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Dick Jerardi: Three fast 3-year-olds look like Kentucky Derby contenders
Shared Belief remains the clear Kentucky Derby favorite until one of the contenders starts running triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures or Shared Belief makes his 2014 debut and does not run back to his 2013 form.
Still, I am watching all the horses trying to catch up and have been quite impressed by what I am seeing. From Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, I watched three performances that suggest this class of 3-year-olds may have quality and quantity.
Obviously, more horses will emerge, but I really liked Vicar’s in Trouble in the Lecomte, Indianapolis in the San Pedro, and Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull.
Let’s put a line through Vicar’s in Trouble’s Polytrack debut at Keeneland, where he could do no better than third. In his two starts on the dirt at Fair Grounds, the Louisiana-bred Vicar’s in Trouble won his maiden by 13 lengths, getting a 98 Beyer on the lead, and won the Lecomte from just off the lead by 6 3/4 lengths, getting a 97 Beyer.
It was more than how fast the horse ran. It was how he ran fast. It was not perfect, but it was plenty good for a horse making just his first and second dirt starts. I know he has beaten nothing, but when you beat nothing, you should win by a pole. He has won by a pole and then half a pole.
Do I care that Vicar’s in Trouble is a Louisiana-bred? Not any more than I cared that Funny Cide was bred in New York and Smarty Jones in Pennsylvania. If the horse is fast enough, he’s fast enough. And this horse looks like he has a chance.
And who doesn’t want to hang with Ken Ramsey Kentucky Derby week if he has a serious contender? He may never stop talking.
Trainer Mike Maker has won big races. No reason he can’t win the Derby.
Indianapolis made his debut Nov. 24 at Hollywood Park. Indianapolis, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, came from seventh, went very wide, and won like a good thing, getting an 81 Beyer.
Indianapolis came back Jan. 20 at Santa Anita, again at six furlongs. Racing against just three others, he prompted a quick pace and ran away, winning by 4 1/4 lengths, getting a 97 Beyer.
How will Indianapolis run if he is sent longer? Don’t know, but I have not seen anything that suggests he can’t keep going.
You know Bob Baffert is thinking Derby. Does he think of anything else in January?
And there is this to consider. Indianapolis is a straight shot up Interstate 65 from a certain Kentucky city with a famous track and even more famous race. That must mean something.
Bottom line, Indianapolis can run fast. And that is the first prerequisite.
I was kind of prepared not to like Cairo Prince. I am not sure exactly why I thought that, but I did.
Well, I liked him plenty while watching the Holy Bull. The Nashua winner and Remsen runner-up always looked like a winner, even when sitting fifth early. When Luis Saez said go, Cairo Prince went and went hard, winning by nearly six lengths and getting a 95 Beyer.
I love Cairo Prince’s 2-year-old experience, with the sprint and a pair of longer races. Even his loss to the talented Honor Code was a very strong effort.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin certainly has a Derby out there with his name on it. This could be the horse. And I am a huge Luis Saez fan, the bigger the moment, the better he rides.
So we have three horses in a week earn Beyers of 97, 97, and 95. That strongly suggests they are contenders because 3-year-olds have those giant forward moves that could come in February, March, April or, preferably, the first Saturday in May.
Shared Belief made two major forward moves as a 2-year-old, getting an 84 in his debut, a 99 in the Hollywood Prevue, and that dazzling 106 in the CashCall Futurity.
I have gone back and watched each of those races multiple times. There were some imperfections, but very little overall concern for me. I really liked what I saw. This colt could be a major star.
Shared Belief still has to do it. And he will have to do it against some fast horses that have already shown Derby-level talent and may have far more to show.
Indianapolis looked like a real star in the making. He should have no trouble getting the distance with that breeding and he has so much talent he reminds me of Bodemiester. Shared Belief will have to prove he matured into monster he looked like at 2. I think one of those 2 will be in the winners circle the first Saturday in May. Shared Belief will only have 2 races before the KD. And might only have one if he gets the 50 points from the first race, since 50 will be enough to get in.
Of the three covered in this article, I prefer Indianapolis. The other two have done nothing wrong yet, but I have a couple of thoughts against them: 1) Shared Belief has looked great on the Cushion, but hasn't shown us that he is the real deal on dirt. More often than not, these horses tend to do better on the Turf. His breeding also suggests that. 2) Cairo Prince really has done nothing wrong, but I really don't think he's built for the distance. Pioneer of the Nile couldn't get the distance and proved to be somewhat fragile in the end. He did show nice patience in the Holy Bull though, so I will watch him more closely. In the end, I like Indianapolis's pedigree and running style. I believe Baffert might have one with this guy. Time will tell and it's going to be fun watching it play out.
Top Billing ran as fast as Cairo Prince last weekend. he did only what was needed to win.
Top Billing trained by Kiran Mc is the one to watch , the way he went from last to first on an off track at gulfstream last wk.was impressive !!
LIKE DERBY CLASSIC HORSES WITH DERBY SIRES ;; HONOR CODE AND NOBLE MOON // THERE ARE TWO OTHERS BUT NAMES ARE FURTHER DOWN IN POINTS
HAVE TOP SIX WINNERS FOR DERBY CLASSIC I PLAY BY POST NUMBERS ONLY / SO I HAVE TO WAIT TILL POST DAY TO BET
I agree that over-emphasizing Beyer figs for 3 year olds at this time of year is mistake in logic. There is plenty of time to run a big # and how reliable are the #s anyway? I have had a lot of success handicapping by covering the Beyer figs and ignoring them. They are huge, in bold and everybody looks at them. Yes, this technique is best used in cheaper races. I definitely have respect for anyone who makes their own speed figs and I find the track speed figures of interest. Beyer figs can be a decent tool - but not for slavish dependence Jerardi and Watchmaker.
Shared belief, Havana, honor code will not be in the starting gate the first sat. In may.Mark My Word
What I don't understand is the ridiculous uneven weight assignments given to these horses going for the KD. They are vying for points to get into the Derby where every horse will run with 126lbs. Yet why are they not equal weights when running for say The Holy Bull / Gotham or Lecomte. In the Lecomte they ran with 116 up to 122. The easy winner ran with 116. The weight assignments do not become equal until they reach the last stage before the Derby as in the Wood Memorial, Florida Derby, SA Derby, Louisiana Derby. Oddly enough the Arkansas Derby G1 which is on par points and dollars does not run on equal weights. These races leading up to the Derby are run like Handicap races. When Successful 2 year olds start to race as a 3 yr old they automatically assigned more weight. Not that I am a fan of your Shanghai Bobbies trying to go a Mile 1/4. If I were an owner I would start my potential Derby horse off late in the 2 yr old season. Just enough to get some foundation into him. Then sit him and make a run for the TC chase. Sound familiar? Sure if they are good enough to win the Derby then they would be good enough to win giving away 6lbs in lesser races. But thats not the point here. If you were an owner and you missed the Derby by a few points and the horses you ran against made it in because they ran with 6lbs less than you, Wouldn't you be PO'd?