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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sigh of Relief

Word that Calvin Borel will take the Derby mount on Sunland Derby winner Twice The Appeal certainly warrants a sigh of relief, not just for the king of Churchill himself, but also for media outlets everywhere. Seriously, how could NBC possibly sell the continuing historical relevance of the Derby if the race’s most dominating jockey in recent years (not to mention Hall of Fame nominee) was sitting in the jock’s room, watching the event on television?

In a wildly unpredictable prep year, don’t discount this son of Successful Appeal either—his damsire Cormorant gave us Derby winner Go For Gin, while his dam Double Boarded has also produced Board Elligible (Goldminer’s Gold), who not only won or placed numerous times going 9-furlongs, but also was runner-up in the 10-furlong G3 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct. In addition, his wet track pedigree is formidable, so Calvin has to be pleased.

Speculation—and, frankly, unwarranted hype—about Master of Hounds as a possible Derby starter is getting annoying. Sure, he’s nicely bred, but he’s also only won once in 7 starts, none on dirt—and with just over a week before the race he’s still standing in a stall 4,000 miles away from Louisville. The plan is to arrive on Tuesday morning (TUESDAY!) with the Derby on Saturday. And respected turf writers are fawning over him. He finished sixth of 12 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, folks—behind Pluck. Pluck. Honestly, why are Americans so impressed with European turf horses that attempt dirt? I admit, I’m guilty at times myself, having backed Theyskens Theory in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race, but, damnit, just touching hooves on The Curragh isn’t a magic bullet to winning the Kentucky Derby. There are much better bred turf-raced horses right here in America with a better shot—Animal Kingdom and Brilliant Speed come immediately to mind. With Saturday’s 2000 Guineas field scheduled to be finalized, let’s hope this ridiculous conjecture is finally over.

Sentimentally, I’m still hoping PA-bred Anthony’s Cross makes the field—the other horse I felt would be a natural choice for Borel to ride since he broke his maiden at Churchill last November with Calvin aboard. He won the G2 Robert Lewis before a disappointing fifth-place finish in the G1 Santa Anita Derby under Joel Rosario, but with Rosario committed to Brilliant Speed, Anthony’s Cross could end up being Garrett Gomez’s ride; he rode him three times last year. Sure, Anthony’s Cross is by Indian Charlie, but there’s some nice stamina in his damline. His half-sister Fugitive Angel (Alphabet Soup) reeled off three consecutive stakes wins going 8.5 furlongs last year, including the G3 Pin Oak Valley View on turf, and looked like she want even more when gaining late to finish third behind Aruna in the G2 Mrs. Revere. His second dam Recording won the 9-furlong G3 Sands Point, and among her progeny are 9-furlong G2-placed Deal Making (Empire Maker) and G1-placed Smart Bid (Smart Strike), as well as Representing (Rahy), a German G3 runner-up over 11 furlongs.