Violence Todd Pletcher
Medaglia d’Oro—Violent Beauty, by Gone West
Finally makes his 3-year-old debut in Fountain of Youth Stakes. Normally, a good second or third would be encouraging enough, but he has a big class edge, with only a few stakes horses entered, and he should win considering how revved up Pletcher’s horses have come out this year. He displayed his sharpness with a bullet 1:00 1/5 breeze Sunday working in company with Palace Malice.
Itsmyluckyday Eddie Plesa Jr.
Lawyer Ron—Viva la Slew, by Doneraile Court
Plesa said he’ll have his first work back on Friday. There’s still five weeks to the Florida Derby, so there’s plenty of time to get him ready. Those skipping the 50-pointers and going straight to the 100-pointers are going to feel like bridgejumpers. If you’re not 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, you better switch gears and start thinking about crabcakes.
Normandy Invasion Chad Brown
Tapit—Boston Lady, by Boston Harbor
No one can say he’s not sharp for his comeback in the Risen Star. He followed up his 1:00 2/5 work with a :47 4/5 breeze, the second-fastest of 74 half-mile works. The main concern could be the big field, with 14 in there. Closers not taking the overland route have a tendency to find trouble at Fair Grounds. We can see him picking off horses one by one on the turn and just circling the wagons at the head of the stretch. We’ll see if his mainly speed-oriented female family is exposed at all by that long stretch. One positive is that his tail-female family traces to Man o’War in the sixth generation through the distance-loving Fairy Manhurst, who had the somewhat dubious distinction of finishing second to Count Fleet in the Belmont Stakes…beaten 25 lengths.
Shanghai Bobby Todd Pletcher
Harlan's Holiday—Steelin', by Orientate
He had his first breeze since the Holy Bull, going an easy half in :49 3/5. Kind of torn as to what to look for from him in the Florida Derby. You don’t want to feel he has to win his final prep, yet you really don’t want him getting beat in both his starts this year, and to the same horse. That would start to raise questions about his chances in the Kentucky Derby, mainly is he as good as he was last year?
Revolutionary Todd Pletcher
War Pass—Runup the Colors, by A.P. Indy
He seems to be in limbo right now. If Pletcher is looking ahead to the Wood Memorial for Verrazano, then what do you do with this horse, who has never raced outside New York? You have to figure Pletcher horses are going to have to knock heads somewhere down the line. Pletcher is like the manager of an all-star team who has to keep juggling his players to make sure everyone gets in the game.
Verrazano Todd Pletcher
More Than Ready—Enchanted Rock, by Giant’s Causeway
He’s already chased Sam F. Davis winner Falling Sky out of the Tampa Bay Derby, and you have to wonder who is going to want to take on this monster. The only ray of hope appears to be the quirkiness of the Tampa Bay surface and memories of War Pass. He’s still inexperienced and untested. Turned in a nice :48 half-mile sharpener.
Flashback Bob Baffert
Tapit—Rhumb Line, by Mr. Greeley
The California version of Verrazano also is inexperienced and untested, but he at least has defeated top-class horses in a graded stakes. Horses like this are exciting to have around, but will they be able to get toughened and battle-tested enough to go 1 1/4 miles and win the Derby on sheer brilliance, like Big Brown?
Oxbow D. Wayne Lukas
Awesome Again—Tizamazing, by Cee's Tizzy
We know he looked spectacular in the Lecomte, winning by a pole, but the competition improves dramatically in the Risen Star, and that’s when we’ll find out for sure just how good this colt is. It’s also time to see what he can do rating off the pace. He is one horse who you know will run all day.
Goldencents Doug O'Neill
Into Mischief—Golden Works, by Banker's Gold
Continuing his string of six-furlong works, his latest being 1:13 2/5. He no doubt will be fit for his showdown with Flashback in the San Felipe, if that’s where they decide to go. Difficult to know what we’re dealing with. We know he’s immensely talented, but just want to see him level off a bit better and stay focused.
Overanalyze Todd Pletcher
Dixie Union—Unacloud, by Unaccounted For
Turned in a strong five-furlong breeze in 1:00 2/5 in company with Delhomme. He should come out running in the Gotham Stakes and could make those 33-1 Future Wager odds look mighty attractive. He’s already been 1 1/8 miles and already has prevailed in a dogfight. He just needs to maintain his form.
Treasury Bill Ron Ellis
Lemon Drop Kid—Wow Me Free, by Menifee
We said going into the San Vicente, if this colt can finish second or third and be closing, the sky’s the limit. With his pedigree, there is no way he should have been able to sprint with those horses. And we love the way he threw in a :22 second quarter to reach contention and still came home in :12 1/5 after going 6-wide. Ellis only put him in here because he had to work him anyway to start preparing for the Rebel and Arkansas Derby, so might as well run instead and get a good work in him. He got a lot more. This guy has stamina coming out of every pore and only inbreeding is to Buckpasser, which is as good as it gets.
Tiz the Truth Bob Baffert
Tiznow—Truly Blessed, by French Deputy
Consider this colt in a virtual tie for 12th with another Baffert colt, San Vicente winner Shakin It Up. We still love everything about Tiz the Truth, especially his smooth, fluid strides and high cruising speed. But Shakin It Up looked like the real deal and also is bred to keep going. Right now, it’s a toss-up.
Knocking At The Door
PALACE MALICE is stretching out to two turns next Saturday in the Risen Star Stakes (see this week’s Derby Trail blog) and we are expecting a huge effort and possible upset that would put him back in the Top 12, where he was in Week 1. He’s bred to go long, and even if he runs a good second or third and is coming at the end (like Treasury Bill in the San Vicente) it will be a big step forward toward a peak performance on Derby Day. He couldn’t be any sharper, coming off a bullet work in 1:00 1/5 in company with Violence.
Another potential live horse to watch this weekend is SPEAK LOGISTICS, who is from the same barn as Itsmyluckyday and who goes in the Fountain of Youth. Impressive winner of last year’s In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Series, he was making what looked to be a winning move along the rail in the Sam F. Davis when Falling Sky closed the hole and forced him to take up, losing all momentum. He still ran on well to finish fourth. The spot of the incident and the lack of a good camera angle made it difficult for the stewards to take any action. And it is just supposition whether he would have gone on and won or not. But that move alone makes him an intriguing longshot in the Fountain of Youth. He did run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but tired after pressing that fast early pace, yet still was beaten only 5 3/4 lengths.
Pretty soon, Oaklawn trainers are going to sign a petition to get Bob Baffert banned from running in stakes in Hot Springs. Once again, Baffert singlehandedly destroyed the locals’ Derby dreams, sending SUPER NINETY NINE there to win the Southwest Stakes by a mere 11 1/4 lengths, leaving the first three finishers of the Smarty Jones Stakes floundering far up the track in the slop. Like Secret Circle last year and The Factor the year before, Baffert has sent one of his swifter horses to Oaklawn to soften up the local horses for whoever he chooses to send there for the Arkansas Derby. Whether Super Ninety Nine actually turns out to be a Derby horse or not, Baffert has a number of classic-type horses he’ll be sending east in the next two months.
It's hard to know what to make of El Camino Real Derby winner DICE FLAVOR. He looked impressive down the stretch and finished with good energy, dominating this group. He just has to show he handles the dirt as well as the Tapeta and grass. But all in all, a very nice horse with a bright future.
There are several interesting up-and-comers running this weekend, and a big performance could put any one of them into Derby contention. They are PROUD STRIKE, CERRO, DEPARTING, MYLUTE, ELMUTAHID, MAJESTIC HUSSAR, SKY CAPTAIN, and ORB. One proven stakes horse looking to make his way back on the list is HE’S HAD ENOUGH, who likely will run in the Fountain of Youth (he also was entered in the Risen Star). Another to watch at Gulfstream is the aforementioned FALLING SKY (see same Derby Trail blog).
For down the road, keep an eye on GENERAL CHARLIE and FOOTBRIDGE, who staged a furious stretch duel in a Santa Anita maiden race, run a full second and two-fifths faster than the other division two races earlier. Both look like they could have a future.