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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

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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Filed under Churchill Downs, Derby Prepes, Handicapping, Kentucky Derby, lists

2009 PREDICTIONS

At midnight I drank a New Year’s toast to the brand new 3yos of 2009, and the promise of glory and heartbreak on the Derby trail.  Here is the OFFICIAL Infield Derby Top 10 List, Week 1!

10) MIDSHIPMAN :  BC Juvy winner by Unbridled’s Song would have been in the top 5 were it not for the bad luck of being part of the Stonerside dispersal.  Instead of staying in CA with Baffert, the talented colt is spending his winter in Dubai.  I admire the Sheikh’s love and dedication to the sport and his magnificent training center, but his Derby tactics just haven’t been all that successful.  Midshipman could be the one to prove me wrong, but I think the #2 colt has an even better chance –

9) SQUARE EDDIE :  Raced exclusively on turf and synthetic, this son of Smart Strike began his career in Europe before joining Paul Reddam’s racing stable.  His impressive 5-length victory in the Lane’s End Futurity set him up for a tough run in the BC Juveile, where he tracked Midshipman the whole way around.  He has never raced on dirt, but his sire has gotten nice runners on all surfaces (Curlin & English Channel).  Promises to be a major player in the Cali preps, beginning with the San Rafael on Jan 17.

8) PIONEEROF THE NILE : Baffert’s replacement for Midshipman, this colt won a hard-fought running of the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 20.  The Zayat Stables runner by Empire Maker has always been charging at the final furlong, and seems to be on the improve.  Surface questions also surround him: though he broke his maiden on Saratoga’s dirt, he has only run in synthetic stakes.  Trivia: His damsire is Lord At War, the same as Baffert’s ’02 Derby winner War Emblem.  And just as an aside, I hate the preposition dangling off of “Pioneer”  in his name…

7) IMPERIAL COUNCIL : Impressive maiden winner also sired by Empire Maker.  Out of a Thunder Gulch mare, he promises to only get better as distances stretch out.  He is owned by newish partnership Sequoia Racing Stable, headed by longtime racing pro Reynolds Bell Jr.  In Shug McGaughey’s barn, Imperial Council has a expert conditioner plotting his runup to the roses. 

6) BEETHOVEN :  John Ward got Monarchos to the ’01 Derby and is using that  experience to train this son of Sky Mesa.  The colt has a win over the Churchill Downs surface, in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at 1 1/6 miles on Nov. 29.  He toughed out the win in a three-way duel down the stretch, showing a lot of guts for a 2yo.  There are a few questions however– dam Moonlight Sonata is by sprint sire Carson City, and both parents had short, injury-plagued careers.  Ward is a careful, old-school trainer, though, and the colt has had no problems so far.

5) BREAK WATER EDISON : Such a cumbersome name for a very talented colt.  This son of Lemon Drop Kid has taken his time finding the winner’s circle in stakes, finally getting some Gr3 money in the one mile Nashua on Nov. 2.  The trainee of John Kimmel stayed close to a hot pace in that race, yet found enough in the tank to draw away impressively and finish in 1:35.8.  Break Water Edison should stretch out nicely as the races do on the Derby trail.  I only wish he had a more palatable name…

4) WELL POSITIONED : Another promising maiden winner, this one owned by Paul Pompa, Jr. of Big Brown fame.  The son of Awesome Again broke his maiden by a devastating 14 lengths, which lit up Pompa’s phone with offers from many looking for Derby prospects.  The aptly-named colt is trained by Pat Reynolds.  The colt’s final time in the mile maiden race was 1:38 3/5, while older horses running in the Discovery Handicap later that day ran 2 seconds slower in covering the same distance.  Pompa appeared well-positioned once again for classic success, though there hasn’t been any major announcement about ownership changes or future plans for the colt since the big win, which leads me to believe there might be an issue somewhere. 

3) CHARITABLE MAN : A favorite of mine from the summer, this son of Lemon Drop Kid pulled away strongly to win the 7f Belmont Futurity. Like father, like son.   Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, this gorgeous dark bay out of a Saint Ballado mare figures to relish the added distances on the spring classics.  An injury knocked him out of the fall juvenile races, but I’ve heard he seems to be doing well and will be dangerous in the Derby preps.

2) VINEYARD HAVEN : He was Bobby Frankel’s best 2yo since Empire Maker, winner of the Gr1 Champagne Stakes and Gr1 Hopeful and early favorite for the BC Juvy.  The supplemental entry fee of $180,000 kept him out of the big race, but not out of the sight of Sheikh Mohammed.  This son of blog favorite Lido Palace was snatched up for an undisclosed (read:ungodly) sum just after the juvenile.  He, too will be in Dubai for the runup to the Derby, but of all the horses sent there for training over the past several years, Vineyard Haven seems to be the one who could pull off the impossible.  He’s fast, he’s bred to go long, and he can win on dirt.

1) OLD FASHIONED :  He is a grey colt by Unbridled’s Song, trained by Larry Jones and owned by Fox Hill Farm.  How poetic would it be for a half-bro* to Eight Belles to win the Kentucky Derby?  In all seriousness, the Fox Hill Farm crew have come dangerously close to winning the roses the past several years, with the unlucky Rockport Harbor, whose injured foot kept him off the Derby trail in ’05;  the tough, speedy Hard Spun, who set the pace in the ’07 Derby and hung on for 2nd; and of course, Eight Belles, the only horse who came close to Big Brown in the ’08 Derby.   Old Fashioned ran a lights out Remsen at 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.33, by a stunning 7 lengths.  Of course, the soundness issue will be talked to death, as will the strength of the bottom side of his pedigree.  But Old Fashioned looks like a Derby winner to me, and he has the connections to make it all the way. 

 *Eight Belles and Old Fashioned share a sire, and for my purposes on today’s blog, I used the human definition of “half brother”.  However, the two horses are not technically considered half-siblings because they are not out of the same mare.

Happy New Year!  

Happy Birthday Thoroughbreds!!!

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Filed under Derby Prepes, Kentucky Derby, lists