Once again, I’ve made several changes in this week’s Horse Racing 2103 Countdown to the Triple Crown as both Java’s War (2013 Bluegrass Stakes) and Overanalyze (2013 Arkansas Derby) were both very impressive winners this past weekend in their respective races and, in the process, set themselves up well for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
In the Bluegrass, Rydilluc and 21-1 shot Undrafted together set a reasonable early pace after getting the first quarter in :23.4 and a half in :48 flat with Palace Malice also among the early leaders.
Rydilluc then opened up a length and half lead after three quarters in 1:12.3, but Palace Malice was coming to him and eventually took the lead at the eighth pole. However, neither could withstand the oncoming Java’s War, who came from dead least in the early stages and some seven wide at the top of the stretch, to get up by a neck.
“He didn’t really break, but he traveled very nice for me,” said winning jockey Julien Leparoux. “At the three-eighths pole, I tried to catch up a little bit, and he ran big the whole way through the stretch.”
“It reminded me of Tampa (Bay Derby, where he came second to Verrazano) when he came late,” said trainer Kenneth McPeek. “He actually broke better today than he did in Tampa. But this is his running style. I wasn’t at all worried. I was watching the front thinking, ‘Ok, if they set a little pace for us the first half or even in the middle, we’ll get a good chance here.”
In the Arkanasas Derby, Falling Sky and 60-1 shot Divine Ambition both showed first and set very ho-hum fractions of :23.1, 47.3, and 1:12.2.
On the turn for home, Den’s Legacy found a hole between horses and passed a tiring Divine Ambition with Frac Daddy on the outside both challenging the now alone on the lead Falling Sky.
Overanalyze, who was still seventh and five wide on the second turn, was cut loose by jockey Raphael Bejarano. The colt responded with an enormous burst of run down the stretch to win by almost 5 lengths on the wire.
“My horse broke really good. I placed him right behind the early speed because I didn’t want to rush him. At the half-mile pole, He started to chase the horses on the lead and he kicked clear,” Bejarano said. “I had a beautiful trip. Once we got to the stretch, I felt like I had a lot of horse left and saved something for the next race.”
“This is my Derby horse, I’m pretty sure,” said Bejarano, who was aboard Overanalyze for the first time.
As a side note, Jockey Mike Smith said his mount (betting favorite) War Academy, who he pulled up but walked off the track under his own power, “He (War Academy) was just very uncertain over the surface and I tried to get him to settle,” said Smith.
“He was OK the first turn, but then he took four or five really awkward steps. I didn’t see anything major causing it, but I just felt really awkward on him and figured better safe than sorry, so I pulled him up. I didn’t want to take any chances.”
***Lastly, beginning next week, I will be changing this list from who I think will fair well in the Kentucky Derby to who I think will fair well in the Kentucky Derby based on who will be entered off the new points system.
1) Revolutionary– even after watching Overanalyze and Java’s War’s impressive wins this weekend, I still don’t see a need to make a change and bring this horse down.
To me, he appears to be the total package in as far as what I look for in a Derby horse. Good looks, breeding, athleticism, speed, agility, fearlessness and, perhaps most importantly, guts and determination.
In his last two races, the Withers Stakes and The Louisiana Derby, all those traits (and then some) were on display.
He is scheduled to breeze over the Churchill Downs surface both this Sunday and next and, provided he takes to the track (which I don’t see as a problem), he should be ready to go.
Throw in new reins-man three time Derby winner Calvin Borel, who knows Churchill Downs like the back of his hand, and his chances look even better.
2) Verrazano– this undefeated muscular colt arrived at Churchill Downs this past Monday and gallop over the track on Tuesday and, evidently, all went well.
“Everything went perfectly” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He seemed to settle in really well overnight and I thought he galloped very nicely over the track today.”
“We’ve gotten to this point with him as well as we could have hoped,” Pletcher added. “He’s maintained his condition really well and looks phenomenal. His appetite is good and he’s moving well. We’re really pleased and we’re hoping for another 19 days of what we’re seeing right now.”
He will have the exact same training schedule as Revolutionary (two more breezes, one this Sunday and next).
3) Orb– in what seems like a never ending game of “musical jockeys”, Joel Rosario will, once again, be aboard this colt come Derby Day.
He was his regular rider earlier in the year and, with John Velazquez committing to Verrazano, he gets another chance. That certainly won’t hurt his chances any.
4) Normandy Invasion– loved his Wood Memorial even though he came up a neck short to Verrazano. As I said before, if he had another furlong in that race (like he will in the Derby) the outcome maybe be different as I believe he has a big chance to turn the tables on that rival at 10 furlongs.
He arrived at Churchill this past Sunday and bedded down well according to trainer Chad Brown.
“He came out of the Wood OK and arrived fine,” Brown said. “I just walked him this morning, but I’ll send him to the track tomorrow (Tuesday) for the first time. He’ll work the next two weekends, depending on weather.”
Like just about everyone else, we’ll see how he works over the surface and make adjustments from there.
5) Java’s War– yep, he goes from not being on my list all year long to debuting at #5. I mean, goodness gracious, did you see that Bluegrass Stakes stretch run? (Of course you did, I have it posted above).
Anyway, coming from last and being seven wide on the turn for home and still winning was mind-boggling to me.
Don’t listen to the hog-wash that he was beaten soundly (three lengths) by Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby last month…this is clearly a different (much more improved since then) colt and if he repeats that Bluegrass stretch run in the Derby, he’ll be extremely dangerous.
6) Goldencents– won the Santa Anita Derby winner and recorded a very strong 105 speed figure in the process. After that race, his jockey (Kevin Krigger) stated he still has “untapped potential” and he very well might.
I only have him ranked this low because he did show some vulnerability in the San Felipe Stakes when he engaged in a wicked speed dual with Flashback and finished fourth.
I’m worried that if he gets in a speed dual in the Kentucky Derby, he’ll be cooked by the quarter pole.
7) Itsmyluckyday– this horse seems to be fading out of people’s minds as it’s been a while (February) since he’s run a race that makes you think he can win the Derby.
No doubt in my mind he was a short horse in the Florida Derby as he was coming off an eight week break….can he bounce back?…absolutely, and that process could have been started the other day when he went 5F in 1:01 at Calder. Even though I have him ranked at #7, I’m not counting him out by any means….yet.
8) Overanalyze– what in the world was that? And by that, I mean his Arkansas Derby win this past Saturday.
I mean, he laid seventh early in that race, went 5 wide on the turn for home and absolutely exploded down the stretch to wallop the field by almost 5 lengths.
As you probably already know, I’m not a huge fan of this horse based on his consistency issues (one up, one down pattern) but I’ll be the first to tell you he looked nothing short of sensational during the that win. I’m not sure I’ve saw a better (more fluid) stride this year than his in the last 200 or so yards and when he galloped out past the wire….He looked like he was just floating over that surface….If that Overanalyze shows up in the Kentucky Derby? He’ll be very difficult to beat.
9) Palace Malice- looked like a winner as late as the eighth pole in the Bluegrass but was simply outgunned late by Java’s War.
This colt, by Curlin, is another very talented horse from the high powered Todd Plecther barn but he might be a half a notch below the elite three year old of 2013.
He is scheduled to breeze once more before the Derby.
10) Will Take Charge- both Derby contenders trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas Will Take Charge winner of the Rebel Stakes; and Lecomte Satkes winner Oxbow both arrived at Churchill well and are stabled in Barn 44.
“They got settled in and got around here good this morning,” Lukas said. “They got some of that bluegrass in them early and that will help them more than anything. We’ve got three weeks to tweak the situation a little bit and then we’ll see what we can get done.”
“The Derby is the Derby,” Lukas said. “People say that when you win one, it means less when you win a second one, but I think my enthusiasm is greater for it now after winning four of them. I enjoyed the fourth one more than the first one. The other thing is that you’re dealing with different people. I’ve got a different assistant and different clientele. You want to give them that experience.”
Lukas added that Will Take Charge is scheduled to work twice before the Derby and Oxbow will have one work for sure, but there could be a second one.
11) Vyjack came out of his first career defeat (in the Wood Memorial) with a lung infection and has been stabled at the FairHillEquineTherapyCenter, where he is having regular treatments in the hyperbaric chamber, according to Bruce Jackson, who operates the rehab facility.
Initially , it was announced that the gelding had bled a “2” on a scale of “5,” but it was more a case of mucus and a slight lung infection.
He was vanned to Fair Hill by trainer Rudy Rodriguez, where he had received his early training by Jackson.
“He has been enjoying it here and looks absolutely fantastic on the track,” Jackson said. “And Rudy has been here every day. The lung infection has completely cleared, and being here at Fair Hill and taking it easy for a little while has done him a world of good.”
Jackson said he wasn’t sure how long Vyjack will remain at Fair Hill before shipping to Churchill Downs.
Talented and good looking, but I still have to drop him down the list for two reasons. He was beaten fair and square in the Wood Memorial to both Verrazano and Normandy Invasion and the timing of that lung infection couldn’t really have been much worse.
12) Oxbow- see Will Take Charge
13) Rydilluc- the funny part about is guy is here we are some three weeks away from the Kentucky Derby and we still really have no clue how good (or bad) he is on the traditional dirt surface.
We know he is a turf monster (in the making, at least) and that he can somewhat handle the synthetic surface (he ran well in the Bluegrass), but still, in his only true dirt race, he got obliterated.
Now, remember that was his first ever career outing so it was a long time ago. Has he improved since then?….yes…but I’m still not sure if he actually can handle the dirt.
If I had to guess?…I’d guess yes…but who knows….and we shouldn’t still be asking questions like this just three weeks away from the Derby…sheesh!
In actuality, It doesn’t seem like its going to matter anyway as it doesn’t appear he’ll have enough points to make it into the starting gate at Churchill Downs come Derby Day.
On the Radar Screen
Govenor Charlie, who won the Sunland Derby by daylight, landed at the Lexington airport in Kentucky this past Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. EDT and then was vanned to Churchill Downs. Upon arrival, he was bedded down in Bob Baffert’s Barn 33.
Black Onyx– winner of the recent Spiral Stakes, was actually the first Derby hopeful to arrive at Churchill Downs as he’s been there since March 27
This dark bay (or brown colt) by the massive Rock Hard Ten is ranked fourth on the leader-board based Derby qualifying points system and arrived in good shape.
He is reportedly doing well in Stall 12 of Barn 41.
Trainer Kelly Breen’s assistant, Phil Threewitt, traveled with the colt along with groom and an exercise rider.
“He shipped well and he’s doing well,” Threewitt said. “We love him. He’s a neat horse. We’ve only had him for his last two starts and he’s won both times.”
My Lute –was runner-up to Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby last time out, so far, has posted the most impressive pre-Derby workout (Albeit there haven’t been that many).
Mylute went in fractions of :12 3/5, :24 4/5, :36 3/5 :48 2/5, and 1:00 1/5. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25 and a mile in 1:39.
The colt started about eight lengths behind his workmates and finished eight lengths in front at the wire.
“I wanted him to pass those horses down the lane and then finish once he got by them,” trainer Thomas Amoss said. “He did those things, so the work went well.”
Amoss said Mylute would have two more works prior to the Kentucky Derby May 4, but they would be much easier than Sunday’s move.
“If anybody was interested in Mylute as a Derby prospect, today’s work was the one they needed to see,” Amoss said. “It was a serious work and he looked very good. Mylute is going to do nothing to impress anyone in his next two works. He’s going to work by himself and they are going to be slow and easy half-mile works. Today’s work was an indication of where we are with him, and we were pleased.”
**** Lastly, and just as a side note, the connections for Uncaptured, Merit Man, and the talented stretch running Departing confirmed that their horses are no longer under consideration for the Derby.
Also, Den’s Legacy, sixth in the Arkansas Derby, did not fly to Kentucky as originally planned. Trainer Bob Baffert sent him back to his California base.
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