04/07/2012 6:29PM

Notes on the SA Derby, Wood, and Other Stuff

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Thoughts on Saturday’s three big Kentucky Derby preps:

I agree that if you were inclined to try Creative Cause without blinkers, the time to do it was Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby and not in the Kentucky Derby. But I must admit I still don’t at all understand the urge to try this colt without them. Creative Cause lacks focus. It’s obvious the way he has run in the past. Traditionally, blinkers help address that issue, and blinkers off does the opposite. So I wasn’t surprised to see Creative Cause hang late Saturday, and narrowly miss in a race in which he was likely the most talented horse by a clear margin. Anyway, I lost no respect for Creative Cause, and still regard him as a top threat to win the Kentucky Derby, just as long as he gets his blinkers back in Louisville.

And props go to I’ll Have Another, who was sharp winning the Santa Anita Derby off a two month layoff. At the same time, this was a hard effort for I’ll Have Another, off a two month layoff, and in only his second start in seven months. He seems very susceptible to a bounce in the Derby.

The Wood Memorial was oddly run in the sense that My Adonis was, for whatever reason, in a huge hurry to go after The Lumber Guy early. The impact of this was a quick early pace, Gemologist getting pushed four-to-three wide on the first turn, and Alpha getting knocked back on the rail into the first turn.

Credit goes to the first two Wood finishers. Gemologist was also caught three wide on the far turn, and yet he almost handily resisted when Alpha made a late run at him. Alpha, in addition to his early trouble, was coming off a two month layoff, and yet turned in a far more impressive performance than his two Aqueduct inner track stakes wins earlier this year. I don’t know why, but this Wood made me think of the 2003 Wood, in which Empire Maker handily turned back Funny Cide. But in Kentucky, Funny Cide turned the tables on Empire Maker in the Derby.

Done Talking, whose prior two stakes starts resulted in a fourth in the Remsen last fall and a distant 10th in last month’s Gotham, got himself a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby if he wants it with his off-the-pace victory in the Illinois Derby. I know Mine That Bird only happened a couple of years ago, but does Done Talking really have any shot at Churchill? How good a race could this Illinois Derby have been when Morgan’s Guerilla, coming off  an Aqueduct inner track maiden win, has command in deep stretch and only succumbs late? And yes, I liked Morgan’s Guerilla Saturday, but as a bet, not as a Kentucky Derby candidate.

Other Saturday thoughts:

There was a weird run of slow-paced stakes scores during the day, specifically Broadway Alibi in the Comely, Trinniberg in the Bay Shore, and Karlovy Vary in the Ashland.

Despite easily getting loose early, Broadway’s Alibi’s clear-cut Comely score was good because she had been away for a little more than two months, and she proved she doesn’t need the wet track caught when she ran away with the Old Hat in January to be effective. She also got a heads up ride from Javier Castellano, who knuckled down on Broadway’s Alibi when things suddenly got serious late on the far turn.

Trinniberg did get a base on balls with a very easy early lead. But wow! He is certainly miles better this year at 3 without blinkers than he was last year at 2.

The slow pace Karlovy Vary got away with in her front running score in the Ashland meant everything. Second and third place finishers Hard Not to Like and Stephanie’s Kitten were both coming off five month layoffs, and will be tougher customers down the road.

There was also a slow pace in the Carter, but it couldn’t get pacesetter Shackleford home, and he is now 0 for 7 since his upset of last year’s Preakness. Corey Nakatani was smart putting Jackson Bend in the game a little earlier than usual, and it made the difference in the outcome, as they just held off Caleb’s Posse’s late charge. Obviously, Caleb’s Posse was compromised by the slow Carter pace, but he still finished explosively. And I still think that there is no question that Caleb’s Posse is clearly the best of this group.

I was troubled by Saturday’s news that Havre de Grace will not run in Oaklawn’s Apple Blossom, mainly because she would have to concede six pounds to Plum Pretty. Hey, Havre de Grace is the defending Horse of the Year, and her connections declining to concede weight to a filly in Plum Pretty who is a nice horse, but not yet a champion of any sort, sends a strong message of insecurity. It also provides fuel to the critics who note that Havre de Grace was far from a slam dunk as Horse of the Year last year, and I say that as someone who voted for her to be Horse of the Year.

HorseRacingNut More than 1 year ago
With or without blinkers, Creative Cause is a hanger! IMHO, he blew his only opportunity to be a G1 winner in the SA Derby.
Mick More than 1 year ago
You are aware that he already is a G1 winner right?
James Clarke More than 1 year ago
Creative Cause will not handle the Derby Day crowd, noise, etc. He will not run race with or without blinkers. He's a toss. Jimmy C.
Benjamin Ricciardi More than 1 year ago
Caleb's Posse #1 FAN...
hialeah More than 1 year ago
I believe the theory is 5lbs at 1 mile equals a length. And it tends to be true. Thanks to all. And never let facts get in the way of a good post. I need the laughs.
Chris Jones More than 1 year ago
There was a strong headwind at Aqueduct Saturday, so that contributed to the slow early fractions. Add that headwind to the fact that the eventual winners were lone speed, and you get slow final times.
himmelle More than 1 year ago
This ancient notion of weights should be dealt with already. A couple of lbs on an 1100 lb animal moving at 35 mph is NOT going to cost several lengths. Its basic mathematics and physics. The size and weight of the horse should be considered, too. Larry Jones gallops his own horses and he is a big man. If the "one pound equals one length" theory were true, we would see many finishes of all the entrants with 2-3 lengths of each other. When was the last time THAT happened?
Morris More than 1 year ago
i just cant understand larry jones. he will take his 6 ft. tall 200 lbs. & a excerise saddle& get on a horse . go to the race track& gallop a horse, all the while jumping up & down in the middle of a horses back,like "ned the coachman". but he wont send a world class horse , with a professional jockey, in a handicap race & consede 6 lbs to therest of the horses. go figure. its another case of she wont get beat if i dont run her. jones is learning the dodgem game from pletcher & repole.
Rodney Dangerfield More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure it was Larry Jones decision. It's a shame some of these trainers have to put up with some of these owners.
Patricia Houser More than 1 year ago
It's a shame some of these HORSES have to put up with some of these owners.
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
Hi again MW, after reading all and looking at SA/TW races again my analysis is that in TheWood, there were really two horses that stepped up bigtime, Alpha Gemologist. However, all ran as hard as they could, except "Gem" really he was almost "playing" with Alpha at end, before which, he blinked at the grandstands as if saying hello to some friends as well, and although Alpha ran his heart out he was no match, and is not match for "Gem", look at after the finish line, he was in second gear and could have run another mile, alot more in the tank and yet untapped. The others were exhausted, Gem looked as fresh after as before, quite impressive and remarkable really. Don't believe Alpha can do any better and if as expected Ramon leaves the next mount, that says it all to me. As for SA...liked top two as well, heart with CC and like Gem, don't think he was all out the blinker thing hopefully will work may just maybe a "bridesmaid" ? We can't be right most of the time, and appreciate your efforts, staying objective is tough, but we might just have a superstar in "Gem", if not a top contender in KD. Mr. Porter, although a great horse race lover, shows up the sometimes ugly side of the "business" part, which is legit, He didn't get all that money from being a easy going, hope he earns a little more flexibility in his demands and goals.Don
Rodney Dangerfield More than 1 year ago
Don, Are you sure you were watching the Wood ? I think you have My Adonis confused with Alpha. How can you say Alpha was no match ? Didn't I read they both received the same Beyer rating ? Well I guess we will find out when Ramon makes the final decision on his Derby horse, I would tend to think he's going to end up on Alpha, but time will tell.
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
Yes RD, come on sure I was watching the same race, Gem was waving the crowd waiting for some fun when Alpha came up, no real effort and gone again, look after the finish if don't believe me he was enjoying himself the others were done, I do agree with you ending comment re: Ramon D the jockey choice, if he rides Alpha in KD I will raise at least my eyebrow, if he doesn't which is almost a certainty, that should tell you all, the competing jockey knows he will get beat by this Gem champ against his PREVIOIUS horse....so let RD show you my view as well..please do a stand up about me if I am wrong..."Take my horse, please" lol thanks for you comment.
Chris Jones More than 1 year ago
I agree with Don. Gemologist started lolligagging in the stretch, then when Alpha came up to him Gemologist scooted forward. Alpha was NEVER going to pass Gemologist.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Rodney , dont get to caught up into the GEMOLOGIST hype . GEMOLOGIST doesnt even compare to the likes of a BARBARO or BIG BROWN . GEMOLOGIST will get so much Hype between now and Derby time , Ya just have to keep this in mind ( GEMOLOGIST ) will not even be in this Kentucky Derby Superfecta .......................................... T R U S T - M E
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
My Best Friend and I , we like to make the Derby exciting when we are there together . We bet among each other every year with some kind of off the wall wager between him and I . Well , before Saturday , we had no clue what our bet would be about ...................... Untill GEMOLOGIST won by coming back and beating ALPHA at the wire . OMG , my best friend would not shut up about that race . So , I TOLD HIM TO PUT HIS MONEY WHERE HIS MOUTH IS and Bet with me My idea of a wager . He asked what wager ................ I Told my best friend that I would bet him $5000 that GEMOLOGIST ( NUMBER WILL NOT BE IN THIS YEARS KENTUCKY DERBY SUPERFECTA ) ! I am a true believer in what I BELIEVE In ................... MY BEST FRIEND SAID WE HAVE A DEAL ! That is how much I think about all the Hype of GEMOLOGIST . Yes , an Awesome Colt . Out-Standing , but will not like the POUNDING that the Derby issues
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
Sorry to hear that story Douglas, pretty lame, hope you have a big pocketbook, just try and be objective and look at the stats especially races at CD.."Gemologist" is for sure one the top 3yr olds, and I hope that moves on, I do think he could be undefeated for rest of the year, but in any case, until he loses, you can't complain too much about him, if you are objective...I like him so much because he beat me in Nov, and did what I thought my other two horse would do, and he left them in the dust., now he is even better, that is my take, big brown, etc., another era, be here now my friend.
don More than 1 year ago
I would like to bet you 10000 thousand dollars Gemologist will be 1,2,3 in the derby would you like to bet.Lets put up a cashier check and make the bet. Donald Adams Louisville
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
So how fast was the SA trip that I'll Have Another can run one of the fastest SA Derby's ever and get a 94 Beyer. Whatta Joke.
Josh More than 1 year ago
I completely agree; horses that ran just as fast of time are, point given and Free house. I'm not saying I'll Have Another is the next point given. Santa Anita is a very fast track, but that fact is being grossly exaggerated by the track variant aspect of the Beyer speed figure system.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the w/e wrap-up. Looks like Tiznow finally has a real Derby contender this time and there's no reason to not expect Alpha to move forward from the needed race to CD. Now if Mr. Baffert would only pull a shifty and run Princess Arabella on May 5th instead of the 4th, Thoroughbred horse racing will rule once again! That you voted for Gracie for HoY is nothing to be ashamed of; that you and Mr. Battaglia, both known as professional lines makers made Uncle Mo the ML favorite for the '11 BC Classic is. :)
Tony Milner More than 1 year ago
In regards to the '11 Classic, four horses went off between 7-2 and 5-1, and one of those was Uncle Mo. Having a lukewarm favorite go off as third choice is not something to be ashamed of. The race was wide open. I thought HDG would be favorite, she went as second choice. Flat Out and So You Think were underlays, and their results prove that. The race was wide open. If Mo would have gone off at 30-1, than that would be a different story. Pletcher was vocal about thinking Mo belonged in The Mile, and that he might not have the foundation to go a mile and a quarter. Some of these revelations came out after the ML was done. ML has nothing to do with a good oddsmaker's preference of winner, but with how they feel the public will bet. I would bet that neither Mikes' ticket had Mo on it.