03/16/2010 6:46AM

Pace: Gotham, TB Derby, Rebel, Felipe


Four recent Kentucky Derby prep races – all at 1 1/16 miles - had the following pace profiles:

Race Date Winner Moss Pace Figure line
Gotham Stakes March 6 Awesome Act 89-91-90 final 92
Tampa Bay Derby March 13 Odysseus 80-88-90 final 90
Rebel Stakes March 13 Lookin At Lucky 67-74-83 final 92
San Felipe March 13 Sidney's Candy 47-62-71 final 91

Now for interpretations/observations:

* Awesome Act was undoubtedly helped by the pace in front of him. The median Gotham pacefig line in its five years on the Aqueduct inner track is 76-82-88 final 92, so this year’s pace was decidedly faster. But visually, he looks like the real deal. The authority with which he rolled up to the leaders four-wide nearing the stretch and drew off was impressive.

* Odysseus is slightly subpar on final Beyer figures, especially when weight is factored into the equation. But on the pacefig scale, this Tampa Bay Derby was aggressively run compared to the 10-year paceline of 78-84-90 final 91, so he deserves extra credit for maintaining enough energy for that improbable comeback. Notice he was treading water until he belatedly switched to his right running lead in midstretch, and then launched his winning surge. Having said that, I’d rate the effort of Schoolyard Dreams as slightly better than Odysseus, but that is highly subjective. Schoolyard Dreams showed a nice turn of foot while making that premature move, and lost more ground on the turns. Also, don’t forget Super Saver carried six more pounds than either of those colts, but he looks too one-dimensional for me.

* Lookin At Lucky’s Rebel was a home run on multiple fronts. He showed he could ship effectively. He demonstrated that dirt will be no problem. He displayed toughness in overcoming the adversity of a rough trip. He again was determined in the stretch. He beat some nice horses. And notice how much slower the Rebel paceline was than the Gotham and Tampa Bay Derby (the 10-year Rebel norm is 72-82-89 final 92), yet Lookin At Lucky was still able to get up from five lengths back after a quarter-mile. Noble's Promise and Dublin are legitimate Top Ten prospects as well. Don’t give up on Dublin yet; he was four-wide around both turns in the Rebel.

* And upon further review, I’m not a big believer in Sidney’s Candy at this point. Yes, early speed is typically at a disadvantage on synthetics, but not when a talented horse goes as slowly as he did. His form reminds me a little of Bob Black Jack, whose 2008 San Felipe pace was almost as slow – but not quite – as Sidney’s Candy’s. Bob Black Jack finished a good third in that race behind Georgie Boy and Gayego in a 94 Beyer, was beaten only a half-length by Colonel John in the Santa Anita Derby, then set the pace and lost by 32 lengths at Churchill Downs. Interactif was arguably a better horse in the San Felipe, making up some ground to lose by just a half-length. American Lion is too headstrong for synthetics; much the same as Zardana, upsetter of Rachel Alexandra, he should be helped by faster-paced dirt racing that will enable him to settle more willingly without need of the riding restraint he clearly resents. After falling into a perfect pace trip in the San Rafael, Caracortado was exposed in the San Felipe; when faced with some pace adversity, he was outfinished. And the early stroll completely obliterated the chances of Dave in Dixie. He was supposed to make up 7 1/2 lengths on Sidney’s Candy? No shot.