April 17, 2008

Derby picture... clear as mud??

Back in my youth, one of my favorite songs was "Another one bites the dust", which the JunkYard Dog "JYD" used as an entry song for his Mid-South wrestling matches. NBC would be well served to use this as the theme music while profiling this year's Derby field on the rapidly approaching first Saturday in May! Even though most of the heavyweights have stumbled in their past race or two, their trainers are willing to give them another chance in what appears to be a wide open Kentucky Derby 134. Topping this list seeking a "do over" is Pyro, who had been the most consistent sophomore while racing over the Fair Grounds oval prior to his 10th place Blue Grass Stakes finish behind Monba, who had previously run up the track in the Fountain of Youth prior to this win.

Which brings up one of the several reasons that may lead to such anomolic race results; synthetic surfaces. Pyro raced for the first time on a non-traditional dirt surface while never showing his usual stretch kick. All California based horses are accustomed to this surface due to state horse track mandates. The problem is that Churchill Downs still maintains a traditional dirt surface, along with Oaklawn Park and other eastern based tracks. This creates yet ANOTHER "angle" for handicappers to use while pondering their Derby bets.

Elsewhere in major prep race action, Gayego proved that being second best in the west was enough to take over the top spot in the midwest by winning the Arkansas Derby. This win was pivotal for Gayego, who had run only on a synthetic surface out west, then stepped it up a notch at Oaklawn Park. Z Fortune came out of that same race with a game second, which puts the Asmussen trainee back into the top tier of horses after throwing in a clunker in the Rebel Stakes as odds-on favorite.

In the Wood Memorial, War Pass came back from a last place finish at Tampa Bay to run second, whilst also potentially showing his distance limitations by struggling home the last sixteenth of the 9 furlong event. The winner from that race, Tale of Ekati, rebounded from his sixth place finish in the Louisiana Derby to Pyro. But in my opinion, the Wood was perhaps the weakest of all the major preps. So now all that's left for us handicappers is to figure out which race to throw out... the win or the off the board finish of a half dozen or so horses, and we'll be collecting some greenbacks just a couple Saturdays from now!

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