02/13/2011 1:31PM

Lewis, El Camino Real, and Davis Disappoint

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The odds-on favorites in Saturday’s three graded, two-turn Kentucky Derby preps weren’t completely shut out, but that’s really no consolation. Let’s be honest about it: The only way you could have been satisfied with Saturday’s three Derby preps were if you own or bet on the winners.

Probably the biggest Derby-related story Saturday was the surrender Tapizar made at 1-5 in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. No one could have anticipated that Tapizar would back up to the point of finishing fifth of seven as he did. But anyone who watched Tapizar win last month’s Sham Stakes knew that a fold of some sort was not out of the question.

On the surface, Tapizar’s win in the Sham was a nice one. He won by open lengths (4 ¼ lengths, to be precise) and ran reasonably fast (98 Beyer Figure). But there was a troubling aspect to Tapizar’s performance in the Sham, and that was how headstrong and insistent on the early lead he was. That is just not a trait found in many, if any, Kentucky Derby winners. Well, Tapizar was even more headstrong in the early running of the Lewis. While he didn’t go as fast as the absurd 19 and change and 42 that was initially posted, his corrected splits of 22.48 and 45.64 were still too fast. It was obvious Tapizar was finished turning for home, and so, too, was his status as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender. Tapizar, who took a lot of money in Future Book Derby wagering in Las Vegas right after the Sham, looks more like a candidate for the seven-furlong King’s Bishop. And even then, only maybe.

Of course, Tapizar’s flop in the Lewis wouldn’t be such a big deal if someone else in the race stepped up in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, no one did. I hate to knock Anthony’s Cross, who prevailed by a nose, because he was closest early to Tapizar’s fast fractions and he did produce his best effort yet in his first start with blinkers. But Anthony’s Cross staggered home, covering his last three-eighths of a mile in 38.71, and the preliminary 90 Beyer he earned doesn’t get him close to the discussion of prime Derby candidates. And as for runner-up Riveting Reason, he had no business not getting up what with the way the race set up. Then again, considering Riveting Reason was only 1 for 8 going into the Lewis, we already knew exactly what he could and couldn’t do.

Comma to the Top’s fourth at 1-2 in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate was in some respects just as ugly as Tapizar’s in the Lewis. Beyond bearing out in the run to the first turn and then again after turning for home (running sideways is also not a trait found in most Derby winners), Comma to the Top proved incapable of cashing in on a sweet trip. Comma to the Top tracked a pace set by Jakesam, moved like he was going to inhale him in upper stretch, and then … nothing. Comma to the Top, who had won five straight before Saturday, including the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, never did get by Jakesam, who is still looking for his first stakes win. Comma to the Top wound up three lengths behind Jakesam, and another 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner, Silver Medallion. And now, you have to consider the possibility that, considering Comma to the Top’s humble beginnings (two of the gelding’s first three career starts came in maiden claimers), maybe – just maybe – he peaked late last year at 2 and we’ve already seen the best of him.

As for Silver Medallion, the fact that he was winning his second straight since moving into the Steve Asmussen barn he now shares with Tapizar might, for some, distinguish him from the Robert Lewis crew. Then again, there is still a sour taste from his double-digit margin losses in his two stakes starts East of California, and his preliminary 93 Beyer for Saturday isn’t anything to get excited about.

Brethren, the one odds-on winner to win in Saturday’s Derby preps, took the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs at 4-5. The cheery post-race recap would have Brethren, a half brother to last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, doing exactly what he had to do Saturday: Overpowering his field to score by a decisive four lengths, putting himself in position for a big move in what will likely be his next and final prep for Louisville.

But Brethren had better have a big move forward in him, because his Sam Davis doesn’t seem quite as rosy on closer examination. Brethren won big Saturday because the field he was in with was too soft to make it any closer. And Brethren’s profoundly pedestrian preliminary Beyer of 83 in the Davis didn’t even match the pair of 84’s he earned last year. Derby colts should run faster as they develop physically, so that is not an encouraging sign.