03/17/2013 12:07PM

Notes on the Rebel, Bright Thought, and Other Stuff

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Oxbow ran well in narrow defeat in the Rebel. He was close to a lively pace, and the early pace player who was closest to Oxbow at the end, 6-5 favorite Super Ninety Nine, finished a large 8 1-4 lengths behind him in fifth. Den’s Legacy also ran well finishing third in the Rebel, beaten two lengths for it all. Den’s Legacy was on the rail every step of the way, but the rail is often not the place to be at Oaklawn, and that appeared to be the case again Saturday.

That said, the initial impression is the Rebel will join a list of suspect races for this particular 3-year-old crop. Going back to last fall, the Remsen, the Kentucky Jockey Club, the San Vicente, and the Risen Star are, for starters and for the moment, at least, races the strength of which are open to question.

As an aside, please don’t tell me that Oxbow’s game effort Saturday vindicates the form of the Risen Star, in which he finished fourth. He is only one horse. Let’s see what the other six horses who were less than four lengths behind 135-1 and now sidelined Risen Star winner Ive Struck a Nerve do in their next starts before issuing proclamations that the Risen Star was better than the mediocre race it looked like it was.

Part of the reason why, for me, this Rebel failed to hit it out of the park as a meaningful penultimate Kentucky Derby prep is because it was won by Will Take Charge. In his defense, Will Take Charge was making only his seventh career start Saturday, so he still has lots of room to improve. And Will Take Charge improved Saturday, running his best race yet and earning a career-best Beyer of 95, which topped his previous best by eight points. However, there were good reasons why Will Take Charge went off at 28-1 in the Rebel, specifically very spotty prior form, and a previous claim to fame being a win in the Smarty Jones over modest opposition.

One other reason why this Rebel left me wanting is I think it should have been a faster race than it was. As noted, the pace was lively, so the table was set for a strong final time. But the final time wasn’t strong, and I feel that says something about the horses who were in this race.

Quality, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But right now, for me, the big Florida Triple Crown preps we’ve seen so far – chronologically the Holy Bull, the Fountain of Youth, and the Tampa Bay Derby – are of distinctly higher quality than the ones we’ve seen elsewhere. So far.

What an absolute monster Bright Thought has turned into on grass. I don’t care how hard and fast the turf might have been Saturday at Santa Anita, or how limited his San Luis Rey opposition was. You just don’t see horses pull away late as powerfully as Bright Thought did in the San Luis Rey, particularly at the end of 12 furlongs, and especially after that horse made or prompted the pace. Bright Thought was so full of run late that it looked like he only jumped into the race in midstretch.

Joyful Victory was very, very good winning the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita, and it speaks well of her and her connections that her two performances this year at age 5 were the best efforts of her career. Joyful Victory’s emergence, if late, is welcome, because My Miss Aurelia’s alarmingly empty effort in the Azeri at Oaklawn suggests there is an opening near the top of the older female division.

Finally, judging from her emphatic score over a good field in the Honey Fox at Gulfstream, Centre Court seems set on being a major middle-distance force in the female turf division this year.

James More than 1 year ago
Bright Thought is the TRUTH
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
I can't remember how many people were saying last year that there was no way the Derby winner would come from the West. Does it still count as a deja-vu if you already know it's going to happen? ;) I'm seeing some pretty strong horses in the West. In fact, they are dominating the Derby board on my wall.
Mark Pordhanm More than 1 year ago
I agree with Mike. The "good horses" so far are ORB, ITSMYLUCKDAY, VERRAZANO, SHANGHAI BOBBY, and VIOLENCE. Violence is out and I don't think Verrazano or Shanghai Bobby can get 1 1/4. The Wood will tell more about Verrazano, he could be a freak. The Florida Derby I don't expect to tell us much, as Orb doesn't need a point and Itsmyluckday needs some but not all...we can probably expect some speed longshot to win with Itsmyluckyday getting 2nd and Orb getting whatever kind of trip his trainer wants to see, finishing 3rd, 4th, 5th.
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
Is Zaikov the fastest and eventually best three year old or is he the "Fastest Horse Alive" ?
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
Be careful about making judgements on 3 yr olds at this time of year. I know you know this, but it does bear repeating. These youngsters are growing now and often behave erratically. {one reason why I never wager too much on them at this point}.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Mike, With Dubai World Cup Races like 11 days out, will DRF be kicking up training reports from Meydan?
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
The Derby to this point is still wide open...What about European stock??
Albert More than 1 year ago
MIke, you are the one person writing on this site who actually has his eyes open. My hat's off to you. One never knows where the better Derby prospects are going to emerge...all of this year's best performances and numbers are coming out of Florida SO FAR. That could change, but no matter how small the Fla Derby field turns out to be, it is going to be far more telling than any other race than the Wood, where Verrazano will be. As I wrote elsewhere, I think Lucky Day lays over the Fla Derby field. For what it is worth, take a look at the BRIS Power numbers for the Rebel. Box the top 4 from before the race and you hit a nice exacta with two of the fastest slow horses in that race.
Richard More than 1 year ago
I do not know whether the fans realized just how fast Bright Thought ran and won The San Luis Rey S. Gr.11. Watching the race they announced that Bright Thought broke the track record. However, the result chart declared Bright Thought had broken the world’s record for that distance. He ran that 1 ½ mile on turf at 2:22 3/5. Secretariat won The Belmont Stakes at 1 ½ mile in 2:24 on dirt. His second to his last race was run on turf at Belmont in The Man o’ War Gr.1 at Belmont on Oct. 08, 1973. He won that race which was at 1 ½ mile on turf in 2:24 4/5. Bright Thought outran Secretariats’ Man o’War by two and 1/5th of a second for a new world’s record of 2:22 3/5. Slim Shadey with Gary Stevens seemed to have lost his gas after 1 ¼ mile. He might not be a 1 ½ mile horse considering four horses beat him.
kimmons2 More than 1 year ago
Richard, Bright Thought was on a down hill course, not a flat course like Secretariat!
Alex More than 1 year ago
Well, the chute is downhill, but only that... The different surfaces are the real issue with this comparison.
Jerry Sabo More than 1 year ago
Personally I like Verrazano, but he will probably, get bumped, blocked or run into by multiple 50+-1 shots, compromising his chances in the derby. This feels like the beginning of a Super Saver, Mine That Bird, Giacomo type of derby. To many horse with little talent that there owners will run just to be in the "Derby". The race, other than the financial boon to Churchill and television, is a joke anymore. The Jewel has become a lump of coal.