Ky. Derby Trail: Arch of Triumph

Talk about no respect. First Archarcharch gets dropped from the final Future Wager pool because of a third in the Rebel (gr. II), in which he had a ton of excuses. We expressed all the reasons why we felt that was a mistake in a March 30 column, titled “Fallen Arches.” Then, as a final indignity, he goes off at an insane 25-1 in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I), despite being a house horse and being ridden by the popular Jon Court and trained by the popular Jinks Fires.

We won’t rehash all this horse’s attributes and why he was sitting on a huge race. Let’s just say he was totally overlooked. And you know what? He’s going to be overlooked again in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), because Nehro was running down his throat at the wire. If you’re looking for a big bandwagon horse on May 7, look no further than Nehro, who is going to take a ton of money.

From the time Archarcharch broke his maiden in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds in a sharp 1:10 2/5, despite being bred for stamina, he has had the look of a good horse. He had excuses in his only two defeats, but looked like Kentucky Derby material in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) and certainly in the Arkansas Derby, both times exhibiting the turn of foot  you want to see in a Derby horse.

One of those surprised at his odds in the Arkansas Derby was his owner Robert Yagos.

“If I had known what odds he was going to be I would have brought more money to the track,” he said. “The morning line was 12-1 and I thought he’d probably drop down to 10-1. I knew most of the money was going to go on The Factor. But when he went off at 25-1 I couldn’t believe it. My grandkids were there and I was giving them money to go bet, and they had a great time.”

If you liked the Mike Smith story and angle in 2005 you’re going to love Jon Court’s story. The 50-year-old journeyman has been so close to the Derby on several occasions, but has never been able to make it to the starting gate. Now he’s on his way for his father-in-law, Jinks Fires. This whole story is all about family.

Court’s son, Justin, has been Archarcharch’s blacksmith in Kentucky, and when the colt has been out of town over the winter, Fires’ brother, Teddy, and his nephew, Richard, have shod him. Justin is looking forward to shoeing him again before the Derby. Also, one of Yagos’ sons helps out on the farm and takes care of the horses when he and wife are away.

“This has been a dream come true,” Justin said. “It’s quite a thrill for all of us.”

Court, Fires, and Yagos have been a team for quite a while and will bring hordes of family and friends to Churchill Downs on May 7.

“Jon is a great jockey,” Yagos said. “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody for any reason. Not only because he’s Jinks’ son-in-law and he’s a good friend of ours and has ridden a lot of our horses. We try to put him on every horse we have because I have a lot of confidence in him. Not only is he a good rider, he has the best interests of the horse at heart. He won’t push a horse farther than he thinks the horse can stand it. He wants them to come back safe, but he’ll never quit on a horse. He’s just a good jockey and he’s smart.”

One of the reasons Archarcharch is a perfect fit for Kentucky Derby is his disposition and his easy-going manner. If there is one thing that’s for sure, the pandemonium of the Derby is not going affect him.

“He’s always been a calm laid back horse,” Yagos said. “I own a salvage yard and after we bought him we had him on our 40-acre farm that’s right next to the salvage yard and two miles from the end of the runaway of an Air Force base, so he’s been used to the sounds of forklifts and trucks and equipment and those big C-130s flying in and out all the time. The noise and activity during the day never affected him. He’s a smart horse who pays attention to everything, but he doesn’t let anything bother him.”

That will serve him well in Fires’ barn at Churchill, which faces the often busy and loud Longfield Ave.

It was a stroke of good luck that brought Archarcharch to Yagos and Fires.

“Jinks picked him out,” Yagos said. “Usually I go down to the Keeneland sales with him, but I couldn’t get away. He knew what we were looking for, and there were four or five other ones before him that we tried to buy, but they just went too high. Jinks and I talked about this colt and put a maximum on him. Jinks called me while the auction was going on and we were prepared to go higher on him, but it was late on a Sunday afternoon towards the end of the sale and we just got lucky and were able to get him for $60,000. Jinks put him on a van and sent him here to the house. When I saw him I was impressed.”

If he was impressed then, he has to be enamored with the colt now, which is why he has turned down several offers for him.

“We had a bunch of offers for him after the Southwest and they just kept going up and up and getting ridiculous, and we finally just decided we’re going to keep him,” Yagos said. “This is why we’ve been doing this for 20 years and we’ll probably never get another one like him. Whatever happens from now on he’s made us look good.”

OK, so we’ve got a horse who is a grade I winner, one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby, and has a Derby pedigree and running style. But what do the Derby gods think of their beloved race being won by a horse named Archarcharch? If they have a sense of humor they won’t mind a bit.

“We were trying to figure out something to go with his pedigree, and he’s by Arch,” Yagos recalled. “I told my wife we need to pick out something the announcers will have fun with, and, hopefully, if he’s the kind of horse we think he is he’ll go a long way and people will remember him. And we felt Archarcharch was a name people will remember.”

If he keeps running the way he has, people will remember him alright, but not because of his name.

The Nehro bandwagon

As we stated earlier, expect Nehro to take a good deal of money in the Derby. People love to see horses closing like that, especially in their final Derby prep, and throughout the years have supported them at the windows.

Nehro certainly is looking extremely live for the Derby, and you had to be impressed with the power he exhibited in the final quarter mile and the relentless manner in which he came charging at Archarcharch, who was closing fast himself. He flew home his final three-eighths in :36 and change and galloped out like a bear.

There are several reasons why we have Archarcharch ranked slightly ahead of him. First off, he was giving Nehro four pounds, but most important, he showed a quicker turn of foot on the far turn, where many Derbys are often won. Going into the turn, Archarcharch was a length in front of Nehro. When the jocks on each horse asked them for their run, Archarcharch quickly kicked into another gear and in a flash was five lengths ahead of Nehro, who was just beginning to pick up steam.

Archarcharch came charging down the stretch and rolled past Sway Away and Dance City at the sixteenth pole and began drawing away. But here came Nehro chopping into his lead with every stride. Archarcharch, because he can be so inquisitive, as Yagos mentioned, has worn blinkers his whole career. When he began to lose interest a little after opening a clear lead in the Southwest, Fires opened up his blinkers a little. We’ll see if he opens them up a little more for the Derby, although we can’t imagine him losing interest in the Derby with all the noise and the crowd.

What we love most about Nehro is that in a three-week period after breaking his maiden with an explosive move around horses, he has closed fast in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and Arkansas Derby over two distinctly different surfaces. And he did it coming on the inside at Fair Grounds and the outside at Oaklawn, and from three lengths back at Fair Grounds and 10 lengths back at Oaklawn. In short, this colt can be placed anywhere on the track and still come with his powerful run. That is a trainer and jockey’s dream. As we said, bandwagon horse.

The Factor preempted…for now

Yes, The Factor was disappointing as the 4-5 favorite. But if he trains well at Churchill Downs and runs in the Derby, don’t be surprised even a little to see a big rebound performance.

As fast as he is, when a horse busts out of there in a 1 1/8-mile race and is hustled to the lead in :22 2/5, it would be crazy to try to outrun him. Not only did The Factor try to take back a little, he was crowded into the rail by Dance City. When Martin Garcia grabbed hold of him and took him off the rail, The Factor displaced so badly that Garcia could hear him gurgling all the way down the backstretch.

If The Factor makes it to the starting gate on May 7, you can be sure he will be allowed to run, and when this horse is allowed to run there isn’t anyone who can outrun run. Any horse that tries to will not be around for very long, and no one is going to want to offer their horse as a sacrificial lamb in the Kentucky Derby. So, it’s not inconceivable to see a Spend a Buck or Winning Colors type of performance, at least for as far as his speed can carry him.

Horses often will run a monster race after displacing or having any problem that hampers their breathing. Look at Holy Bull, who displaced in the Fountain of Youth and finished far up the track, then came right back and blew his field away in the Florida Derby, earning an outrageous 115 Beyer speed figure. And the Derby has shown us on a number of occasions that a bad performance has little bearing on what a horse does coming back in a couple of weeks.

Hansel, Snow Chief, Louis Quatorze, Lookin at Lucky, Point Given, Tabasco Cat, Little Current, and Pine Bluff are just some of the horses who finished out of the money for whatever reason in the Derby and came right back two weeks later to win the Preakness. And two of those – Point Given and Lookin at Lucky – were trained by Bob Baffert.

No one knows whether The Factor can carry his speed 1 1/4 miles, but if Baffert feels he’s ready for the Derby, it would be wise to at least take him seriously.

Blue Grass with the emphasis on grass

We’re not even going to begin analyzing the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). The only major Derby contender in the field, Santiva, never threatened, and you can choose to throw the race out if you wish. The only question with him is whether he got enough out of the race to go into the Derby off only two starts this year. We’re not going to hold this race against him, not on that surface.

The winner, Brilliant Speed – an oddly named horse considering his running style, appears to be a good horse, but looking at the race strictly as a Derby prep, let’s just say that the three horses in the photo – Brilliant Speed, Twinspired, and King Congie – have run in a combined five dirt races in their career and were beaten a total of 83 1/2 lengths, for an average margin of defeat of 16 3/4 lengths. And that is actually below the winner’s average of 20 lengths.

This was basically a grass race, and run as a grass race, and there really isn’t much more you can say about it, except for this: Brilliant Speed's sire, Dynaformer, has sired Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. His broodmare sire, Gone West, sired Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Commendable. And his second dam, Daijin, is a full-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold.


Leave a Comment:


Does anyone think that with the weird and wacky winners of the Blue Grass that we've had lately, that the Blue Grass will be downgraded from a G1 race? Has it produced (counting only winners here not also-rans)grade 1 horses? Have any of the winners in the last 5-6 years won another race of any real significance? Just wondered what people thought of what was once a honest Ky Derby prep.

18 Apr 2011 9:19 PM

Just love how you always always put that personal touch, the human story to your articles.  I liked Jon Court when he was riding in SoCal, always have a few bets on him.  I started following him after the failed TV show "Jockeys", I saw his good side, especially in the locker room where you can tell everyone respected him.

18 Apr 2011 9:27 PM

Steve, I wonder what you think of the possibility The Factor and Uncle Mo will engage in a speed duel in the Derby?  I think if The Factor is in the gate he will be allowed to run, as he should, and that Uncle Mo might go with him - leaving us with a few possible finishes depending on how far they get ahead of the closers.  

I think there are a lot of horses that learn to rate, but I also think many lose a few steps in so doing, and some lose their enthusiasm for winning.  I think this contributed to the disappointment of Rachel Alexandra's four year old season, for example, and I think it denied us all the chance to really know whether The Factor has a mile and an eighth, and possibly a mile and a quarter, in his current realm of possibility.

Your analysis of the races and breakdown of each competitor's performance is more useful than I can express, and I admire your ability to share with us not only this information but the back stories on so many of the horses, so that come Derby week we feel as if we know many of them and their people.  You bring to life the whole story, not just how they line up come Derby Day.  Network television (NBC) could multiply the fortunes they reap on Derby Day (and Preakness and Belmont Days) if they would only learn from the master.  There is so much more to getting there than the average viewer will see on May 7th, and thanks to you, we are in on the stories!

18 Apr 2011 9:44 PM

Sorry! I did forget about General Quarters who did go on the win more G1 stakes.

18 Apr 2011 10:17 PM
Steve Haskin

Regarding the last blog, I agree with the comments about ganging up on one poster. I wasn't able to get to the comments and would have stopped it before it got out of hand. If you disagree with someone please do it in a civil manner and do not make it personal. Any personal attacks from this point on will be deleted.

18 Apr 2011 10:30 PM
fox in sox

to Stephanie: Last year's Bluegrass had Paddy 'o Prado as a runner up. He may be a grass horse, but he's a grade 1 grass horse :)

I'm definitely still a fan of The Factor, and hope to see him in the Derby gate. Arch^3 will also be in my bets for sure, love that horse.

18 Apr 2011 10:55 PM


18 Apr 2011 11:20 PM

I really wish Santiva would have run in the Illinois derby rather than the TBG stakes. I think he is much worse off than if he would have just trained up to the derby.  

Although he is a much different horse than Pyro, I think the effect of running in the TBG stakes will have the same effect.  Pyro was a monster leading up to that race and didn't handle the track at all and likely came up a little short in the derby because of it.  I was planning on putting money on Santiva, but not anymore.

AAA and Nehro to me seem like the real deal.  Dialed in should have a factor in the outcome, but I don't know what to make of the Florida Derby final time.

19 Apr 2011 12:12 AM

I think the Blue Grass can be a viable Derby prep for the right kind of horse, one that is already eligible on earnings and is looking for conditoning, such as Street Sense.  The kind of horse to look for coming out of the BG is one who can close but runs up closer to the pace.  They might not win the race but if they return to their typical style in the Derby, will not expend energy early and can make a sustained bid to get in contention towards the end of the backstretch and around the turn.  If nothing else, this year's edition was a terrific race even if not a Derby prep.  One more thing, even in it's dirt days, Kee was usually so speedy on BG day that closers were up against it but could the race as a useful prep.

19 Apr 2011 1:22 AM

Steve, thank you, there are many angles to consider in this derby.

Is Archarcharch 17 hands?  He sure looks it.

19 Apr 2011 1:33 AM
Phil McSween

Steve...nice tidbit on Nehro.    You described his attributes beautifully....i've reserved my seat on his bandwagon.      He should be RIGHT THERE.    

19 Apr 2011 1:55 AM

Congrats to Arch & connections.  I had a feeling a local would win, I just picked the wrong one.  This guy ran a great race, and I'm pleased for Court as well to get to the Derby.

One thought- not to take anything away from the winner.  Aside from the fact that TP needs to get Dance City back into gate school, IMO, the amount of time it took to load this colt was beyond tolerable for the horses already in the gates. I am really wondering why the track officials did not reload everyone after DC's delay.  Too many were left standing there too long, and I believe that the winner was the last horse loaded after DC was calmed down.  Again- I'm taking nothing away from the winner, but I am wonderig why this was allowed to happen.

19 Apr 2011 6:14 AM
Zenyatta John

Don't forget about the horse that may win it all - Mucho Macho Man.

If he continues to blossom over the CD strip, they're all running for second.

19 Apr 2011 6:19 AM

Not so fast!!! Don't count out Brilliant Speed before you take a good look at his upcoming workouts over the CD surface. I may be mistaken, but I do believe that his sire has a recent, and very popular KD winner on his resume. BS is a great looking, impressive runner, no bs he can win it all.

19 Apr 2011 7:44 AM

I keep wondering if they might feel that The Factor is a need to lead horse, and might prefer to keep his challenge to the shorter-distanced Preakness.  After all, Baffert just may have a surprising monster in Midnight Interlude.  And as far as I have seen,  those so called "rules" are broken every year.  Can't win without a 2 year-old career???  There's a first for everything.  

I see some very good horses, but no TC winner.  33 years...and the few colts who already have 7 or 8 races under them...are out of the picture. would serve us all right if the Derby gods played a trick on us...and the next TC winner had a name like Pants On Fire.  We're all so opinionated on our favorites that we keep forgetting that the Kentucky Demolition Derby usually goes to the luckiest, and not necessarily the best.  

I'm thrilled for Jon Court and the Fires family, but I'm even happier for Archx3.  He's gorgeous, clever, and has a strong will to win.

19 Apr 2011 7:56 AM
Fran Loszynski

Because of all the great racehorses going to the Kentucky Derby; I'm going to try and read about the sires of each one see if I can spot something that might give me a clue!-right now my picks boxed  Archarcharch, (Sway Away)? Master of Hounds, Dialed In but boy oh boy, The Factor, Soldat, MMMan, Nehro, just so many really good horses. I'm not getting my nails done because they'll be bit off and gone watching the finish line. This is going to be a Hall of Fame race. Enjoy All!

19 Apr 2011 8:40 AM

I've been high on Nehro since his maiden win when he flew by horses like they were standing still (Watch it!). I said before the AD on that he would run well in that race. He's improving at the right time and it looks as though he wants and needs that extra furlong in the Derby. Has a great pedigree and his figs are improving with every start and added distance. He will take money on May 7th and deserves it! He looks like he will be at his best at 10f and beyond.

Archarcharch has a great pedigree with his sire producing the '10 BC Classic winner, Blame, who defeated the great Zenyatta. So, he has stamina on top and on the bottom he has some speed but also stamina with influences from Nureyev and Buckpasser and tons of class. He is 4x4 to ND, 5x5 to Nashua and 5x4 to RAN with each through different progeny. ND through 2 great sons Danzig and Nureyev, Nashua through 2 great daughters Bramalea and Gold Digger and RAN through 2 of his great sons Mr. P and Alydar!

If you take out his Smarty Jones 4th place finish which was run under bad conditions (fog), AAA's figs have improved with every start and added distance which is exactly what you want to see in a Derby horse. I don't think he will be dismissed in the Derby like he has been because of his figs and those that don't follow racing closely, but bet on the Derby will like him. I'd say he will be around 15-1 or so come post time.

19 Apr 2011 8:42 AM
Bill Daly

No question that turn of foot you refer to is one valuable asset for ArchArchArch. That is often the difference between the winner and the place horse.  Witness Easy Goer and Alydar.  Lots of us thought that both of those horses were capable of winning the Triple Crown and might have done so in another year, but their adversaries, namely Sunday Silence and Affirmed had that turn of foot advantage. That ability to accelerate and separate from the field at the right time as well as the tenacity to fight like hell in the stretch is the quality that makes champions.  I picked Nehro to win the Arkansas Derby and still love the horse, but your analysis puts him in a new light for me.  He's going to have trouble beating a horse like ArchArchArch without a dream trip.

19 Apr 2011 9:08 AM

Thank you, Steve, for giving us more details on the inside story of Archarcharch.  It really is a pretty creative name and is one that is easily remembered - lol!  I'm like Jayjay and started to notice Jon Court after Jockeys and I can always appreciate an endeavor that focuses on family, so this is very cool.  The Derby picture is otherwise so muddled, I have no idea who is going to win that race on May 7, and I simply want them all to come home safe and sound.

19 Apr 2011 9:19 AM

Will Nehro be the next Kissin' Kris?  KK made a big run in a prep race and became the dahlin' of the closers bettors.  I happen to have a fondness for them, as well.  Somehow, I was able to concentrate on others.

A dear friend only sent me two e-mails before the ADerby and the Bluegrass.  She liked the fact Brilliant Speed was a Dynaformer, whose git improve on turf or turflike surfaces.  As an devoted Arch and Pulpit fan, she wrote of AX3.  So sad, I did not parlay them.  Breeding does really count.

Yes, Jon Court is an excellent jockey and horseman and has the greatest smile in any winner's circle.  His teeth flash and sparkle.

BTW, Bluegrasscat was dismissed by bettors after fading badly in the Blue Grass.  His odds plunged in the Derby, but, he ran a strong 2nd as his La Troienne side prevailed.

19 Apr 2011 9:19 AM

Steve, When it come to a favorite horse, it has to be The Factor. I was sad to see him get beat so badly in the Arkansas, but on the other hand, I was thrilled for Jon Court and all the parties involved with "Triple" Arch.  I also started following Jon after the show "Jockeys". He's definitely paid his dues and it's time for him to show how good he really is!!Best of luck to him & Triple Arch!!  I don't see a triple crown winner this year, but it would be great for the racing world if we could finally get one!!

Thanks for your great articles.....can't tell you how much I look forward to them every week.  You have a true gift Steve!!

19 Apr 2011 9:24 AM

Why is it everytime a horse loses the trainers come up with some lame excuse? Its really getting out of control with these oh I bled,lost a shoe,I didn't get enough pace,I was stuck in the gate,they were ganging up on me,we displaced our palate, and the latest and by far the best we have diarrhea.....

19 Apr 2011 9:37 AM
Smoking Baby

 Stephanie, you must have read my mind.  I agree.  The time has come to consider downgrading the Bluegrass to a Grade 2.  I believe if it was run anywhere but Keeneland this would've already been done.

19 Apr 2011 9:51 AM

It is amazing how the horses running on the Oaklawn circuit seem early on to be the ones ignored by many people until the 3 race series has concluded and you’re able to see how far advanced the horses are coming out of Oaklawn’s 3 year old series. Going back to the early part of the decade Smarty Jones started the trend and its progressed down the line with champion after champion getting a solid foundation at Oaklawn and going on to Triple crown race wins, and eclipse awards.  The Oaklawn route is the way to go, its great that someone like Baffert & Asmussen and Lukas recognize this, Pletcher is stubborn and only likes to send his second tier here, but by the time they arrive they are normally far behind the horses that have been training and getting extreme conditioning on the deep Oaklawn oval.  

This year is no different, people tried to dismiss many of the horses either training or running at Oaklawn, they focused on the Florida Derby, (dud of a race) the Wood (dud of a race) and the SA Derby (second tier Cali horses running after the injuries) all of a sudden the Ar Derby again is the most important prep run on the TC prep schedule, and the Arkansas based horses represented themselves well, Nehro has been training at Oaklawn Park since early in January, Archx3 is based at Oaklawn and Sway Away who after shipping for the Rebel from CA, stayed in Arkansas to train, which likely would have been quite beneficial to The Factor in his quest to gain supremacy.  There has to be something said about training and racing on a surface that is the most similar to Churchill’s it’s the next best thing to being a horse like Mo with a win over the track. Love the hometown connections got the $1 million pot in the Arkansas Derby, they are deserving, and the horse is quite talented, I recall looking at the infield tote and seeing his number and thinking wow 25-1 that’s a lot for a local horse, I wonder why so high. But I was focused on Elite Alex and Nehro.  Going forward I still like my guy Stay Thirsty, Nehro, Archx3 and Uncle Mo.  I think that’s a stone cold Super right there.  But more than anything I will be proud of the Oaklawn horses when they do well in the Oaks and Derby.  Watch out for Joyful Victory, Summer Soiree and Arienza, they should be tough in the Oaks.

19 Apr 2011 10:30 AM
Gary Max

Hi Steve its me again, man this situation is getting crazy with those preps. I am really at my wits end trying to figure a prospective triple crown champion among this group, can you fathom Uncle Mo, The Factor, JP Gusto.The distances of these races 1 1/4, 1 3/16 and 1 1/2. Get my point.

19 Apr 2011 10:35 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

I really like the series of preps that Archarcharch ran in at Oaklawn. The progression is good and the timing (one month apart) seems right. I believe you call it building a foundation. I am happy for the connections of this horse, too.  They are deserving.  

19 Apr 2011 10:36 AM
Gary Max

Steve, however the aforementioned trio will have a great race if they are all lined up in November at Churchill Downs in the Sprint. Your thoughts?

19 Apr 2011 10:41 AM


19 Apr 2011 10:50 AM

I liked Jon Court BEFORE the series "Jockeys", and I like him even more now.  Good for him!!!!  I do hope he can get the win in the Derby.  Since the field is wide open and most of the other jocks have a Derby or some other big graded stakes win under their belt, and it just MAY be a jocks race, I think no one deserves it more than Jon Court!!!  He will be MY sentimental pick on Derby day..  GO JON!!!!!!!!!!

19 Apr 2011 11:33 AM

To me, you're always better off starting with a horse that's fast enough to win (100+ Beyer), and then figuring out who can run that far ("winning" race at 9f).  Most Derby winners fit this profile.  The only 100+ Beyer this year at 9f was Soldat who won twice at the distance.  Few other 3 digit Beyers.  Uncle Mo ran fast enough at 2 and at Churchill, and ran a good 3rd against the bias at Aq. while sick, and a simple return to form should make him very tough even if 10f is a bit too far for him.  No other horse in the race appears to be fast enough to win, although Dialed In and Midnight Interlude have only ran 3 times, and Nehro has only started running his last 3.  

The Fl. Derby is a tough one, as the Gulfstream track is often as quirky as Tampa's.  You can either find the horses too slow and toss them, or trust the class and use them.  I will use them.  Which also makes Shackelford a play (2 9f wins)at a big fat price (he actually washed out prior to the race).

Derby Super Hi:

1) Mo

2) Soldat

3) Dialed In

4) Shackelford

5) Nehro

19 Apr 2011 12:09 PM
Derby Dew


Do you agree that this year's Derby appears to be developing into two races in one?  In other words, we have all the speed types leading the way in one group, then after a gap of 10-12 lengths, we're looking at the larger group of late ralliers.  At least that's the way it looks to me.

As a big fan of Dialed In, my level of confidence is starting to get a bit shaky.  I still believe we are looking at a good honest pace up front in the Derby, which should help Dialed In.  However, there now appears to be an overabundance of late rally types in the race.  I could foresee a major traffic jam developing as the late runners begin their rally around the final turn.  There may be a lot of bumping into the stretch will will knock a lot of these ralliers off stride.

If the race develops as envisioned, a closer look must be given to Mucho Macho Man, a true grinder, who may be the horse that benefits from a mid-pack stalking position just off the pace.  At the very least, he'll be a must use in the exotics.

The Derby has always been a difficult race to handicap, but, this year is a real test with so many question marks??????  Alas, in the end, Lady Luck will play her part, big time.

Good luck Haskins listers!  Keep your fingers (and toes) crossed.

19 Apr 2011 12:09 PM
Linda in Texas

Oldie - my thoughts exactly on everything you wrote. I hope nothing holds The Factor back from running straight out of the gate if he is in it.  With 20 it is going to take a heap of good luck and a fast pace to get ahead of the pack. If not, going 19 wide to get to the front is almost impossible. I will want Pants on Fire to be right there with him.

The 'flipped' that Mr. Haskin wrote about i presume means The Factor 'flipped his palate' during last weekend's race. I am not a vet, but wonder if this is more prevalent during hot and humid weather as it was? Of course this dooms the race for the horse when it occurs as the air intake is minimal. Also, could stress reaction be more the causative rather than a systemic problem? I.E., holding a horse back which i am personally opposed to. Takes too much energy out of them to then regain speed.  

I am praying for a dry track for all kinds of reasons for May 7.

A nice quote from Federico Tesio i read recently:

"A horse gallops with his lungs

 Perseveres with his heart

 And wins with his character."

Google Federico Tesio, an interesting read on line breeding, etc. All without computers.

Thanks Steve. Each week end's races muddle up the picture, at least for me, but i don't think i am alone. You at least help me sort it out as a novice.

19 Apr 2011 12:28 PM

to all those that say the bluegrass should be down graded to a gr11,i say are you out of your mind,there are many other gr1 that are a lot worse,the wood memorial at aqueduct is one that was extremely weak this year take out uncle mo and it had listed stakes horses at best,and some of its previous winners did nothing afterwards tale of ekati,belamy road,i want revenge,eskenderaya,never won another gr1 race some never won again period,come to think of it this race realy produces some hyped up individuals,before you critisise the bluegrass just because its on polytrack judge other preps the same way.

19 Apr 2011 12:31 PM
Sam Santschi

Stephanie,  I too was rooting for Court after watching Jockeys a few years ago and Chantal Sutherland winning the SA Handicap.  And Triple A at 25-1!!  Easy money. An exacta over $400? If only all Saturdays could be like that.

19 Apr 2011 12:48 PM

People's frustration is wearing on us all but hang in there. When horses are this tightly bunched in talent (or lack of if you see it that way) then you have to look at excuses, conditions of the track, blown shoes, and yes, GI infections. I know working on the backside and scratching our heads - trainers, jockeys, grooms and owners alike. There are very few undefeated horses in this game - very few that retire with 50% or more wins. Each of those losses...there was a reason or excuse. While I'm fearful of the longshot or mediocre horse that very well may take this years derby, I still have to pull for a horse to run great, hit the next level at all 3 triple crown races. Dialed In, Nehro and Midnight Interlude can win 1 3/16 plus seem up to the 1 1/2 mile Belmont. Who else was gaining or pulling away in not their last race, but their last 2 - 3 races???

19 Apr 2011 1:23 PM

I think ArchArchArch is a great name; no doubt about who his sire is! And stamina should not be a problem. Almost everyone seems to have a chance this year.  

19 Apr 2011 1:35 PM
Soldier Course

Enjoyed Arch3's human interest story. The Triple Crown season is always more compelling when the fans can relate to some of the connections. At this point I have no favorite. Should we be asking who, if anyone, Calvin is riding?

Let's remember those Thoroughbreds and other horses who lost their lives in separate tragedies in North Carolina - the recent tornadoes, and a van fire on I-95 allegedly caused by a cigarette tossed from a passing vehicle.

19 Apr 2011 2:42 PM
El Kabong


I do appreciate AAA far more after his last effort, but I do like Nehro better if he can get Borel, Rosario or Gomez to ride. My take on the AD is this. GIve Court credit for that win. He timed his move perfectly. He started asking AAA in the far turn and got 4 lengths on Nehro, which is a big advantage in the short stretch at Oaklawn. Nakatani, not as familiar with Oaklawn or Nehro, didn't ask Nehro until the near turn. What I saw in Hot Springs was Home Court advantage. I don't think you can deny Nehro's steam at the finish that carried him well past AAA and had everyone putting 2 and 2 together.  Nehro also proved to me he is versatile enough to even lay closer to the pace in LD, so he seems versatile enough if the pace is slower(no factor or a factor in a bad post). But, his mount will help make the difference in my mind, as  I do not have confidence in Nakatani, especially if Borel, Rosario or Gomez are available. That change should be made. More foundation would make me more confident, but with two gutsy efforts in a row that showed he is a fighter fit enough to go the 10F's, I think all he needs now is the right skipper and good work on the Churchill grounds.  

19 Apr 2011 3:24 PM

The Arkansas Derby looks like the premier prep race this spring for the Kentucky Derby. Archarcharch and Nehro both turned in sustained runs from about 3 furlongs out, and that's the kind of run you like to see in the Kentucky Derby. Agree with you here that Archarcharch has the turn of foot necessary to win on the first Saturday in May.

19 Apr 2011 4:12 PM

Great article. Good human interest story on Archx3 connections. Good on the Nehro bandwagon.

They may certainly be peaking at the right time.  

19 Apr 2011 4:18 PM
Sam Santschi

Let's see:  MMM is in Zenyatta's stall and AAA is by Blame's sire...and A&M is the the name of the Moss' company...Well, that's as good an angle as any.  I could save myself alot of time and agonizing over the next 19 days.  BTW Steve, thanks alot for the profile of female vets you did a few years ago.  I appreciated you mentioning my sister, Dr. Liz Santschi.

19 Apr 2011 4:27 PM
Linda in Texas

Soldier Course - i remember for sure. Saw the story about the 6 thoroughbreds whose hay supposedly caught on fire while moving. Van driver smelled smoke and saw it coming from the trailer.

Six newly purchased 2 year olds on their way to trainers in New York from Florida. One was sired by Smoke Glacken, whose picture on the margin of i had just admired on Saturday. Then to read later that afternoon about the tragic fire on I-95 Friday night near Rocky Mount, NC. Dreams gone with the flick of some jerk's cigarette. I just hope it was not done on purpose. No more open windows on horse vans unless they have half circle screens if there is such a thing. That way the horses could still look out and have fresh air. Or totally air conditioned with windows closed. It seems nothing is safe these days.

I also suggest for further safety of these creatures who rely on our care for their well being, a  couple of smoke detectors that are located in the trailer and hooked up via a line to the van's electrical system for alerts. Surely there is something along these lines, if not, someone invent them.  

19 Apr 2011 4:31 PM
Zenyatta John

Inquiry -

Trainers will ALWAYS have an excuse for why there horse runs bad. It's called "trainer speak."

If trainers actually tell the truth to the owner like for example - "your horse is just a slow animal that has no desire to win" - they would lose all their horses.

Owners would fire the trainers in seconds hearing 'the truth' so instead they make up silly excuses.

The Factor did displace his palate as Martin Garcia said he was "gurgling" the whole way around meaning he couldn't get his air.

19 Apr 2011 5:13 PM

vanilla vet...Horses are flesh and blood..every action taken, creates a reaction...this is the secret to becoming a winning horseplayer.How a horse comes up to a race,is just as important as talent...As a professional handicapper, i have made more money in derbys than any other of the best hanicapping tools, is to ask"who is the best horse who hasn't fired?"  who hasn't peaked too hard...lets go back to last year....super saver was a top 5 talent all spring...won kyjcgrade2 by 6 in final start as 2 yr old...his 2 preps as 3 yr old 3rd at tampa derby ..2nd at ark derby...98 beter.not great, or too good....perfectly set to fire big.. now, why was he a great bet? there were contenders who were coming off giant improvements! running too good, takes something out of a horse....line of david beat super saver in ark...improved greatly..finished nowhere!stately victor improved greatly to win bluegrass...finished nowhere! american lion imprved tons to win ill derby. finished nowhere! deans kitten,same! nowhere!the filly devilmaycare..nowhere!mission impassible la. race ever..nowhere!sidneys candy off the monster santa a derby, nowhere!

19 Apr 2011 5:32 PM

as i stated in above posting...running too good takes something out of a also hurts horses...think of the horses that have gotten hurt in last few years coming up to derby. eskenderaya was running like a monster.i want revenge, most 2yr old champions...on and on....the point is...too good is bad....this game is much more difficult than."who ran the best last time?"   so...see the future..see, that the factor was running like a freak, and know that he was very vulnerable...know that nehro has aready "fired" and is a horrible choice for the derby...that arch3 ran by far his best,and is a poor pick....the lemon has been squeezed...

19 Apr 2011 5:45 PM
Junie Wise, Rocky Road Farm,Rineyville,Ky


Did you see the "Work" that Decisive Moment had the other day???...It was better than Stay Thirsty's...Horse has been at Churchill Downs for a couple of week.Likes the track

Has made Money,Raced at different Tracks,will be a "Big Price"...why not him????...Could be "The Unkown Factor"...Plus look at Trainers name!!!!

19 Apr 2011 7:35 PM
El Kabong

KY Vet,

You make very good points and I appreciate the cap lock adjustment. Like you, I see the potential in MMM and  Soldat, but I still like Nehro. I do not feel he has been "squeezed." I think his campaign resembles a horse you brought up, Super Saver. Both had two hard fought G's and finished very similarly, high 90's. So why do you think Nehro is squeezed if SS was not? How are Nehro's preps any different from Super Savers two from last year? Curious to hear your explaination.

19 Apr 2011 8:46 PM

Pletcher is dialing down expectations with Uncle Mo's possibly skipping the Derby.  If he does, then I would be asking him to run R Heat Lightning, who just ran a bullet at Belmont.

If one realizes that GI issues sideline horses the same as they do people, Mo would be compromised if he isn't training or eating 100%. In that case, I'd rather see him skip. If not, he either wins it, or goes off the board.

In any case, we have the second charge of colts peaking before Derby Day as the precocious colts such as The Factor drop away. I am still wondering about Rattlesnkae Bridge and Mountain Town. More than that, I think R Heat Lightning can win the Derby, since other than Dialed in, I don't see any standouts if Mo remains on the sidelines. That means no Triple Crown Winner, and  another bunch of crappy colts like Da Tara...

That said, I'll be interested to see who is foolish enough to enter colts who clearly don't belong in The Derby, and will never race again when they do.  Twenty horses in a race is simply a cavalry charge, luck, and strikes me as flat out stupid. Keep the fields small, competitive, and flukey colts like Super Saver won't win.

I will keep my fingers crossed that we have R Heat Lightning in there, Mo recovers, or some mystery horse take the Triple Crown.

19 Apr 2011 9:32 PM
Cuppy Track

Was it me or did Terry Wallace get caught anticipating how a race was going to be run and blew the call of the Ark Derby??...he totally got thrown off when JP's Gusto went to the front....One of the worst calls of a grade one race I've ever heard.....he didn't know who was running behind JDG on the backstretch....

19 Apr 2011 10:06 PM

Concerning The Factor,I would feel better if Shackieford were not there to pressure...He's officially #23 in money but technically #21 and there's still 2 wks....The Bluegrass has no business still being a g-1,but the same could be said for numerous other races, i.e the O.Phipps and the Personal ensign..,small purses,small fields..g-1's should start at $1m so they are not confused with preps

19 Apr 2011 10:33 PM

Wow so many posters here have loved this article and have given you once again high kudos on your wonderful writing!  You have been great with everything during these preps thanks again!  

19 Apr 2011 11:13 PM
roan roy

To Stephanie and everyone else ragging on the Bluegrass Stakes and whether it's still a viable prep for the KY Derby:  

In the last five years, the Wood has given us 2 fourth-place finishers in the KY Derby.  The Santa Anita Derby has given us a second and a fourth.  THE BLUEGRASS HAS GIVEN US A FIRST, A SECOND, A THIRD, AND A FOURTH.  Maybe we should be discussing whether or not the Wood and SA Derby should be downgraded from Grade I status.

20 Apr 2011 9:09 AM

Why was the lemon squeezed?  why will nehro go off form?  because he improved too much!! he fired! super saver was always good but not great. his to preps, he was just there at the finish. good but not too good. nehro ran by far the race of his life, and then even better.he fired!! people...don't lose your money on this horse...the ship has sailed.!! On the other side of the coin, is a horse like uncle mo...he ran a 108 beyer 5 months ago...he ran 2 races that took nothing out of,since he has a 108 to come back to...those races will make him really fire!! why these people can't see this is's how a horse is coming up to a race...thats the thing...infection/no infection...what did those races do?   prep him to fire big!!!

20 Apr 2011 11:30 AM

I have been watching the Ark horses since Feb and think that the horses coming out of there have a very good shot in the Derby this year and look a lot better than those coming out of FL and CA. Was shocked AAA went off at 25-1 odds as the horse had done little wrong. Certainly would be no surprise to me if this horse wins KD - good preps, pedigree, connections, all the makings. I dont think Nehro will win the Derby but think he will finish in 2-4 position, depending on whos in the irons. I'm still keeping The Factor as one of my top pics for now and will watch carefully what happens once/if he reaches CD. I like his pedigree and he gets a lot of soundness from his dam side and least anyone has forgotten, Bold Forbes was a front running KD winner, won Bel and was 3rd in the Preak. Additionally was the sire of Tiffany Lass-Oaks winner. Kinda glad race was so horrible for Factor as think he'll be seriously overlooked and not on top Steves Derby Dozen. I dont see Baffert bringing 3, Jaycito, Midnight and Factor, so expect that who ever is training well will play into my decision and who rides who. Bafferts a smart cookie and in it to win it.  Still like MMM as well. Dont think Mo will be in the KD but if he is, wont be one I'll pic. Just not feeling the Indian Charlie.  I agree with an earlier poster, the Ark race call was terrible. Too bad Jones has Joyful Victory cause think she is derby caliber filly. Dont know what to think of Santiva now. Love Dynaformers, which gave me Barbaro but difference is Barbaro won and raced well on the Dirt prior to his KD at 3. Brilliant Speed has a Derby pedigree, love the Passing Mood-Buckpasser on the bottom end but until I see him at CD and his works, jury is out. Will be interesting to see what happens next 2+ weeks. Always enjoy the posting Steve!

20 Apr 2011 1:07 PM
Phil McSween

Ky. Vet..respectfully...i hope you're dead wrong.  Nehro has run 3 good races in a row and you seem to believe he is spent.   I don't buy it.    Lots of horses can run more than 3 good races in a row and I hope Nehro is one of them.    He's a gutsy, talented horse well worth a win play in the Ky. Derby.    

My worry with him is...who will ride him?   Micheal Baze rode him in his explosive maiden win and in his brave runner up effort in the La. Derby.    But most recently, Corey Nakatani was up for his freight train-line finish in the Ark. Dy.    Will either be aboard the son of Mineshaft on May 7?   Or will the connections enlist the magic of Calvin Borel or some other hot shot?     Regardless, as Steve say...HE IS LIVE !!! Ignore him at your peril.    

20 Apr 2011 3:40 PM

Who won the derby off 3 big improving races?

20 Apr 2011 6:11 PM
Soldier Course

Linda in Texas:

Thanks for adding the details about the horrific van fire in NC. When I read the article I had the impression that the fire got out of control so fast that there was little that the driver could have done. And thanks too for not mincing words about the jerk with the cigarette. Hope the authorities find out who did this. "Deliberate" is just too much anguish for my sad soul to fathom.

20 Apr 2011 7:54 PM
Phil McSween

These names ring a bell?

Seattle Slew

Smarty Jones


20 Apr 2011 8:50 PM

Phil! how ya doin?  Maybe you don't understand what i'm talking about. slew was great 2yrold. so were other 2...they were coming off good races, yes...but nothing way better than usual...nehro started off not very good...he has improved a ton....good races take a'll see...

20 Apr 2011 10:54 PM
Phil McSween

Ky. Vet....i do understand what you are saying: The Bounce Theory.   A horse will regress after one or a series of hard efforts.   And i will concede, Nehro is a bounce candidate.   He could also encounter severe traffic trouble like many promising horses do in a bulky field in the Run for the Roses.  

I looked up Nehro's dam, who is named The Administrator.   This Afleet mare is a former stakes winner, that has foaled 7 horses.  Aside from Nehro, two of them have done well at the races.  St Marden won the G3 Discovery Handicap (9f) and Sweet Lips took the Sunshine Millions Distaff, so NEHRO's breeding IS THERE.  

I just really like this guy, and i find that when you really like a horse, THAT is the best time to make a wager.   We shall see my friend.    Peace !

21 Apr 2011 1:09 AM
Penny Not Tweedy

I met Jon Court when he was an 18 kid from FL, riding at Centennial Race Track in CO.  He was sleeping in his leaky van, had a wife & baby (Justin), but he worked hard, loved to ride, and always had that big smile.  I'm so proud of his career, and beyond thrilled that I'll be making my first trip to the Derby this year - Jon, the Fires', Arch3 & his connections would all be very deserving of this win! Best of Luck!!

21 Apr 2011 4:02 AM

KY Vet....Slew was no better than usual in his preps?  Are you not aware of his record?

"Billy Turner, "Slew's" trainer, waited to start Seattle Slew as a three-year-old until March 9, 1977 when he set a seven-furlong track record at Hialeah Park Race Track in winning an allowance race by nine lengths. On March 26, Seattle Slew won the Flamingo Stakes by four lengths in the third-fastest time in the stakes' 51-year history. On April 23, he completed his Kentucky Derby preparation with a 3¼-length victory in the Wood Memorial Stakes."

PLEASE get your facts straight before you post anything so ridiculous.  

21 Apr 2011 8:51 AM

As a non-professional handicapper, I can rest assured that I have lost far less money than Ky Vet, particularly as I simply cannot subscribe to his vapid handicapping theories.  EVERY winning horse is subject to the bounce, and EVERY losing horse is a candidate to fire big the next start.  So in theory, one should wager on every horse in a race who hasn't won his last out, and cross yer fingers that he'll fire. One of em has to win by default.  No thank you.  I will stick to my mundane methods of past performances, recent works, distance & surface, pedigree, jock & trainer, and the almighty weather.  

21 Apr 2011 1:59 PM

Slew! He was always a great horse! those races did'nt knock him out, because he was always great! unbeaten....nehro was he ran the best races by far in his life....i'll put you down for likeing nehro.....i say the lemon is must understand what i'm saying don't you? good races take something out of you! watch and learn!

21 Apr 2011 4:43 PM
El Kabong

Phil M, KY Vet

With all do respect I'm with Phil on this one. I like your (ky vet) theory of a horse running their race too soon and several horse have done that and even been made favorites-Bellamy Road- and your examples of Sidney's Candy & Stately Victor as you mentioned. I just don't feel that Nehro's efforts resemble the type of performance that would squeeze a horse. Quite the opposite on Nehro, I think those last two will serve him well, just as Super Saver's tough gutting 2 preps gave him the right foundation. Phil, we'll either being donating to a good cause-KY VETS- or filling our pockets. I'm ok with both.

21 Apr 2011 4:56 PM

El kabong....I knew the hot horse was gonna be Nehro....people at the derby will love him....someone listed him 20-1? they missed that one huh? more like 10-1...People wonder why horses that look great on paper, run bad......the reason i make a living at this, i can read the future, by looking at the past....these are the decisions we must make. I can lose every derby for the rest of my life and still be way ahead in kentucky derbys....4 out of last 5...hard hit....i'm thinking i might lose this one....this game isn't this easy.....and if nehro improves again, hey may win.......we will see who is right.....

21 Apr 2011 7:54 PM
Phil McSween

El Kabong...thanks for the support.   We can look for a loan together if the son of Mineshaft comes up empty:)

For the record Ky. Vet...i am not predicting Nehro will win...all i'm saying is...I LOVE HIS HEART.    And he could as i mentioned run into pace, traffic and superior competitors.    

I've had a few Derby winners myself...War Emblem, Smarty Jones, and Street Sense.    

The big thing with Nehro is...who will ride him?  If Asmussen puts Borel on him...KITTY BAR THE DOOR.  

22 Apr 2011 2:16 AM
cuban chef de race

Borrel won the derby last year and now is working horses for Pletcher? has ever a derby winning jockey finish last the fallowing year? get off from stay thirsty calvin.

22 Apr 2011 9:24 PM
cuban chef de race

this derby look like a puzzle for the professionals,so how the amateurs can solve this? AAA has no rest since last year,nehro the same,uncle mo one two turn race only big brown did it in 31 years,pants on fire 6 weeks lay off the last winner in 1956!!,soldat 5th in last race only swelle did it in 1984 and the track was sloppy,dialed in beat a horse that wasted more energy then him 13/4/5 final eight? will he close faster having M.T.livermoore as his second dam sire? brilliant speed will be name no speed at all,master of hounds has the money to travel he wants to see churchill downs as a tourist,the rest no comment.

22 Apr 2011 9:53 PM
cuban chef de race

key who will be on the lead at the last turn? the factor is the only horse that has the ability to do that,now the 4 northern dancer descendants that won the derby had other things to say,ferdinand who i miss so much{more then his money minded owners} finish third in the fastest derby prep to snow chef who did not have the breeding to win and was by stamina sire nijinsky,sea hero ran 4th in the stingiest prep the blue grass and had a stamina oriented pedigree,this two horses were dual qualifiers,charismatic set a stake record winning the lexinton and his sire finish 2d to unbridle in the derby that was a fast derby and big brown won the florida derby like a monster,the factor is very fast but no to wire this derby with his over all breeding and mediocre last prep,so i hope he can ran better then arkansas but first or second is not going to be easy,rise a native is not here for me ,nasrullah time? this line has a lot of questions to unswer in this derby,dialed in in his 2d dam sire,nehro in his seasoning has done too much in a short time,pants on fire has la troienne top and bottom and six weeks lay off and uncle mo was great at two but his sire was at three and lost,i can tell you more but i do not have to see any more prep.

23 Apr 2011 12:04 AM
J. S. P.

To roan roy:  The last winner of the Blue Grass who went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Strike the Gold back in 1991. FWIW, I don't believe the Wood, SA Derby and Blue Grass should lose their Grade 1 status...

23 Apr 2011 11:42 AM

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