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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Put Up or Shut Up Time for Derby Contenders

After three big Kentucky Derby preps last weekend spanning coast-to-coast, this weekend is more tame by comparison, although by no means less important. For some, it’s time to either step up and confirm Derby worthiness—or fade silently into the night. And with the winner’s share of the G1 Blue Grass being $465,000, and the $1 million G2 Arkansas Derby paying out $600,000 for first and $200,000 for second, an entirely new previously-unconsidered contender could emerge. Doubtful, but at least the Derby field should be clearer with only three weeks to go.

As of right now, without the Blue Grass and Arkansas earnings and barring any defections, here's your Kentucky Derby field:

1. Mafaaz (guaranteed berth)
2. Regal Ransom
3. Pioneerof the Nile
4. Square Eddie
5. I Want Revenge
6. Desert Party
7. Quality Road
8. Friesan Fire
9. Musket Man
10. Terrain
11. West Side Bernie
12. Chocolate Candy
13. Old Fashioned
14. Hold Me Back
15. Win Willy
16. Giant Oak
17. Papa Clem
18. Charitable Man
19. Dunkirk
20. Mine That Bird

Notice, no Stardom Bound (scuttle bug says she’s currently undergoing testing) or Rachel Alexandra (apparently her connections have decided on the Oaks after all), but a field that looks superiorly more talented than last year's. Here's how I see today's prep races.

G1 Blue Grass:
Terrain looks strong here for a number of reasons: proven over Keeneland’s Polytrack, he should improve in his second start since a layoff with red-hot Julien Leparoux up. Bill Mott and Kent Desormeaux partnered for a big win with Mr. Sidney in the G1 Maker’s Mark on Friday (one of Desormeaux’ four wins on the day); their Lane’s End victor Hold Me Back is in good form with the highest last race speed figure in this field. While on paper those two look best, I’d most like to see Charitable Man fire big—I still recall his impressive maiden win at Saratoga, and I’m such a sucker for Lemon Drop Kid offspring. He has been working gangbusters at Palm Meadows and a sharp work at Keeneland leading to this. For longshots who may get money, I’ll take a hard look at two—Join in the Dance who as the sole early speed could steal this on the front end, and Patena who just held off G1 Ashland winner Hooh Why in winning the Display Stakes at Woodbine last December. He should love getting back on Polytrack, but I might have to gag if his connections get to celebrate in the winner’s circle, or succeed getting into the Derby with winnings here. Yeah, that would be IEAH who went out and purchased I Want Revenge after Patena disappointed last out in the G2 Louisiana Derby.

G2 Arkansas Derby:
Time for Old Fashioned to reestablish his position among the Kentucky Derby favorites—I like his chances to do just that, but Papa Clem could very well take them wire-to-wire. Win Willy is a nice story so I wouldn’t be disappointed to see him in the money. For a longshot flyer, how about recent maiden winner Summer Bird? I love Birdstone, and he has a nice closing style.

In response to my recent rant, fellow blogger Tony Bada Bing over at A Leg Up has posed some thought-provoking ideas that address how the horse racing industry might be forced to adopt uniformity in rules and penalties in regards to drug use, et al. Take a look and give him your two cents. I’m not sure federal government involvement is ideal, but certainly holding interstate simulcasting rights (and the distribution of slots money at the state level) might be an effective motive for all involved to clean up their act.


Amateurcapper said...

I agree w/ Arky Derby analysis except PAPA CLEM runs OLD FASHIONED into the ground w/ WIN WILLY closing late. I also took extra looks at SUMMER BIRD who comes off a fast-finishing maiden win.

The Blue Grass is wide open, I've got PATENA over X-factor CHARITABLE MAN, JOIN IN THE DANCE, and HOLD ME BACK.

Good luck.