Creative Cause Mike Harrington
Giant's Causeway—Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Worked a bullet 6f in 1:11 2/5 for his debut in seven-furlong San Vicente Feb. 19. Like that Harrington is bringing him back at that distance. Old School training was to get them sharp before stretching them out. He just needs a good solid race. Derby winners Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Spectacular Bid all debuted at seven or 6 ½ furlongs.
Union Rags Michael Matz
Dixie Union—Tempo, by Gone West
Rematch with Hansen in Fountain of Youth won’t happen with the champ heading to the Gotham Stakes. He’s progressing in his works and should be ready for a big effort. Although his 5f in 1:03 doesn’t look fast, Palm Meadows clocker said it’s the best he’s looked all winter; did it well in hand with a final eighth in :11 3/5, galloping out another eighth in :12 3/5. Like Creative Cause he only needs a solid effort. Matz will make sure he doesn’t peak too early. He picks up Julien Leparoux after Castellano dumps him for Algorithms.
Algorithms Todd Pletcher
Bernardini—Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance
He keeps eliminating any question marks by taking huge steps forward with each race. Only one remaining is the speed in his pedigree and the fact he has yet to go two turns. But the stamina and his class should eliminate any doubts. He looks to be on a collision course with Union Rags and his own undefeated stablemate Discreet Dancer in the Fountain of Youth. Castellano chooses him over Union Rags. Bold move, but he’s not going to dump a big-time Pletcher horse.
El Padrino Todd Pletcher
Pulpit—Enchanted Rock, by Giant's Causeway
He may be the most solid of all of Pletcher’s Derby horses and the most suited for 1 ¼ miles. Most of the talk has been about Algorithms, but his win on the same card was equally as impressive and he has more of a foundation. He has tremendous upside and the colt he defeated, Take Charge Indy, is a serious Derby contender in his own right. Can’t wait to see how he does in the Risen Star.
Sabercat Steve Asmussen
Bluegrass Cat—Miner's Blessing, by Forty Niner
Breezed a half in :50 3/5. He seems to have fallen off most people’s radar. His two stakes wins have come at Delta and Monmouth and his speed figures are nothing to rave about, but he has a monster kick, a rock-solid pedigree, and the look of a class horse. He’ll have his hands full against more seasoned stakes horses in the San Felipe, and with only two preps he can’t afford any setbacks.
Out of Bounds Eoin Harty
Discreet Cat—Unbridled Elaine, by Unbridled's Song
The key to this big, long-striding colt is how much untapped talent there is still waiting to come out. His two victories didn’t blow anyone away, but one can’t help but think there’s a lot more there. He’s already shown he’s a relentless stretch runner and could be one of the ones by Derby Day.
I'll Have Another Doug O’Neill
Flower Alley – Arch’s Gal Edith, by Arch
He could prove to be the biggest gift of the year with those ridiculous 43-1 odds in the Robert Lewis. He’s already demonstrated his sprinting speed and the ability to carry it two turns. And he’s bred to go a lot farther than 1 1/16 miles. Regardless of the no-shows by the favorites, that victory was legitimate, and he has to be considered a serious contender.
Gemologist Todd Pletcher
Tiznow—Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector
Late start has gotten him buried a bit beneath several others in barn. But he is undefeated and a grade II winner going two turns at Churchill Downs. He could take the same route at Super Saver and go Tampa and Arkansas Derbys.
Hansen Mike Maker
Tapit—Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat
Gotham should be a good spot for him to show off his speed. Would love to hear what the Derby gods have to say when they see his painted mane and tail. The human Hansen better hope they’re in a particularly giddy mood this year. But, hey, if it reaches the national news broadcasts under fun, frolics, and follies, maybe it’ll bring attention to the sport. What kind of attention we have no idea. Would have given anything to read Joe Hirsch’s account of this.
Alpha Kiaran McLaughlin
Bernardini—Munnaya, by Nijinsky
Well, at least by skipping the Gotham he doesn’t have to chase Hansen around the inner track. We’re not a fan of skipping preps and waiting two months between races, leaving little room for an audible in case of a setback. But after what McLaughlin did getting Invasor ready for the BC Classic and Closing Argument ready for the Derby, we’re not going to doubt his methods.
Discreet Dancer Todd Pletcher
Discreet Cat—West Side Dancer, by Gone West
Missed a work due to a fever, but returned to the work tab this week, going 5f in 1:00 4/5. Missing the one work shouldn’t hurt too much, but he will be going against the best horses he’s ever run against, and you don’t want any setbacks. With only two starts timing is everything. You don’t want to have to start altering the schedule of a horse with so little experience and seasoning and who hasn’t been two turns yet.
Fed Biz Bob Baffert
Giant’s Causeway—Spunoutacontrol, by Wild Again
Don’t know who belongs to be here more, him or stablemate Bodemeister, so call it pretty much a toss-up. He gets the nod having already defeated winners. He still needs work on changing leads, but is loaded with talent. He ran a very promising colt, Consulado, into the ground after a :45 2/5 half, but was a bit erratic in the stretch, drifting in after clearing his rival, and didn’t change leads until three strides from the wire. Despite the flaws he still drew off to win by almost 6 lengths in 1:34 3/5. He has a nice way of going, running with his head down, and you had to love the way he put away the leader and then merely shrugged off a serious challenge on his outside at the head of the stretch. He has a few issues he needs to work on, but no doubt has a bright future.
Bodemeister Bob Baffert
Empire Maker—Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat
OK, we couldn’t resist, so taking the cowardly way out and putting them both on, despite this colt having won only a maiden race. The reason is his sensational splits -- :23, :23 4/5, :23 3/5, and :23 2/5. You rarely see a young 3-year-old run a :23 4/5 second quarter and proceed to run each subsequent quarter faster than the one before; and do it drawing off to a 9 ¼-length romp in 1:34 2/5, earning a 99 Beyer. And this was after being rushed up from the outside post. He switched leads smoothly and on cue and did everything on his own with no urging at all from Bejarano, who has a big decision to make after having declared Fed Biz his Derby horse just the day before. In 2008, Baffert couldn’t stop raving about an allowance score by Big Brown, who was making only his second career start. Well, now he’s got one of those freaky types of his own. Could it be Baffert and Zayat actually have one as good or better coming up in the near future? Stay tuned.
Knocking At The Door
Dullahan Dale Romans
Even the Score—Mining My Own, by Smart Strike
Still like this colt a lot, but would have preferred to see him try the dirt one more time before the Derby instead of taking the safe grass--Polytrack route that has become popular the last few years. In his case it’s the Palm Beach and Blue Grass, where he’ll meet some very talented horses going the same route, including Exothermic and Howe Great.
Empire Way Mike Harrington
Empire Maker – Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy
The Empire Makers normally come around later and it looks as if he’s no exception. A full-brother to last year’s champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta, he has shown improvement with each start, and although he finished a solid second in the Robert Lewis Stakes, we haven’t seen the best of him. If he keeps moving forward, he should be peaking just around Derby time. He’s certainly an able back-up for Creative Cause, giving Harrington a powerful one-two punch.
Exothermic Rusty Arnold
Empire Maker – Irridescence, by Caesour
If this colt handles the dirt the way he does the grass, and he should with his breeding, there’s no telling how good he could be. He demonstrated as explosive a turn of foot (very European-like) as we’ve seen all year and just bounds along with big, beautiful strides, which make it appear as if he’s leaping off the ground. If you want toughness, his tail-female family is almost all South African, and his broodmare sire is out of a full-sister to one of the greatest iron horses of modern times, the indefatigable Jim French. He’s also inbred to the great Tom Fool through his classy daughters Dinner Partner and Mrs. Peterkin. They’ll try to emulate Animal Kingdom by attempting to win the Derby in his dirt debut, following starts in the Palm Beach and Blue Grass.
Take Charge Indy Pat Byrne
A.P. Indy – Take Charge Lady, by Dehere
This is another colt with a lot of room for improvement. His first start back against El Padrino was an excellent debut, as he separated himself from the field with a huge early move and, although caught by a top-class colt, left a lot in the tank. As he showed in that race and in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, he just needs to finish off his moves, which will come with experience. His fifth-place finish in the BC Juvenile at 25-1 was very solid.
Street Life Chad Brown
Street Sense – Stone Hope, by Grindstone
Good luck trying to figure out what Chad Brown has in this colt, who dropped more than a few jaws in a Big A maiden score Saturday with arguably the most scintillating stretch run of the year. He was squeezed back early, dropping a dozen lengths out of it. After turning for home, still in last, he was steered to the outside, and as soon as he switched leads he took off as if he were given a hot foot. When the leader, Quorum, drifted out into his path, he was moving so fast he literally leaped back on to his left lead, cut to the inside and blew by Quorum while already being geared down. He hit the wire under wraps with his ears cocked and just kept going past the wire. The fractions and inner splits of the race were very slow, so it’s really hard to tell what we’re dealing with at this point. But, boy was this colt exciting to watch.
Souper Speedy Tom Albertrani
Indian Charlie—Speed Succeeds, by Gone West
Still going along easily at Palm Meadows, breezing a half in :51 2/5. Not sure if he’ll stay 1 1/4 miles with his style of running, but he is one tough horse on the lead, and he did finish ahead of El Padrino in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen. He’s not an easy horse to get by in the stretch, and we’ll just have to see if he can be as effective coming from off the pace.
Ever So Lucky Jonathan Sheppard
Indian Charlie—Bally Storm, by Summer Squall
Missing the Hutcheson may not seem like much, but it was huge in our opinion. Instead of having a good sprint sharpener, followed by a pair of two-turn races, he now will have to sprint in the Swale and have only one two-turn prep. For a horse with a suspect pedigree and only four career starts before the Derby that is asking an awful lot. If Sheppard feels he’s not up to it he’ll be the first to give up the chase.
Rounding out the Top 35 are Liaison and Rousing Sermon, who both threw in clunkers in the Lewis, and definitely deserve another shot, as does Sky Kingdom, who’s better than he showed; the first four finishers in the Lecomte, Mr. Bowling, Z Dager, Shared Property, and Dan and Sheila; Mr. Prankster, impressive winner of the WEBN Stakes and Turfway Prevue; the first two finishers in the Sam F. Davis, Battle Hardened and Prospective; the late-running Russian Greek, winner of the Gold Rush and California Derby; My Adonis, who showed flashes of brilliance at 2 and made up 15 lengths in the Holy Bull to finish third; San Pedro winner Midnight Transfer, who worked a sharp 5f in :59 2/5; Smarty Jones one-two finishers Junebugred and runner-up Reckless Jerry; the Pletcher-trained Spring Hill Farm, who made it two-for-two with a mile allowance score at Gulfstream Saturday;
Other names to keep an eye on are Casual Trick and Consortium, who both have worked a half-mile since their respective debacles at Gulfstream; the stakes-placed maiden Brother Francis; Zackn’mat, who was a fast-closing second to Fed Biz before breaking his maiden impressively going seven furlongs; Ender Knievel, an impressive two-turn maiden winner in first start for new trainer Pletcher; Sky Kingdom, another who deserves one more chance after an inexplicably poor effort; Gulfstream Derby winner Reveron, Iroquois winner Motor City, Longview Drive, the powerful stretch runner Najjaar, Hopeful winner Currency Swap, Went the Day Well, big stretch runner who should show huge improvement next time out; News Pending, Apprehender, Teeth of the Dog, Cyber Secret and Castaway.
In Action Last Week
Even with Ever So Lucky’s defection and four so-so opponents, Thunder Moccasin
still was very impressive winning the Hutcheson Stakes by 6 ¾ lengths in only his second career start. Pletcher, however, said he will stay at one-turn and likely will be pointed for the Swale Stakes. Spring Hill Farm
remained undefeated following a workmanlike victory in a mile allowance race over a sloppy sealed track at Gulfstream that seemed to take its toll on many of the performances that day. Although he won by only 1 ¼ lengths, he defeated a talented colt in Unbridled Minister, who finished six lengths ahead of the third horse in what appeared on paper to be a very strong field. By Smart Strike, out of a Pleasant Colony mare, he should only get stronger the farther he goes. Good Morning Diva
looks to have a future following his 3 ¼-length maiden score going seven furlongs at Gulfstream, defeating promising colts Z Vilna
, Desert Storm
, and Morgan’s Guerilla
. Majestic Number
took the second division of that maiden race, also winning by 3 ¼ lengths with the addition of blinkers for none other than Pletcher. In a 1 1/16-mile off-the-turf maiden race, the Kenny McPeek-trained Golden Ticket
drew clear late to win by two lengths.