Haskin's Derby Report: Quick on the Draw

You better get your eyes trained on both ends of the field when they spring the latch on Saturday if you want see the cavalry charge of speed horses and stalkers parked down on the inside and also the stone closers on the far outside taking back and trying to get position and save as much ground as possible.

That was the odd layout of the field after post positions were drawn on Wednesday. With Vicar’s in Trouble in post 1, Uncle Sigh in post 3, Danza in post 4, California Chrome in post 5, and Samraat in post 6, there are going to be a number of horses all breaking quickly and trying establish their position going into the first turn. Any slipup, any squeezing, any bumping, any bobbling could cost you dearly if you wind up getting sucked back in the 20-horse field and wind up having dirt kicked in your face and having to change your running style.

Meanwhile at the other end of the starting gates/gates, you have Dance With Fate in post 11, Medal Count in 13, Intense Holiday in 15, Commanding Curve in 16, Ride On Curlin in 18, and Wicked Strong in 19. All those horses want to take back and make a late run, so the situation that confronts the speed horses on the inside also confronts the closers on the outside. It all boils down to getting position.

As for the other speed horses, Wildcat Red drew well in post 10, Chitu breaks from post 12, Pablo Del Monte (if he runs) gets post 20, and likely midpackers, Tapiture, Vinceremos, Candy Boy will have to find a way to tuck in behind all that speed.

Looking this morning’s activities, California Chrome again went out about 6:45 and again schooled in the paddock. For a horse who is so relaxed and professional in his races, he does have a bit of nervous energy in the mornings, as he again was busy with the bit, working up a good deal of saliva. He stands fine in the stall, but after a short while he was pawing at ground, then was led out, swishing his tail and getting a bit studdish, which lasted only a few seconds. While in the gate, assistant trainer Alan Sherman kept stroking the colt’s forehead while exercise rider William Delgado reached sown and put his arms around his neck in an affectionate hug.

Chrome’s gallop was much more intense and impressive today than it was yesterday, which is what you want to see. He rolled around there at pretty strong clip, getting stronger the farther he went. This was a real lung opener. But he still was looking to his right down the stretch and there aren't many more days to get focused. He will go out for a jog on race morning.

Trainer Art Sherman doesn’t bring him to the paddock in the afternoon with the other Derby horses and the day’s runners because he wants to stick to the same routine as at home and doesn’t want to tease the horse by having him think he’s about to race.

So, all in all, this was a good morning for the Derby favorite, but he can probably use a little more time in the paddock. By him schooling in the quiet of the early morning, we have no idea how he’s going to react to the throngs of people in the paddock on Derby Day. He does command the eye whatever he does.

There were several gallopers today who caught the eye. No one is handling this track better than Intense Holiday and he had another strong gallop this morning and it was no easy chore getting him pulled up. The horse’s energy level is very high, and it’s all good energy.

His stablemate Danza continues to impress, and what caught my attention is the way he comes on to the track, canters to the sixteenth and then turns around to begin his gallop. Only instead of breaking off in a mild gallop and building up steam, as soon as he turns around, he is gone, immediately hitting open gallop speed. It’s as if the rider stepped on the gas and he went from zero to 60 in about five seconds. It’s moments like this that brings me back to my original question? Is this some kind of freak? I haven’t seen a horse do what he did in the Arkansas Derby off such little racing, and now we’ll see if it was a fluke performance or the birth of a superstar. Right now, I would bet on the latter.

A forgotten horse who has been training exceptionally is Candy Boy, who had a big work last week and strong gallops since. His gallop this morning at about 5:45 was extremely impressive. He has a smooth way of moving, with a piston-like stride, and emits a good deal of power. It might not be wise to ignore him at 20-1.

Seeing Dance With Fate asked for speed in his gallop for the first time, I was impressed with how energetic he was and how he got down into the bit, with his neck slightly arched. If he has trouble handling dirt, he sure didn’t show any signs of it this morning.

We all know by now how well Medal Count is doing on a daily basis, and the prediction here is that he is going to be bet down, despite two poor efforts on the dirt. He does love this track, having trained here regularly as a 2-year-old, and gallops with vigor day after day.

One thing I can guarantee it’s that Ride On Curlin will be fit. His gallops have been long and he had exercise rider Bryan Becchia’s arms fully extended.

Finally, there is Wicked Strong, who had his best day here, galloping strongly to the pole and then breaking off at the quarter and finishing up an eighth past the wire in :36 3/5. This is the way all horses used to be trained, except that their three-furlong blowouts were usually the day before the race. But it was good to see a horse blow out for a race once again, and Wicked Strong did it very well and seemed to get a lot out of his sharpener.

I’ll recap most of what I’ve seen tomorrow when I try to make some sense of it all and come up with a few betting strategies.

Danza looks a picture as he powers his way down the stretch. It's hard to take your eyes off this colt.

Ride On Curlin prances along before starting his gallop.

Ride On Curlin again.

When California Chrome gets antsy in the saddling stall he'll start pawing at the ground.

Chrome receives a lot of affection from exercise rider William Delgado.


California Chrome likes to work on the bit, even as he strikes a majestic pose.

Another great morning for Medal Count.

Chitu is now Bob Baffert's only hope for the Derby.

This is Untapable on the jumbo screen. Pretty Amazing.

Another shot off the jumbo screen; this one of Candy Boy.

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