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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Ahead

Hope you didn’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed—sacrificing an hour of sleep for extra daylight is a painful exchange, but at least a major sign that winter is nearly over.

After his performance in the G3 Gotham, I Want Revenge will spring ahead and onto my Derby watch list. With his breeding and racing style, there’s little doubt he can get the distance. The big question, for me at least, was always about surface, and now we know he can run on real dirt. He finished ahead of Chocolate Candy in last December’s G1 CashCall Futurity—and just a nose behind Pioneerof the Nile. Does this mean the latter also rises in my estimation? Alas, no. However, I may reconsider that if Papa Clem performs well next weekend in the G2 Louisiana Derby.

The other one who impressed me in the Gotham was Imperial Council who was closing well late. Absolutely love his breeding, particularly the damsire being Thunder Gulch and—the pièce de résistance—his second damsire Risen Star. Today’s performance looked perfect for what it was—another step towards a greater goal for trainer Shug McGaughey. On to the G1 Wood Memorial!

Despite the diffident reaction to Stardom Bound’s narrow victory in the G1 Santa Anita Oaks ( declared “Stardom Bound Barely Best in ‘Anita Oaks”), I hope they continue on to the G1 Santa Anita Derby. The fact was, ugly or not, she ultimately got the job done, despite a below-par ride by Mike Smith. And while on paper the three fillies she only just beat looked overmatched, they weren’t that bad. Nan held the lead before giving way late to finish fourth, 2-1/2 lengths back of Stardom Bound, in the G1 Las Virgenes last out; she’s done nothing but improve since transferring to Craig Dollase late last year (and look at her pedigree—on her damside, she is a direct female tailine descendant of the magnificent race mare Gallorette). Hooh Why has not only improved under the tutelage of Carla Gaines, but she also has already finished a narrow head behind much-ballyhooed Kentucky Derby contender Patena in last December’s Display Stakes at Woodbine. The biggest surprise in the Oaks was Third Dawn who came in off a maiden win. Still, she had a tremendous bullet work coming into this race, her jockey Rafael Bejarano is potent (21% winners, 57% ITM) in routes and in the past 60 days has 40% winners (80% ITM) combined with trainer John Sadler, and her damside is also interesting, as her second dam Sunset Song is a full-sister to G3 Louisiana Derby winner and sire Dixieland Heat. Regardless of all these factors, Stardom Bound should have demolished this field, but considering the horrible position Smith put her in throughout and the extensive bumping and resulting interference in mid-stretch that affected her stride, it’s a miracle she won the photo.

Wasn’t Ventura gutsy in just getting nosed out by Gio Ponti in the G1 Kilroe Mile? One-turn miles may be her thing, but what a classy effort. However, Ramon Dominguez just couldn’t be denied vindication for losing the BC Juvenile Turf on Gio Ponti two years ago.

Last but by no means least, can we finally start talking about Einstein with the great respect he so aptly deserves? Already a multiple G1 winner on turf and G1-placed on real dirt, the 7-year-old son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck proved himself equally adept on Pro-Ride in convincingly winning the G1 Santa Anita Handicap. I just love this horse! Julien Leparoux looks like Alec Ramsey aboard The Black when riding him, and I’m just so pleased that Helen Pitts Blasi is enjoying training a talent like his. Still, it's almost like he's the Rodney Dangerfield of horses, never getting respect (thus, he paid $12.00 in winning the 'Cap).


Amateurcapper said...


Thanks for the clock reminder..OMG, it's already 1:30 DST in Cali!!!

No doubt I WANT REVENGE was impressive. He has the 'graded dirt win' edge over PIONEEROF THE NILE.

However, my opinion is that the Zayat runner has the look of a more advanced COLONEL JOHN at this stage of his 3y.o. season. With two more preps, Baffert will have his Derby hopeful sharp for Louisville.

Do you think that PAPA CLEM can wire the Louisiana Derby field?

Does IMPERIAL COUNCIL look more like a Belmont S. contender than a Derby contender?

As for STARDOM BOUND, is it possible that her classmates are catching up with her?

Do you think that VENTURA is maxed-out at 7f???

As for EINSTEIN, was this a performance that stamped him as one of the early favorites for the BC Classic?

Jessica said...

Must agree with your assessment of Mike Smith's ride, which, crossed with the wide run and stretch interference, could have cost Stardom Bound the photo. That is didn't says much about what talent and heart the filly possesses.

dana said...

I'm a little perturbed with the spin of Stardom Bound barely getting the job done and that the connections should face the "sobering reality".

It looked to me like she wasn't really on her A game but she still overcame a horrible to trip AND had the guts to fight for the win. These all seem like pluses to me. I hope they still try her open company.

Valerie said...

I totally believe Stardom Bound’s filly classmates are finally catching up with her. She enjoyed early brilliance and success at two; there’s no reason not to think that other fillies won’t improve with age and come up to her level. I just hope she’s not another Pyro or War Pass in that regard. But she looked absolutely gorgeous and totally on her game yesterday.

Comparing Pioneerof the Nile to Colonel John is apt—and look what he did last year’s Kentucky Derby? One could argue he just wasn’t ready, having prepped in only the Sham and Santa Anita Derby at three before shipping East for the Derby—he did, after all redeem himself in winning the Travers in August. Still, regardless of the naysayers, I firmly believe in trying real dirt before running in the Derby so until Pioneerof the Nile does, I can’t take him seriously. Ditto The Pamplemousse (okay, with that name, I can never take him seriously). Besides, I’m convinced Pioneerof the Nile is a grass horse—Bill Mott believed so when he ran him at Saratoga last summer.

With Ventura, I’m not sure 7f is her max. I think she has an issue with getting to the lead, then getting distracted. Gomez seemed to indicate he had plenty of horse left; maybe he let her get the lead too soon.

A lot about Imperial Council probably depends on keeping him on track, and any sniffle or cough will throw him off. Can he be ready for the Derby? I think so, but, yeah, with his stride, the Belmont looks more his style.

Einstein, oh my boy! Before the race, Helen’s comments did appear to indicate (or imply) they were seriously aiming for the BC Classic if he performed well. Of course, that’s a long ways away.

Superfecta said...

I was going to write a huge paragraph on Friday about how Einstein gets no respect - I'm glad everyone else is seeing it as well!

Redbean said...

I hope we get to see Stardom Bound in the Santa Anita Derby... she is so gorgeous and I love seeing her run.

Einstein has been my favorite runner for the past few years, since I saw him win the Mervyn Muniz at the Fairgrounds. That horse loves to run and trys every time, and he's a credit Helen Pitts Blasi. Love seeing a seven year old run, and hoping he makes it to the BC Classic. If we had more runners at this age, racing would have more fans.