Today the weather was actually not hellatious. It was right near enjoyable. Perfect for a trio of Derby Preps!
Close to home at the Fairgrounds, Friesan Fire lit up the Risen Star stakes with a strong performance that shoots him into the Derby picture. Despite being rank early, the Larry Jones trainee raced close up to an honest pace set by It Happened Again. Jockey Gabriel Saez sent Friesan Fire to the lead at the top of the lane and the colt drew off by 3. It was a sweet effort that proves this colt is a real contender. And he’s the second fiddle three year old in Jones’s barn! I have high expectations for Old Fashioned Feb 16.
Up in NY, Haynesfield won the Whirlaway at Aqueduct in an awesome wire-to-wire parade route. The son of Speightstown was unchallenged the whole way around and finished up about 7 in front. I have doubts about his distance capabilites, though the Whirlaway is 1 1/6th miles, far from a sprint. He has the class to go forward and we’ll just see how that turns out in the Gotham next month. The biggest delight was the sunny skies and fast track up at Aqueduct, which is normally a drab scene in February. Forget the groundhog, Haynesfield says we’re having an early spring.
Finally, Pioneerof The Nile emerged as the top Derby contender in the West with his win in the Bob Lewis Stakes. (I’m going to start calling this colt PNiles, after Tiger bigman Pierre Henderson-Niles) PNiles overcame horrendous traffic and closed like a jailhouse door to take the Lewis by a neck. It was an exciting, gutsy performance by the Baffert trainee. Though my sources say PNiles will stay out west until Derby day, it would sure be nice to see how he’ll handle the real dirt before May. Also, if we have a TC on the line again this year, let me make my prediction now: Pioneerof The Nile will be the spoiler, just like his Dad, EMpire Maker.
I am formulating my Derby List and should have it ready to post next week sometime. The Sam F. Davis and El Camino Real are the Valentine’s Day preps next saturday, and I will have some sweet picks for them Friday. Also, I may be shooting up the highway to Hot Springs sooner rather than never — stay tuned!