03/26/2013 4:54PM

Florida Derby: Shanghai Bobby looks to prove he can go the distance

Barbara D. Livingston
Shanghai Bobby, last year's champion juvenile male, will look to answer questions about his perceived distance limitations in Saturday's Florida Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Few have questioned his ability. No one has questioned his desire. Many have questioned whether Shanghai Bobby, last year’s 2-year-old champion male, is a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender.

The questions center around his ability to get a distance of ground, specifically the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby. His detractors picked up steam when Shanghai Bobby suffered his first defeat in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park, where he was beaten two lengths by Itsmyluckyday.

On Tuesday, Shanghai Bobby’s connections answered questions about their colt’s Derby prospects. But on Saturday, the horse will give the real answers when he runs against Itsmyluckyday and Orb, the Fountain of Youth winner, in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream.

Jack Wolf, one of the principal owners of Shanghai Bobby, and Todd Pletcher, the trainer of the colt, were encouraged by Shanghai Bobby’s performance in the Holy Bull. In his first performance since capping a 5-for-5 2-year-old campaign in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 12 weeks earlier, Shanghai Bobby set a strong early pace before getting passed in midstretch by Itsmyluckyday, who was coming off a win in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1.

“I thought his Holy Bull was a really good race,” Pletcher said Tuesday at the Palm Meadows training center. “He was well clear of the third horse [Clearly Now], who came back and won the Swale. Itsmyluckyday was a little better than him that day. [I’m] hoping now that we’ve had a race and a good training schedule since then, we can turn the tables, but it’s going to be hard to do. Itsmyluckyday’s two races at Gulfstream have been powerful. Orb seems to be an improving horse all the time. It’s not an easy race.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

But it’s an important race. Under the new qualifying system for the Kentucky Derby, Shanghai Bobby’s exploits as a 2-year-old – winning the Grade 2 Hopeful, Grade 1 Champagne, and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – do not assure him a spot in the Derby as would have been the case in years past.

Instead, he will have to add to his total of 24 qualifying points. The Florida Derby offers 100 points to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 for third, and 10 for fourth.

“I think this race will tell us a lot about how he’s continued to develop,” Pletcher said. “He needs to run well; he needs to get some points. If he’s able to do that, we’ll move on to the next stop. This is his first time at a mile and an eighth against a couple of really good horses. It’s a test for him, a test for them, too.”

During a national teleconference, Wolf, one of the principals of Starlight Stable, was asked if he felt Shanghai Bobby, a son of Harlan’s Holiday out of the Orientate mare Steelin’, has distance limitations.

“You look at his pedigree, on the bottom side, it would suggest he’d have distance limitations,” Wolf said. “Having said that, the type of heart and determination this horse has shown and the way he’s galloped out – especially the way he galloped out after his last race – I’m willing to give this a shot.”

While Wolf said he would like to run Shanghai Bobby in the Kentucky Derby, he said he will be realistic.

“If, after this race, it looks like the distance is a factor, there are a lot of other races at seven-eighths and eight furlongs,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see after this.”

With the emergence of Orb and Itsmyluckyday as well as his own stablemate Verrazano, Shanghai Bobby has garnered less attention. In the most recent Kentucky Derby Future Wager, his odds closed at 18-1.

“A lot of people have put him on the back burner, maybe rightfully so,” Wolf said. “If they’re right, hopefully they can be proved wrong in this race.”

In other Florida Derby news, Are You Kidding Me breezed four furlongs in 48 seconds Tuesday on the dirt at Payson Park. Trainer Roger Attfield said Are You Kidding Me would make his dirt debut in the Florida Derby and will have Jose Lezcano to ride.

“He did it very nicely,” Attfield said. “I put him behind another horse, got some dirt in his face. It didn’t seem to bother him.”

Attfield said the owners of Are You Kidding Me, whose two wins have come sprinting on synthetic and turf, believe he could be a Kentucky Derby candidate.

“The best thing to do is to run him in the Florida Derby,” Attfield said. “I thought we might not get into the Spiral or Louisiana Derby if they oversubscribed. He’s got to show his mettle. If he runs really well and it looks like he should go on another step in that direction, fine. If not, we’ll go in a different direction.”

Cover2 More than 1 year ago
Robt Danna: The Diver was a mature gelding, better with age, these are 3 yr old COLTS I'd have to toss S B, gave it up too early, & ques ped/distance But will probably go EVEN $.......isn't that the deal ? Take the dinero out of CHALK EATERS pockets ?
Robert Danna More than 1 year ago
Well it was said Native Diver could NOT get a Mile and a quarter yet, he won the Hollywood Gold Cup three years running Wire to Wire and at EIGHT years old too. It's my belief that breeding has little to do with what the Horse can do.. Look at Ghostzapper, proven at a mile and a quarter or even longer, yet, his foals so far can't even get 7 furlongs. It's all in how the race sets up and how the Horse feels that day and the ride he gets from the Jockey. For me, I like "Bobby" and I hope he does win, at 18-1 in the future book, he would make a great WIN and Place bet in the Derby, but than again, it all depends Bob Danna
RockaFelter21 More than 1 year ago
hmmm hear the ghost can run all day and the maker horse that won the bluegrass at 40-1 stately victor who could run all day long
RockaFelter21 More than 1 year ago
Sir More than 1 year ago
That can be said for any horse that doesn't make the gate for the Kentucky Derby.
KEVIN L More than 1 year ago
like Shanghai Bobby in the BC Sprint..assuming he stays healthy...
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Was Ness busted at Tampa for TCO2?
David Seitz More than 1 year ago
Just like Trinniberg too right? Oh wait...
mrm More than 1 year ago
Reading in between the lines it seems as if SB work was not what they were looking for. Yeah they worked fast but he had all to do to keep up with the other horse who by the way galloped out well in front of him.
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
Orb's owner said he has no Derby fever. Translation: he's here for the money. SB's success will depend largely on whether or not he gets into a speed duel. He only needs a third place for a Derby ticket. I hope for a tactical race from SB and Rosie.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Dinny Phipps has more money than god. He doesn't care about the money at all. He wants to win prestigious races but he also claims not to have Derby fever because he wants to do right by the colt.
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
The Phippses are very New York-oriented owners, harking back to the days when New York undoubtedly had the best racing in the US. Likely they would be more interested in winning a Belmont or Travers.
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
Right. People with money aren't interested in more money. That makes sense.
P More than 1 year ago
That isn't a blanket statement anyone is making. Rather the Phipps have proven over the years they're here to stay long term. Homebred horses (with Janney) aren't thrown into races like fodder in "hopes" they might hit the board. The sport has seen plenty of rich folks enter racing make noise with a big victory (or attempt to win on) and poof gone. Instead like Augustin Stables (Strawbridge) there isn't an annual hunger by Phipps to have some horse, any horse, breaking from the CD gate when everyone's watching.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Perl More than 1 year ago
yes and drugs are destroying US racing. You forgot to mention that, Nikki.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
If a horse can get a mile and an eighth,a horse can get a mile and a quarter .the words of the great Charlie whittling ham after ruhlmann won the Santa Anita handicap .good luck bobby in this big test.
Perl More than 1 year ago
Tell that to high yield, Harlan's holiday, scat daddy, quality road and a million other horses who could get 9 but not 10f.
Sam More than 1 year ago
all horses can get the 10f . They just can't get it as fast as others.
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
The Announcer....Turning for home. It's Shanghai Bobby in front by 2....................Another 1/8 to go................... ////////////////...............................?????????????????????
alfred naidas More than 1 year ago
Here comes the wire!!!!!! It's Shanghai Bobby....... It'smyluckyday unlucky today gets second and Orb the distant 3rd