03/15/2008 5:29PM



War Pass finished dead last as the 1-20 favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby a few minutes ago and I feel like I watched a different race from the one being discussed by the TVG commentators.

They're talking about how he lost because he had a bad trip, or there was a bullseye painted on his back, and pronouncing the victorious Big Truck (who one of their announcers "picked"!) an important new contender on the Derby trail. Huh? To me, something had to have gone hideously wrong with War Pass, who showed nothing at any point in the race. He broke badly and was sandwiched early, but a healthy War Pass would have charged to the lead from the 70-1 shots who led him into the first turn. Instead he struggled to keep up and was finished by the stretch turn. He was beaten 23 1/4 lengths.

The only question is what went physically wrong with him and whether we'll see him race again.

It was a little like Daaher's two horrendous performances this year when he twice tanked at 2-5, was found to have a leg injury and was retired. The closest analogy from recent Derby preps that comes to mind is Afleet Alex's mystifying performance in the 2005 Rebel. He was found after the race to have a lung infection, and recovered to win the Arkansas Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

As for Big Truck, he's a nice enough colt but his winning time of 1:44.25 was only 0.13 seconds faster than a less-than-stellar field of 3-year-old fillies ran an hour earlier in the Florida Oaks.

Someone may be jumping off that bridge pictured in the last entry: With War Pass off the board, the show prices in the Tampa Bay Derby were $25.20, $27.80 and $76.40.

[Update 3/16 12:15 pm The Associated Press reports:

"War Pass is still on the Kentucky Derby trail despite his last-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby.

"Trainer Nick Zito told The Associated Press on Sunday that his colt suffered a few cuts on his leg after being jostled at the start of Saturday's race at Tampa Bay Downs.

"War Pass had won his first five races in front-running style and was considered the leading contender for the Derby on May 3. Big Truck won the Tampa Bay Derby, with War Pass seventh and last.

"War Pass is set to run next in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York on April 5 in his final prep race before the Derby." ]

--There's a two-day carryover of over $236k at Aqueduct after a series of double-digit winners, including the unfathomable Prince of Peace ($48.60) in the Instant Friendship Stakes. Relax. There's no racing at Aqueduct until Wednesday -- not because, as the TVG announcers first guessed, because it's either "a Mob holiday" or "something to do with St. Patricks' Day," but because tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Their confusion is understandable, since no other racing jurisdiction shuts down for that reason.