Alright, I cry “uncle.” It appears that Turf War, like his full-brother Grasshopper, needs to age a bit before reaching his full-potential so remember him later this summer; after his eighth place performance in today’s G2 Lane’s End, I’m not looking for great things out of him come Derby time. Coming off a three-month layoff, Racecar Rhapsody didn’t do too badly, finishing fourth; grass specialist Cannonball challenged for the lead, but faded to sixth late. Overall, the race didn’t impress me, with turfster Adriano winning rather easily from Halo Najib and Medjool, both synthetic specialists (although Halo Najib did finish just ½ length behind Court Vision in the G3 Iroquois at Churchill last October). I can unequivocally say the Kentucky Derby winner did not run in this race (unless Turf War snaps out of it…okay, okay, a girl can dream).
He doesn’t have any graded stakes earnings, but Miner’s Claim looked quite good coming in off a long four month layoff to finish just a neck behind synthetic specialist Big Glen in the Rushaway. Icabad Crane held for third, while Jamie Sanders-trained (and oft-raced, of course) Cape of Storms took fourth. Tejanos Eliminator challenged early, but faded to sixth. Let’s not even talk about the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel where my picks Wonder Mon (7th), Apple Special (10th) and the entry of Malibu Kid (5th) and Springs Road (6th) disappointed; it was New York-invader Double or Nothing who took it over 53-1 longshot Regal Solo and 10-1 shot Vanderkaay.
As much as I am not a fan of Todd Pletcher, I feel a bit (just) sorry for him this year; he went from last year’s plethora of three-year-old Derby contenders to virtually none this year. Today his Holidaze finished dead-last in the Rushaway, as did his Duke of de Buqe in the Lane’s End. His other Lane’s End entry Chitoz (who had finished just a neck behind Texas Fever over this very track in the G3 KY Cup Juvenile last September) could managed only a weak fifth place finish. Texas Wildcatter is promising, but may not have enough graded earnings; the jury is still out on Atoned. Why Tonto is out indefinitely with an injury, so unless Face the Cat (recently purchased by Padua Stables and transferred from Helen Pitts) turns out to be the second-coming of Curlin (wouldn’t that be ironic?), it looks like Pletcher may be (gasp!) sitting home on Derby Day.
If Atoned doesn’t go forward, does John Velasquez even have another leading three-year-old mount?
Calvin Borel must be kicking himself these days. He chose Turf War over Denis of Cork early on as his Derby horse, and now he is riding neither. Julien Leparoux has acquired the coveted mount aboard Denis of Cork for the G1 Wood Memorial on April 5 since Robby Albarado has committed to ride Country Star in the G1 Ashland at Keeneland that day. Once upon a time Borel also rode Blackberry Road who most recently was ridden by Albarado, but trainer David Carroll is looking for a new jock. “Bo-rail” still has Sacred Journey, who I’m not convinced can get 9 furlongs.
I find it very telling that Garrett Gomez is abandoning Sham Stakes winner Colonel John in favor of riding Court Vision in the Wood—where “Go-Go” goes so do I! With disgraced War Pass also slated for the Wood, we should be in for one helluva race!
A deluge caused Gulfstream to cancel the G2 Shirley Jones Handicap today—too bad, I was looking forward to seeing Baroness Thatcher pull an upset over Sugar Swirl. No word as to when the race will be rescheduled.