Friday, March 7, 2008
Derby Preps for Saturday, March 8
G3 Gotham Stakes (8.5f, Aqueduct):
With heavy rain expected in New York on Saturday, a sloppy track is likely. Giant Moon is 4 for 4, with two wins over the Aqueduct surface, and he drew the “golden” rail, but I’m concerned the rain may negate that advantage. Saratoga Russell romped in the slop over six furlongs at Gulfstream, but I’m taking a pass on him until he can prove he can get the distance. It’s the second and third place finishers from the Whirlaway who interest me most: Steve Klesaris-trained Roman Emperor and Texas Wildcatter who Todd Pletcher has working extremely well. Both have performed well on off-tracks and at this distance, so I see both there at the end. Texas Wildcatter represents that ever-more-visible phenomenon of recent: the “other Pletcher horse” winning over more a favored statemate (in this instance, Southern Terminus). Rumor has it that Michael Matz will scratch Visionaire if the track is sloppy and send him to Oaklawn for the G2 Rebel next weekend. Too bad, ‘cause I really like this son of Grand Slam. For a longshot pick: Ling Ling Qi (insane wet track Tomlinson number of 420, and steadily improving works for Ken McPeek).
G2 Louisiana Derby (8.5f, Fair Grounds):
Pyro, Pyro, Pyro…honestly, I’m about sick of it. I’m not big on over-hyping horses. Call me a softie, but I love the underdogs. So, while he may totally kick this field’s ass, I’m going to try and beat Pyro. Tale of Ekati obviously hated the sloppy track at Monmouth, finishing evenly but well back of War Pass and Pyro in the BC Juvenile, but I love this well-bred nephew of Sky Beauty. Barclay Tagg has him working extremely well, so while he may not win, I expect a strong race from which to build upon. The real surprise here may be Asmussen’s other entry, J Be K who set a track record at Saratoga first out last August and won easily first out at Gulfstream on February 15. With Kent Desormeaux up, he could run away with this race. As a longshot: Unbridled Vicar who is always close at the end and finished a decent fourth to Pyro in the G3 Risen Star (as an aside, Unbridled Vicar’s half-brother Rags broke his maiden at the Fair Grounds today, going 8.5 furlongs, in race 10).
G3 El Camino Real Derby (8.5f, Bay Meadows):
Future Derby winner running here?—no way! With a bad outside post, quickly-improving Master Daniel is at a disadvantage, but may still be good enough against these. Coast Guard has gone the distance, finishing second to Crown of Thorns in the G2 Robert Lewis, but (in my humble opinion) it will be a cold day in hell when a Stormy Atlantic colt wins the Derby; he may get a piece here, but not the win. The Toddster takes over Behindatthebar from Craig Dollase, and probably has a chance, and the same is true of Nikki’sgoldensteed. However, Pleasure Grounds has won on this dirt so I’ll peg him for an upset.