03/30/2013 8:13PM

Quick Thoughts On Saturday's Action


A lot happened on Saturday. Let’s first touch on the Kentucky Derby preps:

I liked Orb in the Florida Derby because I thought he would get as favorable a pace set up as he got when he won last month’s Fountain of Youth. But as the Florida Derby unfolded, stretch-out sprinter Merit Man got away with a walking lead when Shanghai Bobby, among others, did not go early. So what promised to be a favorable pace set up for Orb turned into an unfavorable one. However, that Orb was able to overcome the poor pace set  up, and a four wide run on the far turn that doesn’t often work at Gulfstream, and still win the Florida Derby in thoroughly decisive fashion (for his fourth straight win) speaks highly of him. In fact, the Florida Derby was the second time in Orb’s last three starts that he overcame adversity – specifically bad set ups – to win, and that shows what a dangerous Kentucky Derby aspirant he has become.

Itsmyluckyday, who predictably had a better trip than Orb, ran very well finishing second going a longer distance than he ever had before off a designed two month layoff, the wisdom of which is now fair to question. Nevertheless, as talented as Itsmyluckyday is, I think there is reason to doubt his prospects of successfully negotiating the Kentucky Derby’s 10 furlong distance.

As for Shanghai Bobby, who faded without excuse in the Florida Derby, it has to be clear now that he is not a true distance horse. But he still has a very bright future as a 7 to 8 furlong performer.

I wish I could be as bullish on Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary as I am on Orb, but Revolutionary is a mixed bag. The good news is, he won Saturday as the favorite without showing signs of his past baggage (breaking poorly, running in spots), and he overcame having to go about six wide on the far turn. He also galloped out well past the wire. On the other hand, Revolutionary, and every other closer in the Louisiana Derby field, got a big break when the 99-1 shot Hip Four Sixtynine went up and dueled with Titletown Five, who looked like the clear speed of the race on paper. And forget about what he did after the wire, it’s a concern that Revolutionary was life and death to come back on the limited Mylute by the time the finish actually arrived.

Lines of Battle, who did have a very wide trip but could only manage a seventh at 27-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his only previous U.S. start, earned enough points for a berth in the Kentucky Derby with his victory in the UAE Derby. And it looks like he aims to take advantage of it. Good luck to him. His Coolmore connections seemed to complain about the trip Lines of Battle had Saturday, and noted that he is the type who idles when he strikes the front, as if to suggest he’s better than what he showed. Sorry, I’m not buying. Lines of Battle was close to a slow UAE Derby pace, which seems like a very favorable trip to me, and waiting on horses is not a characteristic you would want in any horse.

In any case, Lines of Battle now follows a path blazed last year by another Coolmore horse, Daddy Long Legs. Daddy Long Legs went to the Kentucky Derby off a victory in the UAE Derby, and was beaten so badly he was eased. The Coolmore gang is an extremely sharp group, but I don’t get how they think that the UAE Derby to Kentucky Derby route will work for them when it hasn’t worked for Sheikh Mohammed. In fact, Sheikh Mohammed seems to given up on this approach to the Kentucky Derby, and he invented the UAE Derby.

Now, on to other matters:

All I can say about Animal Kingdom’s spectacular victory in the Dubai World Cup is, I wish he ran like that one time here in the U.S. Animal Kingdom’s gaining second after trouble and off a nine month injury-related absence to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Mile was a tremendous performance, better than his Kentucky Derby win. But his Dubai Cup effort was of superior quality, particularly the turn of foot he showed to completely put the race away at the top of the stretch.

I’m not going to be too harsh on Royal Delta, Dullahan, Little Mike, Trinniberg and Private Zone for their flops in Dubai. I mean, Dubai is so far away and the competition level is so high … I just don’t think these horses should be kicked to the curb because they were unsuccessful there. That said, I remain very skeptical of Trinniberg, and I wonder what Dullahan is going to do now.

Do you think Todd Pletcher, who has the current Kentucky Derby favorite in Verrazano, has a nice hand for the Kentucky Oaks? Why, yes. Yes, he does.

Pletcher’s Unlimited Budget extended her unbeaten streak to four with a workmanlike score in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Unlimited Budget seemed to lose interest once she struck the front in the stretch (there is that waiting on the lead thing again), but it seems clear she’s still a bit green, and it is obvious she has a ton of talent.

But it was Pletcher’s Dreaming of Julia, and her score in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, that sent shock waves through the 3-year-old filly division. Live Lively, who upset Dreaming of Julia last month in the Davona Dale when she had a pace and recency advantage, made an easier lead than expected Saturday when Cue the Moon, for whatever reason, didn’t go early. So for a bit there, it seemed like the Gulfstream Oaks might wind up a repeat of the Davona Dale. But that wasn’t to be the case. Dreaming of Julia didn’t merely overwhelm Live Lively, she drowned her by a near 20 length margin. Yes, huge things were expected of Dreaming of Julia after she won her first two career starts last summer by double-digit margins. But this performance, well, the term “Wow!” doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

I was surprised when Graydar conceded the early lead in the New Orleans Handicap. It looked like the front end was his for the taking considering the fast pace he set in his somewhat bias-aided Donn Handicap win last time out. But Graydar showed some depth Saturday, both for winning with this rating approach, and for winning away from Gulfstream, which he hadn’t done before. Still, I think, at least at this early stage of his development, that Graydar is most effective when he is on the early lead.

Cigar Street, who made it three straight winning the Skip Away, looks like the real deal. Take Charge Indy was able to get to the rail on the first turn and set a controlled pace in the Skip Away, much like he did in his win in the Florida Derby last year. But Cigar Street proved decidedly the best despite being three to four wide on the first turn, and three wide on the far turn.

Terri Zeitz More than 1 year ago
I'll bet that Stonestreet will run Dreaming of Julia in the Preakness if she comes out of the Oaks in good shape. They will follow Rachel's lead. Was Julia watching Rachel films with that run or films of her great great grandsire, Big Red, at the Belmont?
Curtis V Slewster More than 1 year ago
There's no need to go back that far in the pedigree. She's from the Seattle Slew Line. Her sire is A.P. Indy, son of WHO ?
Richard More than 1 year ago
Todd Pletcher had a good Saturday except for champion Shanghai Bobby! It was not expected. In The Louisiana Derby Revolutionary, Mylute, and Golden Soul were killers as closers between the six furlong spot and the stretch. Reminded me of the way Street Sense closed in the Derby.
jttf More than 1 year ago
the fillies are performing better these days because most of them can handle the dehydration better than the colts. this is why we have fillies/mares are winning horse of the year awards so often. the public is getting ripped off not having the girls in the classic race. why not allow the top two kentucky oaks point leaders a chance at the derby if they want to ? they have already proven they are better than the boys at the fairgrounds and gulfstream.
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
Different race dynamics, different levels of competition can lead to different times. Even as good a filly as General Meeting didn't make much impact in the Derby. (At 2, General Meeting won the Del Mar Debutante, Oaks Leaf S, Hollywood Starlet, 2nd BC Fillies Juvie; at 3 before the Derby, she won the Las Virgenes, the Santa Anita Oaks ( the Santa Susana), and the Fantasy S at Oaklawn. Did a lot more than Julia has at this point.) You can't tell how well a filly will do against open company until you try her!
jttf More than 1 year ago
both rachel and rags to riches won their triple crown races in their first race against boys. both rachel and rags deserved to have the opportunity to run against the triple crown boys. so why not a filly who just won by 21 lengths with a huge 114 beyer ? excellent meeting and silverbulletday did not have as much success in their triple crown races. both fillies were awesome and i was glad they had the chance to beat the boys. it just shows you how good rachel was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am glad to see Dreaming of Julia so impressive. I was afraid I would not get a decent price on the truly 'monsterous' filly Midnight Lucky for Baffert who broke track record at Sunland without even breathing hard. I know, I know, Sunland, schmunland...that is exactly what I want to hear from the naysayers. Good luck to all.
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
please tell me how the slow pace was an unfavorable one for orb.down the backstretch he was 4 lengths off the lead of a sprinter who was done on the turn.he was never more than 2 lengths off of the 2 other choices in the race.when itsmyluckyday moved,johnny went with him.he was not all that wide on the turn.he held position and tipped to the outside.orb was in a drive from the middle of the backstretch.he has to be ridden,he is not a horse with cruising speed.they came home in a slow time.as far as his drawing away at the i end.i hope so.merit man was on fumes from the turn and itsmylucky day was empty.he had a hard time going by merit man on the turn.as far as the rest of the field.if the jocks jumped off of their mounts and switched positions,i think they would of offered more competition.the only positive thing that can be said of orb is that he won the fla derby.as far as his overcoming a slow pace is hard for me to accept.this in no way means he can't win the derby.that all depends on how he develops.
mikey J More than 1 year ago
Itsmyluckyday was purposely held back by Eddie Plesa. His ultimate goal is the first Saturday in May. I believe under estimating this animal would be a "BIG" mistake. Look at the difference in his action from the Holy Bull to the Florida Derby. I may be wrong but Itsmyluckyday should be quite formidable at Churchill......
JeanK More than 1 year ago
Cannot see Itsmylucktday going a mile and a quarter, the genes are simply not there. He is a powerful runner and I respect him quite a bit. He has run enough races to have a "bottom" to allow him to compete in the Derby, but not the breeding. Might be a freak and beats me and my science. However the Kentucky Derby is a different monster that needs all the ingredients to be right. Especially the breeding aspect is oh so very important.
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
Orb won't light the board!!
John Scharr More than 1 year ago
Mike, Now that we have this points system for the KD, we will never see a filly with a performance like this in the derby unless they prep against the boys. That's a shame. At least with the graded stakes earnings method, Dreaming of Julia at least had the option to run in the derby. She would have been an interesting horse @ Churchill, especially with the 114 beyer. Any thoughts?
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
not so mike.the connections can do what winning colors did.run against the boys prior to the derby and earn your ticket.is it fair that a filly run in short 5 to 6 horse fields without any real stress.then take the back door to get a derby entry.what about all of the owners of the colts.they put them through these rigorous races,shouldn't everybody play by the same rules.julia was amazing on saturday,but where was she 3 weeks before that and also in the breeders cup.so in other words,we should let them run in the derby based on 1 race.interesting
CassSpeaks More than 1 year ago
Horses need fewer than 50 points to qualify to run in the Derby and have many races to choose from to qualify to run in the derby based on 1 race. What's your point, exactly?
mike g More than 1 year ago
lose the point system--it takes away the importance of the graded races two year old's run
mrm More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Derby winners from way back like Orb's style is tough to bet on, because with 20 Horses you can get steadied and checked more then once. Stay outside in the DERBY....IMO I hope Orb didn't peak. I want all Horse to be at their best 5/4/13. S. Bobby is not 1 1/4 Horse and that is now a fact.
RockaFelter21 More than 1 year ago
was a fact a year ago bro
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Calvin Borel brought Mine That Bird from dead last, I think, to win the KY Derby. He won in a big field, too. Orb's style can win him the KY Derby, it did for MTB. He just has to have talent and racing luck going for him May 4th.