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Critiquing the Contenders: Orb

After weeks of trying to beat a lot of Pletchers and other top favorites and getting really weird results, it’s only natural that I start questioning my own methods once again. I liked Revolutionary from the word go, but barred myself from liking Orb too much originally because I liked Revolutionary and Violence already and good gosh, why would I like 3 horses all with cool names?! Orb got the boot, I guess, because he was a Malibu Moon. Malibu Moons are good or not good, and it’s hard to find one that is good for very long. I’ve been on the McGaughey-Phipps double bandwagon since Hymn Book won the Donn (I) for me though, so he does have some street cred.

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Malibu Moon is a good-looking guy by the undisputed legend A.P. Indy and out of a pretty nice Mr. Prospector mare. He reminds me of Pulpit in many ways, though I found Pulpit to be more likeable, namely because he actually did something on the track before going to stud. Malibu Moon raced twice, breaking his maiden on his second try running 5 furlongs. Appropriately, he is known for passing on precocious ability, as seen with Declan’s Moon (G1 Hollywood Futurity winner & graded sprinter), Kauai Katie (very fast, precocious 3-year-old apt to stick to sprints), Devil May Care (precocious gal who broke the mold, winning the 9-furlong Coaching Club), Prospective (winner of the 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby), Eden’s Moon (G1 Las Virgenes winner), and Ask the Moon (back-to-back G1 winner at routes).

His dam side is actually what makes him the most likable to me, out of Lady Liberty, a daughter of classic winner Unbridled, whose Fappiano lineage has been on fire in the winner’s circle. Lady Liberty ran in some nice graded events without doing much, though her dam Mesabi Maiden (by Cox’s Ridge) was a winner of the Black-Eyed Susan (II) at 9 furlongs. With all this in mind, Claiborne is looking pretty crafty: did they mix Malibu Moon’s tendency to pass on speed and early ability (on a classic backdrop of A.P. Indy/Mr. Prospector) with a mare capable of going far?

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Conformation-wise, Orb is not as impressive as other horses on the trail. In fact, he reminds me of Prospective a bit. There is nothing overly “wow” about Orb just from looking at a picture, but if you watched the Florida Derby post parade I’m sure you noticed his attitude. What makes Orb a convincing sell is his attitude. Happy horses win races, and that is part of what I personally hunt for when “paddock picking.” Orb even has his ears forward in the above image winning the Florida Derby.

I wrote this piece partly to chew apart the growing “real contender” list and to really get down and inspect Orb after his final prep race. I wrote before the Florida Derby that he had no excuse to lose it with Merit Man and Shanghai Bobby apt to give the race some pace, and he showed an all-new dimension by running swiftly at the end despite some pretty pokey fractions. The win streak he has going at Gulfstream doesn’t really concern me as to whether or not he can transfer that to Churchill, and in fact I don’t credit it towards Gulfstream, which naturally favors up-front runners anyway. I think Orb is a horse that needed time to “get it” and now that he does, he’s just learning more as he goes along. And with that said, Orb earns a place above many others on my Derby list.

Sophomore Sinkhole

El Padrino was impressive on the Triple Crown trail, but has been MIA since the Run for the Roses.

Who wants some stats? Everybody loves stats, probably as much as they love Raymond. We saw one of the most talented crops of juvenile take the stage in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I), and while a whopping 10 out of 13 of them won stakes leading up to the Derby, we’ve since seen one of the worst injury/retirement rates hit the sophomore male crop:

  • Out of 20 Derby runners, 6 of them have been pronounced retired.
  • Out of the top 5 finishers of the Derby, only Dullahan is still currently active.
  • Out of all 20, only Alpha is being [definitively] considered for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I).
  • 5 of them suffered some type of injury ranging from minor to career-ending between the 3 TC races.
  • Trinniberg is a possible for the BC Sprint, Dullahan a probable for Turf or possibly Classic.
  • Daddy Nose Best, Optimizer, and Dullahan are now career turf/synth horses.
  • 5 of the 20 runners have not made a start since the Triple Crown wrapped.
  • Post-Triple Crown stakes winners: Optimizer (G3 Kent on grass), Dullahan (G1 Pacific Classic on synthetic), Alpha (G2 Jim Dandy and G1 deadheat in Travers), Prospective (G3 Ohio Derby), and Trinniberg (G2 Woody Stephens, sprint).
  • The only horses to have raced against older horses so far this year: Dullahan, Prospective, Daddy Long Legs. Only Dullahan has won against them, and by a nose.

Looking back, was this one of the best years or one of the worst years for three-year-old talent, or should we blame the temptations the breeding industry offers?

Value Abound in Jim Dandy Stakes

Despite being seen as the lesser prep race for the Travers (I), the Jim Dandy (II) may be of a lesser grade than the Haskell (I), but in many ways it is the smart route to the big summertime prize for three-year-olds being at Saratoga. Street Sense won the Jim Dandy-Travers double in 2007, as did Bernardini in 2006, Flower Alley in 2005, and Stay Thirsty just this past year. This year features no one clear front-runner, but 3 Kentucky Derby contenders, a G1 winning shipper, and 2 Belmont runners.

A 50% chance of rain the day of the race may soak the track, but I’m optimistic it won’t take too much of a beating with the summertime drought that’s been trending in the northeast.

$200,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, July 28 at 5:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Alpha - Ramon Dominguez, 119 lbs, Kieran McLaughlin - Both Bernardini and son Stay Thirsty won the Jim Dandy, so can a fresh Alpha get the job done off the rail? New York is his calling card, with his maiden break being at Saratoga at first asking along with two stakes wins leading up to a dry 12th in the Kentucky Derby. Impressive in his runner-up finish in the Wood (I), while Alpha will fighting a layoff and a rail spot, he seems mature for the task. Ace works at Saratoga affirm his fitness. With all the above said and the fact that leading rider Ramon chose Alpha over Hansen this weekend speaks volumes. 

2) Fast Falcon - Rosie Napravnik, 117 lbs, Nick Zito - A son of Awesome Again, Fast Falcon was fast, but not fast enough to outduel a very game Teeth of the Dog in the Dwyer (II) and the Easy Goer. Working steadily at Saratoga, the weight break could prove useful to this nice closer’s tactics as arguably the best lightweight here without a stakes win. Will need to improve a lot though if he wants to keep up.

3) Atigun - Julien Leparoux, 117 lbs, Ken McPeek - The Istan colt impressed in his modest attempt to catch Paynter in the Belmont (I) where he placed 3rd just behind the others. A nice sweeping closer, he’s been doing very well since moving to Saratoga, but his past stakes attempts have been of a concern with flat performances.

4) Neck ‘N Neck - Leandro Goncalves, 119 lbs, Ian Wilkes - The Flower Alley colt really switched gears since the start of the year, living up to his connections’ expectations while winning the Matt Winn (II) by 7 lengths along with an allowance before that by 6 1/2, both at 1 1/16 miles. He looks ready to roll for a big effort here and will likely sit mid-pack.

5) My Adonis - Javier Castellano, 117 lbs, Kelly Breen - The Pleasantly Perfect colt struggled to get it right all year and finally prevailed winning the ungraded Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth over 1 1/16 miles while setting the pace. No recent works (at least that I can see) are very concerning; coupled with the belief I think this one is just going to be a miler or 7-furlong horse, and he’s an easy one to leave out.

6) Teeth of the Dog - Joel Rosario, 121 lbs, Michael Matz - A deserving favorite, the Bluegrass Cat colt was simply awesome in his bone-chilling duel with Fast Falcon last out in the Dwyer (II) after he unwisely made an early bid for the front, becoming vulnerable to the closer’s late move. Still, lesson learned, I think, and the Dog should be anyone’s top 3 to watch. Relaxed works at Fair Hill are encouraging before an anticipated blowout here, and those speed figures keep going up.

7) Liaison - Martin Garcia, 119 lbs, Bob Baffert - The lone G1 winner in the field is this re-emerging son of Indian Charlie, who impressed leading trainer Baffert enough to ship west along with Garcia, also impressed with the colt as of late. He rallied hard to place 3rd in the Swaps (II) last out, fighting a tedious pace set by Blueskiesnrainbows, and just missed winning the Affirmed (III). If anything, I have to applaud Liaison’s fighting spirit this year. He’s been zipping along really nicely and if Baffert’s impressed, you should look at him.

8) Prospective - John Velazquez, 119 lbs, Mark Casse - The winner of the tiny Iowa Derby (III), the Malibu Moon colt looked like he had a nice public workout there and looks to be a promising shipper from Mark Casse’s barn at Woodbine. A horse with some smarts and a jockey boost to Johnny V, he has some class issues to work out but looks fit for an attempt.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Teeth of the Dog

2) Neck ‘N Neck

3) Fast Falcon

Alpha and Teeth of the Dog are the speediest horses here, but face a serious challenge from Liaison, who I still question as a top three-year-old. I’m expecting My Adonis to set an even pace with Teeth of the Dog sitting off it with Neck ‘N Neck, Liaison, and Alpha in reserve just behind those two. In the stretch, Adonis will tire, and from there on out it gets tricky. Alpha will probably show his rust, Liaison may or may not prove that he’s another Indian Charlie who can’t do 9 furlongs, the extra weight might put Dog at a disadvantage… what to do? I think Dog’s got enough in him for one more at 9 furlongs while Neck ‘N Neck will improve to be good for second (might still be too green to win). I still think highly of Fast Falcon for third.

Value Pick: Fast Falcon

The Top 10 Colts to Watch This Summer

Between January and today, we lost a ton of star power in the three-year-old dirt router division, the most prominent miss being Triple Crown leg winners I’ll Have Another and Union Rags, who suffered a suspensory injury and is now out for the year along with Went the Day Well, who has some ankle issues— all three would have likely been included in the top 5 otherwise. In devising the summer’s must-watch list, I had to leave out so many, blocking out any contenders who have not had a recorded work within the past 60 days.

Unfortunately, I am forced to leave out this year’s many excellent turf runners in favor of dirt routers in determining the best candidates to rack up points towards a big Eclipse prize.

10) Gemologist - I was going to leave this one out, but he’s been throwing bullets lately and it’s hard to knock a colt who was undefeated most of his career. However, he has a lot of questions hovering over him now that the fields are getting stronger than what he’s faced in the past, and it doesn’t help that trainer Todd Pletcher is in a slouch. Next move: Jim Dandy (II) or Haskell (I)

9) Neck ‘N Neck - The connections loved him despite his hard luck early on the Triple Crown trail, and he really blossomed when winning the Matt Winn (III) by a whopping 7 lengths. If he can continue to mature, I think we’ll see another special Flower Alley colt this year… Next move: Jim Dandy (II)

8) Alpha - Nearly left this guy off the list despite ranking him in my top three juvenile colts last year. By the looks of his three-year-old year, he has gotten over his gate quirks and has matured mentally quite a good deal. He dueled with Gemologist bravely in the Wood Memorial (I) before enduring a fuzzy trip in the Kentucky Derby. Issue-laced, I still feel it’s more possible for a Bernardini to blossom during the summertime (Stay Thirsty did as well as the sire himself!). Next move: Jim Dandy (II)

7) Prospective - A promising winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (II), I thought the colt had a good mind and a determined drive during the Triple Crown season, making him a live longshot for the Kentucky Derby. He didn’t do as well as I hoped, but made a nice run in the shrunken Ohio Derby (III) last out to show he still has what it takes. Next move: Haskell (I)

6) Blueskiesnrainbows - An English Channel who is actually good on dirt, the chestnut Baffert trainee made an amazing impression running third in the Santa Anita Derby (I), passed only toward the end by I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause. He won the Swaps Stakes (II), and while he was largely unchallenged in that race setting the pace, he’s another Baffert horse to watch as the distances grow. Next move: Nominated to Jim Dandy (II) as a possible

5) Street Life - The Street Sense colt has been an excellent runner all season, winning a few in New York and last finished a belated fourth in the Belmont Stakes (I). He should especially be watched because of all the speed present in this three-year-old crop, setting up quite perfectly for his closing move. Next move: Curlin Stakes

4) Hansen - A dynamite two-year-old, the Tapit phenom has had a very rocky three-year-old season thus far, sailing smooth to win the Gotham (III) but facing some questionable moves in the Kentucky Derby when strangled back to 10th and a rank 2nd to Algorithms in the Holy Bull (III). However, Hansen is still a classy horse, and should Mike Maker send the colt to the front, he’ll put up a serious fight to stay there. His Iowa Derby (III) prep looked real nice as well, automatically putting him at the head of the list of horses bound for the Travers. Next move: Likely West Virginia Derby (II)

3) Paynter - This horse has just been getting better and better with each start, much like his stablemate Bodemeister. I originally didn’t like him all that much even early on (I was an original Bode supporter of the Zayat string), but the way he constantly performs well despite getting the most bizarre things thrown at him— maiden, then a big G1, then shipping into mud, then 12 furlongs?! He still has some questions to answer, but looks like a horse who will get better as the months wear on. Next move: Haskell (I)

2) Teeth of the Dog - Michael Matz’s second-string to Union Rags may be pulling a Stay Thirsty this year by grabbing his ousted stablemates intended accolades instead. He showed tenacity while winning the Dwyer (II) and really hasn’t been out of the heat of the fight since the start of the year while finishing an improving third behind Gemologist and Alpha in the Wood Memorial (I). I’m waiting for this one to get better and better. Next move: Jim Dandy (II)

1) Bodemeister - The Empire Maker colt boasted huge figures winning the Arkansas Derby (I) and impressed more than the winner in the Kentucky Derby (I). I’m dismissing the Preakness (I) runner-up performance because of a boggy rail, and while my biggest concern will be post-fever fitness (the reason he is out of the Haskell), I have few doubts Bode won’t be able to handle the crowd. He isn’t a “need the lead” type, and with his pedigree, ought to do well. If a horse can outspeed Trinniberg and hold on to almost wire a classic with such little prep… I’m excited. Next move: Unknown prep for Travers


It would be awesome to see O’Prado Again, Algorithms, and or Fire on Ice come back in time, however unlikely that may be…

Derby Dozen #12/12: Prospective

Prospective

(Malibu Moon x Spirited Away, by Awesome Again)

Trainer: Mark Casse (Sealy Hill, Pool Play, Exciting Story)

Jockey: Luis Contreras

Owned by: John Oxley

Record: 8-4-2-0

Earnings: $443,192

Summary: An under-the-radar colt with Canadian connections, Prospective came an unfortunate last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I) race, but has since rebounded to promising form mentally and physically as a three-year-old. He was a delayed “ok” for the Kentucky Derby, the decision hinging on how owner John Oxley ultimately felt about his colt’s chances after a lackluster Blue Grass (II) showing.

Prep Schedule: A G3 winner at Woodbine at age 2, Prospective shipped to more competitive waters in Florida as a three-year-old and immediately began cleaning up at Tampa Bay Downs, where he closed in the Pasco (III) to win by 1 1/2, a wide trip to come in 2nd to Battle Hardened in the Sam F Davis (II) over Florida Derby (I) runner-up Reveron, then came back to battle Golden Ticket down the stretch to win the Tampa Bay Derby (II). Shipping to Keeneland synthetic, he did not fire and wound up 6th in a deep Blue Grass (II) field.

Running Style: Closer

Pros: His 50% win percentage obviously looks good, and he’s made a really nice transition to dirt and shipping around. With Trinniberg due to set up a fast early pace, he could ultimately benefit from it much like in his Tampa Bay win if the front runners fail to last or fire that winning move too prematurely.

Cons: His last prep was obviously not good in the Blue Grass (II), and he did not beat all that much in the Tampa Bay, which altogether adds up to a major class retake test for the horse. His best Beyer to date is a mere 88 in the Tampa Bay. He is likely not the best and certainly not the only closer in the field.

Final Word: Two things I liked about Prospective on the trail: he’s determined as hell to lash back at troubled trips, and, he’s consistent. I am willing to toss out the Blue Grass (II) for a couple of reasons with the main one being that his connections stated they knew prior to that race he did not favor synthetic all that much. I like the hardy build of him, and the Tampa Bay really sold me on how many gears this horse is willing to give to win. Despite the long odds he’ll be given and at the expense of sounding a little cheesy, he’s got the character that could reach the front-end turning for home if he gets a good trip.

Can Anyone Upset Hansen in the Blue Grass?

In a surprising move, we’re looking at another week where the usual big G1 prep is overshadowed by a traditionally smaller race. The Blue Grass (II) is normally a small fish kind of race, but this year it witnesses a jump in interest and in entries with the largest field it has had since 1974. Multiple stakes winners, the two-year-old champion Hansen [pictured], and a whole lotta speed will make this a great race to watch as well as possibly wager.

Special consideration is due to those with Polytrack or grass experience, and really all horses should be considered as this race has a history of producing high-odds winners. I picked last year’s winner Brilliant Speed (gotta love those Dynaformers!) at 19-1.

$750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on all-weather track at Keeneland. Post Time: Saturday, April 14 at 6:18pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Heavy Breathing - Corey Lanerie, Todd Pletcher - The promising son of Giant’s Causeway went to the lead as usual in the Spiral Stakes (III) and did surprisingly well after setting some heated fractions, finishing third overall. Naturally, you have to like a little Giant on synthetic with experience at the surface and at the distance. Breezes are very good as are connections. On the rail spot and with Javier Castellano skipping out on him, I expect this guy to help set the pace once again.

2) Gung Ho - Edgar Prado, Mike Maker - Kitten’s Joy kids dominate at Keeneland, and Gung Ho looked like a good son running on gamely to finish second last out in the Rushaway over at the synthetic Turfway despite a stumbled start. Worked a nice bullet 5-furlonger in :59. A class test awaits Gung Ho here as Maker’s second-stringer looks the part of one.

3) Prospective - Luis Contreras, Mark Casse - The Tampa Bay Derby (II) winner and son of Malibu Moon has the attitude of a champion and has wins on synthetic from his early days at Woodbine. He’s done super all year so far with 2 wins and an erroneous second, working smoothly with a good 5 panel breeze in 1:01. He hasn’t beaten a whole lot of high-class, but I do think he’s got what it takes. If nothing else, I love his determined attitude.

4) Hansen - Ramon Dominguez, Mike Maker - David, meet Goliath. The bright white son of Tapit has learned the rating game and excelled at it with his romping Gotham (III) win following a sloppy second in the Holy Bull (III). His past two works were a :59 bullet and a 1:00 flat over 5 furlongs. He’s matured so much between those two starts and with his personality, I have little reason to believe he’s not going to throw in a pristine effort here… even though he doesn’t need to win, I think this horse naturally wants to. Synthetic experience makes him an easy case to win here.

5) Russian Greek - Miguel Mena, Gennadi Dorochenko - A recent transfer from Jerry Hollendorfer, the very well-pedigreed Giant’s Causeway colt was considered a potential major player on the west coast early on but did not amount to much after being 5th in the El Camino Real (III) and 8th in the Spiral (III), both on synthetic. Breezes have been steady, but not very impressive. Can a new trainer and jockey turn things around for this synthetic specialist? Odds will be stacked against him here.

6) Dullahan - Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans - The Even the Score colt and half brother to Mine That Bird has only glowed further upon his juvenile career as a sophomore, running a very good runner-up to Howe Great in the grass-bound Palm Beach (III) following his 4th in the Breeders’ Cup (I). Working a blazing :57 1/2, he appears sharper than ever and ready to take on a final prep race at the same place where he won his big Breeders’ Futurity (I). While he sports only 1 win in 7 starts, it’s hard to knock Dullahan. His race against Howe Great proved he’s still got it and will probably keep improving. Rebound, rebound, rebound.

7) Politicallycorrect - Elvis Trujillo, Wesley Ward - The Kitten’s Joy gelding here is making his belated graded debut after a series of setbacks, but managed to nab 2 wins in 3 starts all at Gulfstream this year with a little synthetic background racing at Keeneland last year. Fired a nice bullet recently in :59 flat at Keeneland. He seems to be progressing nicely, but distance might be a question. He has benefited in the past from a fast pace, which he’ll likely find here again. Factor in his top local owners and breeding and he gets another plus.

8) Midnight Crooner - Garrett Gomez, Bob Baffert - Distance isn’t much of an issue for this late-blooming War Chant son, who last out placed 3rd in the Pasadena Stakes and will be making his graded debut here. He was too impressive snapping his maiden by more than 7 lengths at the synthetic Golden Gate, and has promising works before shipping in. Garrett Gomez can only help Crooner’s chances, but he’ll nonetheless be a longshot with great connections here.

9) Holy Candy - Joel Rosario, John Sadler - The hot topic colt of late, the Candy Ride [ARG] son broke his maiden on his fourth try at Santa Anita by 3 1/2 lengths. He ships in having done some longer works as opposed to the customary 4 or 5-furlong bullet and has only 1 start on synthetic. Despite generating buzz as a possible for the Santa Anita Derby (I), he’ll have too much going against him to do that well here.

10) Howe Great - Javier Castellano, Graham Motion - The other Team Valor Derby hopeful lies in this Hat Trick [JPN] colt, who I have been enthusiastic about since he ran impressively in the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream. Working slow and long at Keeneland, he has Castellano in the irons and a mission to get more graded earnings. His connections have confided he has no chance against horses like Hansen, and this will be Howe Great’s first synthetic start. I think he’s extremely good and hopefully that will transfer on to the all-weather.

11) Ever So Lucky - Julien Leparoux, Jonathan Sheppard - The Indian Charlie entry has had only one unfortunate start this year where he finished 3rd after being swallowed in the Swale (III). For some reason, despite being stated that he’s no distance horse, Sheppard is taking his chances with him here at 1 1/8 miles with no synthetic or turf experience. Sheppard set out to purposely tire him out in a recent work, cooking him in :57 flat over 5 panels. He can be rated and has a nice cruising speed, but even with Sheppard and Leparoux I won’t back him. I steer clear of Indian Charlies beyond a mile as well as horses who have let me down when they should have been up to the task.

12) Hero of Order - Eddie Martin, Gennadi Dorochenko - The freak 109-1 winner of the Louisiana Derby (II) is set to try to make a name for himself again here as a pacesetter to watch. Sporting 2 wins in 14 tries, the Sharp Humor colt breezed a sharp :48 flat over 4 panels to warm up with no toteboard appearances in 4 synthetic tries. I’m calling cahoots and passing.

13) Scatman - Shaun Bridgmohan, Michael Lauer - The Scat Daddy colt proved to be a game competitor putting up a fight last out against Secret Circle in the Rebel Stakes (II), where he finished a hardened third. He hasn’t won a stakes just yet, but he’s knocking on that door with a second in the Southwest (II) and a couple good races on synthetic. A long breeze preceded by a good :49 work has him all tuned up. This is a tough field but all things considered, Scatman shouldn’t be tossed out of consideration the way he has been running. Now that *he* knows he’s running beyond a mile, perhaps he can keep chase a little longer before he settles.

Predicted Trifecta: 1) Hansen 2) Dullahan 3) Prospective (The best horse here is Hansen, intentions-wise, I think Dullahan is the main upset threat but I think he might be saved a bit to peak for the Derby. Prospective’s a fighter I think could come out near the top)

Value Pick(s): Scatman, Prospective, Politicallycorrect

Keep Calm and Take Charge for Tampa Bay Derby

***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 7 of 12! - Email or message me your trifecta pick to earn points towards winning the Derby Handicap Contest. You have until 1 hour before post time to send/edit picks. See details in the Contest tab!*

While California racing hosts the loaded San Felipe (II), I’m glad I decided to move the Derby Handicap Contest around the country as much as possible because the Tampa Bay Derby (II) looks pretty great with some fresh names in the mix. A lot of the entries are brand-new to stakes competition, with a few names continuing efforts to rack up the earnings. While Tampa Bay Downs isn’t exactly a powerhouse for name dropping, lest we forget Street Sense and Super Saver both prepped for their Derby victories in this race.

Handicapping notes: Thank you Tampa Bay Downs for this handicapping guide (use it!). The weather is set to be a typically sunny day. Preferences advised to be given to past Tampa Bay runners (sandy surface), experience with route distances, and preparation leading up to the race.

$350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs. Post Time: Saturday, March 10 at 5:28pm EST

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Prospective - Luis Contreras, 120 lbs, Mark Casse - Super nice Malibu Moon colt and a product of Spendthrift. Other than a messy last-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup, Prospective has always been first or second, including stakes races like the Sam F. Davis (same distance and track) where he ran a close second to Battle Hardened. He suffered a rough race in the Sam Davis and is a quality horse all the way. I trust he can settle down for a smooth closing move this race; he’s a very classy, game horse.

2) Golden Ticket - Manoel Cruz, 116 lbs, Ken McPeek - Nice Speightstown colt out of a Deputy Minister daughter wearing the WinStar colors. A pace stalker, he broke his maiden last month on his 6th try at Gulfstream easily by 2 lengths at this distance. Watched this horse run before his maiden, but expectations fell short. I don’t expect an awful lot out of him here.

3) Twin - Daniel Centeno, 116 lbs, Pedro Maestre - A local gelding who has tried multiple surfaces, he finally broke his maiden at Gulfstream on his 12th attempt over a mile on dirt. A son of Omega Code, he’s been working well and ships in from Calder. Not a whole lot going for this one; I have reason to believe his maiden win could be credited heavily towards a fast rail ride against little. Pass.

4) Chief Energy - Paco Lopez, 116 lbs, Jimmy Toner - A colt who has successfully peaked my interest recently, he wailed on My Adonis to break his maiden at Monmouth by nearly 6 lengths last year = before trying turf unsuccessfully in a stakes. Most recent workout was not been anything too brilliant and he has not raced since August. He’ll likely need a tune-up race.

5) Tell All You Know - Leandro Goncalves, 116 lbs, Chad Stewart - 2-for-2 at Tampa Bay already, he shattered his maiden there by almost 10 lengths after setting a fractious pace for a final time of :57 and change for 5 furlongs. Stretched out to 7 panels, the Van Nistelrooy colt still sailed clear to win by 3 in a pace stalker position. An exciting sort of underdog, he obviously likes Tampa and deserves the class test but is a first-timer at routing which is primarily why I’m not using him. On a fast track, he’s worth watching.

6) Cozzetti - Jose Lezcano, 116 lbs, Dale Romans - The Cozzene colt has been an entry of interest in the Romans stable, but has only managed a 4th in the recent Kitten’s Joy Stakes on grass and an 8th in a crowded CashCall (I) finish. He fired a :59 2/5 bullet over 5 furlongs, so he’s definitely in racing shape. I’m thinking this one has just been having some hard luck and this race looks a bit lighter for him to handle. The 4 lb difference is nice and he’s got great connections to make a case here.

7) Battle Hardened [pictured] - Julien Leparoux, 120 lbs, Eddie Kenneally - The Sam F. Davis (III) was this Giant’s Causeway colt’s maiden break, with a great performance over the same track and distance by 1 1/4 lengths in promising company. The fact he got the ideal trip of the bunch in the Sam Davis presents a big question. He looks the part of a classic horse and is fit for the track, but the amount of attention he’s *not* getting as the returning Davis winner is kind of disturbing.

8) Ravelo’s Boy - Jeffrey Sanchez, 116 lbs, Manuel Azpurua - Another Calder transplant, he was a closing 4th in the Sam F. Davis and while largely improving, the Lawyer Ron colt has been finishing everywhere, culminating with just 2 wins in 12 starts. He’s got some ability, but it typically doesn’t hold up well against top shelf company and I’ve had too many Lawyer Rons sour on me already. Pass.

9) Spring Hill Farm - Javier Castellano, 116 lbs, Todd Pletcher - Hate the name, but can’t ignore the horse. A son of Smart Strike, this colt is 2-for-2 in his career and looks to stretch out a little more here while trying stakes company. He managed to beat Quick Wit and others last out and fired a 1:00 bullet in his last work. Going to be the favorite here with his connections, but he’s got enough of a test ahead of him to make him work for this one. Both his wins were wire-to-wire, so he’s expected to help set the pace.

10) Take Charge Indy - Calvin Borel, 116 lbs, Patrick Byrne - The most promising A.P. Indy colt of the Derby trail arrives here to take home some money. He got his 2012 post-Breeders’ Cup debut out of the way, with a game second behind El Padrino in a super-charge allowance in the slop at Gulfstream. I expect him to improve vastly here, with a fast workout of :47 3/5 over 4 panels. With the feather impost, he’ll be hard to best.

11) Fox Rules - Huber Villa-Gomez, 116 lbs, M. Anthony Ferraro - 6th last out in the Sam Davis, this Roman Ruler gelding is kind of hard to figure with only his maiden win (which was on turf) to his credit in 6 unimpressive starts. Breezed 5 panels in 1:01, but I can’t see a clear-cut edge siding with this entry. Pass.

12) Cajun Charlie - Tracy Hebert, 120 lbs, Brian House - Old Friends supporters will cheer for this one… an Afternoon Deelites gelding! He hopes to extend his 3-race winning streak to 4 here, which includes 2 runaway wins in ungraded stakes at Delta Downs, both of which he was hardly asked. The outside post coupled with confidence and impressive ability makes this shipper a worthwhile darkhorse. Looks to help set the pace.

Predicted Trifecta: 1) Take Charge Indy 2) Cajun Charlie 3) Battle Hardened

Value Picks: Cozzetti, Tell All You Know

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Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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