With the Triple Crown and Travers charge over and done with and the summer sun having set, it’s time for the horse racing world to refocus on a new point of interest: fall championships. While the Super Derby isn’t a famous battleground for three-year-olds, it still serves as a nice last-minute warmup for our darling sophomores before they start facing older company. The field this year looks nice, with plenty of speed lovers that will insure a good pace scenario.
$500,000 Super Derby (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Louisiana Downs. Post Time: Saturday, September 8 at 5:10pm CST
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Mr Bluegrass Music - Chris Landeros, Richard Jackson - “Unf” is all I can say about a gray/roan colt sired by Bluegrass Cat, and this one is taking his first graded stakes attempt after coming in a wide 3rd in the Super Derby Prelude Stakes. He has 1 win and 3 thirds from 4 starts this year, but has only managed third a couple times in his stakes tries. He stayed put in the Prelude warmup, clearly outclassed by Tensas Cold Front and Key Donation, and that seems to sum up his career where he was mostly in shorter races.
2) Key Donation - Richard Eramia, Thomas Amoss - Not a fan of Lawyer Rons, but this guy managed to snuff out Tensas Cold Front last out to win the Super Derby Prelude, the key prep race on this course for the big Super Derby. Very lightly raced this year but never worse than 2nd since snapping his maiden on his second try, this colt has romped from a stalking position more than once. A nice little entry for exotic plays, he’ll need to boost his figs but he’s got upset potential as a colt who likes to sneak up and draw away.
3) Blueskiesnrainbows - Joe Talamo, Bob Baffert - Am I the only one who is glad Baffert’s putting Talamo on board? I tabbed this gorgeous chestnut son of English Channel on my top summer three-year-olds watch list, and while he’s making a belated entry, he’s going to be tough no matter what. Sure to be on the lead, the Swaps (II) victor lest we forget nearly bested I’ll Have Another earlier in the year trying to wire the Santa Anita Derby (I), and has only been off the board once this year (9th in a turf start)! Class-wise, it’s hard to compare most of these other entries with Blueskiesnrainbows. However, he’s not unbeatable, and setting soft fractions will not work with horses like Hero Of Order pressing the pace. Nevertheless, he’s the one to beat here.
4) Hero Of Order - Donald Edward Simmington, Gennadi Dorochenko - A hero of upset, the Sharp Humor colt has managed just 2 wins this year as the 109-1 winner of the Louisiana Derby (II) and his maiden victory both at Fair Grounds. The colt has yet to replicate his thrilling wiring style, and was out of gas entering the stretch of the West Virginia Derby (II) last out to finish 5th. Works and form not looking fast and regular, the likely pacesetter is a pretty easy toss out.
5) Fly Lexis Fly - Martin Garcia, Neil Drysdale - I’m all for Badge of Silver offspring since Silver Medallion began dominating at Calder the beginning of last year, and this colt had built up quite a hype machine leading into the Triple Crown trail. Looking like a true gritty distance horse working at Hollywood Park, he was steadied in a too-much-too-soon start with older horses in the 1 1/2 mile Cougar Handicap (II) in his only start this year. Can Peru’s champion colt, who beat 3-year-olds as a juvenile, come alive in the States? He’s got the clout, with a 103 Equibase figure in a single rocky start against older horses here on synthetic, and should by all means improve significantly transferring back to dirt. A seriously good-looking horse, if he reaches back to his hype he can whip this field with the right run. With Garcia aboard, I sure hope he gets it.
6) Master Rick - Gerard Melancon, Steve Asmussen - The Master Command colt hasn’t come close to winning since out-duelling G1 winner Drill in the Northern Spur Stakes in April, and was outdueled last out in the Super Derby Prelude to fade to fourth. With buckets of speed here and a tiring run in much of his recent racing, I think it’s time to cut Master Rick back in distance.
7) Tensas Cold Front - Mark Guidry, Al Stall - A horse that made me go “ooo” a few months ago, the gray War Front gelding is 2-for-3 in his career and as a Louisiana-bred, all at the same track. It’s hard to say where Al Stall will put this guy pace-wise with so much speed obvious in the early stages with a maiden broken in a closing move. With a :59 4/5 bullet fired over the track, he’s ready but will need to improve significantly to brush up front.
8) Rousing Sermon - Mike Smith, Jerry Hollendorfer - A pretty awesome Lucky Pulpit son, Rousing Sermon has never had a legitimately bad race, but has yet to win at the graded level. He nearly won his last start in the 7-furlong Real Good at Del Mar running just off the pace, signaling a possible shift in strategy from his usual farther-back closing move. While I think Hollendorfer is a great shipping trainer, Mike Smith is an ideal match for a bona fide closer, and Rousing Sermon is highly underrated, I wonder how much steam this horse might have in the tank. He’s really hit or miss when it comes to making it on the board.
9) Bourbon Courage - Leandro Goncalves, Kellyn Gorder - The Lion Heart colt caught my attention heading into the Derby Trial (III) against Paynter, ultimately finishing 4th in the slop but came back to take second in the West Virginia Derby (II), missing by just a half length in a really weird race to Macho Macho at this distance. His workouts look real good and I think he’ll get a similar pace setup here to repeat that West Virginia effort.
Top Picks in Order:
1) Bourbon Courage
3) Fly Lexis Fly
Everyone will be hopping aboard the Blueskiesnrainbows train, and while he’s a great choice that I think has more than a good shot, he does have some shortcomings and question marks over his top efforts. Bourbon Courage will look to take advantage of the speed struggle that is almost inevitable to happen up front by sitting off the pace just like he did in the West Virginia. I’m wagering a little hope with the classy Fly Lexis Fly to get up front as well. I’d throw in Key Donation and Tensas Cold Front in those exotic plays as well.
Value Pick: Bourbon Courage