First of all, I must say that I had a pretty crappy weekend all around. I drove to Hot Springs for a relaxing three day weekend to witness the Southwest Stakes and get my first live taste of Derby fever 2011. By late afternoon Monday, I had cashed nary a ticket ("0 for Oaklawn" as my friends put it), three of my original top 10 picks failed to threaten in their respective races, and to top it all off one of my two Derby futures bets had already been declared off the trail due to injury! Luckily, I made it back to Dallas okay and I'm ready to lick my wounds and re-group, since the next prep race could be the one that makes me forget about all these trivial concerns.
I will be tossing Tapizar (extremely poor showing after being headstrong early in race and injured in process) and Elite Alex (decent performance for show spot, but appeared to be a weak race and slow closing fractions). I would like to give Machen one more chance at redemption due to his wide trip in the Risen Star, but I have another maiden winner that may make some noise in his next race at a nice price, so here goes...
1) Dialed In – The impressive LaPenta/Zito winner of the one-mile Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park may now skip the FOY Stakes on Feb. 26th at Gulfstream for a later race. Their thinking is that he may be sitting on a “bounce” race after his huge effort and looking for more time and an easier spot. I see a risk that a very talented colt may NOT be making the Derby field due to a shortage of graded stakes earnings based on these conservative prep race patterns, although likely not an issue for Dialed In.
2) To Honor and Serve – His Aqueduct graded stakes scores from the fall are holding up form as Mucho Macho Man came back to take the Risen Star last weekend. This 575K yearling purchase by Campbell soup heiress Charlotte Weber is one of several live runners by hot sire Bernardini. And the fact that Bill Mott (of Cigar, Drosselmeyer) instructs this colt gives me additional confidence. Could be short odds in this weekend’s Fountain of Youth Stakes.
3) Uncle Mo – Already getting tired of the hype – especially from owner Mike Repole, who commented “Our number one goal and focus is to do what's best for Uncle Mo to have a very healthy and successful 3-year-old campaign… With the race more than two and half weeks away, hopefully this will give Mo’s fans ample time to make arrangements to watch his 3-year-old debut.” Read more: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/61500/uncle-mo-to-make-3yo-debut-at-gulfstream#ixzz1EirU8txa Actually Mike, since you’ve been saying he would run in the Tampa Bay Derby all winter, most of “Mo’s fans” will be skipping your grand unveiling in a whopping $100,000 ungraded overnight stakes! I, for one, have no intention of rebooking flights and hotels and will stick with the Tampa Bay Derby where I’ll see Brethren, since NO HORSE IS BIGGER THAN THE RACE OR SPORT, even your precious Derby hope. Does anyone else get a sense that we’ve heard these quotes before with King Jess and Rachel? And how did that work out for them??? I’m just sayin’!
4) Brethren – Another very solid horse from WinStar Farm (son of Distorted Humor and half brother to Super Saver) that has seen no competition, and will likely not be tested in the Tampa Bay Derby with Mo’s defection. But you can’t fault his breeding and professional manner of running right on cue. Certainly has the talent if he can get a stalking trip like Borel gave Super Saver last year and should bank plenty of dough until the big one.
5) Santiva – The Giant's Causeway son (same as Eskenderaya last year) was shipped to Fair Grounds where he ran a huge race for 2nd place off the shelf in the Risen Star. He silenced his critics about whether he could handle dirt surfaces and now has shot up most handicapper’s watch list. Seems to be in a great position with his back class and versatility for a LA Derby start -- or even better, a van ride north to Oaklawn Park where he would be much the best on the Hot Springs grounds for their $1 million prep, Arkansas Derby.
6) Mucho Macho Man – Risen Star winner in a talented field of horses. Ran behind #2 last fall and seems to be improving with distance. Upon further look, the bottom (dam) side of his breeding has plenty of stamina with names like Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky II and Hoist The Flag. That gives this grandson of Holy Bull (who sired Giacomo - ’05 Derby winner) a nice 2.43 dosage index rating, which is picture-perfect for improving chances of winning at 10 furlongs.
7) Jaycito - At first glance, I thought this son of Victory Gallop was overrated. Some good results on the left coast before throwing in a clunker to finish 7th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on dirt at Churchill Downs - we've all seen this pattern before! But upon further review, this colt has had abysmal luck in each start, yet has managed to already win a Grade I start at over a mile while outfinishing the heralded J P's Gusto (2nd place in Southwest Stakes). His BC race was a total toss when he bolted terribly on the first turn, yet he managed to pass 3 or 4 horses before the wire. Speaking of bad luck, his owner, Ahmed Zayat, owned Eskenderaya last year, who I believe would have been a Triple Crown winner had he not been injured before The Derby. Perhaps the racing gods will settle his tab this year. Baffert skipped the Robert Lewis Stakes in lieu of the San Felipe on March 12th.
8) Sway Away - The lesser known son of Afleet Alex is trained on the left coast by Jeff Bonde. He showed his customarily strong closing kick when finishing a solid second in the recent 7 furlong sprint San Vicente Stakes against speed demon, The Factor. He also possesses a lovely bottom side in a 5 cross chart with Seattle Slew, Summer Squall and Mr. Prospector running through his blood. Good enough to be my new Afleet Alex horse!
9) Cal Nation – This would really be a story if he were to win The Derby since his first start was only two weeks ago, but he will have raced more times with three starts this year than most of the big guns. Yet another son of Distorted Humor who is looking to further boost the stud fee for owner WinStar Farm. Absolutely motored just off the pace in his 7 furlong maiden score at Gulfstream Park but may be shipped elsewhere since conditioned by Todd Pletcher.
10) Sweet Ducky - This Pulpit pupil ran in the wake of Dialed In last time out at Gulfstream. If history repeats itself, he could be like Jackson Bend last year, who followed around Eskenderaya twice but then proved to be about as good as anybody else. Based on the connections’ conservative schedule, the FOY Stakes this weekend may be his make or break race. Also - props to my brother Danny "Duck" on the name and his HUGE futures bet in recently closed pool #1 at 80-1.
Good luck with your picks for this weekend's races!