Derby 137 Update: March 7
by Gary Roedemeier
Who won the Gotham Stakes Derby prep in New York?
Stay Thirsty, my friends.
Does that make Stay Thirsty the most interesting horse in the world?
But it means owner Mike Repole will probably have two horses in the Kentucky Derby.
Stay Thirsty was shipped north, out of the shadow of stable mate Uncle Mo, and was able to overcome a shaky start and a steward's inquiry for some bumping during the stretch run.
Now, Stay Thirsty gets back on the shuttle to Florida so Uncle Mo can make his final Derby prep in the Wood Memorial. He's a winner yes, but in the Repole barn he's still a second stringer.
But remember, Uncle Mo has yet to run this year. Stay Thirsty might be getting better. He should love the Derby distance, and in the Gotham, it seemed he was just starting to run down the stretch.
The timing sets up Stay Thirsty to run next in the Florida Derby.
Meanwhile, there was sort of a Derby prep at Turfway Park. Positive Response shipped in from California to win 60 thousand dollars in ungraded money in the John Battaglia Stakes. Even with this win, the horse has only a third place in the El Camino Real Derby that counts toward his graded stakes bankroll. Positive Response needs another big score to make it to Louisville. But he has the Spiral Stakes in front of him.
Speaking of timing, Nick Zito dropped Dialed In into an allowance race to set him up for the Florida Derby. It was a bit of a gamble to enter a three year old in a race with mostly four year olds. It was a limited success. Dialed In staged his usual stretch run but ran second.
It was Dialed In's first loss and it sounds worse than it was.
The son of Mineshaft was flying at the end and was closing on the leader off some really slow fractions. It might have been the best possible work to prepare for the Florida Derby.
On the other hand, if you’re going to risk a Derby contender, you might as well run for some money. But Nick Zito decided to stay at Gulfstream and bet on a big run on April 3. Despite the second place, I think Dialed in is still one of the Derby favorites.
Which brings us to the our Top 20:
You can start handicapping Soldat against Dialed In for the Florida Derby. It's the classic case of Soldat with stalking speed against the closing rush of Dialed In. The only other question: Who else will show up on April 3?
The half brother to Super Saver dodges the showdown at Gulfstream by heading to Tampa Bay for their Derby. Tampa is now a $350,000 race and allows time for another prep race like the Arkansas Derby before heading to Louisville. He's by Distorted Humor and if it rains, he just gets better.
3. Dialed In
He didn't hurt his prospects even though he lost to a 4-year-old stable mate in the Gulfstream allowance. If he comes out of the race healthy, then he benefits from a two turn race and he'll be ready to roll in April. If he wins the Kentucky Derby, Zito will look like a genius for spacing his races, despite the lack of graded money in this race.
4. Uncle Mo
OK! It's time. The juvenile champion is back.
Mo is ready to run at Gulfstream in a $100,000 ungraded stakes race written just for him, if they can find enough horses to fill the race. He should win easily on a day most of the good horses will be running at Tampa. If he loses, there will be much shuffling of Derby lists. By the way, if the race doesn't fill, he might be on the van to Tampa.
5. Gourmet Dinner
I'm excited to see where they might run this colt next. Trainer Steve Standridge seems afraid of nothing and thinks he has an iron horse. He might even ship into California for the Santa Anita Derby to try to pad his million dollar bank account. If he ships, expect the horse to hit the board.
6. Stay Thirsty
You win. You move up.
But did he beat anybody of importance in the Gotham Stakes?
I wonder how many trainers are saying "I wish I had sent a horse to Aqueduct." Stay Thirsty ran away from the field and he could be the spoiler for the big two in the Florida Derby.
7. Mucho Macho Man
Now working for a return to New Orleans and the million dollar Louisiana Derby, this colt has March 26th on his calendar. Trainer Kathy Ritvo opened up a world of possibilities when she took the blinkers off for the Risen Star Stakes. Macho Man loved the track, so he's headed back.
8. Rogue Romance
Kenny McPeek says he'll also return to New Orleans and try to turn the tables on Macho Man in the Louisiana Derby. Rogue Romance already has $200,000 in stakes money from the Breeders' Cup and a little improvement could put him in the winner's circle at Fairgrounds.
He's not confirmed yet, but this son of Giant's Causeway could have something to say about the Louisiana Derby if he runs. He was the winner of the Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in similar company and he could improve because this is his second start of the year.
Archie, who burst on the scene in the Southwest Stakes stays on the Oaklawn path with the Rebel Stakes and the intrigue is now building in Arkansas. Bob Baffert say he may send his speedball, The Factor, to set a pace in the Rebel. Could that set up Archie's come behind kick? Other contenders like Elite Alex and Astrology could show up.
11. J P's Gusto
He's another Arkansas resident hoping for a big improvement under trainer Joe Petalino. He was second to Archie in the Southwest, and the connections think they have a Derby winner, Kentucky Derby that is. But he'll have to win a race in Arkansas to gather more support.
Jaycito seems to be the best Derby contender in California, who hasn't run in 2011. He's being pointed toward the San Felipe on March 12 and maybe that's why The Factor and Astrology are looking elsewhere. He has a series of fast works for his new trainer, Bob Baffert. Can he improve, or was he just an early bloomer last year? He's a mystery until he runs.
13. Silver Medallion
This might be the horse that Jaycito will have to beat to win some money in Southern California. Silver Medallion will probably try two more races at Santa Anita, including the S. A. Derby. In fact, he's eligible for a $5.5 million bonus if he wins that race and the Preakness. He was bred by Brereton Jones and he was bred for distance.
14. The Factor
Baffert calls him a "runaway train." But can he train him to harness that speed and last for more than a mile. The trainer is still bouncing around on where to send the Factor but he will get a chance to run two turns. The latest twist is a trip to Oaklawn but these things sometimes change.
15. Sweet Ducky
He's been in the barn since his second place finish in the Holy Bull so it's time for Ducky to get back in the pond. He could make a big splash in the Louisiana Derby and he has a sweet pedigree to make the distance. One more big finish and he's right in the middle of the Derby picture.
16. Anthony's Cross
It's going to be interesting this week when they pull the entries for the San Felipe to see who stays and who leaves town for the Santa Anita prep race.
Anthony's Cross did a nice job winning the Bob Lewis in a photo finish and this would be a logical set up for the Santa Anita Derby. Watch closely for the gamesmanship of who's running where.
17. Riveting Reason
Second to Anthony's Cross in the Lewis and now we're waiting to see where he'll show up next. His past performances show he's a consistent horse who may eventually win a big race. Could it be the Santa Anita Derby, in a shocker? In California these days, anything may be possible. Did you see the stretch run for the Big Cap?
18. Positive Response
You win! You move up.
They shipped him in from Northern California and he won the John Battaglia Memorial and 60 thousand dollars. He won by seven lengths but here's the problem. It was not graded money and it was on Polytrack. As you remember the Kentucky Derby is run on dirt. They'll keep him in Kentucky to run in the half million dollar Spiral Stakes on the same track. But the competition will be much tougher.
19. To Honor and Serve
Probably deserves to be higher but in retrospect he was really gassed as he came to the finish line of the Fountain of Youth. And now, the races get longer and tougher. That's not good if you've been off since November. Backers of Uncle Mo take heed. This could happen to you.
Waiting for a shot to prove that his win in the Lecomte Stakes was not a one time wonder. If Neil Howard can improve on Wilkinson's winning rail trip in that race, this one may have something to say about that million dollar purse at the Fairgrounds. Million dollar purse? Aren't slots wonderful.
And falling out of the Top Twenty this week.
Toby's Corner got a big shot in the Gotham Stakes and had every chance but seemed to flatten out in the stretch. While Stay Thirsty started running faster, Toby folded the tent and finished behind a 47 to 1 shot, Norman Asbjornson. We point out here that Norman's trainer does not believe he has a Derby horse, which should be good news for race caller Mark Johnson.
Coming up on the Derby Trail this week:
They set the fields on Wednesday for The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita and the Tampa Bay Derby in Florida. Both races are at a mile and a sixteenth but on very different surfaces. At Santa Anita the new dirt course is lightning fast. At Tampa Bay, it's soft and sandy.
It's amazing how Tampa Bay and its Derby preps have increased in importance over the last several years. It's all about timing and sometimes avoiding the competition.
Could Brethren leap to the top of our Top Twenty with a great performance on Saturday?
I'll update next Monday, and thanks for reading.