I dunno. Here are my thoughts on the major Derby preps and what to make of them.
1. Florida Derby: Winner Take Charge Indy just saw his chances take a hit with Bodemeister’s win. You can toss this horse with no regrets. He isn’t gonna get a dream front-running trip in Kentucky like he did in Hallendale. And even if he does, Hansen and Bodemeister will have something to say about it at the quarter pole. That brings us to Union Rags. Love hearing pundits say it’s foolish to look at Union Rags’ trip and finish in the Florida Derby and think he’s a good play in the Derby. Idiots. Union Rags got a nice lesson in the kind of uncomfortable trip a horse can get and still was closing ground in the stretch while nobody else in the race was doing the same. With a better trip, a big if in the Derby, this horse should be picking up the pieces very nicely while others will be looking for the proverbial place to lay down. My top choice.
2. Wood Memorial: I couldn’t tell whether Alpha hung or if he and Gemologist were simply booking to the finish line. I like both horses, regardless, going to Kentucky. Love their styles. Have no doubts about their ability to get 1 1/4 miles. Overall, I thought the Wood field was suspect, but these two put in such a nice stretch run that I think they’re poised for big shots in Kentucky.
3. Santa Anita Derby — I like that I’ll Have Another won on what should’ve been his bounce race. So does that mean he bounces in Kentucky instead of Arcadia? I don’t think so. I still can’t find an excuse for Creative Cause’s second-place performance other than that some sheet interpreters expected him to regress in the race and he may have done just that. But everything was set up for him and he couldn’t out-finish I’ll Have Another late. Blinkers go back on for the Derby, which makes me wonder why the hell trainer Mike Harrington would ever experiment with taking them off in the first place. Oh yeah, that’s right, a jockey told him to do so. Here’s the best tip at the track: Don’t listen to jockeys. In fact, don’t listen to anyone. The SA Derby was not the most impressive field, after I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause. The field simply stunk. SA Derby winners are working on a terrible streak of stiffing in Kentucky. Some of that has to do with the fact that nobody quite knew what kind of surface Santa Anita had up until the recent switch back to dirt. Both I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause fit, and I still think Creative Cause is a very legit horse. Remember, he was flattered by Bodemeister’s romp in the Arkansas Derby.
4. Blue Grass Stakes: Obviously, you wonder about the track surface at Keeneland and the one at Churchill being vastly different. So many pundits are chucking Dullahan simply because of that. I thought the Blue Grass had a deceptively good field, so I like the win and the way Dullahan did it. Hansen, well, I guess the distance and the running style are going to be a problem. Hansen is yet another reason Bodemeister is up against it in Kentucky. In theory, these two hook up going into the turn and are looking for a place to lay down in the final sixteenth. In theory.
5. Arkansas Derby: Impressive win by Bodemeister over what was a horrible field. This is a very talented horse whose style is not going to win in Kentucky. Just not gonna happen. What anyone with half a brain should be hoping for is people see the 105 Beyer and a presumably good sheet number and make this horse the favorite. But, the public seems to be sharper than doing such things these days.
Daddy’s Derby Top 5
1. Union Rags — Loss in Fla. Derby takes some luster off (and improves price).
2. Creative Cause — Could be the best value in the Derby field (hoping for 10-1).
3. I’ll Have Another — Gotta ask is this horse peaking or has he peaked?
4. Alpha — Come with that same run in Kentucky and he’ll be in the picture.
5. Gemologist — Does he bounce off big NY effort?