The Connections of Off-Pace Derby Contenders Must Be Smilin'


On the heels of REGAL RANSOM upsetting DESERT PARTY in the UAE Derby, QUALITY ROAD won the Florida Derby which will assure an honest pace in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands.  The two early pace winners could join THE PAMPLEMOUSSE, OLD FASHIONED, and perhaps PAPA CLEM at the head of an honest, contested pace scenario.

Our TBA site is filled with QUALITY ROAD posts from ASPIRING HORSEPLAYER, JEN'S THOROUGHBLOG, CHALK EATING WEASEL, and THOROUGHBRED ZONE.  I was a QUALITY ROAD fan before the race and I'm still on the bandwagon.  But DUNKIRK was excellent in defeat and has earned my respect.

The connections of PIONEEROF THE NILE, FRIESAN FIRE, and I WANT REVENGE, the 2-3-7 ranked horses on the Derby earnings list, will appreciate the multiple targets to run at the final 1/8.  Ditto for DESERT PARTY.

Those of you who adore DUNKIRK...don't lose hope.  #1 earner prior to this weekend SQUARE EDDIE still hasn't run after suffering shin splints/stress fractures.  # 4 VINEYARD HAVEN, nowhere to be found after he was throttled by DESERT PARTY and REGAL RANSOM in a UAE Derby prep.  #13 MUSKET MAN, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby and #16 WIN WILLY, the Rebel S. winner, aren't nominated to the Triple Crown yet.  #18 CHARITABLE MAN hasn't started this year (but he's been working every 6-7 days since Feb. 13) and it remains to be seen what condition he'll be in if/when he starts prior to the Derby.

That's five outs to use a poker term...not including TODD PLETCHER's "ace in the hole" BITTEL ROAD, who disappointed in the Lane's End last weekend.  He sat at #12 prior to today's races.  I'm sure the Coolmore boys would make it worth the while of Scatuorchio & Iracane to scratch the turf horse (hush, hush, wink, wink).

In 2007, CURLIN earned my respect when he ran on for 3rd after an atrocious trip from the two hole in the Kentucky Derby won by STREET SENSE.  He justified my perception when he captured a stunning Preakness over the Derby winner.  DUNKIRK has done the same.

DUNKIRK is a very, very, VERY good colt.  He's improved leaps and bounds this spring and the five weeks off before the Kentucky Derby is made to order after such a hard race.  The son of UNBRIDLED'S SONG made a wide/winning move coming off the turn in the Florida Derby and stayed on very gamely.  However, he got victimized Saturday by a enormous/speedy/classy colt in QUALITY ROAD on a speed-favoring Gulfstream Park main track.  I knew going into the day DUNKIRK had his work cut out trying to run down the more experienced Fountain of Youth winner, 113 Beyer figure notwithstanding.  When BIG DRAMA won (but was DQ'd) the Swale S. in track record time, DUNKIRK was going to have to be SECRETARIAT to win.  Okay, so he's not the second coming but can anyone argue that he's not destined to win multiple graded stakes races before going off to stud?

I guarantee you that Pletcher is fielding calls from top jockey agents around the country to get on DUNKIRK should GARRETT GOMEZ choose PIONEEROF THE NILE.  Those same same agents are calling BOB BAFFERT to get on PIONEEROF THE NILE should DUNKIRK get in and GOMEZ goes with dirt vs synthetic preps.

So you're GARRETT GOMEZ, who do you choose?  Both BAFFERT and PLETCHER feel they have colts deserving of being a Derby winner.  They both use GOMEZ on many top horses.  Choosing one colt over the other will surely put him in the other's dog house.  Next week's Santa Anita Derby will give GOMEZ more information to make perhaps the most important decision in his life.

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