Violence Todd Pletcher
Medaglia d’Oro—Violent Beauty, by Gone West
Resisting the temptation to replace him on top with one of the brilliant winners from this past weekend. Can’t forget the fact that he won his career debut in 1:22 4/5 at Spa and then won the Nashua in 1:35 1/5, so he’s pretty fast and classy himself. He’s up to 5 furlongs in his breezes. Also like the fact that he does just what he has to to win, while leaving himself plenty of room to move forward. So far, he seems like the most professional colt of the group and only needs to make the normal transition from 2 to 3.
Itsmyluckyday Eddie Plesa Jr.
Lawyer Ron—Viva la Slew, by Doneraile Court
Also see no reason why he should be lowered after sensational back-to-back stakes victories in very fast time. He’s 4-for-6 on dirt, he’s bred to go a distance, and he’s won at Gulfstream, Calder, and Monmouth over fast and sloppy surfaces, and stretching out from 5f to a mile and 70 yards. In fact, he’s starting to remind me a great deal of his sire, who also turned into a winning machine this time of the year by using his high cruising speed to overpower his opponents.
Shanghai Bobby Todd Pletcher
Harlan's Holiday—Steelin', by Orientate
Despite his stablemates’ monster efforts over the weekend, still cannot look past that 11 1/2-length gap to third in the Holy Bull. Yes, I’ve heard ad nauseam he can’t go 1 1/4 miles, and the BC Juvenile was a terrible race, but we hear that almost every year with the 2-year-old champ and how can you knock his wins in the Champagne and Hopeful? And you have to give him credit for traveling cross-country and winning the Juvenile off a monster effort in the Champagne. He’s way too talented to dismiss off one defeat, considering he broke the track record in that defeat, and is still the kingpin of the Pletcher barn until one of is mates proves otherwise. If he can’t go 1 1/4 miles, which is possible, we’ll know soon enough. I just wish he was going to have more than two starts. He’s got a lot to prove in that next start – no more going to the lead and needs to get a lot of foundation.
Normandy Invasion Chad Brown
Tapit—Boston Lady, by Boston Harbor
Still not sold on the Boston Harbor-Capote line on dam side and tail-female family getting him 1 1/4 miles, but if he returns and puts in the same explosive burst of speed he showed in the Remsen and can sustain it, you have to think he can stretch out another furlong with no problem. Nice 1:01 1/5 breeze Feb. 3. It’s imperative he doesn’t show any regression in his return. He just needs to demonstrate that big kick and keep coming in the final furlong.
Revolutionary Todd Pletcher
War Pass—Runup the Colors, by A.P. Indy
Well, you can’t say he wasn’t given a character builder in the Withers and didn’t emerge battle-tested from that nightmare trip. He proved you can leave ‘em gasping winning by a neck as much as winning by 16 lengths. Slow Beyer, but was in fourth and fifth gear waiting for room until the final sixteenth. Flew home in :05 4/5 and galloped out a pole ahead of the others. And remember, he missed his final work and went into the race not having worked in 13 days. Strong female family, and dam won the Alabama. Not worried about distance at all, but am worried a little about his tardiness coming out of the gate. It’s gotten him in trouble several times, but some of them he couldn’t help, as horses breaking next to him always seem to do something stupid.
Verrazano Todd Pletcher
More Than Ready—Enchanted Rock, by Giant’s Causeway
It could just be this is one freak of a horse, although the question is, where do you go after winning your second career start by 16 1/4 lengths in 1:34 4/5, earning a 105 Beyer and 104 Brisnet? Was it too much too soon? That is a monster effort for a lightly raced horse who didn’t debut until Jan. 1. Don’t like four career starts going into the Derby. Big Brown had 3, but all were distance races and he was a total freak in a poor year. And he debuted in August as a 2-year-old. Animal Kingdom had four preps, but they, too, were all at a mile or farther. Before that, the last horse to win the Derby with four starts was Exterminator in 1918. There is a big difference between four and five starts. And, of course, there is the Apollo curse, not having raced at 2, but in his case it was by only one day. So, is he special enough to overcome history? Some knock his sire’s ability to get a classic horse, but he does fit the recent Derby sire mold and this colt’s powerful female family certainly will carry him.
Flashback Bob Baffert
Tapit—Rhumb Line, by Mr. Greeley
He is another who will buck history with only four starts. He needs to be toughened up in his next race, as the Lewis was nothing more than a workout in a four-horse field. It is worth noting that he had a couple of setbacks after his first race and hadn’t run for two months, so he likely wasn’t at 100% for this race. He was carrying his head a bit high after turning for home, finally getting down and leveling off in the final sixteenth. That’s when he was most impressive. He, like Verrazano, has freakish qualities, but to what degree they will help him get 1 1/4 miles on first Saturday in May with so little racing experience remains to be seen.
Oxbow D. Wayne Lukas
Awesome Again—Tizamazing, by Cee's Tizzy
Let’s not forget what he did to the Lecomte field. Not the strongest group assembled, but he just totally outclassed and demolished them, and how can you not like an Awesome Again, out of a full-sister to Tiznow and Budroyale, and the dam of Paynter? Someone has to step forward in Louisiana and show there is life outside the Pletcher and Baffert barns, and right now he looks like the one until someone shows they can get even close to him. Keep an eye on up-and-comers Departing and Proud Strike. Lukas has had several pretenders on the Derby trail in recent years and tried hard to get them to the race, but it looks as if this colt has the ability to take him there all on his own.
Goldencents Doug O'Neill
Into Mischief—Golden Works, by Banker's Gold
Well, you can use the simple formula that he was hard-ridden to beat Den’s Legacy by 1 1/2 lengths in the Sham, and Den’s Legacy was beaten 6 1/4 lengths by Flashback. To be honest, I really have no idea how good this horse is other than the fact he can win anywhere at any distance and can beat you on the lead or just off the pace. But he also needs to show a little more professionalism, as he did pull a bit early in the Sham and needs to assert himself more in the stretch. Would like to see him settle a little better early. He showed in the Champagne the raw talent is there.
Overanalyze Todd Pletcher
Dixie Union—Unacloud, by Unaccounted For
Boy, where does he rank right now in the Pletcher barn? Forgotten horse, but he does have a solid 2-year-old foundation, with four graded stakes in five starts. He just has to put big efforts back-to-back. Fast enough to win going 5 furlongs in :57 2/5 and enough stamina to win going 1 1/8 miles, earning a 99 Beyer. He couldn’t have been gutsier fighting off Normandy Invasion in the Remsen. Sire was maligned last year as being stamina deficient, but silenced critics by getting the Belmont Stakes winner. Watch what an overlay he’s going to be in the first Future Wager.
Tiz the Truth Bob Baffert
Tiznow—Truly Blessed, by French Deputy
Say hello to this new face that got lost in the weekend shuffle. After his maiden victory, you can bet Gary Stevens is happy to be back in the saddle again. From a visual standpoint, he left an indelible impression, winning by 7 3/4 lengths going a mile, earning a higher Beyer (94) than Flashback. Love the way he moves and keeps himself low to the ground. Smooth, efficient stride and was really motoring in the stretch, quickly opening up on his opponents while coming home his final two eighths in :11 3/5 and :11 4/5. In addition to being by Tiznow, he is a half-brother to San Rafael and Risen Star winner and Florida Derby runner-up Notional. Third dam won the Alcibiades and was third in the Kentucky Oaks and is a daughter of Argentine-bred Sensitivo, who won the 2 1/4-mile Display Handicap and 1 5/8-mile Gallant Fox Handicap. Fourth dam is by Champion Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner Hafiz, out of a daughter of Count Fleet. Just like everything about this horse.
Dynamic Sky Mark Casse
Sky Mesa—Murani, by Distorted Humor
He is still racing greenly for a colt with his experience. He was late changing leads in the Sam Davis and then ducked in from a right-handed whip that seemed to cost him just enough momentum to get beat. Breaking from the outside post and getting hung wide on the first turn didn’t help. Still like the colt, and was encouraged by his late run after he finally got in his best stride, but really need to see a forward move -- mentally more than anything. He deserves another shot, and shouldn’t be overlooked in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Off the List
Of the horses dropped from the Top 12, I still have hope for HE’S HAD ENOUGH, considering he had to switch tactics in the four-horse Robert Lewis and wound up pressuring Flashback, which is not his style at all. He tried hard all the way to the quarter pole before finally backing up. Even when he was passed in the stretch by Den’s Legacy, he continued to battle back. He needs a big field with pace and he should show big improvement…Just because PALACE MALICE was dropped from the 12 spot doesn’t mean I like him any less. After a weekend with so many brilliant performances, you have to make room for new horses. Really looking forward to his next start and stretch-out to two turns. I’ve seen nothing about him I don’t like, other than he hasn’t been two turns yet.
Knocking At The Door
Baffert pair of stakes-placed SUPER NINETY NINE and maiden winner CODE WEST put themselves in the Derby picture by finishing one-two, respectively, in a mile allowance race at Santa Anita run in a snappy 1:35 flat. The winner (by Pulpit) was much the best, winning by 3 1/4 lengths, but the runner-up (by Lemon Drop Kid) should improve with longer distances and this race under his belt…Speaking of Lemon Drop Kid, I almost put his son TREASURY BILL in the Top 12, based on his sensational maiden victory, except for the fact he’s only had a pair of sprints and also would have only four career starts before the Derby. He looks more like a Belmont horse, but remember his name. With his pedigree he had no business running so well going 6 1/2 furlongs, in which he inhaled his opponents and drew away while under wraps. Wish he had one more start or at least been a mile already…From a visual standpoint, the Claiborne-Dilschneider colt DEPARTING was very impressive in his allowance score at Fair Grounds going a mile and 70 yards. Love the way he settled back in fourth after breaking sharply, cruised to the lead without urging and quickly drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths under a hand ride. Efficient mover and just kept widening on the gallop-out. Pace was incredibly slow (1:15), so we’ll give him another race to see what we’re dealing with. Unlike most Claiborne-breds, he does not have an ideal pedigree for classic distances, with sprinter War Front on top and a number of sprinters in his female family, including a track-record holder at 4 1/2 furlongs. Traces to the Cal-bred sprinter Hempen. But Forty Niner and A.P. Indy in third generation should help.
At least two promising horses – HONORABLE DILLON and FORTY TALES – exited the 7-furlong Hutcheson Stakes, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t stretch out, especially the former, who prevailed by a half-length, despite racing greenly down the stretch and refusing to change leads…First-time starter BIG LUTE was impressive winning a six-furlong maiden race at Oaklawn by nearly five lengths in 1:10 2/5, but he’s probably one race behind as far as making the Derby. He’d have to be rushed to get there. Trying to squeeze in three more races is going to be tough...Doug O’Neill has another nice colt in GREELEY AWESOME, who made it three in a row with a half-length allowance score at Golden Gate. They crawled early in 1:14 3/5, but he did come home his final quarter in :23 2/5 over the Tapeta surface. Former claimer still has a long way to go to be considered a serious Derby horse...Other top performances to mention are ESCAPEFROMREALITY’S excellent second in the Withers, FALLING SKY’s victory in the Sam Davis in his first two-turn race and MY NAME IS MICHAEL’S late-closing third in the Sam Davis in his 3-year-old debut, MAC THE MAN’S wire-to-wire score in the 96Rock Stakes at Turfway, and DOHERTY’s maiden score going a mile at Gulfstream…With Tiz the Truth winning so impressively, watch out for DEMONIC, who beat him a head in his career debut. Son of Bernardini, however, is way behind. Working lights out and should be ready to run in about a week…It has been reported that UNCAPTURED had suffered a bruised foot and then an abscess on his other foot and is now almost ready to start breezing on the farm. He’s being pointed for a March debut. You never like it when plans have to get altered because of minor injuries, even with such a tough, seasoned horse as this. We have plenty of time to monitor his progress.