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The 142nd Belmont Stakes

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 3, 2010

The post positions for the 142nd running of the June 5th Belmont Stakes have been drawn and a large field of 12 eager young contestants are ready to take their shot at a place in history. While there is no Derby or Preakness winner attempting to capture a second classic this year the field is far from unexciting and makes for a racing fans dream.

Taking the number one hole is Dave In Dixie with Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel up. Earlier in the year this guy was pretty well situated on many Kentucky Derby lists as a legitimate threat but after a string of very uninspiring runs the colt has faded into the background. He turned heads with his runner-up effort in the Robert B. Lewis after posting a furious late rally from the back of the field and making up a ton of ground.

In post two is Spangled Star and jockey Garrett Gomez, the longest shot in the field at 30-1. This guy hasn’t impressed yet this year and his connections have even said they don’t expect him to win but never underestimate a long-shot in the Belmont.

Uptowncharlybrown will break from post number three with jockey Rajiv Maragh for new trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He last finished third to Exhi in the Lexington Stakes in April marking his third consecutive loss of the year. I wouldn’t count this guy out of any of the top four spots though, he seems to be a fairly consistent runner although I’m not sure that he will like the 1 ½ miles in the Belmont.

Make Music for Me will be breaking from the four hole under jockey Joel Rosario, the same number he finished at in the Kentucky Derby. There is potential for a great story; if Make Music for Me wins the Belmont, trainer Alexis Barba will become the first female trainer in history to not just win the Belmont Stakes, but the first female trainer to ever win a classic. That in itself would be a really good marketing angle for the race but Make Music for Me is no slouch and I believe he could get up for third or fourth.

In post position number five Fly Down and jockey John Velazquez start as the second runner for trainer Nick Zito behind race favorite Ice Box. Fly Down has won three of his last four starts with his last effort an impressive 6 length victory in the Dwyer Stakes (gr.2) at Belmont Park. In the Dwyer he easily defeated fellow Belmont Stakes contender Drosselmeyer along with five other over-matched rivals. This colt looks like a fast improving runner and has had plenty of time to recover from his Dwyer victory, don’t be surprised if he steals the entire show or at least takes the show spot.

Ice Box with jockey Jose Lezcano up will break from post six for trainer Nick Zito. He comes into the Belmont as the

Ice Box

favorite off his astonishing second place finish in the Kentucky Derby. In the Kentucky Derby he encountered probably more trouble than any other horse in the field and still managed to close from the rear of the field, work his way through horses and switch on a turn of foot that would put Zenyatta to shame. He entered the Derby off a similar style race in the Florida Derby, a race which he won by a nose, and with the added distance of the Belmont Stakes and the long Belmont stretch this race looks like it will suit the chestnut colt just fine. He has been working lights-out leading up to the Belmont which is typical Nick Zito handling.

Drosselmeyer and jockey Mike Smith take the seven hole in the Belmont field. Drosselmeyer started the year out right with a win against an allowance field but has since been working his way back up from first a fourth place finish in the Risen Star, then a third in the Louisiana Derby and last out finishing second to Fly Down in the Dwyer Stakes. He gets a new rider in the Belmont after having the services of Kent Desormeaux in seven of his eight lifetime starts. His works have been okay leading up to the Belmont but nothing that is going to turn heads and make you think he can get into the top four in the race at this point.

In post position eight Game On Dude and jockey Martin Garcia carry the hopes of trainer Bob Baffert to win his second classic race of the year after capturing the Preakness with Lookin At Lucky. The Awesome Again gelding enters off a great winning performance in the Lone Star Derby and trainer Bob Baffert  thinks he is in very good shape for a Belmont run.

Blue Grass Stakes winner Stately Victor and jockey Alan Garcia will be breaking from post number nine. After posting his visually impressive upset win in the Blue Grass Stately Victor finished a respectable eight in the Kentucky Derby slop. The son of Ghostzapper posted a very good five furlong work at Churchill Downs on May 25th before shipping in to Belmont and I have a feeling his Blue Grass wasn’t a fluke. If he has inherited any of his sire’s incredible talent then he should be able to run with the big guns here. I’d say a third place finish isn’t out of the question but won’t be surprised if he pulls another upset.

Stay Put and jockey Jamie Theriot take post number ten at odds of 20-1. He has won both of his allowance company races this year and finished fifth in both of his graded stakes attempts. His works leading up to the Belmont haven’t been particularly fast but they have been to the satisfaction of his connections. His form is great at this point and while he might be a colt on the improve he just doesn’t look like he’s in the same league as the top three, Ice Box, Fly Down and First Dude.

First Dude and jockey Ramon Dominguez break from post number eleven. After shocking the racing world with a gritty second place finish in the Preakness after setting murderous fractions on the front end, First Dude warrants more than a second look in the Belmont. He will have a much tougher job in the Belmont breaking from an outside post if he wants to take the lead but his stride is tremendous and with Belmont’s long stretch and sweeping turns it might not actually be that difficult for him to work his way to the front. The danger of a front runner in the Belmont is when they speed through early fractions and then come up empty in the stretch of the grueling 1 ½ mile test. First Dude is one big colt and looks like one of the fastest improving in the field but I think the distance will be too much for him if he tries to lead the whole way. I wouldn’t leave out of my top three pick for any reason though and I would love to see him steal the top prize.

Interactif and jockey Javier Castellano take post position twelve in the Belmont as the only starter for Kentucky Derby winning trainer Todd Pletcher. We last saw Interactif finishing fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes behind Stately Victor and prior to that he handed in a pair of second place finishes for remain winless so far this year. He was brilliant on the turf last year but the Triple Crown fever has apparently been too much for his connections and he finds himself entered in the Belmont. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race once before in 2007 when the talented filly Rags To Riches defeated dual Horse of the Year Curlin by a head. I think this is a very classy colt but I just don’t think he is as good on dirt as he is on turf.

Ice Box is a deserving favorite and if he gets a good pace to close into and changes leads properly I think it is his race to lose. Fly Down, First Dude and Stately Victory round out my top four choices with Dave In Dixie being my long shot choice.

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Posted in Alan Garcia, Alexis Barba, Belmont Park, Belmont Stakes, Bob Baffert, Calvin Borel, Dave in Dixie, Drosselmeyer, First Dude, Garret Gomez, Ice Box, Interactif, Jamie Theriot, Javier Castellano, John Velazquez, Jose Lezcano, Make Music For Me, Martin Garcia, Mike Smith, Nick Zito, Rajiv Maragh, Ramon Dominguez, Spangled Star, Stately Victor, Stay Put, Todd Pletcher, Uptowncharlybrown | 4 Comments »

Memorial Day Weekend: Racing Lineup

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 28, 2010

Belmont Stakes News:

Ice Box

Leading Belmont Stakes contender, Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box proved his readiness to face the rigors of the Triple Crown’s third jewel on Thursday at Saratoga with a flashy bullet half mile work. Ice Box completed his half mile in :46 3/5ths and trainer Nick Zito says that he clocked him galloping out the six furlongs in 1:14. His was the fastest move at the distance of 22 identical works and had Zito sounding pretty happy with the effort. “He finished with good energy and looked good doing it” Zito said before stating that Ice Box appeared to have zip in him. It sounds like Zito will once again have a powerful hand in the Belmont Stakes.

Bluegrass Stakes winner Stately Victor also turned in a good workout for his run in Belmont Stakes on May 25th. Stately Victor went five furlongs in a speedy :59.40 with excellent internal fractions throughout the work. He galloped out the six furlongs in 1:14.20.

Both Drosselmeyer and Make Music For Me turned in works at Belmont park on Wednesday in preparation for the Belmont Stakes. Neither time for the two colts was very impressive but both of the colts trainers seemed to think the track was somewhat deep and tiring. Make Music for Me went a mile in 1:43.65 for trainer Alexis Barba while Drosselmeyer covered six furlongs in 1:14.10 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

Dave In Dixie has joined the Belmont cast this year for trainer John Sadler. After working one mile in 1:39.60 at Hollywood Park the decision was made to enter the colt in the Belmont. Dave In Dixie will be ridden by Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel in the Belmont according to Sadler.

Aristides Stakes:

Jockey Calvin Borel and Churchill Downs Stakes (gr.2) victor Atta Boy will attempt to win a second graded stakes race at Churchill Downs after flying to a rousing upset at odds of 10-1 in the Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day May 1st. This time around the 5-year-old will go off as the high-weight favorite in the six furlong Aristides Stakes (gr.3) against five opponents. He will most likely receive a strong test from 4-year-old Cash Refund who enters the Aristides riding a three race winning streak. Cash Refund’s biggest success has come from setting the pace on the front-end so the six furlong distance will be well suited to his style. Others entered are Lissa’s Star, Riley Tucker, Chief of Affairs and Cassoulet.

Chief of Affairs in one to watch after winning his last start, the James Whitcomb Riley Stakes,  in dominant fashion over fellow entrant Riley Tucker. He has hit the board in all 5 other starts this year.

I will post about more of the weekend’s upcoming races by tomorrow morning including the Metropolitan Handicap, Gamely Stakes, Winning Colors Stakes and Lone Star Park Handicap.

Posted in Aristides Stakes, Atta Boy, Belmont Stakes, Bill Mott, Calvin Borel, Cash Refund, Chief of Affairs, Churchill Downs Stakes, Dave in Dixie, Drosselmeyer, Florida Derby, Gamely Stakes, Ice Box, John Sadler, Lone Star Park Handicap, Make Music For Me, Metropolitan Handicap, Nick Zito, Riley Tucker, Stately Victor, Triple Crown, Winning Colors Stakes | 4 Comments »

Belmont Stakes: Not so Bleak

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 20, 2010

The Belmont Stakes will be completely bereft of any Triple Crown contenders this year for the first time since 2006. Not one single contender from the 5 young horses to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate and then continue on to the Preakness two weeks later this spring are going to brave America’s crowning distance race jewel for three year olds.

After the announcement that Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky and then Kentucky Derby champion Super Saver and

Ice Box

Derby third place finisher Paddy O’Prado would all be bypassing the final jewel of the Triple Crown was made, it seemed only Dublin and Jackson Bend would remain to run the course. Jackson Bend was questionable for a short while after the Preakness, with trainer Nick Zito unsure whether or not he wanted to send the talented colt on to the Belmont or freshen him for the late summer races. It came as little surprise when the decision was made in favor of the latter. Dublin was then left to carry the torch as the sole contender to compete in every leg of the Triple Crown this year. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas squashed that fantasy on the morning of May 20th, announcing that the chestnut son of Afleet Alex will instead be pointed to the bigger races later this summer after his rigorous Triple Crown campaign.

Although it may appear that prospective Belmont Stakes contenders are bleak at this point the field is actually shaping up to include some very nice young colts. Headlining the ever shrinking list of probably Belmont starters is Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box. After his spectacular stretch run in the Kentucky Derby during which he made up twice as much ground as any other runner, many people were looking forward to seeing this Nick Zito trainee tackle Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky again in the Preakness Stakes. His connections opted to skip the Preakness in favor of the Belmont Stakes though and now he comes into a race custom built to enhance his late-running style. This time he will enter the race as the favorite, well rested and with a master trainer at the helm. Hypothetically speaking; if Ice Box wins the Belmont he makes a strong case for the 3-year-old Male championship.

Other possible starters in the Belmont Stakes include Preakness Stakes runner-up First Dude, six-length Dwyer Stakes victor Fly Down, Dwyer runner-up Drosselmeyer, Lone Star Derby winner Game On Dude, Kentucky Derby fourth place finisher Make Music for Me, Blue Grass Stakes winner and eighth place finisher in the Kentucky Derby Stately Victor, Lexington Stakes third place finisher Uptowncharlybrown, Withers Stakes third place finisher Spangled Star and Stay Put.

If nothing else this year’s Belmont could prove to be a redemptive race for a number of contenders.

In other news Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated dual-champion Zenyatta both have been working well for their connections. Zenyatta is preparing for an incredible three-peat in the Vanity Handicap on June 13th while Rachel Alexandra’s next start is undecided.

I’ve included some pictures from my trip to the Kentucky Derby/Oaks below. Unfortunately my camera had some

Zardana

problems during the running of the Derby and I wasn’t able to get

Rachel Alexandra

any good pictures that day but I got some nice ones of Rachel Alexandra and the La Troienne

Be Fair #1, Morena #2

contenders.

Rachel Alexandra

Distinctive Dixie

Rachel Alexandra

Rachel Alexandra

Rachel Alexandra (can you tell what my focus was on?)

Unrivaled Belle

Into the Homestretch (A little blurry-hard to hold still when you're jumping and cheering)

Stretch Run

Posted in Belmont Stakes, Bluegrass Stakes, Bob Baffert, Drosselmeyer, Dublin, Dwyer Stakes, First Dude, Fly Down, Ice Box, Jackson Bend, Kentucky Derby, La Troienne Stakes, Lookin at Lucky, Make Music For Me, Paddy O'Prado, Preakness Stakes, Rachel Alexandra, Stately Victor, Stay Put, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Triple Crown, Uncategorized, Uptowncharlybrown, Vanity Handicap, Withers Stakes, Zenyatta | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

Jackson Bend Is In: Derby Dozen

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 26, 2010

Jackson Bend

I decided to post my Derby Dozen selections for the first time since the beginning of the year. The plan was to keep one going throughout the year until Steve from Wire Players invited me to participate in their collaborative Derby Dozen, so I dropped my own personal dozen. Now with all the reshuffling going on the earnings list Jackson Bend enters the field due to the defections of horses like Eskendereya and Rule. I am a huge fan of Jackson Bend and was very pleased to see that he will get a well deserved chance to make a run for the roses. Pletchers filly Devil May Care is now a definite Derby starter and Interactif is, according to Pletcher, very doubtful to enter the race. If Interactif does drop out of contention that opens up one more spot for a horse like Backtalk to fill in. Noble’s Promise as expected, is now confirmed for the Kentucky Derby after showing trainer Kenny McPeek that he is in top physical form. So here, after only a 3 month break is my final Derby Dozen.

1)      Lookin At Lucky-Finally regains his well-deserved title of favorite. Baffert seems to have helped him rediscover his luck at Churchill Downs, now he just needs to hold onto it until Saturday evening.

2)      Noble’s Promise-Earned his way in through his excellent works and appears ready to finish “lookin” At Lukcy’s butt again.

3)      Jackson Bend-The bridesmaid of the year finally gets into the Derby after a slew of defections. He may be the easiest choice to fill out your exacta wager you’ll ever make.

4)      Sidney’s Candy-Made a sweet statement with his first Churchill Downs workout. His staying speed could be compromised by so many other speed horses running, but he looks very ratable.

5)      Ice Box-This guy is as cool as a cucumber and has been working very crisply for his run for the roses. His running style is the absolute perfect style to have this year and his record indicates he is quickly improving.

6)      Dublin-The luck of the Irish could still come his way, so long as it’s not too busy blessing Lookin At Lucky. His 2010 performances, while not victories were still good efforts and he only lost the Arkansas Derby by less than a length, Lukas will have him ready to run his best race you can be sure.

7)      Paddy O’Prado-Looks like one of the best live long-shots in the Derby field at this point. Churchill Downs appears to be treating him very well and he owns one of the best Kentucky Derby works to date.

8)      Devil May Care-I’m not sure if the Devil Care’s that she runs in the Derby or not, but I’m sure the boys care and the girls are probably very happy to see her leave the Oaks field.

9)      Endorsement-If he wins this one Shannon Ritter becomes the first female trainer to ever win the Derby, in 2009 that would have practically been a “lock”, not so sure it happens in 2010.

10)    Stately Victor-His Bluegrass was a better race than most people think and he looked fantastic galloping out after the win.

11)   Awesome Act-Could be the forgotten horse coming into the Derby off his un-awesome third place Wood Memorial finish. He probably won’t win but he might be good enough for 4th or even 3rd.

12)   Conveyance-Bob Baffert knows how to get a horse to the Derby better than anyone, so don’t leave him off you tickets just because he looks like the “speed” that will break coming off the backstretch. He is another one who is working beautifully over Churchill Down’s dirt surface.

Posted in Arkansas Derby, Awesome Act, Backtalk, Bob Baffert, Churchill Downs, Conveyance, D Wayne Lukas, Devil May Care, Dublin, Endorsement, Eskendereya, Handicapping, Homeboykris, Ice Box, Interactif, Jackson Bend, Kenneth McPeek, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Line of David, Lookin at Lucky, Noble's Promise, Paddy O'Prado, Rule, Sidney's Candy, Stately Victor, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 12 Comments »

Shaken, Stirred and on the Rocks

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 14, 2010

A lot has happened over this past weekend in relation to the Kentucky Derby scene which has been drastically re-altered due to some very surprising race results. It seems like the line-up of horses with graded earnings for the Derby has been shaken, stirred and many contestants tossed out onto the rocks. I have had a busy weekend and beginning of the week so I wanted to just be able to step back and absorb everything before I jumped in and wrote about it all.

Stately Victor

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes produced the biggest shocker of the weekend and what’s even more shocking is that it looks legitimate. Stately Victor, who entered the Blue Grass with only 1 win in 7 lifetime starts and his last five starts resulting in off the board finishes, showed a sustained drive in the stretch to win at odds of 40-1. If this race had been on dirt and not polytrack this son of Ghostzapper would probably be much higher on people’s Derby lists than he is right now. He currently ranks number 9 on the graded earnings list after his Blue Grass victory. Paddy O’Prado finished second to Stately Victor which gave him enough graded earnings to put him right at number 19 on the list. Finishing third in the Blue Grass was First Dude who stands zero chance of making the Derby with earning of only $97,500. Almost any other year that would have been sufficient but this year seems to be running under a full head of steam and there is no room for any competition error at this point, time is almost up.

The three top choices in the Blue Grass, Interactif, Pleasant Prince and Odysseus all finished off the board with Interactif securing 4th place. Pleasant Prince finished 7th, and Odysseus finished last of 9 after helping set a brisk pace throughout the race. It was discovered after the race that Odysseus has a bone chip in the back of his left knee which has effectively knocked him off of the Derby trail. Hopefully we’ll see this guy come back later in the year as I strongly believe we didn’t yet see the best of his talents.

The Arkansas Derby was almost as surprising as the Blue Grass Stakes, but in

Line of David

the end the results seemed to make much more sense. Front-running Line of David, making his first start on dirt led a highly-touted field of three year old colts on a merry chase around the Oaklawn Park oval to win gate-to-wire.

Entering the stretch in appeared the 17-1 shot was finished as big guns Super Saver and Dublin were breathing down his neck to the outside. Instead of folding as it appeared, Line of David fought back fiercely on the inside and maintained a neck advantage the length of the stretch over Super Saver who was neck ahead of Dublin. Those three hit the wire in exactly the same positions with Uh Oh Bango finishing fourth and race favorite, Noble’s Promise finishing 5th after a nightmarish trip. In winning the richest Derby prep in the country Line of David increased his earnings by $600,000 vaulting him to number 6 on the graded earnings list. He has now won three consecutive races, the two previous to the Arkansas Derby coming on the turf at Santa Anita. His winning streak began when trainer John Sadler decided to add blinkers to his equipment.

Fourth place finisher Uh Oh Bango fractured his left front cannon bone in the running of the Arkansas Derby and is now off the Derby trail. Aside from Buddy’s Saint and now Odysseus and Uh Oh Bango there have been far fewer injuries this year than there were last year when it seemed high-profile contenders were dropping out each week or two with an injury.

Noble's Promise

The Derby status of Noble’s Promise, who currently stands at number 2 on the graded earnings list with $738,000, is undecided. He exited the race with several cuts on his front legs and a lung infection was discovered later. Trainer Kenny McPeek seems to think he is doing much better now but will not say he is definite for the Derby yet although he is headed for Churchill Downs.

With the Coolmoore Lexington Stakes being run this weekend, more horses could be casting their lots into the earnings picture which would reshuffle the picture yet again. As of now trainer Todd Pletcher is doubtful that Interactif will make the Derby field which will make room for Jackson Bend to enter unless someone gets an earnings boost with a win in the Lexington Stakes this weekend. If a horse like Homeboykris who is undeserving of his #20 placing were to be removed that would free things up nicely. We will just have to see how things pan out this weekend and go from there.

Posted in Aikenite, Arkansas Derby, Bluegrass Stakes, Buddy's Saint, Codoy, First Dude, Homeboykris, Interactif, Jackson Bend, Kentucky Oaks, Line of David, Noble's Promise, Northern Giant, Odysseus, Paddy O'Prado, Pleasant Prince, Stately Victor, Synthetic(s), Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uh Oh Bango | 6 Comments »

Apple Blossom, Arkansas Derby and Bluegrass Stakes

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 8, 2010

This weekend can pretty much be called a two-day gala with Friday’s Apple Blossom Handicap and Saturyday’s Arkansas Derby and Bluegrass Stakes. Granted the Apple Blossom is one race so it’s hardly a gala but when you consider that Zenyatta is the race headliner the scenario changes in seconds. The great undefeated Zenyatta could conceivably steal the weekend show and will most likely garner as much if not much more attention than both Kentucky Derby preps put together. That’s not to say the fields for the Arkansas Derby and Bluegrass Stakes are weak and unworthy of consideration. Quite the contrary in fact, but the overwhelming star power of racings greatest mare of all time is just too much competition to ask of talented  young three year old colts.

The Apple Blossom Invitational Handicap was setting up as the meeting point

Zenyatta

of two of the greatest females ever to grace the track in racing history earlier this year when the respective parties of Champion Zenyatta and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra agree to enter for a purse of $5 million dollars. Unfortunately Rachel Alexandra was withdrawn from consideration when she lost the New Orleans Ladies Stakes in her season debut and her connections felt she was not yet ready to face Zenyatta. The Apple Blossom Handicap is now a one horse show and it’s all about Zenyatta. Is there anyone left who is brave enough to actually state outright that they are choosing against Zenyatta anymore and that their horse actually stands a chance? It’s almost laughable to think she might lose the race.

Undefeated in 15 lifetime starts, Zenyatta is perfection in motion and over the course of the last three years has been defying everything the history books and experts say should and shouldn’t be possible. In the Apple Blossom she will going for her 16th straight victory, that’s the real race here. If she succeeds she will have equaled the feat of the incredible 1948 Triple Crown champion Citation and will enter the record books as the greatest mare in the history of this illustrious sport. Zenyatta will be making just her

Zenyatta

second start on natural dirt in the Apple Blossom after winning the 2008 renewal of the Apple Blossom. In the 2008 Apple Blossom she went off as the second choice, it was the first and only time in her life that she was not sent off as the favorite. This time around she will be the overwhelming favorite seeing as she has been a sure thing in this sport up to this point and there are no indications that situation is about to change anytime soon. Zenyatta just keeps climbing the ladder of prominence higher and higher with no end in sight, when she stops is anyone’s guess.

Only four brave souls were entered against Zenyatta this time around and not a one has a single grade 1 win to her credit. Leading the lagging pack is Larry

Just Jenda

and Cindy Jones’ Just Jenda, the only other graded stakes winner in the field aside from Zenyatta. She enters the Apple Blossom on a three race losing streak, her last victory coming in the Monmouth Oaks (gr.3) in the summer of 2009.

War Echo enters the race off a well-beaten 5th place finish in the Azeri Stakes in which she finished behind 4th place finisher Just Jenda. She has lost both her 2010 starts.

Taptam enters off a 9th place finish in the Azeri, but previously won two consecutive starts. This will be her first time trying the 9 furlong distance.

Be Fair holds the distinction of being the only contestant to enter the Apple Blossom with a victory in her last start, aside from Zenyatta that is who has only victories to her credit. She won an allowance race at Oaklawn this year in early March.

The field entered against Zenyatta pales horribly in comparison with her powerful image and their records are so drastically different that it’s almost impossible to compare them. Suffice it to say this could be billed as the equivalent of a singing contest between Celine Dion and four preschoolers.

The Arkansas Derby boasts a very strong field of graded stakes winners and

Noble's Promise

“supporting cast” Kentucky Derby prospects just waiting to steal the spot light. From the powerhouse stable of Todd Pletcher comes one of his most prized pupils. Super Saver was installed as the slight favorite in the Arkansas Derby off his close third place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby behind a victorious Odysseus and Schoolyard Dreams. He had previously won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr.2) at Churchill Downs as a juvenile by more than 5 lengths. Calvin Borel gets the mount on the front-running favorite. The suspicion here is that they will attempt to get this colt to rate off the pace this time around. He did very well in the Tampa Bay Derby to hold onto third by half a length after setting the fractions up front.

Noble’s Promise enters this race off one of the strongest losing efforts on the Derby trail so far this year. In his last start he finished a neck behind Lookin At Lucky in the Rebel Stakes over the same course in his 3-year-old debut. This tough-luck colt has finished behind Lookin At Lucky every time the two face each other, but with the Lookin At Lucky not entered this time around it appears to be his race to lose. He shows up every time and runs his heart out so you can bet he’ll be competitive in the Arkansas Derby.

Dublin has not quite failed to live up to the billing trainer D. Wayne Lukas bestowed upon him last year, but neither has he done a whole lot to reinforce his highly-touted billing. The talented son of  Afleet Alex last won the

Dublin

Hopefull Stakes (gr.1) in September. He finished a strong second in his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest Stakes (gr.3) then followed that up with a 3rd place finish to Lookin At Lucky and Noble’s Promise in the Rebel Stakes. He has proven himself to be very consistent this year but has yet to capture that elusive victory.

Northern Giant, Uh Oh Bango, Pulsion, New Madrid, Berberis and Line of David complete the field. Uh Oh Bango could present the biggest outside challenge after running 4th in the Rebel and finishing second by a neck to

Super Saver

Rule in the Boyd Gaming Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. 3) in December. This will be his second start of the year and he looks like the kind of colt that is slowly but surely improving. Northern Giant last finished second to Dean’s Kitten in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. 3). Line of David is an intriguing entry for trainer John Sadler.  He enters off a 4 ½ length allowance victory.

I think Noble’s Promise will break through with a well-deserved victory here and finally step out from the enormous shadow cast by Lookin At Lucky. Super Saver will probably be very sharp off his third place Tampa Bay Derby win but I like Dublin for second.

The $750,000 Bluegrass Stakes (gr.1) is probably the most intriguing Derby

Odysseus (middle with no blinkers)

prep this weekend and also the toughest one to handicap. A field of 9 gifted runners were entered with Florida Derby second place finisher Pleasant Prince installed as the 3-1 favorite. Pleasant Prince has finished behind Ice Box in his last three starts and looks to earn enough graded stakes money in the Bluegrass to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. While Pleasant Prince is certainly talented and has plenty of ability, I do not believe he is the best horse in the field.

Odysseus comes into the Bluegrass Stakes riding a hot three race win streak which includes one of the year’s most impressive Derby prep victories. In the Tampa Bay Derby last out Odysseus turned certain defeat at the top of the stretch into resounding victory by re-rallying after being passed in the stretch to win by a thrilling nose over Schoolyard Dreams. While Schoolyard Dreams did not flatter his form in the Wood Memorial last weekend, I still believe this is one of the best colts of the year and he will find a way to win this race. He is still very inexperienced and green but his talent shines through every time he steps onto the track. This will be his first start on polytrack.

Interactif enters the Bluegrass as the stronger half of a Todd Pletcher entered duo with Aikenite. Interactif has lost his only two races this year by a mere

Interactif

nose in his 2010 debut and a fast closing second by a half length to Sidney’s Candy in the San Felipe (gr.2). Aikenite last finished third to leading Kentucky Derby contender Eskendereya in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes (gr.2) and will be looking for a breakthrough performance here. A win, second or third place finish would assure Aikenite a starting position in the Derby with his earnings already standing at $218,000.

First Dude, Paddy O’Prado, Make Music for Me, Codoy and Stately Victor round out the field.

Odysseus seems like the kind of colt that anything could conceivably be possible with and so far he has won on sheer talent alone. If he can put all his immaturity issues behind him in the Bluegrass he should win this going away. Interactif, Aikenite and Pleasant Prince are hard to separate for me. If there is a good strong pace up front, Pleasant Prince and Aikenite will benefit the most but Interactif is more consistent and competitive in top tier races than either one. First Dude and Codoy are also intriguing entries but looked a little out-classed at this point.

Aside from the big three races this weekend there are a bunch of high-class runners competing across the nation in graded stakes races, the most obvious of these is the return of Informed Decision in the Vinery Madison (gr.1) today and the return of Forever Together in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr.2) on Saturday. Enjoy the races. Go Zenyatta!

Posted in Aikenite, Apple Blossom Handicap, Arkansas Derby, Be Fair, Berberis, Bluegrass Stakes, Calvin Borel, Citation, Codoy, Dublin, Eskendereya, First Dude, Forever Together, Ice Box, Informed Decision, Interactif, Jenny Wiley Stakes, Just Jenda, Kentucky Derby, Line of David, Lookin at Lucky, Make Music For Me, Noble's Promise, Northern Giant, Odysseus, Paddy O'Prado, Pleasant Prince, Pulsion, Rachel Alexandra, Rebel Stakes, Rule, Schoolyard Dreams, Sidney's Candy, Stately Victor, Super Saver, Tampa Bay Derby, Taptam, Thorougbred Horse Racing, Todd Pletcher, Uh Oh Bango, Uncategorized, Vinery Madison, War Echo, Zenyatta | 3 Comments »

 
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