Category Archives: Derby Prepes

PRELUDE to the DERBY

Last night, I stayed up late watching Derby stretch run montages on youtube.  I got teary-eyed over a few of them, Ferdinand and Barbaro most notably.  I am always amazed that Easy Goer could not get to Sunday Silence in the ’89 Derby, as the big black colt zig-zagged all down the stretch.  Strike The Gold, today’s oldest living Derby winner, was so far out in the middle of the track that he is just barely in the frame of the ’91 Derby stretch footage.  Thunder Gulch’s white blinkers stuck out like a high beam in the 1995 Derby, the very first time I picked the winner.  Cavonnier still looks like the winner in ’96, even though Grundstone wore the roses…Menifee almost makes it up to pass Charismatic in ’99… “not today” Point Given eats the dust from Monarchos, who wins “as fast as Secretariat”… ’03 winner Funny Cide shocks the Frankel duo of Empire Maker and Peace Rules…Smarty Jones wallows in the slop and becomes America’s Horse in ’04… what a stretch run in ’07, with Hard Spun ceding the lead to Street Sense as Curlin ranges up for 3rd…Big Brown blows the 2009 field away, followed by the filly Eight Belles, who would have been Zenyatta’s biggest threat, IMHO…and in eight days, another horse will join these legends of the track. 

The contenders are at Churchill Downs now, working out on the track’s signature dirt surface, recently certified by the NTRA’s new Safety & Integrity Alliance.  The horses come from jurisdictions that have banned steroids and cracked down on race day meds in the past 12 months, in hopes that severe injuries will become a rare occurance in the sport. 

Pioneerof The Nile worked out on the dirt yesterday, and turned in a sizzling 6 furlong drill.  This colt is ready to rock.  The polytrack question is irrelevant to me now.  He’s my top pick.

Pioneerof The Nile posts impressive dirt workout on Wednesday at Churchill Downs.  Photo from Bloodhorse.com

Pioneerof The Nile posts impressive dirt workout on Wednesday at Churchill Downs. Photo from Bloodhorse.com

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FRUIT vs NILE

The Pamplemousse faces Pioneerof The Nile for Santa Anita Derby Dominance on Saturday.  Go Fruit!

The Pamplemousse faces Pioneerof The Nile for Santa Anita Derby Dominance on Saturday. Go Fruit!

 

Santa Anita will host the most anticipated matchup of the spring on Saturday, when The Pamplemousse meets Pioneerof The Nile in the Santa Anita Derby.  Will the front-running Fruit be able to carry his speed all the way to the finish?  Will PNile close in time to hit the wire first?  Or will Chocolate Candy surprise them all?

The Fruit may just be the freak of this year’s 3yo crop.  Sure, Quality Road has put up some big Beyers in the FOY and FL Derby, but he just doesn’t have the style of The Pamplemousse.  Big, grey, cute face marking, high white socks, carousel-horse-high knee action, funny name, and undefeated.  He likes to be on the lead, but he has been known to rate, somewhat.  Sure, he has pedigree questions, but as of today he has already outrun his sire, Kafwain, by winning at 9f, in a stakes, no less.  But there’s just something about him- he may not win the Kentucky Derby, but he’s got the Santa Anita Derby for the taking. 

Pioneerof The Nile looks to slice the Fruit at the Santa Anita Derby.

Pioneerof The Nile looks to slice the Fruit at the Santa Anita Derby.

PNile is a very good colt right now, getting better with each start and trained by a guy who knows how to win the Derby: Bob Baffert.  The son of Empire Maker has stuck out some close finishes in his career, but he has never faced a horse like The Fruit.  It will take every bit of his class and drive to pass The Fruit in the stretch.

Chocolate Candy, and to a lesser extent, Mr. Hot Stuff (seriously, who named this horse? his brother is Colonel John; this name sounds like a Chippendales’ dancer) are the upsetters-in-waiting.  Chocolate Candy has been plugging along in stakes at Golden Gate Fields, winning the El Camino Real and California Derby.  He’s by Candy Ride out of a Slew mare, so distance is not an issue.  His times and figures, while certainly quick, haven’t been as scintillating as The Fruit’s or PNile’s.  Mr. Hot Stuff was 3rd in the Sham behind The Fruit, but fans of the colt hope he gets better as the distances stretch, like his big bro.

At Aqueduct, the action moves out the the main track for the Wood Memorial.  I Want Revenge wants to turn in another devastating victory against Imperial Council.  I think Imperial Council will get the better of Revenge this time.  Revenge’s victory last out was his first run on traditional dirt, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounces.

April 4 is Part 1 of the Final Derby Preps.  The major contenders must keep it together the next 2 saturdays to solidify their places in the gate May 2.  Next weekend will be the Bluegrass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby — wow, time flies!

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Filed under Aqueduct, Derby Prepes, Graded Stakes, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita

MARCH MADNESS RACES of the WEEK

Pioneerof The Nile is sharp for the San Felipe on Saturday. Photo from KentuckyDerby.com

Pioneerof The Nile is sharp for the San Felipe on Saturday. Photo from KentuckyDerby.com

This weekend the FOUR! Big Kentucky Derby Preps feature returning favorites and a few “bubble” horses who could jump onto the list in huge ways.

REBEL:

OLD FASHIONED looks to add another easy victory in Hot Springs.  Silver City comes back to challenge, but I think he’d be better sticking to sprints.  Poltergeist is also back after a lackluster performance in the Southwest, and though I hope he runs better this time, I don’t see him winning.  D.Wayne Lukas has Hamazing Destiny, a maiden winner, entered, and savvy players know you shouldn’t ignore a Lukas horse.  Old Fashioned’s owner, Rick Porter, chose to be at Oaklawn on Saturday instead of New Orleans, where he has Fresian Fire running in the Louisiana Derby.  I think he should make plans to dress for a winners’ circle photo.

LOUISIANA DERBY:

This is the best betting race of the entire weekend:  a nice field of dangerously good colts.  FRESIAN FIRE has dominated the Fair Grounds and is the morning-line favorite.  IEAH’s Patena ran a great 2nd in the Risen Star and is the wiseguys’ pick.  Giant Oak has run well all winter and could be sitting on a huge race.  Then there is Terrain, making his first start of the year.  The Cali-shipper Papa Clem hopes to replicate I Want Revenge’s poly-to-dirt powerhousing, and I think he just might be able to do it.  He ran 2nd to Pioneerof The Nile in the Bob Lewis Stakes in only his 2nd start; he is by Smart Strike, a triple-threat sire whose get include turf champ English CHannel and repeat HOTY Curlin!  My tickets will have Freisan Fire and Papa Clem at the top.

TAMPA BAY DERBY

Street Sense started his 2007 Derby-winning campaign in this race, where he nearly dead-heated with Any Given Saturday.  I don’t see anything like that happening this year, but still, this makes for an interesting Florida prep.  Hello Broadway is out from under Capt. Candyman Can and Quality Road and up against Sam F. Davis winner General QUarters.  Also stopping by is Zito-trained Nowhere To Hide, a son of Vindication who was 4th in the Risen Star.  I like Nowhere To Hide and General Quarters for this one.

SAN FELIPE

Many of the horses PNILES has defeated have shipped out for dirt tracks, like I Want Revenge and Papa Clem.  Facing the Baffert trainee at Santa Anita are six colts praying for PNiles to have a bad day.  Jeranimo looks promising, and I would not ignore this maiden winner sired by Congaree.  Also New Bay and Feisty Suances…but really, PNiles is the big horse, hooves and shoulders above this group.  I kinda wish Bob had shipped him out to a dirt oval, just for some better competition.

And that’s The Infield March Madness !!

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Filed under Derby Prepes, Fairgrounds Race Course, Graded Stakes, Gulfstream Park, Handicapping, Kentucky Derby, Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita

The Infield Derby Top 10

The Pamplemousse is on the loose in the Sham Stakes. Photo from LATimes.

The Pamplemousse is on the loose in the Sham Stakes. Photo from LATimes.

1. Old Fashioned (1)

2. Pioneerof The Nile (2)

3. Friesan Fire (3)

4. The Pamplemousse (6)

5. Haynesfield (4)

6. Quality Road (new)

7. Chocolate Candy (7)

8. Dunkirk (new)

9. Capt. Candyman Can (5)

10. Imperial Council (10)

Off The List: Poltergeist, Hello Broadway

Not much change at the top, but two newcomers to the list in Quality Road and Dunkirk.  QR was touted early but quickly dropped off of most lists after a terrible run in a 6f allowance.  He totally made up for that effort in the Fountain of Youth last weekend.  Dunkirk could be Pletcher’s Derby winner after a startling performance in an allowance that set tongues wagging about the “’09 Big Brown”.  We’ll just have to see if the train-up to the FL Derby works and if this lightly-raced son of Unbridled’s Song can be ready in time for the Big Derby. 

The Big Fruit got the Big Win in the Sham on Saturday.  He set the pace and drew off by daylight once again.  I can’t wait ’till he and PNiles meet up; a classy frontrunner vs a tough closer equals awesomeness.

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INFIELD DERBY LIST 2.0!

1. Old Fashioned (1)

2. Pioneerof The Nile (8)

3. Friesan Fire (new!)

4. Haynesfield (new!)

5. Capt. Candyman Can (new!)

6. The Pamplemousse (new!)

7. Chocolate Candy (new!)

8. Poltergeist (new!)

9. Hello Broadway (new!)

10. Imperial Council (7)

Off The List: Square Eddie (injury), Midshipman & Vineyard Haven (Dubai, could resurface), Beethoven, Breakwater Edison, Well Positioned, Charitable Man (injury)

Lots of changes since the first list Jan. 1.  Old Fashioned remains at the top until he runs next Monday.  Pioneerof The Nile moves up a bunch off of his impressive Bob Lewis effort, and would be #1 if he was a known dirt commodity.  The rest of the list is made up of newcomers.  Friesan Fire has been the strongest 3yo in the South so far, taking the 2 stakes at Fairgrounds and learning how to settle.  Haynesfield is tearing it up at Aqueduct, but distance questions surround him with that sprinter sire.  Capt. Candyman Can looked great winning the Hutcheson.  The Pamplemousse is probably #2 in California, with Chocolate Candy close behind.  Poltergeist is an intriguing allowance winner at Oaklawn looking to prove himself in stakes company.  Hello Broadway is always in the race.  Imperial COuncil is working well and needs to make a start pretty soon; his potential is what is keeping him on the list.

All of the unfortunate list-droppers could make it back in the top 10 with a good effort.  Vineyard Haven makes his 3yo debut in Dubai on Thursday, and if he is still as dominant as he was last year then he’ll be back on the list next week.  Square Eddie is out with sore shins but can rejoin the list if he recovers quickly.  At least four 3yo stakes this weekend means there could be more movementon the list.  Also, ROAD TO THE ROSES is OPEN for ENTRIES!!!

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WEEKEND DERBY PREPS: Better than a Groundhog

Pioneerof The Nile relives his narrow Cashcall Futurity to return victorious in the Bob Lewis.

Pioneerof The Nile relives his narrow Cashcall Futurity to return victorious in the Bob Lewis.

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!

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Filed under Aqueduct, Derby Prepes, Fairgrounds Race Course, Graded Stakes, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita

THE PAMPLEMOUSSE

WINS the SAN RAFAEL at Santa Anita! 

The Pamplemousse wins the San Rafael wire-to-wire/image from bloodhorse.com

The Pamplemousse wins the San Rafael wire-to-wire/image from bloodhorse.com

Gotta love a horse named after a restaurant named after the French word for grapefruit.  Heh, I just bought a bunch of red grapefruit snack cups; it musta been an omen!

Seriously, though, TheBigFruit got away with the race from the beginning, setting easy fractions on the lead.  He showed his class by putting the squeeze on Square Eddie in the final turn.  Ryehill Dreamer made a move, too, but just couldn’t catch the top two.  The Big Fruit juiced Square Eddie by 3.

Square E needed the race, but he seems to be afflicted with 2nditis.  The Big Fruit is now 2-for-2  in his career, but much bigger challenges await him on the Derby trail. 

In terms of the Derby picture, it’s early, but the way this race played out, it probably won’t make any difference except to fill up posts 15-20.  The Pro-ride surface is a question mark, and there is no way The Big Fruit gets an easy lead like that again. 

IN OTHER RACES: 

CHOCOLATE CANDY won the California Derby today at Golden Gate Fields.  I like this one and hope he continues to progress.  He could be a Derby sleeper but he hasn’t tried dirt yet.

 SILVER CITY won the Dixieland Stakes at Oaklawn on Opening Day.

The next big 3yo preps are the Holy Bull and Hutcheson Stakes on Jan 30-31.

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Filed under Derby Prepes, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita