Creative Cause Mike Harrington
Giant's Causeway—Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Have mixed feelings about his third in San Vicente, but mostly good, such as coming home in :35 flat and :11 4/5 for final eighth, finding his best stride late and galloping out very strong. But he did change leads three times in the stretch. He twice jumped over to his left lead after shying from a right-handed whip and swerving in slightly. He’s only been hit one time in five races and has never been hit in his three victories. Don’t know why Rosario started hitting him left-handed so early in a 7f prep. Colt is very smooth and quick with his lead changes and it looked as if he was merely reacting to the whip. Leaving him on top for now based on the positives. All in all, it was an excellent first-out prep at a distance too short for him. Rebel or San Felipe is next.
Union Rags Michael Matz
Dixie Union—Tempo, by Gone West
Breezed a half in :48 4/5 for his much-awaited debut in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. A victory is not essential by any means, as long as he runs well and keeps a straight course in the stretch. This is a tough spot first time back. Algorithms, the horse to beat, has a two-race head start on him with starts in December and January, but he has a much stronger 2-year-old foundation. He loses Castellano, but picks up worthy replacement in Leparoux.
Algorithms Todd Pletcher
Bernardini—Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance
Now that he’s knocked off Hansen, he sets his sights on Union Rags in his attempt to blitz the 1.2 finishers of the BC Juvenile and stand alone atop the leading contenders list. This is an important step, as he tries two turns for the first time. Castellano sticking with him over Union Rags certainly doesn’t hurt and if he keeps on moving forward going two turns there’s no telling what we’re dealing with.
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.
I'll Have Another Doug O’Neill
Flower Alley – Arch’s Gal Edith, by Arch
The more I watch the Lewis the more legitimate he looks. He has it all – tactical speed, stamina, and a great deal of room for improvement. Jumping gate tracks and swerving in showed he’s observant and was a good learning experience. It does a young inexperienced horse good to expose him to distractions to prepare him for anything he may encounter. Did all three favorites, all previously consistent horses, run badly or did he just run too fast for them? They’re skipping the San Felipe because he ran a monster “4” Ragozin number and is a likely bounce next time, so giving him extra time. But nothing wrong with regression, then moving forward again in the Santa Anita Derby. Time will tell if layoff now is a good idea.
Out of Bounds Eoin Harty
Discreet Cat—Unbridled Elaine, by Unbridled's Song
He’ll get a huge class test in the San Felipe against several proven stakes horses. This is his meat-in-the-sandwich race and he doesn’t need to do anything spectacular with a big effort behind him and the Santa Anita Derby still to be run. Received a form boost when Sham runner-up Secret Circle won a division of the Southwest, but third-place finisher Longview Drive didn’t fare too well in the other division.
Sabercat Steve Asmussen
Bluegrass Cat—Miner's Blessing, by Forty Niner
Continuing to show progress, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 for his debut in the San Felipe. Like Union Rags, he’s facing a tough task against some seasoned, classy horses and only needs to get a good solid race in him and show he can be competitive against horses of this caliber. If he can duplicate his quick-fire turn of foot from last year he would have to be considered one of the leading contenders. Lowering him slightly only because of the length of time we have to wait for his debut, but still believe he’s the sleeper and is better than most people think.
Gemologist Todd Pletcher
Tiznow—Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector
Breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:03 4/5. No one talks about him much with all these other Pletcher pugilists knocking out their opponents every week. He’ll likely attempt to get back in the spotlight in the Rebel Stakes, but will have to contend with some dangerous California horses. Locals don’t appear to be that formidable.
Hansen Mike Maker
Tapit—Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat
Well, it looks as if he’ll have to go to the post in the Gotham dressed only in his natural white attire. No frills, no paint jobs, just those long legs that have outrun all his opponents but one. But now it’s time to harness some of that speed. If the Big A inner track is playing to its usual form he’s going to be very hard to catch, assuming he doesn’t throw in any of those ridiculous :22 second quarters.
Alpha Kiaran McLaughlin
Bernardini—Munnaya, by Nijinsky
With two stakes victories already this year, McLaughlin has the luxury of skipping the Gotham, which he will take advantage of. He just has to hope there are no bumps in the road leading up to the Wood, because there are no alternate routes. McLaughlin has done a masterful job on several occasions building foundations under horses who had lost some time, and he already has built a solid foundation at 2 and 3 under Alpha.
Discreet Dancer Todd Pletcher
Discreet Cat—West Side Dancer, by Gone West
Turned in another sharp work, breezing a bullet five furlongs in company in 1:00 1/5. With only two career starts, does anyone really know what to expect from him in the Fountain of Youth? This will be a huge jump in class, but with his natural talent and the way he’s been working, he’s capable of anything.
Fed Biz Bob Baffert
Giant’s Causeway—Spunoutacontrol, by Wild Again
Say hello to this year’s early wise guy horse, as his bandwagon is filling up fast. As good as he looked in his allowance victory it may be a bandwagon worth getting on. He’s enormously talented and should only keep improving. Unlike several more accomplished Baffert runners this year he is going to keep getting better as the distances stretch out. Very tempted to rank him higher, but can’t justify lowering any of those above him. Cannot wait for his next start, and expect him to catapult up the list.
Knocking At The Door
Bodemeister Bob Baffert
Empire Maker—Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat
Like Discreet Dancer he has a world of talent, but is playing catch-up with only two career starts. 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 seems to be very professional, but his sheer brilliance caught everyone by surprise.
Empire Way Mike Harrington
Empire Maker – Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy
Some believe he’s closing the gap on stablemate Creative Cause, but he still has a lot to prove. Harrington says he feels there is a lot of improvement still to come. He doesn’t want to risk Creative Cause costing him much-needed graded earnings, so he’ll split them up, sending one to the Rebel and one to the San Felipe.
Liaison Bob Baffert
Indian Charlie – Galloping Gal, by Victory Gallo
No reason not to give him another chance and hope he settles early better than he did in the Robert Lewis. Still would like to see him get a clear trip and not be stuck down on the inside. He obviously has talent and has shown his courage under fire. But as Jerry Seinfeld would say, he still has one big matzo ball hanging out there in that Lewis performance.
Dullahan Dale Romans
Even the Score—Mining My Own, by Smart Strike
Finally back on the work tab, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 4/5. 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.
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
He could surprise some people in the Fountain of Youth if they go in that direction, but certainly doesn’t need to win to move forward. 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.
Souper Speedy Tom Albertrani
Indian Charlie—Speed Succeeds, by Gone West
Breezed five furlongs in 1:03 1/5. Time to start cranking him up. Not sure how far he’ll stay with his front-running 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. We’ll see if he changes plans between now and then.
Rounding out the Top 35 are Rousing Sermon, who also was disappointing in the Lewis, and definitely deserves another shot; Mr. Bowling, Z Dager, Shared Property, and Dan and Sheila, the first four finishers in the Lecomte; Southwest winners Castaway and Secret Circle; Mr. Prankster, impressive winner of the WEBN Stakes and Turfway Prevue; the first two finishers in the Sam F. Davis, Battle Hardened and Prospective; 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; El Camino Real Derby winner Daddy Nose Best; three more Pletcher horses, Ender Knievel, an impressive allowance winner who likely is headed for the Sunland Derby, Spring Hill Farm, who made it two-for-two with a mile allowance score at Gulfstream two weeks ago; and Windsurfer, who ran a super race breaking his maiden after going wide every step of the way; Zackn’mat a dark horse to keep an eye on; the exciting maiden winner Street Life, who ran an awesome race at Aqueduct; and we’ll give Casual Trick, Consortium, and Sky Kingdom another shot after their respective debacles.
Other names to watch are the well accomplished maiden Brother Francis, who is back working; Scatman, game second to Secret Circle in Southwest division; Gulfstream Derby winner Reveron, Iroquois winner Motor City, Optimizer, the powerful stretch runner Najjaar, Hopeful winner Currency Swap, Went the Day Well, a big stretch runner who should show huge improvement next time out; News Pending, and Teeth of the Dog.
In Action Last Week
looked more like a Derby horse than Secret Circle
in their respective Southwest divisions, the latter did run a full second faster, and has the pedigree to stretch out. He just hasn’t shown any signs yet that he wants to. But he at least has a two-turn victory to his credit and fires every race. Castaway did win from the 11-post, which boosted his performance even more, and he just seems to be getting good now. Will we have a Godolphin – Coolmore showdown in the Derby? Scatman
was super game battling back against Secret Circle to be beaten a half-length and Adirondack King
, in his first two-turn start, made a strong move around horses on the turn, but couldn’t sustain it, finishing a clear-cut third in a good effort. The El Camino Real Derby proved to be nothing more than an exciting race decided by two grass horses, Daddy Nose Best
and Lucky Chappy
on the Tapeta surface, but Daddy Nose Best showed a lot of guts, and he is by a Florida Derby winner, out of a mare by a Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby winner, so his pedigree shouldn’t stop him from transferring his form to the dirt. It’s difficult getting any kind of gauge on a horse’s Derby chances when they run on Tapeta or any synthetic surface. The most eye-catching performance of the weekend belongs to the Pletcher-trained Windsurfer
, who raced wide on both turns and every step in between in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Gulfstream and still won going away, coming home in solid fractions and striding out beautifully as if he wants to go on. His pedigree is pretty speed-oriented and not exactly inundated with top-class stallions, but his sire Speightstown has shown he’s capable of getting a horse like Haynesfield, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban Handicap. This was one of the more impressive performances of the year. Drill
, winner of the Del Mar Futurity, had gone off form since his Norfolk second to Creative Cause, but he bounced back with a narrow victory in the San Vicente over a gutsy American Act
. Baffert has a lot of action going on with his 3-year-olds and likely will keep him at one-turn, where there are plenty of opportunities for him. Sticking with Baffert, although Paynter
won’t, or I should say shouldn’t, make the Derby, with only one 5 ½-furlong race under him, he looked freaky in his career debut and isn’t even bred to run short. He looks like he could be something special.