Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

WRRB: Good Week, or Bad Weak?

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 31, 2011

The weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby are flying by and now there are just 6 weeks and two days until the most exciting two minutes in sports commences and racing has crowned a new Derby champion. Each and every prep race is crunch time, it’s now or never for those horses who might be on the earnings bubble with less in graded stakes earnings than the majority of their more recognized counterparts. The Florida Derby this Sunday could play a huge role in the way the 20 horse field lineups on the first Saturday in May as a deep field of colts lines up for their chance at history.

Known as the Lanes End Stakes from 2000-2010, Turfway Park’s signature event for three year olds was renamed the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr.3) this year with a purse of $500,000. For the first half mile and slightly beyond it appeared as it race favorite Positive Response might be on his way to his second consecutive stakes win but Decisive Moment dispersed any such thoughts when he moved up to challenge for the lead around the far turn and easily took command. Second choice in the betting, Animal Kingdom, raced in last through the first half before gradually moving up along the inside of horses. As the field approached the homestretch Decisive Moment continued to move strongly on the lead as Animal Kingdom came off the turn, drove to the far outside and gunned for the front runner. Those two put on a thrilling display down the stretch as Animal Kingdom moved quickly up alongside Decisive Moment and appeared as if he would pull away, but Decisive Moment tenaciously rose to the challenge and fought head and head. Animal Kingdom finally broke loose from his determined rival and shook clear for a 2 ¾ length victory.

Decisive Moment was the first horse to arrive at Churchill Downs to contest the Kentucky Derby, taking up residence in barn 41. Animal Kingdom earned $285,000 for his first graded stakes win which should be enough to earn him a spot in the Kentucky Derby. I really liked the way he looked winning the Spirol, determination is something I always prize in a young colt.

The Louisiana Derby took most of the attention this past weekend. With a $1 million jackpot ,of which $600,000 is awarded to the winner, it virtually assured the victor a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Pants On Fire became the colt to fill that starting position as he held on in the stretch to win the Louisiana Derby Saturday by a neck over fellow long-shot Nehro. Heavy race favorite and Risen Star winner Mucho Macho Man lost a shoe early in the race but was still able to get up for third, beaten by just one length. Both Pants On Fire and Mucho Macho Man will be heading to the Derby. Second place finisher Nehro ran a terrific race to almost get up for the win after switching leads very late in the homestretch and darting through on the rail.

Daisy Devine - Hodges Photography/Alexander Barkoff

Plum Pretty, Summer Soiree and Daisy Devine, they sound like a cheesy singing group of southern belles but in reality they comprise a trio of talented fillies that all won major stakes race en route to the Kentucky Oaks. Plum Pretty demolished the Sunland Park Oaks field for fun on Sunday, winning by 25 lengths and making Bob Baffert wish he had instead run her in the Sunland Derby against the colts. She earned a 99 Beyer for her effortless victory.

Summer Soiree wasn’t far behind with her 10 ¾ romp in the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Oaklawn Park, earning herself a career best 91 Beyer. She has won her last two race by more than 20 combined lengths and is undefeated in two starts this year.

Daisy Devine won the Fair Grounds Oaks by half a length over St. John’s River with Niji’s Grand Girl 1 ¾ lengths back in third and Inglorious in fourth. The Kafwain filly sat just off the pace set by Grandacious before taking the lead coming off the turn and held sway all down the homestretch, just holding off the furious closing rush of St. John’s River. Inglorious disappointed after finishing a strong second to Kathmanblu in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, finishing fourth while seeming to have trouble finding her best stride until very late in the race.

Rocket Man ran his foes off their feet in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-1) when he won the premier sprint race by 2 ¼ lengths. Rating in second for the majority of the 6 furlong race behind Euroears, Rocket Man had to fight hard down the stretch to gain the lead from his stubborn rival, finally taking the lead with vigorous urging and drawing off for the win as the heavy favorite. His running style is very interesting for a sprinter. He doesn’t sprint for the wire when he gets clear running in the stretch, he grinds out his move from just off the pace.

Rahy’s Attorney and Prince Will I Am have formed a dynamic rivalry in their last two races and on Saturday Rahy’s Attorney exacted revenge on his opponent, winning his fifth graded stakes win when he captured the Pan American Stakes (gr.3) at Gulfstream Park with Prince Will I Am a close third. The win brought the 7-year-old geldings lifetime earnings up to $1,957,090, just short of the $2 million mark.

Zardana has been retired from racing after an ankle issue was discovered. The graded stakes winning filly will always best be remembered for having defeated 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in her 2010 debut in the New Orleans Ladies.

Was it an overall strong weekend for racing or a relatively mediocre one?

Make sure to stop by Kentucky Oaks Runner on Horse Racing Nation tomorrow for my breakdown of the Gulfstream Oaks.


6 Responses to “WRRB: Good Week, or Bad Weak?”

  1. mary petrecz said

    It was all definatly fun to watch. Every race can be an important one and only time will tell how important any of them are.

  2. Susan said

    Hi Brian,
    For me, it was more about the fillies this past weekend. BTW, Summer Soiree was just sold to Team Valor for an undisclosed sum and she is of course, heading towards the Oaks.
    Now about the race on Sunday (Florida Derby)… we should know A LOT more about the colts after that race has been run!

    • Me too Susan, the filly performances were by far more commanding than the colts.
      It’s a shame Summer Soiree won’t be with Larry Jones anymore but I’m glad to see they are still pointing for the Oaks.

      The Florida Derby is loaded!

  3. The Turk said

    I think its been a middling prep season so far; that changes of course if we are looking back after someone wins the Triple Crown, but right now, because no one is really prepping in an aggresive manner, its just hard to tell what we have. I try not to compare the prep seasons, as its a slippery slope. All it takes is one horse from the 3 year old crowd to grab me and I’ll be hooked. I’m still waiting. Now do I buy a horse hat with his name? It’s been worse that the SI cover jinx for me.

    • I agree, with the exception of The Factor, Soldat, Stay Thirsty and Premier Pegasus (and hopefully soon Uncle Mo) and a few others there hasn’t been a lot of consistency among Derby contenders.

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