On Wednesday, it was Shotgun Gulch in the Vinery Madison. On Thursday, Get Stormy continued the G1 winning ways of Foolish Pleasure damline descendents, taking out the Maker’s Mark Mile. Forgive me if I revel in that. It's been a frenetic week at work.
Honestly, I’d love to know why the Blue Grass Stakes is still a Grade 1 race. Stately Victor, Monba, Dominican, Sinister Minister, Bandini...all Grade 3 winners, at best, as subsequent form bore out. Oh, sure there was Paddy O’Prado and Street Sense—but I’m just not buying it.
As far as this year’s event producing a serious Derby contender, call me skeptical. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t be wagering on this year’s race, especially with so many upset possibilities. Santiva (Giant’s Causeway) is a solid favorite—and I’ve got no problem including him as such—but among the longer shots to consider would be Willcox Inn (Harlan’s Holiday) off his performance over this track in last year’s G1 Breeders’ Futurity and with Rosie Napravnik aboard. His dam De Aar just missed winning the 9-furlong turf G3 Pebbles, and among her siblings is 10-furlong G1 Flower Bowl victress Dynaforce, so the distance shouldn’t be an issue. Last year he defeated recent G3 Spiral winner Animal Kingdom, not to mention finished a sharp closing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Joes Blazing Aaron (Graeme Hall) who is currently 12-1 morning line also intrigues me. Winner of the G3 Palm Beach over this distance last out, he’s been switched to trainer Michael Maker who won last year with Stately Victor. I also love Garrett Gomez aboard. Sure, you could have claimed him for $50k just two races ago, but he looks like he became a different horse when switched to turf. His half-sister Danse Grecque (Hold That Tiger) was twice G2-placed in France; his second dam Suspect Terrain won the G3 Spicy Living Handicap at Rockingham going 9 furlongs on turf. Can he adjust to Polytrack? Not particularly crazy about Joel Rosario aboard, but Brilliant Speed just missed in the Hallandale Beach last out and, although he’s never raced on synthetics, his pricey unraced dam is a half-sister to classy Serenading, runner-up in Keeneland’s G3 Doubledogdare. Considering how horses have been closing well over the Polytrack, I’m definitely not eliminating either Graham Motion’s Crimson China (Giant’s Causeway) or Queen’splatekitten, despite their unfortunate draws.
As for the G1 Arkansas Derby, I’m not a fan of The Factor, admittedly due to his unfortunate name referencing a total media-hound whack-job, so I’ll be rooting hard for an upset. Elite Alex looks to be rounding into form and the blinkers added could be just want he needs to keep closer to the pace. Ditto for Brethren who has fired two sharp bullet works in advance of this start; Pletcher undoubtedly adds blinkers to keep him close to The Factor’s early speed as well. I’d also be pleased if Nehro runs well, as that would enhance Pants On Fire’s form, and Sway Away gets his blinkers back as well—and a rider change to Pat Valenzuela.