If you're a regular reader of this blog you know by now that I am a big fan of Odysseus. I liked him when he broke his maiden and even more after his allowance. His run in the Tampa Bay Derby, while not accomplished in a blazing time, was very impressive visually and showed the type of determination you want to see from a Kentucky Derby contender.
When I read after the race that the connections are considering training Odysseus up to the Derby I had to find out if that was the plan, because if it is, I will need to start looking for another horse to back. While I believe he is a super talented animal, there is no way I would be able to pick him on May 1 off seven weeks rest and without a nine-furlong test. Not happening.
On Thursday morning I went right to the source, trainer Tom Albertrani. While Albertrani did not confirm that Odysseus would make another start before the Derby, he did say they are "leaning" that way. That's what I needed to hear to continue on the Odysseus journey. Enjoy the interview.
Also, at the end, I give a couple quick selection from Gulfstream on Saturday. Let me know your thoughts on the Florida Derby.
JS: How did Odysseus come out of the race?
TA: He's doing fine. He went to the track the last couple days and seems to be in good shape.
The first day (after the Tampa Bay Derby) he came back a little tired, but he didn't get back to the barn until after midnight; it was a long day. But he looks good now.
JS: I've read you are considering training him up to the Kentucky Derby or running him in the Wood. What are your plans right now?
TA: We don't know yet. No decision has been made, but we are considering the Wood, Arkansas Derby, or the Blue Grass.
JS: I hadn't heard the Blue Grass was a possibility. You would feel confident prepping him on the Polytrack?
TA: It's just a possibility. We're going to take everything into consideration and see how he trains.
JS: When will he have his next work?
TA: Probably in about eight days, give or take a day?
JS: Was the Tampa Bay Derby a tricky spot because of the timing--seven weeks before the Derby?
TA: It was. But we pointed him there all along because of what he did in the allowance race (over the same track) and we wanted to get him earnings. We felt that would be the easiest spot. Now we're in a tough spot with the seven weeks. Ideally, I'd like to have another couple weeks, but it's still enough time to run him back if we want.
JS: Although he ran a big race in the Tampa Derby, I think you would probably admit he ran a bit greenly. Because of that and the fact that he has never been tested at nine furlongs, does it make you lean toward running him one more time?
TA: I have no problem with the distance. I don't think he'll have any problem getting a mile and a quarter. And I like the idea of having a fresh horse. It all depends on how he's training. But I would say right now we are leaning toward running him one more time.
JS: When he was passed on the turn what was going through you mind?
TA: I thought we were done. Even at the quarter-pole I didn't think we had much chance. But in watching the replay he never really gave up and was never more than a couple lengths back. Once he changed leads at the sixteenth-pole he found another gear.
JS: I guess the most impressive part for you was the determination he showed. Did that surprise you?
TA: He showed that same determination in every race he's run. In his first race he made a strong closing move to get second. When he broke his maiden he looked like a beaten horse, but he showed a lot of heart too.
JS: How does he compare do some of your better 3-year-olds, including Bernardini?
TA: Bernardini was an early developing horse. You could see his talent even before he raced. This horse has gotten better with time. I think he belongs with my top group.
Florida Derby Analysis
I can't say I'm very impressed the Florida Derby, which over the past few years has arguably been the most important prep race. Moving the race up a week so it is now six weeks from the Kentucky Derby was a mistake. Plain and simple. The defection of Eskendereya confirmed that.
Rule is the only horse to have won a graded stakes in the U.S. Radiohead won a turf sprint in England as a 2YO. The other nine are unproven. Though not the strongest of fields, it does make for a good betting race.
Rule is certainly the one to beat. He has done nothing wrong in his last four starts, including his pair of grade III wins this year. If Pletcher wants to finally see him rate, it is now or never. There is some decent early speed in this race and he should be able to sit just behind it, if they want. For the simple fact that he is going to be 5-2 or less, I'm going to take a stand against Rule, but he will be used in all exotics.
I was going to take Radiohead before I saw the post draw. But I have a hard time backing him from post 11. It's tough to win from out there at Gulfstream in nine furlong races. But the colt showed he is for real in his first start on dirt in a Feb. 27 allowance race and was a consistent money earner last year in England. Again, I'll use him but not for the top spot.
It came down to First Dude, Lentenor, and Miner's Reserve for me. All have good early speed, which is usually a must at Gulfstream. I think Lentenor has a legitimate chance in this spot, especially with a favorable post, but I gave the slight nod to First Dude. The son of Stephen Got Even broke his maiden impressively at Gulfstream going a mile in January, then came back to run a big one in a Feb. 21 allowance at nine furlongs. In that race, he was in a speed duel with favored Collizeo, which he won, then battled down to the wire only to lose a head bob with Fly Down. He showed a lot of resolve. Now, he stays at the same distance and adds top rider Ramon Dominguez. And he is 8-1 on the morning line. Good enough for me to take a shot.
First Dude to win. Exacta box First Dude with Lentenor, Rule, and Radiohead.
In the Bonnie Miss, I'm going with Christine Daae (big surprise I know), but she is in a tough spot against Amen Hallelujah and Devil May Care--both really talented fillies. We will find out what she is made of in her first stakes effort.
Good luck this weekend. Please join me and Tom for another live blog at noon eastern on Friday.