03/27/2011 1:23PM

Louisiana Derby, Spiral, and Other Saturday Stakes Thoughts


We had been on a run in recent weeks with a series of strong performances from 3-year-olds with their eyes set on the Kentucky Derby who all had a legitimate right to both run as well as they did in key prep races, and to their lofty Derby aspirations – The Factor in the Rebel, Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe and Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer, Stay Thirsty in the Gotham, and Soldat in the Fountain of Youth.

Oh well. It couldn’t last forever. Saturday’s Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and the Vinery Racing Spiral at Turfway Park just did not resonate in nearly the same way that the Derby preps in preceding weeks did.

This was no surprise when it came to the Spiral. Taking nothing away from Animal Kingdom, who went into Saturday still eligible for an entry-level allowance race, but who won the Spiral going away to earn enough graded money ($285,000) to ensure a starting berth in the Derby, the status of the Spiral as a meaningful prep for the Derby is always open to question for one huge reason: It is a synthetic track race and the Derby is run on dirt.

The Louisiana Derby, however, was a disappointment. Mucho Macho Man, the favorite off a decisive victory in last month’s Risen Star, apparently lost a shoe coming out of the gate. It is impossible to quantify precisely how much that may have compromised Mucho Macho Man’s performance other to say that it couldn’t have helped. But what we do know is Mucho Macho Man still was in position to win in upper stretch – he was virtually dead even for the lead – but he couldn’t get by Pants On Fire, who had lost four straight since a maiden win in the slop at Delaware last October, and he lost second to Nehro, who was just about right at 36-1 as he was coming off a slow maiden win at Oaklawn.

Bottom line: Even though the Kentucky Derby is a race often full of surprises (two of the last six winners were 50-1 shots), I tend to doubt we saw the Kentucky Derby winner on Saturday.

A few other thoughts on Saturday’s action:

*Kathmanblu was the solid favorite in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool, but her stock took a hit with the result of the Fair Grounds Oaks. Inglorious, the 6-5 favorite Saturday on the basis of her close second to Kathmanblu in the Rachel Alexandra, finished a flat fourth to the overachieving Daisy Devine. I know I’ve said it before, but I think Kathmanblu is best on turf.

*Giant Oak didn’t get the great pace set up finishing third in the New Orleans Handicap that he got when he rolled from off the pace and won last month’s Donn going away. Still, I have a feeling that Giant Oak’s loss was an indication that the handicap division at Gulfstream, which includes Morning Line and Rule, isn’t as good as first thought.

*Gio Ponti gave it a good try finishing fifth in the Dubai World Cup, and it’s fair to wonder if he might have won it had he had a prep race beforehand. Euroears also ran well finishing second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. But with the main track races on the Dubai Cup card now being run on a synthetic surface at Meydan, it seems clear that American horses no longer have the big edge they seemed to have when those races were run on dirt at Nad Al Sheba.

Eric L. More than 1 year ago
Just read the new line-up for the final KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE POOL. What is the possible explanation for dropping Archarcharch, a GIII derby prep winner who ran a game race in pursuit of The Factor, missing second by a diminishing neck in the Rebel. In favor of Decisive Moment, a winner of little and distant second in the Spiral that most of your pundit buddies have dismissed as no longer a legitimate derby prep; and the basically untested Mr. Commons???? Now I'm really very, very annoyed I let myself get pre-occupied and shut out of Pool 2.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Amen!! Since it is the final pool leading to the derby, the top 23 betting interests for this pool should be (1) based on earnings & also (2) if the horse has intentions on running in the derby. They must meet both!!! The field bet should consist of "ALL OTHER HORSES" on the outside looking to get in. No more big dreamers that have got to win to get in and if not sorry about your luck and money (hence field bet!!!) If you don't have the earnings you don't make the cut. It's bad enough that (4) wagering interests are dud bets to make the starting gate, and then the (19) others are losing wagers on race day. At least allow the public to make a wager on a horse that has the best actual chance of making the derby starting gate!! Let alone win the derby!
Reves More than 1 year ago
MW, if the breeders Cup Classic were next month who would be your top 4 contenders? Mine are Misrembered, Mission Impazible, Zenyata (not in foal), Game on Dude
Adam More than 1 year ago
Mr. Watchmaker, You have stated "the Factor can flat out fly" but it remained to be seen how far The Factor wanted to run. While "how far" remains in doubt for The Factor, he displayed a lot of speed as we got a look at him around 2 turns in the Rebel. It was reported that Mr. Pletcher breezed Uncle Mo on the 27th and in that workout, had the horse take some dirt. To my knowledge Mr. Pletcher has done this on one other occasion with Uncle Mo, so maybe it's a coincidence, but it occured to me that I don't think Pletcher really took The Factor seriously until his wire to wire win at the Rebel. I think Mr. Pletcher still thinks The Factor can't go the distance... but has decided that Uncle Mo may have to come from behind and get past The Factor When/if he tires) in the Kentucky Derby and has started to make that part of his prep. I'm interested in your thoughts? Thanks!
mikemalaspina@aol.com More than 1 year ago
Could someone please explain how for Kentucky Derby Future Pool 3: Archarcharch $180,000 earnings (21st on list, future bet holds 23 betting interests!!! + is running in Ark Derby) is made a field bet while..... Elite Alex (who may not even run Ark derby) has $65,000 earnings (41st on list haha) becomes a betting interest in future Pool 3 (Joke)??? By the way Elite Alex has $3,500 more than Sway Away who was placed a field bet rightfully so. Master of Hounds whose connections could fill a derby gate with ease at the money he earned is made a field bet??? They have secured 1 post position in the derby field!! I really believe more Slugs (brethren, silver medallion, elite alex hint hint) need to be removed as individual betting interests to field bets for future pool 3 lists. Then add actual earnings runners (who have the earnings to be gate bound derby day) be individual interests. In my opinion for at least the final pool 3!! If they are worried about leaving someone out then pool 3 should be pushed back a few more weeks
Felton More than 1 year ago
Also, it's interesting to note how Dubai plays. In 2010, having the local prep on the tapeta was the key. I decided that day never again to wager at Dubai - either I'm not good enough or the results don't pass the smell test. In 2011, the top two come from Japanese dirt and turf without a step on tapeta. Too strange for me.
Johnny G. More than 1 year ago
Mike, just curious if you think maybe Uncle Mo has not quite lived up to his speedy 2 yr. old form yet? I have some doubts that he has the foundation as some of the other horses have, i.e. THAS and Soldat. I would have much rather seen Uncle Mo in the Fl. derby against some tough competition.The Fl. Derby is shaping up as the toughest prep yet, actually maybe better than the Derby's cavalry charge. There are still some key preps left, but as of right now, Uncle Mo would not be too top heavy on my tickets. I just need to find the shocker horse, when you look at your buddy right after the race, jaw hangin down and say " WHO " ? could it be Watch Me Go ? Comma to the top? Astrology? I enjoy reading your articles Mike :)
IndyGin More than 1 year ago
One of the many pleasures of the Derby season is witnessing the pop-up appearances of little known and unheralded horses in the prep races immediately followed by the excuses and complaints from the public handicappers. It's sort of an equine March Madness that we should all celebrate. Don't change a thing...everybody knows the rules and we all know that's why they run the race.
The King of the Derby More than 1 year ago
Is it just me but does it seem like the average Derby contenders are getting more and more mediocre on the last 10 years, save for a few standouts. Where have the Lukas, Baffert, Zito days gone? The recent Derby's seem to be loaded up with a bunch of low 90 beyer horses at best and it seems we are getting away from the formful horses and races.
denny putnam More than 1 year ago
hey mike, I think i found my longshot derby horse on saturday: elite alex!
Jason P. More than 1 year ago
Mr Watchmaker you dont seem to give Mission Impazible much credit for his victory in NOH. Looked like a clean run race and MI was clearly best. MI has beat alot of top colts in the La Derby last year and may be the top Handicap horse this summer in the Midwest. Time will tell.