Some nice competitive Derby preps on Saturday, including the G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream and G3 LeComte at Fair Grounds. It could be a very big day for sire Roman Ruler, with my “colt crush” Maximus Ruler in the LeComte (who I’ve got to single), and Homeboykris in the Holy Bull. The art historian in me can’t ignore Winslow Homer in the Holy Bull, though, even though he probably wants longer than 8 furlongs. I’m not particularly enamored with Jackson Bend who looks to be overbet, and I fear Pletcher’s nice colt Aikenite might not get enough speed to run at late, but it’s good to see Johnny V back aboard.
Others to consider in the Holy Bull: Piscitelli who coming off a close-up fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has posted some nice workouts in advance of this, and Florida-bred Thank U Philippe who gets blinkers added. Thank U Philippe also has an interesting pedigree angle, as his second dam She Won’t Tell is a full-sister to Triple Crown victor Affirmed.
Another usual angle to consider with Saturday’s Derby preps: the dam of William’s Kitten who runs in the Holy Bull, Blush, is a full-sister to Rock Hard who runs in the LeComte. Spooky, eh?
Considering the impact of Rags to Riches and Rachel Alexandra on the 3-year-old scene in recent years, it seems prudent to keep at least one eye on the fillies even this early in the season. This weekend it's the Tiffany Lass, the first two-turn prep for the Fair Grounds Oaks. Place-getters here who have gone on to Grade 1 success include 1994 runner-up Two Altazano (Coaching Club American Oaks winner) and 2003 winner Lady Tak (Test Stakes victress) while recent runner-ups include the very talented Dawn After Dawn (2007) and Tizaqueena (2008). However, the race’s most famous alum has got to be 2004 winner Lotta Kim, who due to injury never raced again after her victory, but did give birth to filly named Rachel Alexandra, 2009 Eclipse Award Horse of the Year.
As the sole graded stakes winner in this field of ten, Quiet Temper is a likely favorite with top jockey Robbie Albarado aboard; she crushed (by nearly eight lengths) the Grade 3 Delta Princess Stakes over a sloppy track, and followed that up with an optional claiming allowance win over this track going this distance on Jan 3. The second-place finisher in that race, Bella Medaglia has stepped up her performance each time she’s run; this is her fourth race at Fair Grounds, with a win (at this distance) and two seconds. All of Red Hot Buddha’s previous races are turf sprints—including a win in the Princess Stakes at Louisiana Downs—but her breeding suggests she can get the distance.
The key race here, though, is probably December’s Letellier at Fair Grounds, specially the runner-up Visavis, who crushed a ten-horse field in her maiden last July at Delaware Park by over eight lengths. In the Letellier, the gray Sheer Beauty ran into traffic problems when rode back in the field, but closed strongly to finish third; she had previously won the grassy Caressing Handicap while on the lead, and is bred to run all day. If she is kept closer to the front, I like her chances a lot.
Others to watch (just in case they finally live up to their breeding) include the regally-bred Giant’s Causeway filly Jackpot Joanie who is a half-sister to 2005 Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly , and Tidal Pool who is closely-related to two Breeders’ Cup champions—her second dam Pirates Revenge is a half-sister to the dam of 2004 Juvenile Fillies winner Sweet Catomine, and 2009 Ladies’ Classic winner Life Is Sweet.
I also want to mention that, along with a number of other fine bloggers, I am participating in an exciting new endeavor, Hello Race Fans. As part of our desire to draw new fans to and educate new horseplayers about the sport of horse racing, we've undertake an exciting project to better help those folks interested in the prep races leading up to both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, called Derby Prep Alert which anyone can subscribe to—and the price is right...it’s FREE!