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 (Bloodhorse.com 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).