Mohaymen Kiaran McLaughlin
Tapit—Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union
Worked a solid half in :48 4/5 for his big showdown in the Florida Derby. It was pretty much all McLaughlin was looking for. He has all the advantages, having won twice over the track, and it didn’t appear as if he came close to running a peak performance in either race, so he should keep moving forward. His big task now is trying to pass Nyquist, something no one has been able to do. It looks as if the race is taking on some late passengers who are just hopping aboard for the ride and hoping to get lucky and pick up a piece of the $1 million purse. Even with a solid horse in Fellowship in there it would be a shock if someone other than the two favorites wins the race, as the newcomers don’t belong on the same track as them. Fellowship, however, is eligible to improve at the longer distance. Nyquist should get the jump on Mohaymen, coming off a fast sprint victory, but don’t expect Mohaymen to be too far behind, as he has excellent stalking speed. I don’t know what we’re going to learn from what looks to be a two-horse race, but it should determine the clear-cut Derby favorite. I still wish they would have met for the first time at Churchill Downs, but I guess you have to look at it like anything can happen between now and then, so let’s just enjoy what promises to be quite a battle and without the intrusion of 18 other horses.
Nyquist Doug O'Neill
Uncle Mo—Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry
His 5-furlong work in 1:03 was the fastest, strongest 1:03 I've ever seen. When are the clockers going to learn how to time a Doug O'Neill work? It was a terrific work that was closer to a 7-furlong or mile drill than it was 5 furlongs. That certainly got him fit. Coming off only one 7-furlong race this year, there are only two ways Nyquist should be able to beat Mohaymen at this time and place -- he gets a big jump on him or he simply is a faster, gamer, and classier horse, who is even more talented than people think. And that very well may be the case. On paper, Mohaymen has a big edge in fitness and mileage this year, and is running over a track he knows and loves. And he doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get there. With that said, Nyquist has never allowed a horse to pass him, and the fact that O’Neill and owner Paul Reddam are willing to deviate from the norm and come all the way to Gulfstream in search of an extra million dollars, we have to assume they have tremendous confidence in their horse, and truly believe he can knock off Mohaymen under less-than-ideal conditions, and then win the Kentucky Derby five weeks later off only a 7-furlong and 1 1/8-mile race. That is asking a lot, so we’ll see if it pays off, starting with Saturday’s showdown. If he does win, it will establish him as something very special, but I’m still not sure how I will feel about him going a mile and a quarter off the one two-turn race. It’s just something horses don’t do. But if he beats Mohaymen, then you have to wonder if there’s anything he can’t do.
Destin Todd Pletcher
Giant’s Causeway—Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
I thought he might work this weekend, as he worked exactly two weeks after his Sam F. Davis score. But owner Randy Gullatt said all is good with him and explained that with four races at a mile or longer in the past four months, and at three different racetracks, they’re trying to freshen him up and prepare for what they hope is a busy May. However, there is a twist. He is scheduled to work this week, after which a decision will be made whether to give him another race or train up to the Derby. According to Gullat, he’s very fit and they’re extremely happy with where they are right now. If they do decide to bypass the final prep it means he will go into the Derby off an eight-week layoff and never having run farther than 1 1/16 miles. That would make him yet another horse bucking history. I lowered him one notch this week in anticipation of the Florida Derby showdown, but their decision will dictate where he winds up in future weeks. What I like about this horse, in addition to having several two-turn races under him, is that his last two races were over the deepish and demanding Tampa Bay surface, and he is a hard-running horse, so there should be little doubt about his fitness. Because of his defeats at Gulfstream and Fair Grounds, you do want to see him run well over a track other than Tampa, which is why his final prep would reaffirm that his dramatic improvement had nothing to do with the Tampa surface. He was one of the few Pletcher Derby horses over the years who was on more of a traditional schedule, but that obviously would change with this strategy. Whether it will work I have no idea, and I no longer am surprised by anything I see on the Derby trail. But this is really going against the book and taking the concept of fresh to a new level. I will keep him here for the time being until they make their decision, after which I will re-evaluate him.
Mor Spirit Bob Baffert
Eskendereya—Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union
It was good to see him turn in a sharp half-mile work in :47 4/5 that was listed as breezing, which is pretty rare at Santa Anita. It was the second fastest of 27 works at the distance. There is little doubt that, like Mohaymen, we have yet to see the best of this horse, as Baffert has left a lot in the tank. Baffert is a firm believer in tightening the screws in the mile and an eighth final prep and not before, so we can expect to see a sharper and tighter Mor Spirit as he makes his final push to the Kentucky Derby. I still can’t tell what his main weapon is. He hasn’t shown that Howitzer move than blows away the opposition, but he is relentless with whatever weapons he does possess. He just keeps firing away and then finishes you off in the final sixteenth. The key is not putting himself in a position where he leaves himself with too much to do. If he is within striking distance at the sixteenth pole, he most likely will finish you off. It’s from the quarter pole to the eighth pole that’s tricky, because he doesn’t seem to have that rapid-fire acceleration at that point in the race to jump all over the leaders. But that could change stretching out the extra sixteenth and then to a mile and a quarter. That’s where we should see him at his best, especially with the long Churchill stretch, where he will have time to build up momentum.
Cupid Bob Baffert
Tapit—Pretty 'n Smart, by Beau Genius
I believe there is still a great deal of untapped talent here, and his front-running victory in the Rebel was simply a case of him being the best horse in the race and utilizing his inside post in the best way possible. I wouldn’t want him to repeat those tactics in the Arkansas Derby and especially at Churchill Downs. Judging from the way he broke his maiden with that big sweeping move from off the pace it’s pretty obvious this horse can win from anywhere and is just naturally gifted. He is inbred to six different stallions and while his pedigree does not shout mile and a quarter it shouldn’t hamper him if he has the talent, which he certainly appears to have. I covered his broodmare sire Beau Genius’ victory in the 1990 Iselin Handicap and it was one of the gamest performances I’ve ever seen, as he dug down to hold off Tricky Creek, winning by the scantest of noses, something he had made a habit of doing. He was one of the true fighters I’d ever witnessed. This was a horse who battled through arthritis, bone chips in both knees, calcium deposits, and cartilage damage, and always had to loosen up quite a bit before his races, yet developed into one of the top older horses in the country. After his Iselin score, his trainer Gerald Bennett said, “If you’re a genuine horseman you have to have a tear in your eye for his horse because of the heart that he has.” But you didn’t have to be a horseman to appreciate how much this horse gave of himself that day. If Cupid has inherited even a small fraction of his broodmare sire’s heart, and he did display it in the Rebel, who knows what heights he can attain.
Gun Runner Steve Asmussen
Candy Ride—Quiet Giant, by Giant's Causeway
He has all the tools and is improving with every race, and if he can handle the six-week gap to the Derby and get rid of some of his greenness he should be a major factor on the first Saturday in May. I moved him just behind Cupid only because I feel Cupid beat a better field in the Rebel and I’m still not crazy about that 6-week layoff, although I do like the fact that Gun Runner ran his best race stretching out to 1 1/8 miles. I was impressed with his turn of foot and winning off by 4 1/2 lengths despite racing greenly. In short, he is bred like a Derby horse and has the looks of a Derby horse. Although it is impressive in a way that he was able to draw away even with drifting out and then drifting in and then jumping back to his left lead in the final sixteenth, you would like to see him be a bit more professional in what likely was his last start before the Kentucky Derby. I have little doubt he still would have won the race, but I don’t believe he would have won by such a big margin if Mo Tom hadn’t gotten stopped cold twice in the stretch. He also took advantage of sitting right behind a slow pace and a second quarter in :24 3/5 (compared to :23 4/5 in the Fair Grounds Oaks), and didn’t exactly fly home with a final eighth in a shade under :13, partly because he wasn’t able to keep a straight course. Also, his 1:51 final time only earned him a 91 Beyer, barely topping his 90 in the Risen Star, suggesting the Fair Grounds 3-year-olds are in general fairly slow and not showing much improvement speed-wise. As for his pedigree, his dam, who sold for $3 million as a broodmare prospect, is a half-sister to Horse of the Year Saint Liam and was so dominating on the track, she won seven races (five stakes) by an average margin of 6 3/4 lengths. Gun Runner is inbred to Fappiano and has three traces to Dr. Fager and also traces to the great mare Gallorette, so you can be sure the 10 furlongs won’t bother him.
Danzing Candy Cliff Sise Jr.
Twirling Candy —Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer
You never want to see a trainer unhappy over a work, whether it’s too fast or too slow, and after he sizzled 5 furlongs in :58 3/5, Sise stated flat-out he did not want him to go that fast, looking for 1:00 and change. It not only was the fastest of 54 works at the distance, the average time was 1:01 2/5. He did gallop out a fairly strong 6 furlongs in 1:12, so who knows if this work was too fast or right in his wheelhouse, being a quick-footed horse with a ton of class who can carry his speed a distance. If the work took little out of him, it was no big deal and far enough away from the Santa Anita to have little or no effect on him. Of course, you do want to harness his speed to some degree, because he has yet to show the ability to rate off the pace, and one-dimensional speed horses are usually at a disadvantage in the Kentucky Derby. When you see him work like this you can attribute part of it to his pedigree, which is loaded with raw two-turn speed, and Songandaprayer set the fastest opening quarter, half, and three-quarter fractions in the history of the Derby.
Suddenbreakingnews Donnie Von Hemel
Mineshaft—Uchitel, by Afleet Alex
Boy is it close between him, Whitmore, Creator, and Cherry Wine. I see all of them as legitimate Derby contenders. With what he had to overcome in the Rebel Stakes, and conceding five to seven pounds to those in front of him, and based on his emphatic score in the Southwest, he is still a major contender. If he gets a decent post in the Arkansas Derby, don’t be surprised to see him much closer than he was in his last two starts when he drew way on the outside and had to overcome significant ground loss. All you have to do is look at his races last year at Remington Park and you’ll see a very versatile horse who can beat you from anywhere on the track and make his move at any point in the race. I also love the way he moves and carries himself, and he gets a lot of his class from Mineshaft and Afleet Alex, both of whom are trying to recapture the headlines they had earlier in their stud careers. Mineshaft also is currently represented by Clark Handicap winner and BC Classic runner-up Effinex, and his son Cool Coal Man is the sire of Derby contender Matt King Coal. And don’t forget that Suddenbreakingsnews’ maternal great-grandsire Alleged, who won back-to-back runnings of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Mo Tom Tom Amoss
Uncle Mo—Caroni, by Rubiano
What can you say about this poor horse, who has had nothing but rotten luck and ill-advised rides in his last two starts, in which he basically gave away all-important points. Glad to see Corey Lanerie at least own up to his costly ride. Give the horse credit again for shrugging it off and flying at the end. I wrote last week, “You do not want to get trapped on the rail at Fair Grounds, where horses usually find problems in the stretch…and that applies doubly to him.” Trouble just seems to always lurk there. And Lanerie knows how potent this horse is with a clear run, being aboard him for his dominating win in the LeComte, in which he fanned very wide and mowed down everyone to win going away. Yet Mo Tom followed the exact same path he did in the Risen Star when he got stopped cold, surely costing him first or second. This time he was steered right to the rail after turning for home when he could have taken the outside and safer route, and sure enough he met the same fate, except that it happened twice this time. Lanerie decided to take the dreaded rail route even as a hole opened outside him and he immediately had to check hard behind a tiring Candy My Boy in mid-stretch where there simply was no room in the first place. Mo Tom quickly recovered and kicked in, only to get stopped cold again behind Candy Boy. Once again, he gathered himself and took off and just missed third by a neck, while flying at the end. It is so obvious by now he doesn’t want any part of the inside, ducking sharply to the rail on his own in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Again, he recovered and was closing fastest of all. It may seem strange to feel sorry for a horse, but I can’t help but feel sorry for this horse and his connections, because he always tries so hard and always recovers from his travails and takes off again. Now they have to worry about points and have six long weeks to the Kentucky Derby. Do you run him again or roll the dice off and hope for the best? The obvious thing now would be to switch jockeys, but Lanerie has ridden him five times, winning two stakes on him with a wide move, and after two brain breezes and admitting he screwed up, if there is one jockey in the country you can be sure will avoid the inside like the plague from now on it is Lanerie.
Whitmore Ron Moquett
Pleasantly Perfect—Melody’s Spirit, by Scat Daddy
So, is this a mile and a quarter horse who simply has been the victim of circumstance in his two second-place finishes this year, both of which he appeared to have won, but wound up losing? That’s what you have to figure out. His sire shouts distance, but his female family is pretty much a mile to 1 1/8-mile pedigree. It is preferable to have it the other way around, but at this point, he has had enough bad trips from bad posts to suggest we’ll see a much more polished and stronger performance when and if he can save some ground and time that quick and powerful run of his a little better. As for the mile and a quarter, he does have to overcome that Scat Daddy – Johannesburg – Hennessy line, combined with Tale of the Cat. He does also have Seattle Slew in his female family, but the Slews can go both long and short. And of course he does have Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup winner Pleasantly Perfect on top, so it’s not going to take a heckuva lot of stamina on the bottom to get him the 10 furlongs. As I’ve said several times already, we will know a lot more when he stretches out to 1 1/8 miles in his final prep, whether it’s the Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass Stakes. By then, Irad Ortiz will no doubt know him a lot better and ride him with more confidence.
Shagaf Chad Brown
Bernardini—Muhaawara, by Unbridled’s Song
I still can’t separate him from the other two Chad Brown 3-year-olds, My Man Sam and Flexibility, all of whom turned in sharp 5-furlong works at Belmont Park this week, but I’m going to ignore his slow times, slow speed figs, slow closing fractions, and lack of racing experience and project big improvement when the distances stretch out. And he is undefeated, which is the only reason I put him on here over several others. I can see him getting on that Aqueduct main track and running huge in the Wood Memorial. And, as I tend to do, regardless of how meaningless it is, I am liking the rare presence of his maternal great-grandsire Tabasco Cat, who I wrote about in my column last week. When you look at his pedigree it is pretty awesome when it comes to stamina. We know about Bernardini, but his dam is a half-sister Eldaafer, one of the best stayers in recent years, and winner of the 1 3/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Marathon and 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap, Greenwood Cup, and Turfway Fall Championship. His two maternal great-grandsires combined to sweep racing’s “Grand Slam,” consisting of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Unbridled winning the Kentucky Derby and BC Classic and Tabasco Cat winning the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and getting beat a neck in the BC Classic. His great-granddam is by Temperence Hill, winner of the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and his fourth dam is by Gummo, who sired Golden Act, winner of the Canadian International, Arkansas Derby and Louisiana Derby and second in the Preakness and Belmont, as well as the top-class Flying Paster and Ancient Title. Shagaf has the physical appearance of a classic horse. Now he just has to get significantly faster and get enough out of the Wood to have him ready for the Derby off only four career starts. I give him a slight advantage over Zulu and Outwork, because they will have two of their four starts in sprints, while he has never run shorter than a mile.
Exaggerator Keith Desormeaux
Curlin—Dawn Raid, by Vindication
Just when I was tempted to drop him from the Top 12 this week, he turned in the kind of work that made me wait and give him one more chance in the Santa Anita Derby. His big problem has been finishing off his races, and I love that he came home his final eighth in :11 4/5 in his 5-furlong work in a sharp 1:00 2/5, galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:13 4/5. I honestly don’t know what to make of him as a Derby horse, and even Desormeaux has questioned how far he wants to go. But you can’t hold the San Felipe against him after his bad break, racing far back in last, which is way out of his comfort zone, and making what I felt was a premature move through the field. Although he tired through slow late fractions, I feel running his second quarter in :23 flat and third quarter in :23 4/5, while trying to make up all those lengths he lost, is not what he wants to do. He is a tactical speed horse who can get headstrong racing 10 lengths back and six lengths behind the next-to-last horse, especially on a track like Santa Anita. So it was no surprise he was unable to sustain his run. Even though they were slowing down at the end I feel the damage was done early. And in the San Vicente, you can’t fault him for failing to outrun Nyquist going seven furlongs in 1:20 3/5. Nothing he does in the Santa Anita Derby would surprise me, but he is extremely consistent and versatile, he has sprint speed and two-turn speed, and he is by Curlin and has a strong tail-female family. I stuck with Greenpointcrusader, despite my trepidations about his racing schedule and training regimen, and got burned badly. I might as well stick with Exaggerator as well. I have much more faith in Desormeaux to get the best out of him and I can’t look any worse than I did with Greenpointcrusader. And if you add Brody’s Cause, I apparently overestimated several of last year’s top 2-year-olds. But I will give Brody’s Cause another chance away from Tampa and give Exaggerator another chance as well.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
Because of the number of unorthodox decisions this year, and so many lightly raced horses and ultra conservative schedules, I predict we will see some major changes in the coming weeks, as there will be a huge amount of horses that look like contenders at this time falling by the wayside with large competitive fields anticipated in the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, and Arkansas Derby. In short, this has been as convoluted a Derby picture as I’ve seen in a long time, with 20 or more horses, all with promise and credentials, looking to jump into contention, and only a couple of the top contenders running relatively fast speed figures. And because of the Florida Derby bonus, one of the two most accomplished 3-year-olds in the country will taste defeat for the first time and possibly be exposed before the Derby, leaving an even bigger mess to sort out. And if one of them should misfire, which seems very unlikely, it would turn the race into a non-competitive affair, which is not what you want for either one with five weeks until the Kentucky Derby.
Although Nyquist and Mohaymen have carried their form from 2 to 3, the winners of the Hopeful Stakes, Champagne, Breeders’ Futurity, and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes have all thrown in clunkers this year, and the Delta Jackpot winner has been a bit of a disappointment to some, although he has not run poorly like the others.
As mentioned earlier, the Louisiana Derby proved little in general, as the slow time of 1:51 was reflected in Gun Runner’s 91 Beyer figure, which means no one else got out of the 80s, showing little or no improvement from their previous races. Mo Tom once again ran a figure in the 80s, but at least he can be excused. When you get right down to it, this crop as a whole has not put up fast speed figures, and you at least want to see significant improvement in the final preps, which we didn’t see in the Louisiana Derby in regard to speed figures. As I have stated on several occasions, only two Louisiana Derby winners have ever gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, and both of those had a race in between, so this would be a first.
It looks as though I don’t have to write about GREENPOINTCRUSADER’S prep schedule and slow works anymore. I’m not down on the horse, who I still believe has class and talent. But I never could grasp the logic behind his preparation. Still, I couldn’t have foreseen him running as poorly as he did. He was in good position heading into the far turn and just had nothing. This certainly wasn’t the same horse who won the Champagne and ran a good second to Mohaymen, although the Holy Bull did seem like ages ago. Let’s put it this way, if there was a legitimate reason why he failed to fire, and he came out of the race sound, they can always do what Brody’s Cause is doing and try for a hail Mary in the Arkansas Derby. But that was very disappointing.
All I can say about runner-up TOM’S READY is, now that he qualifies for the Derby, how can you not bet on him to place at the usual 35-1, as he follows in the footsteps of the other recent Dallas Stewart-trained longshot runners-up Golden Soul and Commanding Curve. And you can add Tale of Verve’s second-place finish in last year’s Preakness. This time the bettors will be ready for Stewart’s sneak attack and will put Tom’s Ready on the bottom of their exactas and throw a place bet on him. How many times can you let Stewart hit you over the head before learning your lesson? And let’s face it, doesn’t this horse’s form look a lot like those other three?
DAZZLING GEM ran a big race to finish third off only two lifetime starts, and he is one who could wheel right back in the Arkansas Derby rather than try to tackle the Kentucky Derby off three starts.
Over in Dubai, we’ve been hearing about LANI for several months now and how they wanted to use the UAE Derby to get the points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. After all, you don’t see many Tapits running in Japan, but it’s reached a point where you never know where they’ll show up. Lani is also out of a Sunday Silence mare and has stamina coming out of every pore, with his second dam being by Sadler’s Wells, out of Ribot’s classic-placed daughter Arkadina, who was second in the Irish Oaks and Irish 1,000 Guineas and third in the English Oaks. And Arkadina produced Dark Lomond, who beat the boys in the Irish St. Leger. So, not only does Lani have tons of stamina, he’s already won at 1 1/4 miles if you take into consideration the amount of ground he lost in the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby, in which he stumbled badly at the start, fanned widest of all heading into the backstretch and rallied wide on the far turn. Granted, the favorite, Polar River, managed to finish second, despite a horrific trip, and normally one would say she was the best horse in the race, and she may have been. But with Lani’s trip, you can’t take anything away from him.
In the stretch, it looked as if he wasn’t going to catch fellow Japanese horse Yu Change, but he kept grinding away, and although he wore him down late and held off Polar River’s late run after getting free, it looked as if the leader tired and came back to him in the final 100 yards. But either way you have to give him credit for a superb effort, and you know he’s going to be ready for the mile and a quarter. Whether he has the turn of foot and explosive kick to handle the 20-horse field we’ll have to wait and see. And how terrific will it be to have the great Yutaka Take riding in the Derby? I was tempted to put him in the Top 12, but I need more time to digest this race and figure out where he fits. He could start looking better and better each week.
As for FRANK CONVERSATION, he was in a bit tight early and then again heading into the far turn, but came up empty and faded.
Saturday’s Florida Derby added four starters in TAKEITTOTHEEDGE, SAWYER’S MICKEY, FASHIONABLEFREDDY, and MAJESTO. All four would have to run the race of their life just to finish a distant third. The other starter, FELLOWSHIP, has run back-to-back thirds to Mohaymen, but was well beaten both times. He has more than enough stamina top and bottom and should appreciate the 1 1/8 miles. His victory in the In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes in a 14-horse field was nothing short of spectacular, so we know he does possess an explosive turn of foot. The other additions demonstrate the lack of depth and overall talent in Florida this winter. Although the $1 million purse is there for anyone, and crazy things happen all the time, I’m not going to bother analyzing these horses, except to say that Takeittotheedge has run only once in his career and was an impressive winner at 7 furlongs. He should be the likely pacesetter unless he humbly gives way to Nyquist’s speed and class. Sawyer’s Mickey was third in the Battaglia Memorial on Polytrack in his only stakes appearance, but is still a maiden after seven starts. Majesto, a son of Tiznow, is a maiden winner going 1 1/16 miles in fairly decent time.
There were several works of note at Santa Anita this week, with SMOKEY IMAGE working 5 furlongs in a razor-sharp :59 3/5, suggesting he bounced out of his San Felipe debacle in good shape. Keith Desormeaux, who is one of the few trainers who still trains old school, sent SWIPE a mile in 1:43 2/5. You sure don’t see that anymore, especially at Santa Anita. Also, KASSEOPIA continues to be sharp in the morning, working 5 furlongs in 1:00 2/5. He could go in the Santa Anita Derby or the Spiral Stakes. In other Santa Anita Derby works, UNCLE LINO worked a half in :47 4/5 and I WILL SCORE went an easy 5 furlongs in 1:02.
In addition to the Belmont Park works by Shagaf, MY MAN SAM, both of whom went together in a bullet 1:00.10, and FLEXIBILITY, DONEGAL MOON breezed his 5 furlongs in 1:01 1/5 and could be a sleeper in the Blue Grass Stakes. Also, CADEYRN, who improved last time with blinkers, breezed a quick half in :47 4/5, and the improving stakes-placed ADVENTIST went his half in :48 4/5.
Todd Pletcher’s two lightly raced brilliant colts ZULU and OUTWORK, went a half at Palm Beach Downs in :49 2/5 and :48 1/5, respectively. It will be interesting to see where they show up next. Where they run and who they run against could very well determine whether they get back in the Top 12 in the next week or two. Right now, they’re just too hard to separate. But both have the raw talent to become something special.
The horse to catch in the Wood Memorial likely will be MATT KING COAL, as the plan is to continue utilizing the colt’s exceptional speed. With so much at stake, they don’t want to start experimenting and taking him back now. If he shows even slight improvement off his allowance score, he should take them a long way.
One particular sharp work of interest was the :47 4/5 half-mile breeze by BRODY’S CAUSE, who will attempt to make amends for his Tampa Bay Derby fiasco in the Blue Grass Stakes. After his non effort at Tampa, he better run his eyeballs out at Keeneland if he is to have any shot at all in the Derby.
AIROFORCE, who should be the horse to beat in Saturday’s Spiral Stakes, despite his poor effort in the Risen Star Stakes, breezed a half in :48 over the all-weather surface at the Ocala Training Center. Also working for the Spiral Stakes was JENSEN, breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01 1/5 at Fair Grounds. Ken and Sarah Ramsey will run former claims STRIKE UP THE BAND and OSCAR NOMINATED. Their trainer Mike Maker will run two other horses, SWAGGER JAGGER and TWO STEP TIME. Pletcher will be represented by his good grass horse AZAR. Also, ZAPPERINI, who was scratched from the Louisiana Derby is a possibility, as is RALIS, who ran poorly in the Rebel Stakes.
Another horse I was high on who is looking to rebound off a poor effort is AWESOME SPEED, who breezed 5 furlongs in 1:02 2/5. He may be shortened up for the Bay Shore Stakes.
COCKED AND LOADED, who has been razor sharp in his works, but has not run this year, continued his excellent works, breezing 5 furlongs in :59 2/5 at Tampa Bay Downs.
In other works, CREATOR, third in the Rebel, had sn easy half-mile breeze in :51. VORTICITY breezed 5 panels in 1:01 2/5 at Fair Hill, GIFT BOX breezed a half in :50 1/5, and RALLY CRY breezed his half in :48 1/5.