"He had it pretty easy up front, but couldn't rate. He went :49 for a half, how much slower can he go? Why go :54 if you don't have to? I think he already proved he could rate at Delaware."
Jones went on to compare Old Fashioned to Eight Belles, who had the same ability to draw away from the field without being asked. When pressed, he admitted Old Fashioned is probably the most talented 2-year-old he has ever trained, including Eight Belles, Proud Spell and Hard Spun.
"I would have to say he's probably the best I've had at this point," Jones said. "Eight Belles didn't have that same early lick. Hard Spun was really fast, but he had to work a little more at the end. This colt is the whole package. We're very pleased right now, especially to get that mile and an eighth win under his belt. I've never had one do that this early. He acts like he just wants to go, go, go."
Jones said Old Fashioned arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday in great shape and they will begin mapping out a plan for him. He will keep him separated from his two other Derby hopefuls - Friesen Fire and It Happened Again.
"I have three good ones here," Jones said. "Old Fashioned won't go in the LeComte; maybe the Risen Star, but I think they cut the purse in that one. So he might go to the Southwest and stay out there with my string at Oaklawn. We'll see."
Wherever he goes, watch out. Old Fashioned, who is owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, is not just a speed burner like War Pass. He is much more than that. Granted, it is still very early and I am by no means calling him your Derby winner yet. But this colt is special. We'll be talking about him all spring long.