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Derby Watch: Hope for Invasor

Last year presented the very first crop to race from the seemingly unstoppable, globe-trotting sensation Invasor [ARG], who deflected top fields whether he was in Dubai or California or just about anywhere else. Unfortunately, we have barely seen anything worthwhile come from this champion— his biggest claim to fame was Five Sixteen, a one-time winner who raced 5th in the Belmont and was runner-up to Street Life in the Curlin Stakes. Feeling a bit downtrodden at this poor note, there is some good news on the horizon for fans of the Argentinian beast in recent maiden winner Saint Arthur.

A New York-bred, the odds of Saint Arthur succeeding are already stacked against him as a son of Invasor [ARG], but it’s his game mindset that makes him a fitting underdog. He chased a doozy of a pace in his debut race at Saratoga to finish 3rd, missing the win by just a length. From there he shipped to Finger Lakes to make his stakes debut in the full Aspirant Stakes barely two weeks later, breaking slow to make the lead at the half and tired late after making up ground early. Three weeks later, he was entered in another well-filled Finger Lakes stake for the 6-furlong New York Breeders’ Futurity, getting glued to the inside to finish 3rd beaten a smidgen for the place and only 1 1/4 lengths for the win.

Returning to upper-crust Belmont at 25-1 odds, he changed tactics slightly by gunning for the lead right away in the 7-furlong Bertram Bongard Stakes— an important New York-bred prep won by Funny Cide in the past— but was caught in the stretch by heavy favorite Weekend Hideaway and finished strong to place in the race off by 2. After drilling the fastest of 55 works at the 4-furlong distance at Belmont, he at long last won an Aqueduct MSW on Saturday, wiring the field while out-dueling Pleasure Principle the whole way, the two keeping some 8-9 lengths between them and the rest of the field.

Further down south, another interesting Invasor is making progress towards his first win. Raced three times at three very different tracks (Turfway, Keeneland on grass, and Calder’s dirt course), Succesful Brothers has an annoying misspelled name, but sports a very unusual pedigree and flight path. His dam is Contagious [GB], an unsuccessful turf racer by Polar Falcon, a Nureyev son who was a graded stakes winner in Europe. Contagious has produced a winner in her first foal One Thousand is a half to group III winner Headstrong [IRE]. Any further research about Contagious’s dam Rash [GB] turns up empty.

Last out at Calder, he closed from the rear of the 7-furlong test after a poor start and went wide to be 2nd. The crowd favored him well enough to make him the post-time favorite, but he could not reach bomber Narvarez, who paid an enormous $87.20 for a $2 win bet. Trained by juvie pro Wesley Ward, this chestnut colt’s last race was a mild move to be 5th in a 9-furlong turf maiden race and he cut his teeth on Turfway’s all-weather over a mile to be 2nd. He’s just got to be close to a win by now…

Whether or not these two can accomplish enough improvement in time to earn some essential Derby points is the biggest question of all, with Saint Arthur being a speedster and Succesful Brothers sitting back. Invasor [ARG] has gotten an extremely slow start despite his list of impressive accolades… while he liked to sit off the pace a while in his races, can he catch up off the track?

Racing Beat: October 7

No question about it… if Wise Dan can beat Animal Kingdom and the rest of a challenging field in the BC Turf Mile, he gets Horse of the Year if Game On Dude loses the BC Classic. Nobody tops those two this year in breadth of challengers and list of impressive wins.

Feeling a future post here… I look forward more to the Juvenile Turf than the Juvenile dirt race. No lie.

I hope there’s a rich Disney fan of a racehorse owner that will name a future Street Sense/Cry/Life/Boss baby Street Rat. Mwahahaaaaa.

And Calder continues being the dick of the track world charging fees for things that don’t need fees…

I have defeated the curse that is Blazing Silks, thank you Paige. Aww but look at my pone pone I named Greek Fire!

I vow to make a superior pony game if I ever finish my computer science degree.

Word on the street is the new freshman sire to watch is The Green Monkey. Yes, that overpriced bomb of a horse, yes that one. Spring At Last is making progress as well.

Looks like Drill is starting to make his way back with 3-furlong breezes at Hollywood Park after a tiring spring campaign sprinting. Ultimate Eagle has started breezing last week, too. ~A la horses I just randomly started thinking about and looked up

Feeling legit depressed about Danedream and the rest of the Arc dropouts. At least now I know it’s not just the U.S. where horses like to drop like flies at terrible moments.

I had a dream the other night that I was watching the Breeders’ Cup Turf and out of nowhere comes NEHRO to win it. Yeah, even in the dream I was like what the…

Chantal Sutherland is constantly testing my will… she’s cool one moment throwing out the first pitch for the L.A. Dodgers game… unthinkably vile the next having her baseball signed by that god-awful, why-does-he-have-a-show Rob Drydek. *hurls*

If I were the owner of Stay Thirsty, I’d keep him running if at all possible until maybe age 6. He’d likely improve with age, plus I’d throw him into the Marathon, not the Classic. Hopefully in his last year the Breeders’ Cup will go to Belmont and then he could go out with a bang on his favorite track. But since this is not the case, I’m stuck brainstorming name-play foal monikers… I like Slurpee.

I am so proud of Pool Play right now…

Shanghai Bobby is a cute colt and all, but I’m still not feeling him. I’m eagerly awaiting the Remsen Stakes at 1 1/8 miles… maybe we’ll see a real Derby horse then.

Tweet o’ the Week hails back to medieval times…

Oh baby Street Life, I hope you’re okay after that ankle bump in the Travers. In an alternate universe, you won the race for me. Please let’s not retire this guy. (Photo by Skip Dickstein)

Oh baby Street Life, I hope you’re okay after that ankle bump in the Travers. In an alternate universe, you won the race for me. Please let’s not retire this guy. (Photo by Skip Dickstein)

The Best Missing in Saturday’s Travers Stakes

I’ll Have Another. Creative Cause. Union Rags. Gemologist. Bodemeister. Paynter. A three-year-old from current meet leader/last year’s winning trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn. All are missing from the fray of the Mid-Summer Derby, the Travers Stakes (I). As one of my favorite races, the Travers is famous for determining the year’s best three-year-old aside from the trying Triple Crown trail, with past winners reading like a who’s who of Thoroughbred greats: Man o’ War, Holy Bull, Buckpasser, Damascus, Alydar, and others dating back to the late 1800s. It’s an old race, it’s a great race… just not this year.

With Paynter and Hansen both out of the running, the race became difficult to gauge and I took a lot of time flip-flopping between horses. I used virtually every factor in trying to determine a top three— pace scenario likelihoods, speed figures, transition to fast from slop for many, you name it— but it really boiled down to this: being a G1, it takes a very good horse to win it with the right strategy and the best form. Easier said than done of course, and with the weather looking good, I hope recent prep winners like it fast just as well as they liked the mud!

$1 million Travers Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/4 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday August 25 at 5:46pm EST.

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

1) Speightscity - Irad Ortiz Jr., Gary Contessa - A totally curious entry, we haven’t seen Speightscity since the Speightstown ridgeling was second to Alpha in the Withers (III), where he apparently banged up his knee. A winner of no stakes, he’s a $20k supplement to the race where he is set to go straight to the lead, as announced loudly by trainer Contessa. His works have been very good reaching long at Saratoga, but with such a long layoff and no serious past credit, a win in a G1 seems very farfetched.

2) Five Sixteen - Rosie Napravnik, Dominick Schettino - The Invasor [ARG] gelding surprised many running a good second to Street Life in the sloppy Curlin Stakes here at Saratoga, ultimately retaining Napravnik’s commitment with soft underdog status. Napravnik hasn’t been that sharp at the Saratoga meet overall, and I honestly am beginning to think Five Sixteen might be a slop horse instead of one that is bound to improve.

3) Golden Ticket - David Cohen, Ken McPeek - Haven’t seen this one in a while! The Speightstown colt hasn’t won a stakes yet, but was last seen as a gallant runner-up to Prospective in the Tampa Bay Derby (II). His works have been awesome at Saratoga, but the layoff’s going to hurt him and his unimpressive speed figures. I also wonder if this is McPeek’s second Belmont Stakes-like attempt, where he put a fast horse in a race along with closer Atigun. HMMM…

4) Stealcase - Shaun Bridgmohan, Mark Casse - I haven’t really liked this Lawyer Ron colt since he ran a disappointing 6th in the Gotham (III). He’s had a lot of shoddy luck, and subsequently has no stakes wins to his credit. He was a distant runner-up to Neck ‘N Neck in the Matt Winn (III) and closed nice for a distant third in the Haskell (I) last out after hitting the gate at the start. He’s improving with good works at Saratoga, but may not be good enough to consider for the upset.

5) Street Life - Jose Lezcano, Chad Brown - A face I’ve loved since watching his awesome Broad Brush Stakes win, the Street Sense colt has 3 wins in 7 starts this year and has been a good runner even in his failed attempts. He was far off the others to rally for 4th in the Belmont, and could have won the Peter Pan (II) in my opinion if he hadn’t gotten an outside post. He won the Curlin Stakes pretty easy last time out with a tweaked strategy that could work again here, but could very well suffer without pace.

6) Alpha - Ramon Dominguez, Kieran McLaughlin - The Bernardini colt is arguably the most accomplished in the field: the easy winner of the Jim Dandy (II) last out and has no bad races to speak of while in New York (2-for-2 at Saratoga) while maintaining good speed figures. He seeks to repeat his sire’s and brother Stay Thirsty’s Jim Dandy-Travers double. Alpha is a good and sensible choice for favoritism, but I must question his credentials. His win in the sloppy Jim Dandy was easy and unopposed, and he has had a controversially easy spring campaign dodging horses like Hansen to collect his wins. He had no response for the Derby and lost (albeit gracefully) to a drawing-away Gemologist in the Wood (I). He could win this race among simpleton company, but either way he has some class questions.

7) Atigun - Mike Smith, Ken McPeek - The Istan colt is a beloved favorite of mine, pegging me to win the Rebel Stakes (II) earlier this spring. While he hasn’t won anything to speak of, he is the probably the most capable horse in the field for trying the distance as he was a gaining 3rd in the Belmont (I) behind two top class horses. He was inappropriately choked back in the Jim Dandy, and gets an upgrade to great closing rider Mike Smith with super works done at Saratoga. Don’t leave him out.

8) Neck ‘N Neck - Leandro Goncalves, Ian Wilkes - A really nice Flower Alley colt, he had a dominating victory in the Matt Winn (III) before digging hopelessly into the mud to stay second to Alpha in the Jim Dandy last out. His works have been great at Saratoga, and with a faster track, he should be game for another go at Alpha.

9) Liaison - Rafael Bejarano, Bob Baffert - Never really liked this Indian Charlie colt, who is the lone G1 winner in the field with a CashCall Futurity (I) win as a two-year-old. His best efforts have been out west on synthetic, hitting the board in all his recent graded efforts before going 5 paths wide to get third in the Jim Dandy. A horse with some go left in him, he’s got some credence, but I have to wonder if he’s taking the ship from Cali well. For a Baffert trainee, he doesn’t give me that wink of confidence I’m so accustomed to.

10) Nonios - John Velazquez, Jerry Hollendorfer - One of my new favorites is this Pleasantly Perfect colt, who is just as handsome as the day is long. A super winner closing on synthetic, he has yet to finish off the board this year and has shown he doesn’t need speed to win. While he was distant from Paynter, he closed well in his first dirt try in the Haskell (I) to stay clear of the others, and picks up super rider Velazquez.

11) Fast Falcon - Junior Alvarado, Nick Zito - The game rival to Teeth of the Dog is this Awesome Again son who closed like a freight train to place in the Dwyer (II). His form took a dive when he was responseless running last in the Jim Dandy (II). Working well enough at Saratoga, Zito’s latest try at the Travers looks a wee bit tired.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Street Life

2) Alpha

3) Atigun

I was able to chop this field right in half separating the good ones with a chance from those just having a hopeful hurrah, but from there things got tough. Liaison looks like he misses home, so he was out. Neck ‘N Neck had no answer for Alpha’s spiked speed in the stretch, so he’s probably going to be a reach for the price. Alpha I dislike but have to consider… Nonios is awesome… Street Life’s strategy could be right… but Atigun is capable with that Golden Ticket helping him out… WHO DO I PICK? Ultimately I stayed with Street Life, who has a strategy that can work again here and he’s been a beastly closing machine. I think Alpha will stay in the mix, and Atigun will make a case for the upset. I’m broken-hearted to leave out Nonios, but have to consider his only dirt start was in a super light field as good as the horse was that beat him. I’ll box all four somewhere together.

Value Pick: Atigun

Weekend Stake Tip: Street Cred

I handicapped the three big Travers (I) preps this past week… personal picks Ever So Lucky and Street Life hit the board in the Curlin Stakes. Alpha was fitter than I expected in the Jim Dandy (II) where second place went to Neck ‘N Neck as I predicted and Fast Falcon faltered, and last of all, I got the exacta in the Haskell (I). Other weekend cash-ins worth mentioning were $10 on Amazombie in the Bing Crosby (I), $5 on Winter Memories (Dream Peace [IRE] screwed my Winter Memories-Zagora [FR] exacta) in the Diana Stakes (I), and $2 on a longshot Matz trainee named Assateague on the Saratoga turf.

As a rule and a showing of my true inner stubbornness, I will typically make plays on whatever race I handicapped mid-week on the weekends unless a) the odds are horrid and or b) there was a significant change to the race, such as a key horse scratching or in many cases of late, track condition changes. One thing I will freely admit is that I have yet to really grasp how an off track will affect how the race shapes up, and ultimately, finishes. One guideline a NYRA commentor mentioned leading up to the Jim Dandy (II) that I openly agree with is that with an off track comes the opportunity for longshots to shine, as many who ran poorly on a fit track tend to blossom in the mud or just take advantage of a struggling favorite on the surface. Failure to consider the heavier-than-expected rainfall probably didn’t affect me much this weekend, but it has in the past!

This week, I’m going to go light on everyone and just let the horses speak for themselves. Summing up the 3 three-year-old preps in one word is “meh.” I don’t know what to make of the Jim Dandy (II), most of all. I will say that I do not consider Alpha to be a top contender and will be taking advantage of all the love he’s getting when the Travers rolls around. He set soft fractions on the front end on an off track and while he won by about 2 lengths, the race was not impressive at all. Gemologist beat this horse at his best and that one finished last in the Haskell (I)… what does that say? Paynter looked dominant, but considering the loose credentials of the Haskell field, he wasn’t tested. At this point in time, I think Street Life will win the Travers.

As far as older horses go, Winter Memories made me proud beating up Tapitsfly and the Euros to be 3-for-4 at Saratoga and a wonderful prospect for the Breeders’ Cup Filly Turf (I). Just an easy win for her right there. Sprinter Capital Account should be watched in the future as well as a Starlight Racing two-year-old named Lawn Man I had down to win (but did not bet because of the deep field, agh! 10-1!) who destroyed a very classy maiden special weight at Saratoga.

Racing Beat: July 29

Bridgejumpers unite! Someone bet $200k on a horse to show at Canterbury Park (the total card’s handle that day was $146,000 to give you an idea) to make $10k off that bet. Cha-ching!

I feel like it would be an awesome idea to see horses/jockeys dress up like past legends. I don’t know how they would exhibit this to the public, but it would be a cool publicity stunt. I’d fangirl over some Man o’ War nostalgia.

Teen Pauline made me excited to see the future Tapit-Zenyatta foal a whole lot more than I already did.


The two-year-old fillies are officially making a bigger splash thus far than the boys. Bob Baffert trainee Maker or Breaker (an Empire Maker daughter) ran down her stablemate while breaking her maiden, running one of the fastest final 1/8s in the country!

The only reason Ramon Dominguez managed to get 6 wins at Saratoga in one day was because Johnny V was absent. I don’t think that’ll happen again!

HOLD THE PHONE! I thought Belmont was confirmed for the 2013 Breeders’ Cup… why are we still discussing the location?! Put it there so I can actually go!

So You Think [IRE] and Black Caviar should get married…

Best pre-Travers prep race? I missed watching the Haskell (I WOULD HAVE HAD THAT EXACTA!) but as of right now I’m leaning on Street Life to hash it out with Bodemeister.

I was pronouncing Dullahan correctly for months before getting confused watching the Blue Grass Stakes (II) where it was pronounced “DOOL-la-han.” UGH.

I would go off on a tangent right now about how much I dislike Taco’s registered name (Jess’s Dream), but I think Afleetalexandra already wrote it down for me. I pray to God “Bernyatta” isn’t next #killme

I’m hopeful that Winter Memories will make it to the Breeders’ Cup this year. Or at least finishes the year off sans injury… I am so wary of this happening to my favorites.

Tweet o’ the Week is from the Triple Crown’s race caller Larry Collmus!

Octet of Hopefuls Enter the Curlin Stakes

On the trail to a hopeful starting spot in the Travers (I) next month, 8 colts and geldings who have yet to blossom at the graded level find themselves pooled into the Friday featured race at Saratoga. The Curlin Stakes may not be an old race, but it has produced some nice champions with winners like Blame and Turbo Compressor. Even if you don’t care about the race, stay tuned to it to hear the registered name of the Curlin-Rachel Alexandra foal nicknamed “Taco.” (Taco Salad? That would be better than Rachlin… *throws up*)

A 40-60% chance of rain the day of and the day before puts Saratoga at risk of having a damp track for the Curlin.

$100,000 Curlin Stakes - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Friday, July 27 at 6:22pm EST.

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

1) Politicallycorrect - Joel Rosario, 116 lbs, Wesley Ward - Lots of near misses accurately describe this Kitten’s Joy colt, who was last seen failing to hold off Prospective in the Ohio Derby (III) and Teeth of the Dog in the Easy Goer. Surprising to see a horse of this pedigree on dirt, and off the rail, he is likely to be near the pace. I don’t see any huge reason why this will be his big breakthrough performance, though he is likely to hit the board again in this field where he sports a co-highest 105 Equibase speed stat.

2) Ever So Lucky - John Velazquez, 118 lbs, Jonathan Sheppard - Misfortune-plagued on the Triple Crown trail, this stately son of Indian Charlie impressed in his first start back since trailing in the Blue Grass Stakes (II), taking a mile allowance by a whopping 7 1/2 lengths at Delaware Park. Class-wise, he’s tops in the field with 2 graded placings. Throwing bullets like a pistol, this likely pacesetter gets Johnny V and a big nod for me as he steps back up in class, but with some hesitance as he stretches out and excelled in a soft allowance with pokey fractions.

3) Street Life - Jose Lezcano, 122 lbs, Chad Brown - A big favorite of mine is this Street Sense colt who has made a career out of closing. A shy 4th in the Belmont (I) after a rocky start that put him far off the rest of the field, he was the winner of the Broad Brush Stakes at 1 1/16 miles and could have won the Peter Pan (II) at 1 1/8 miles beaten by just 2 lengths while defeating the rest of the field by 6. Class all the way, he is the appropriate high-weight as the only stakes WINNER in this race and should thrive off a quick pace. Sports the co-highest Equibase speed stat at 105.

4) Reload - Eddie Castro, 116 lbs, Claude McGaughey - Hard Spuns have been doing real well lately, and as the distances grow and the babies mature, it’s fairly certain they’re going to do better. Making his stakes debut after a win and two seconds in 3 total starts, Reload looks to be a nice improving stretch runner. Looking at his pedigree and recent starts— a bumpy race missing by a neck for the win in a 1 1/16 mile allowance— Shug has a live one.

5) Easter Gift - Javier Castellano, 116 lbs, Nick Zito - Bumped and ultimately finished 2nd by a neck in the Pegasus Stakes (II), the promising son of Hard Spun has two wins and a second in 3 starts with LaPenta-Zito connections. Stepping up jockeys to Castellano, getting a nice break in weights, this looks like a really nice improver who ought to be watched.

6) Five Sixteen - Rosie Napravnik, 116 lbs, Dominick Schettino - The Invasor [ARG] gelding held in to place 5th last out in the Belmont Stakes (I) with just one win in 5 starts. While he is still a bit green, he has won at this distance and totes the phenomenal Rosie Napravnik.

7) Love to Run - Junior Alvarado, 120 lbs, John Kimmel - Big bloodlines back this Pulpit colt, who moves up to his stakes debut after two straight wins at a mile. He drifted badly winning in his last start, and will be stretching out a whole furlong here.

8) Morgan’s Guerrilla - Ramon Dominguez, 116 lbs, Mike Maker - Prompting the pace last out when 3rd in the Dwyer (II), the Ghostzapper son made a good impression in that race when turning on again to fight off the others in the stretch. Swapping jockeys for top rider Dominguez, he has never been off the board in his dirt starts and should do well here.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Ever So Lucky

2) Street Life

3) Morgan’s Guerrilla

The top two will likely go off at low value, but I feel pretty good about them both. Lucky has some good natural speed that should carry him past these horses, and if he should sit off a steady pace, he can hold off Street Life. Morgan’s Guerrilla is stepping up with Ramon Dominguez and has that hot streak Ghostzapper influence. Easter Gift is also worth considering at the right price. No real recommendations for an off-track as all are inexperienced, I believe.

Value Picks: Morgan’s Guerrilla, Easter Gift

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…

Early Haskell Buzz for Who?

He may not have won the Derby or the Preakness (and some of you would say that he never would have and was soundly beaten by I’ll Have Another), but Bodemeister would have been the horse to beat in the Haskell Invitational (I), had he not been stricken with illness. Belmont winner Union Rags, a likely candidate to close into Bode’s fantastic fractions, is also out due to a suspensory injury.

Who does that leave in what will be a rather unexciting Haskell?

Hansen, who has a lot of work to do in redeeming himself as a top three-year-old fallen from grace, is now 60-70% likely to enter the Haskell, with priority originally given to the lighter West Virginia Derby (II). Trainer Mike Maker has commented that the colt has matured quite a bit from his rank prep days leading up to the Derby, where he finished an unimpressive 10th. He is certainly ready for a big race following his public workout in the Iowa Derby (III), which he won by an easy 10 lengths.

Zayat Stables is also listing Bodemeister’s talented stablemate as a possible for the race. Paynter nearly wired the Belmont Stakes (I) and has been an impeccable horse from the get-go. Dare I say, he is more mentally capable than Hansen, and can probably beat the Great White Hope should he elect to sit off the pace.

Throwing in a third option and a name I have brought up many times before as someone I like: Street Life. I can’t help but think Street Sense is a good enough sire to get a G1 with one of his progeny this year, and Street Life might just be up to the task. Starting from the rail in the Belmont, he got off to a bad start and was too far behind the field to do better than a modest fourth. He nearly snuffed out Mark Valeski in the Peter Pan (II) before that, and had he not been on the far outside, I think he would have won that race. Obviously, things have to go right for him, but the pace has the possibility of working in his favor.

There’s little to dissuade me from siding with Bodemeister as the potential winner and very possible best three-year-old of 2012. For how lightly raced he is, he has sure done a lot to impress us and often times, good three-year-olds can become great three-year-olds come summertime. We saw it happen with Stay Thirsty as well as Coil just to name two non-classic winners who won prestigious summer stakes races. Now that Bode will be skipping the Haskell, it’s just a question of how and when he’ll get that one prep before the Travers.

Shake it out, Street Life! This horse looks so small in person. I’m going to tweet him to find out! (Photo by Rob Carr)

Shake it out, Street Life! This horse looks so small in person. I’m going to tweet him to find out! (Photo by Rob Carr)

Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

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

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