09/06/2012 12:22PM

Weekend Warrior for Sept. 8, 2012: Lots to like about Fly Lexis Fly in Super Derby

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Blueskiesnrainbows is the horse to beat in Saturday's Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

With the close of Saratoga and Del Mar, Saturday’s national stakes schedule takes on a more democratic feel, with room for other tracks to take the spotlight. For example, Louisiana Downs, with the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby, and Presque Isle Downs, with the Grade 2, $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters, have the two richest races of the day. The other Grade 2 event Saturday is the opening-day feature at Belmont Park, the $200,000 Bowling Green Handicap. The day’s other two graded stakes are a pair of Grade 3, $150,000 contests at Arlington, the Arlington-Washington Futurity and the Arlington-Washington Lassie.

Super Derby

If you throw out Blueskiesnrainbows’s flop in the American Turf two starts back – and you should because his only other attempt on grass also was poor, leaving one to think nothing else but he really doesn’t like turf – then he comes into this off two imposing main-track efforts. Three starts back, Blueskiesnrainbows was third in the Santa Anita Derby at 42-1, beaten only a half-length by I’ll Have Another, who, of course, went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. And last time out, Blueskiesnrainbows prevailed in the Swaps, beating Nonios, who came back to finish second to Paynter in the Haskell in his next start, and Liaison, who finished third to Alpha in the Jim Dandy in his next start.

No one in this race sports a pair of recent main-track performances against high-level competition on a par with Blueskiesnrainbows’s. He is clearly the horse to beat, and it would be no surprise if he won. But there are other horses in this Super Derby who have enough speed to make Blueskiesnrainbows work hard early, something he did not have to do in either the Swaps or Santa Anita Derby, and that might be just enough to make him vulnerable.

Fly Lexis Fly has so many angles going for him that they are almost hard to count. But even though my inner wise guy says horses with this many positive angles somehow fail to win their share, I can’t help but go for him.

Fly Lexis Fly has a profile unlike any stakes horse I can remember. This Kentucky-bred began his career last year in Peru. Last fall, after finishing second in the Group 1 Peruvian 2000 Guineas, he romped in a pair of Group 1 races, the first at 10 furlongs and then the 12-furlong Derby Nacional, which he won by almost 11 lengths. As if a 2-year-old winning Group 1 stakes at 10 and 12 furlongs isn’t mind boggling enough, consider this: Because of the differences in the Southern Hemisphere racing calendar, Fly Lexis Fly did what he did as a 2-year-old in Peru while racing against older 3-year-olds.

There was talk early this year about Fly Lexis Fly going in the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes, but he did not make his U.S. debut until late July at Del Mar in what really was an impossible spot, even if he was a clear second choice in the betting. Fly Lexis Fly made his return off an eight-month absence in the 12-furlong Cougar II Handicap against the high-class older horse Richard’s Kid. Wearing blinkers for the first time (they off Saturday) Fly Lexis Fly was headstrong in the early running and had to have the early lead. But he was very competitive for more than a mile before understandably tiring, and was wrapped up in the stretch.

What’s stunning is in the six weeks since his 1 1/2-mile comeback, Fly Lexis Fly shows five published workouts, three of which were at six furlongs and one at seven furlongs. I don’t know much about South American training practices, but that is certainly an unorthodox training line from a North American perspective. And now, for the first time in his life, Fly Lexis Fly is running against members of his own age group.

So many angles . . . I just couldn’t resist.

Sunday Silence Stakes

This is one of a handful of stakes on the Super Derby undercard, and Brown Almighty will be the favorite off a daylight score in the local prep for this 2-year-old turf event. But Brown Almighty had a golden rail trip last time out, never encountering as much as a straw in his path while other horses were blowing turns and such. I can’t take a short price on a horse like that, especially when a couple of others in here ran well last time despite tough trips.

Kamchatka moved way up when switched to turf most recently, finishing fourth in a maiden dash at Saratoga after steadying early and getting bounced around between horses in the stretch like a pinball. Kamchatka is dangerous, but I like Java’s War the best.

Java’s War ran well getting his maiden win last time out going two turns on grass at Ellis Park. He was caught four wide on the first turn and had to check and was also four wide at the midpoint of the far turn. Yet despite all that ground loss, Java’s War drew off to score by almost two lengths, proving tons the best. Notably, the horse who finished third behind him, Sonofasamurai, came back to win a straight maiden route on the turf at Saratoga with a 75 Beyer Speed Figure. Also notably, Java’s War will be first time Lasix on Saturday.

Kentucky Cup Turf Dash

This race is largely populated with horses who are either better on the main track or who are more familiar with turf sprints shorter than this one. The issue with the first group is obvious. The problem with the latter group is that the unusual undulating nature of the turf layout at Kentucky Downs makes this a more demanding six-furlong turf sprint than most. I think this would be a good spot for a horse cutting back from middle-distance turf races, and Sal the Barber is the only one here who fits the bill.

Sal the Barber ran very well when a narrowly beaten second most recently in the one-mile Independence Day Stakes at Mountaineer. He made a big move from off the pace to the lead in the third quarter-mile, which was the second fastest quarter-mile of the race, and despite that early move, he was only nailed late. But that strong middle move portends well for a successful cut-back in distance Saturday.