Union Rags Michael Matz
Dixie Union—Tempo, by Gone West
Well, we’ve got ourselves a legitimate, top-class Derby favorite. This was as dominating and effortless a victory as you’ll see on the Derby trail, or any other trail. Most important, he ran a straight course and did everything perfectly. There is no doubt he has grown into a man, and a big one at that. He has shown on countless occasions he has a good mind, other than last year’s occasional stretch foibles. But that seems to be behind him now. He came home in :23 4/5 and :06 2/5 under wraps late, and continued to draw away despite the short stretch run. It must also be noted, however, that the 2nd and 3rd-place finishers had never competed in a stakes. But he showed in the Champagne what a special horse he is and people forget how much ground loss he had to overcome in the BC Juvenile, just as they forget how much stamina he has in his tail-female family. Remember, speed from the sire, stamina from the dam. He also has the perfect running style for the Derby, settling back off the pace and unleashing an explosive run from the three-eighths pole to the top of the stretch. And his stride is a thing of beauty.
El Padrino Todd Pletcher
Pulpit—Enchanted Rock, by Giant's Causeway
He had only two things to prove: win on a fast track and show what he’s made of under fire. He now has nothing to prove. If you look like a Derby horse, run like a Derby horse, fight like a Derby horse, and are bred like a Derby horse...Well, you can fill in the rest. He also has the luxury of just using his next start as a springboard to the Derby. He’s already battle-tested, has run back-to-back fast races, has a solid foundation under him, and the horses who have finished second to him have finished way ahead of the others. And when you can come home in :23 1/5 and :06 flat, as he did in the Risen Star, you are one serious horse. Normally a quiet, easy-going horse, he did scare the heck out of his connections when he got spooked in his saddling stall (something he may have inherited from his sire) and leaped in the air with all four legs off the ground. It actually was quite a feat of athleticism, but thank goodness no one was seriously hurt.
Creative Cause Mike Harrington
Giant's Causeway—Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
The reviews of his debut seem to be divided between those who feel he’s simply not fast enough and is too one-paced and those who feel the San Vicente was an excellent prep in which he closed fast over a distance way too short for him. Being one-paced at seven furlongs when you’re bred to run all day is not a negative. Things have a way of changing dramatically at 1 ¼ miles and there is no quit in this horse. He will be coming at you regardless of the distance. It’s hard to knock his :35 flat final three-eighths and :11 4/5 final eighth. That’s not bad for a one-paced horse. Forget the three lead changes. He’s been beautiful with his lead changes; just refrain from using the whip on him trying to win a seven-furlong prep race. Lowering him to #3 was the result of what the other two did and not what he failed to do.
Sabercat Steve Asmussen
Bluegrass Cat—Miner's Blessing, by Forty Niner
Moving forward in his works, breezing five-eighths in 1:00 2/5. He’s going to be facing a tough field in San Felipe and basically just needs to show he’s competitive with these horses before moving on to the Santa Anita Derby for his big test. Just not a believer in bringing a horse back from 2 to 3 in such a tough spot. There’s no room for error and you may be asking him to do more than he’s ready to do, but I feel with his quick turn of foot and classy demeanor he still will be a major force come Derby Day. Whether you take the Delta Jackpot seriously or not, his race visually was one of the most impressive 2-year-old performances of the year. But he needs to show he’s fast enough to compete with the top contenders and not a lot of time to do it.
I'll Have Another Doug O’Neill
Flower Alley – Arch’s Gal Edith, by Arch
Worked a half in :48 3/5, as he prepares for the Santa Anita Derby off a two-month layoff. Speed figures playing a big part in skipping the San Felipe, as they’re afraid of a “bounce” after running a “4” on the Ragozin sheets. But who knows if a bounce isn’t a good thing at this point. If you run too fast too soon, get the bounce out of the way in a prep race. If he waits and runs another huge number in the Santa Anita Derby, then they have to be afraid of another bounce in the Kentucky Derby. But that’s all numbers jargon. Who knows, this could be the right way to go about it if they’re sure they can put a good foundation under him and have him ready to peak on Derby Day off one race in eight weeks. There’s just no room for any mistakes.
Out of Bounds Eoin Harty
Discreet Cat—Unbridled Elaine, by Unbridled's Song
Worked 5 furlongs in :59 4/5 for the San Felipe, where he’ll take on a field of classy horses. Considering his size and his room for improvement, there’s no telling how good he really is. He certainly doesn’t have to win, only move forward and set himself up for the Santa Anita Derby and then the Kentucky Derby. He’s coming off a big effort and the last thing he needs is an off-the-charts performance now. The horse he beat, Secret Circle, came back to win a division of the Southwest, and third-place finisher Longview Drive didn’t run as badly in the other division as it looks on paper. He’ll switch over to Godolphin colors from now on.
Fed Biz Bob Baffert
Giant’s Causeway—Spunoutacontrol, by Wild Again
Breezed 6 furlongs in a very un-Baffert-like 1:16 (7f in 1:28), as he was just given a lung opener. You can bet he’ll be razor sharp for wherever he shows up next. San Felipe would seem like the logical spot, as he’s 2-for-2 at Santa Anita. But Baffert always leaves his options open. Other than not changing leads until the wire in his last start and not having run yet in a stakes, he seems to be doing everything perfectly and is improving as rapidly as any 3-year-old out there. Zackn’mat, who he defeated two races back, ran an excellent second in Saturday’s Borderland Derby at Sunland against a very fast horse who loves that track. If there is a special horse waiting to bust out, this could very well be him.
Alpha Kiaran McLaughlin
Bernardini—Munnaya, by Nijinsky
Worked a half in :49 3/5. Their strategy is similar to I’ll Have Another’s, skipping the Gotham to wait for the Wood Memorial. But he has two distance races under him this year and a much stronger 2-year-old foundation. If everything goes smoothly, he should be on course to peak on Derby Day. McLaughlin has done a masterful job building foundations under Invasor for the BC Classic and Closing Argument for the Derby. All Alpha has to do is get faster in the Wood and then move forward again on May 5. He’ll be fresh for the Wood, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be good and sharp.
Hansen Mike Maker
Tapit—Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat
Ready to make amends in the Gotham Stakes, not so much because of his defeat in the Holy Bull, but to prove he’s not one-dimensional. Yes, he appears to be committed to the lead, that’s who he is. But he can’t run off like he did at Gulfstream, even stumbling at the start. Owner feels he’s not getting the respect due a champion, but to get respect as a Kentucky Derby contender you have to show some semblance of adaptability and not expend so much energy early in the race. If he can accomplish that over a normally speed-favoring Big A inner track he’ll get all the respect that is due him. Hey, he’s the only horse to defeat Union Rags.
Gemologist Todd Pletcher
Tiznow—Crystal Shard, by Mr. Prospector
Stepping up his works, drilling five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 4/5 with Gotham hopeful Dan and Sheila. He is another on a two-race schedule, but WinStar has already gone that route successfully with Super Saver. He’ll likely debut in the Rebel Stakes, where the competition seems fairly light at this point after Baffert exposed the locals in the split Southwest. With Algorithms’ injury and Discreet Dancer disappointing at 4-5 in the Fountain of Youth, he very well may be Pletcher’s secret weapon, although there should be nothing secretive about an undefeated grade II winner by Tiznow.
Mark Valeski Larry Jones
Proud Citizen—Pocho’s Dream Girl, by Fortunate Prospect
What’s the Derby trail without Larry Jones? This colt ran a remarkable race stretching out from 6 furlongs in the Risen Star. Putting up such a fight against a seasoned, talented horse like El Padrino showed what he’s made of. No wonder why he’s been touted so strongly by Jones. What I like most about him is his tail-female family, which is the very best of C.V. Whitney. Third dam Silver True won the Spinaway and produced Suburban and Whitney winner Silver Buck, sire of Silver Charm. Fourth dam Silver Fog, by Mahmoud, is the dam of Hall of Famer Silver Spoon, winner of the Santa Anita Derby against the boys and eight other major stakes, and Silver Bright, winner of the Arlington Lassie and dam of State Dinner, winner of the Suburban, Met Mile, and Whitney.
Liaison Bob Baffert
Indian Charliee—Galloping Gal, by Victory Gallop
Loved his mile work in 1:43 enough to put him back on. Believe you can attribute his last race mainly to be being too keen early and failing to relax, while stuck down on the inside yet again. That work may have been just what he needed. He also showed a lot of athleticism staying on his feet in the Lewis after stumbling badly and unseating his rider. If this horse can finally get a clear trip outside horses and settle early he should return to the form he showed last year. He’s already proven he’s a classy, gutsy horse who does just what he has to. He’s probably even better than his winning margins indicate. Some have concerns about an Indian Charlie getting a classic distance, but he only needs to get him 1 1/8 miles, and his female family will carry him the rest of the way. This is the time to get a piece of him in any future wagers.
News Pending Dale Romans
Harlan’s Holiday—Motivated Sreva, by Lear Fan
Romans said over a month ago he was going to put him back on dirt and now he has himself another Derby horse along with Dullahan. Bold move putting him in this spot, but it paid off. After coming from far back in his last start to finish second on grass, he was razor-sharp in the Fountain of Youth, making a rather startling early move on the first turn to challenge for the lead and then racing 4-5 favorite Discreet Dancer into the ground after battling with him down the backstretch. After being passed by Union Rags, he drew clear of the others down the stretch to finish a clear-cut second, and was striding out like a fresh horse in the final yards. He has the refined look of a stayer and should keep moving forward. Dam won 11 of 43 starts and is a half-sister to Swale winner Adore the Gold. Third dam is a half-sister to multiple group/grade I winner Zoman, winner of the D.C. International. Also traces to La Troienne.
Knocking At The Door
Algorithms Todd Pletcher
Bernardini—Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance
Can’t keep him in the Top 12 until we know the severity of his injury. Splint bone injuries can vary in recovery time, so we’ll just have to wait. Only keeping him here for this week until we know more. But even if it proves not to be serious this is a huge setback and has knocked him completely off his schedule. For a horse who has had only three career starts and has never been two turns, it would seem the Derby is a longshot. It’s a shame because we have no idea how good he is or how he would have fared in the Fountain of Youth. But he’s not out of the picture until they say he is.
Empire Way Mike Harrington
Empire Maker – Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy
Drilled six furlongs in 1:14 for either the San Felipe or Rebel, as Harrington will keep him and Creative Cause separated. Some believe he’s closing the gap on his stablemate, especially after his strong second in the Robert Lewis, but unlike Creative Cause he’s in need of graded earnings. Harrington says he feels there is a lot of improvement still to come. You can’t get a more illustrious pedigree, so we’ll just have to see where that takes him.
Castaway Bob Baffert
Street Sense – Priceless Storm, by Storm Cat
Yes, his stablemate, Secret Circle, ran a full second faster in his division of the Southwest and his Beyer was 10 points higher, but how fast you are at a mile in February does not necessarily indicate how fast you’re going to be at 1 ¼ miles in May, and his 92 Beyer was nothing to frown upon. From a visual standpoint, he was very impressive, and going into the race it appeared as if he was in the much stronger division; certainly the more accomplished and deeper division. Just liked the way he tracked the pace while settling beautifully after breaking from the 11-post, drew off with ease in the stretch, and was striding out in the final furlong. Tail-female family goes through Priceless Gem, conqueror of Buckpasser and dam of the great Allez France, Hall of Famer Searching, and the legendary La Troienne.
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. I liked him a great deal after the Breeders’ Futurity and even after the BC Juvenile and have a feeling I’ll be liking him again once he gets back in the starting gate.
Bodemeister Bob Baffert
Empire Maker—Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat
It’s been over two weeks since his last race, and waiting for him to get back on the work tab. He has shown he has a world of talent, but he’s 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 obviously needs to get two races in him before the Derby, and even then, winning the Derby off four career starts is going to be tough. Only one horse, Big Brown, has done it with four starts or less since Exterminator in 1918.
Take Charge Indy Pat Byrne
A.P. Indy – Take Charge Lady, by Dehere
Good to see him back on the work tab, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 1/5. The Tampa Bay Derby would seem like a logical spot. That track is conducive to the big early move he made in his last start against El Padrino. We’ll just wait to see what Byrne has in store for him. This is another colt with a lot of room for improvement. He runs well on both dirt and Polytrack, so there are a number of directions in which he can go. But one would think he’ll stay on dirt. He has that big move in him, but needs to finish it off. Twice he’s opened clear leads and has gotten caught in the final furlong. But that’s just a matter of timing and maturity more than anything else.
Our Entourage Todd Pletcher
Street Cry – Sand Springs, by Dynaformer
Although his victorious 3-year-old debut was on grass and he has yet to win on dirt, he was beaten only two lengths in the Remsen, finishing right behind El Padrino. He also has failed to change leads on grass and Polytrack, but changed leads beautifully in the Remsen. He showed an excellent turn of foot when challenged in Saturday’s allowance race, even without changing leads. By the sire of Zenyatta, out of a mare by Barbaro’s sire Dynaformer, he has the Rasmussen Factor (RF), being inbred to Natalma, and also is inbred to Hoist the Flag, giving him three doses of Ribot, and to Hail to Reason through Roberto and Halo. He’ll likely try dirt next to see if he can make his way into the Derby.
Exothermic Rusty Arnold
Empire Maker – Irridescence, by Caesour
Even though it was different surfaces he still was flattered by the second-place finish of News Pending in the Fountain of Youth. Worked 5 furlongs in a bullet :58 4/5 at Palm Meadows in company inside the dogs. Palm Beach actually is shaping up as an intriguing Kentucky Derby prep, with him, Howe Great, and Dullahan. If this colt handles the dirt in the Derby the way he does the grass, and he should with his breeding, there’s no telling what he’s capable of. 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. 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.
Zackn'mat Marty Jones
Northern Afleet – Pic Me for Fun, by Piccolino
He ran into the proverbial buzzsaw in Isn’t He Clever in the Borderland Derby. The winner has shown he loves Sunland Park, and this colt ran a huge race once he leveled off and got into his stride. But by then it was too late against a horse who had opened a big lead and came home his last sixteenth in :06 1/5. This is a consistent colt, who has closed fast to finish first or second at 6 furlongs, 7 furlongs, one mile, and 1 1/16 miles. And he’s shown he can run with classy horses, having finished second, beaten 1 ¾ lengths, to Fed Biz. Who is broodmare sire Piccolino you ask? He was bred by John Nerud and is by Fappiano, out of stakes-winning Mochila, a half-sister to Cozzene. Pic Me For Fun is inbred to Dr. Fager, so there is a great deal of Nerud’s influence in his pedigree.
Souper Speedy Tom Albertrani
Indian Charlie—Speed Succeeds, by Gone West
As of Sunday, he hadn’t worked since Feb. 14, so time to keep an eye on the work tab. Last work was a five-furlong breeze in 1:03 1/5. 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.
Rounding out the Top 40 are Ever So Lucky, who is way behind now after missing the Hutcheson; Rousing Sermon, who also was disappointing in the Lewis; Z Dager, a solid enough third in the Risen Star; Dan and Sheila and Done Talking, who are headed to the Gotham; 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 7f in 1:24 4/5 for the San Felipe; El Camino Real Derby winner Daddy Nose Best and runner-up Lucky Chappy; Sir Bond, an explosive maiden winner at Fair Grounds for Neil Howard who worked a half in :48 3/5 Sunday; 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; Consortium, also heading for the Gotham; and grass specialist Howe Great, another grass horse who is pointing for the Palm Beach and then Blue Grass.
Other names to watch are the Borderland Derby winner Isn’t He Clever; well accomplished maiden Brother Francis, who is back working; Scatman, game second to Secret Circle in Southwest division; Street Life, who ran an awesome race at Aqueduct; impressive allowance winner Politcallycorrect; Well Armed’s full-brother Arm Force; Gulfstream Derby winner Reveron, the powerful stretch runner Najjaar, who was scratched out of an allowance race last Friday; Hopeful winner Currency Swap, Went the Day Well, a big stretch runner who should show huge improvement next time out in the Gotham; and Union Rags’ stablemate Teeth of the Dog.
In Action Last WeekIsn’t He Clever
showed that two turns is well within his scope by winning the Borderland Derby by 1 ¾ lengths over his favorite track. Runner-up Zackn’mat finished 10 lengths ahead of the third horse. New York-bred The Lumber Guy
, a son of Grand Slam, made it two romps in as many starts by wiring the field in the seven-furlong Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel, winning under a hand ride by 4 ¼ lengths in 1:23 1/5. We’ll see if he continues to stretch out or point for the Bay Shore. Ken Ramsey is back again, this time with the impressive allowance winner Politicallycorrect
, a dirt-loving Kitten Joy who drew off to a 3 ¼-length score at Gulfstream, covering the seven panels in 1:22 2/5 after a dismal effort in the Gulfstream Park Derby. Well Armed’s full-brother Arm Force
showed huge improvement with blinkers added, breaking his maiden by 3 ¾ lengths in 1:23 after pressing a :45 half. Eoin Harty and Bill Casner look like they have a good one. Taylors Deal
, a former $25,000 claimer bred in British Columbia, made it two in a row, winning the Turf Paradise Derby by 2 ¼ lengths. Ismael Grande
came from off the pace to score by 1 ¼ lengths in a one-mile Oaklawn allowance race, defeating favored Zoebear. Kid Sidney
, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Oaklawn by a head at 11-1 for Jinks Fires.