03/31/2012 11:56AM

Quick Thoughts on a Busy Weekend


Dubai World Cup Day impressions, part 1:

Six of the starters in the UAE Derby were Triple Crown nominees and three of them – Daddy Long Legs, Yang Tse Kiang, and Wrote – filled the first three finishing positions. Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Daddy Long Legs and Wrote, has already said that they will likely return to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. Good luck with that. Although Wrote was a decisive winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf there last fall, he would be making his first career start on dirt without much of a pedigree for it. Daddy Long Legs, the better of the two as he has now soundly beaten Wrote twice, finished 12th, 19 ½ lengths behind Hansen and Union Rags, in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But both have more than enough graded earnings to start in the Derby, and that’s why I think that when it comes to the Derby’s graded earnings clause, a premium should be placed on graded earnings on dirt.

Joy And Fun ran HUGE finishing third in the Al Quoz Sprint. Is there stable mail for Hong Kong horses?

Like everyone else, I cannot believe they are going to re-run the Dubai Gold Cup. Hey, why not pull a page from old-time harness racing and decide it in heats?

A “Factor” won the Golden Shaheen, just wasn’t “THE” Factor. This race was over for The Factor virtually from the time the gate opened because his speed for some reason wasn’t there, and that put him out of it immediately. I’m just going to draw a big, fat line though this outing for The Factor and pretend it never happened. I mean, back here at home, Giant Ryan would never, ever be able to outrun The Factor like that early.

Be back later with other Dubai thoughts.

UPDATE - Dubai thoughts, part 2:

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf was dismissed as a weak race, but the form of it got a boost when its winner, St. Nicholas Abbey, finished a sharp second in the Sheema Classic. St. Nicholas Abbey, making his first start since, narrowly missed to a quality horse in Cirrus des Aigles, who last year beat the top class So You Think in the Group 1 Champion.

I can understand youthful exuberance, but jockey Mickael  Barzalona’s exhibition in the final stages aboard Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso, standing straight up in the irons for the last 100 yards or so, was so far over the top it was ridiculous. If this was the NFL, he would have been thrown out of the game for taunting. I would think that Sheikh Mohammed, owner of the winner and, of course, host of the entire event, had to be embarrassed to be associated with such a display. It also detracted from a fine bit of horsemanship to have Monterosso ready for such a big effort as he had but one recent prep race since his close third in last year’s World Cup.

That was one of the few things I was able to see in the Dubai Cup because the overall camera work was awful. It was obvious that Royal Delta had a nightmare trip because you could see her being taken up sharply, I think around the far turn. But it is impossible to know how much trouble she really had, and how much it might have actually compromised her chances, because there was no way to tell from what we were shown. I also suspect that So You Think had no excuse after a good trip, and that the outside post really took a pace horse such as Game On Dude out of his game. I think.

Let’s move on to Gulfstream impressions, part 1:

Awesome Maria simply walked her beat in the Rampart. She is just so good. But Beloveda was a good second, and it should be noted that Beloveda could have been had for a $10,000 tag last September, and she wasn’t even favored that day.

Be back with other thoughts later.

UPDATE, 6:15 pm – That was an excellent game plan by the connections of Reneesgotzip in the Santa Anita Oaks. After front-running scores sprinting in her first two career starts, Reneesgotzip was surprisingly wired going two turns by Eden’s Moon in the Las Virgenes. This time, Reneesgotzip got back to her best style and took the track early from Eden’s Moon. When it came to neutralizing what was thought to be Reneesgotzip’s only real rival Saturday, the move worked perfectly. Reneesgotzip took Eden’s Moon, the prohibitive Santa Anita Oaks favorite, out of her game, and rendered her beaten even before they turned for home. Unfortunately for her, however, Reneesgotzip just doesn’t want to go a route, at least right now, and she was nailed by the limited, but game Willa B Awesome.

Grace Hall delivered on all the promise held for her, and did so emphatically, with her dominating score in the Gulfstream Oaks. Grace Hall improved leaps and bounds off her first start this year, and if there is a more worthy favorite for the Kentucky Oaks, I don’t know who she is, and that includes Princess Arabella. But even though she finished a soundly beaten second this time, I believe the relatively inexperienced Zo Impressive will make some major noise down the road.

You have to give a world of credit to trainer Pat Byrne and the other people behind Take Charge Indy, because they have the guts of a burglar. Take Charge Indy was supposed to make his 3-year-old debut in the Tampa Bay Derby and then have his final Kentucky Derby prep in the Illinois Derby. But he was scratched from the Tampa Bay Derby, a race he easily could have won, ostensibly because of a bad post position, and was pointed instead to the Florida Derby. That meant Take Charge Indy couldn’t have two Kentucky Derby stakes preps, only one, and it would have to be in the much tougher Florida Derby, and this would all happen while Take Charge Indy was in dire need of graded earnings to secure a starting spot at Churchill Downs. Yet, they pulled it off! Take Charge Indy engineered the front-running Florida Derby upset.

As for Union Rags, I admit, I preferred him Saturday, but I thought 2-5 was ridiculously overboard on him. I also have to admit, I wasn’t crazy about the ride he got. I thought it was patient to a fault and left him with too much to do late. That said, I go hot and cold on Union Rags, and I had the same feeling about him after the Florida Derby as I did right after he narrowly lost the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Hansen: I expected more if he was really the horse I thought he was. And El Padrino, who was considered the main threat to Union Rags Saturday, did get caught three wide on the first turn, but he simply wasn’t good enough.

I’ll be back either late tomorrow or first thing Monday with some thoughts on the big races Sunday at Fair Grounds. See you then.

UPDATE, Sunday, 6:43 pm - What a claim Nates Mineshaft would have been for $25,000 in late December, and out of a non-winners of three lifetime race, to boot. After he won that one, he won an optional claimer from which he could have been taken for $40,000, he upset the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap, and then on Sunday, he obliterated the last two Louisiana Derby and others winners in a blowout score in the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap. And what struck me about Nates Mineshaft’s performance was, he didn’t walk on the lead like he did in the Mineshaft ‘cap, he set a very decent pace. Meanwhile, there is no real excuse for distant runner up and beaten favorite (and 2010 Louisiana Derby winner) Mission Impazible. The only think I could say is, although he has run well on occasion rating off the pace, which the approach he used again Sunday, I think Mission Impazible is really most effective when he is right on the pace.

Late on the far turn of the Louisiana Derby, I was all set to hand out kudos to Mark Valeski and Cigar Street. As expected, they were farther off the pace Sunday than each was in their only prior route starts, and yet it looked as though they were handling this new and different experience with aplomb. In fact, late on the far turn, it looked like there wasn’t any way that Mark Valeski and Cigar Street weren’t going to finish one-two in the Louisiana Derby, in whatever order. But Cigar Street flagged in mid stretch, and Mark Valeski never could quite get to Hero of Order, who prevailed at a wild 109-1, and who isn’t even nominated to the Triple Crown.

El Padrino and Mark Valeski were a nose apart in last month’s Risen Star, Fair Grounds’s prep for the Louisiana Derby. But El Padrino’s disappointing fourth in the Florida Derby, combined with Mark Valeski being unable to overtake the Louisiana Derby’s rank outsider in the betting, all but confirms that the Risen Star form was soft. You need a strong imagination to think that the form of the Louisiana Derby will prove to be any better.