Archive for March, 2012

Louisiana Derby 2012 Preview: Is Mark Valeski the real deal?

The Fair Grounds sophomores complete their Kentucky Derby 2012 road in Sunday’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and Mark Valeski tries to prove that he is a worthy morning line favorite.

Pace

Early-Pressers:

Cigar Street
Mark Valeski
Arm Force
Comisky’s Humor
Hero of Order

Stalkers:

Fire Alarm
Windsurfer
Mr. Bowling
Z Dager
Afford

Late Runners:

Finnegans Wake
Flashy Sunrise
Shared Property
Rousing Sermon

Analysis:

#7 SHARED PROPERTY (10-1) experienced wide trips in the G3 Lecomte (3rd from post 13) and G2 Risen Star (4th from post 10). He captured a Graded event as a juvenile, gets a much better draw (post 6), fired a local bullet March 19, and dons the hood for sharp trainer Tom Amoss. #3 Windsurfer (12-1) is on the upswing for Pletcher/Winstar Farm. The talented colt won despite a wide trip at the Gulf Feb 18 and was flattered when the runner-up returned to score. The $190k purchase fired a Palm Meadows bullet for this March 18 and projects an inner tactical trip under Johnny V. #1a Mark Valeski (2-1) did everything but win the G2 Risen Star. He stalked, pounced, and was nipped on the line by favorite El Padrino in his first route try for Larry Jones. The improving son of Proud Citizen should make his presence felt throughout under Napravnik.

Wagering Strategies:

$15 to win #7
$5 to win #3
$5 Exacta 7/1-3 ($10)
$5 Exacta 1-3/7 ($10) 

Florida Derby 2012 Preview: Can El Padrino Beat Union Rags?

The final major Kentucky Derby 2012 prep at Gulfstream Park will be held March 31 and Union Rags is the strong 6-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

Union Rags

Is Union Rags a slam dunk in the Florida Derby? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

#6 Union Rags (6-5) has been part of my Derby Top 10 since I started the list last September, and he has occupied my top spot since last November. The uncrowned juvenile champ looked great in his facile G2 Fountain of Youth return but there was not much behind him that day. He has over $1 million in graded earnings and figures to be no worse than 2nd in his final Derby prep.

#8 El Padrino (2-1) might have the tactical edge in here since he drew outside of heavy favorite and fellow stalker Union Rags. Castellano might park him on the flank of the aforementioned fav and bide his time. The G2 Risen Star hero owns the best numbers, has been battle tested, and smartly scored here in January. Should be an interesting chess match between Castellano and Leparoux, and remember that the former gave up the mount on Union Rags earlier this year!

#1 Fort Loudon (20-1) has some tactical speed in a race that came up light on pace and might try to take advantage of the inside post. He showed some ability as a juvenile but has struggled against better graded company in his last three. Jurado rides him well and a minor award is not impossible.

#4 Neck ‘N Neck (20-1) had some early trouble (bumped, steadied) in the FOY (blinkers on). He failed to seriously threaten graded rivals in his last pair but his numbers are on the rise. He has earned triple digit Late Pace Ratings in his last three and should enjoy this longer trip. Edgar Prado rides.

I have always liked #3 Take Charge Indy (5-1) but he has been curiously handled this year. He began his campaign with a clear place finish behind El Padrino but scratched out of the G2 Tampa Bay Derby when he drew post 10. He has not been seen since Jan 29 and has only shows four published times since. He owns dangerous speed but has lost stretch ground in his last four and might fold his tent when Union Rags and El Padrino come running.

#9 Reveron (12-1) has fired Trifecta shots in all six starts including a win in the local GP Derby and a show finish in the G3 Sam Davis. The fresh colt removes the hood and is firing Calder bullets for this but is stuck in the outside post and seems a cut below.

#2 News Pending (8-1) received a smart ride in his FOY place finish. Kent D sensed the slow splits and wisely moved early, but he was no match for Union Rags. His numbers are going the right way but he is 0-for-4 on dirt. He reunites with winning rider Rajiv Maragh and figures to stalk the pace for trainer Dale Romans.

#8 Bartolome (30-1) exits a solid show finish in a course/distance Optional Claiming affair. He faltered badly against El Padrino and Take Charge Indy before that and seems up against it.

#5 Z Camelot (50-1) is a well-bred maiden facing graded company for Dale Romans. The $550k Keeneland sales grad set the pace and weakened to 5th when last seen in a 9f MSW turf route here Feb 23. He is over his head to say the least.

The Plays:

$10 Trifecta 6-8/6-8/1-4 ($40)

 

KENTUCKY DERBY 2012 Contenders – 5 weeks and counting

Went The Day Well did his older stablemate Animal Kingdom proud by winning the G3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 24, and Daddy Nose Best solidified his Kentucky Derby 2012 contender status with a late running victory in the G3 Sunland Derby (March 25).

Daddy Nose Best

Daddy Nose Best captures Sunland Derby - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

In other Derby prep news, Dullahan had his second setback but is still expected to make the G1 Blue Grass Stakes. He had a cough during the winter and recently missed several days of training with a splint injury No published works since 3-3 but he did gallop over the muddy main track at Gulfstream Park on 3-28. I am dropping him off my list again because he has only raced once this year with a pair of setbacks.

Castaway drops off the Exciting Prospects list after dueling and fading as the favorite in the Sunland Derby.

Discreet Dancer is not injured but is off the Derby trail. He will go to Ocala for some rest and is expected to resume his career later this year.

G2 San Vicente hero Drill, an original member of my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list from last September, will make his next start in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 14.

Click on the names of each horse below to view their Horse Racing Nation profile page, which includes pedigree information, results, and video.

Jarrod Horak’s Top Ten Kentucky Derby 2012 Contenders

Union Rags

Union Rags squares off against El Padrino in Saturday's Florida Derby - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

1. Union Rags (Dixie Union) – My longtime top ranked Derby contender looked great in G2 Fountain of Youth. He breezed 4f in :49.10 (13/41) at Palm Meadows on March 24. The Florida Derby on 3-31 is next on the docket. Graded Earnings: $1,070,000  

2. Alpha (Bernardini) – Went back-to-back at the Big A in Count Fleet and Withers. Breezed 4f in :49.17 (6/21) at Palm Meadows on March 30. The G1 Wood Memorial on 4-7 is next. Graded Earnings: $180,000  

3. El Padrino (Pulpit) – Gamely captured G2 Risen Star (98 BSF) at Fair Grounds on Feb 25. He handles any footing and goes next in Florida Derby. Breezed 4f in :49.11 (9/22) at Palm Meadows on March 25. Graded Earnings: $200,000 

4. Gemologist (Tiznow) – G2 Ky Jockey Club hero returned in the pink at the Gulf on March 16. The undefeated WinStar Farm/Todd Pletcher runner will have his final Derby prep in the G1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7. Graded Earnings: $103,855  

5. Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) – Captured his second graded route in G2 San Felipe (102 BSF) at Santa Anita on 3-10. He worked 6f in 1:12.80 (2/9) at Hollywood Park on 3-28 and goes next in G1 SA Derby on April 7. Graded Earnings: $686,000

6. Hansen (Tapit) – BC Juvenile hero relaxed nicely in sharp G3 Gotham tally. He breezed 5f in 1:01.20 (6/6) at Churchill (training track) on 3-24. His new target is the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14. Graded Earnings: $1,400,000

7. Secret Circle (Eddington) – Captured back-to-back graded routes at Oaklawn in G3 Southwest (102 BSF) and G2 Rebel (92 BSF). He drilled a 5f bullet in :58.40 (1/37) at Santa Anita on 3-29 and is expected to return to Hot Springs for the G1 Arkansas Derby on April 14. Graded Earnings: $470,000

8. Take Charge Indy (A. P. Indy) – Clearly second best to El Padrino at Gulfstream on Jan 29. Scratched out of Tampa Bay Derby in favor of Florida Derby. Worked 5f in 1:01.57 (6/20) at Palm Meadows on March 24. Graded Earnings: $98,400  

9. Mark Valeski (Proud Citizen) – Almost upset El Padrino in his G2 Risen Star route/stakes bow. Fired 5f bullet in 1:00.60 (1/14) at Fair Grounds on 3-27. Sunday’s G2 Louisiana Derby is next. Graded Earnings: $60,000 

10. Daddy Nose Best (Scat Daddy) – Back-to-back nine furlong wins in G3 El Camino Real Derby and G3 Sunland Derby (100 BSF). Late running Asmussen trainee can run on anything. Graded Earnings: $545,558

Exciting Prospects (in alphabetical order)

1. Bodemeister (Empire Maker) – Followed up 101 BSF maiden romp with another 101 BSF in San Felipe runner-up effort on 3-10. He worked 4f in :46.80 (2/41) at Santa Anita on 3-23 and looms a serious prominent throughout player in the Arkansas Derby on 4-14. Graded Earnings: $60,000 

2. Currency Swap (High Cotton) – G1 Hopeful hero was clearly second best behind romping, undefeated colt Gemologist at the Gulf on 3-16. Worked 5f in 1:00 (2/9) at Gulfstream on 3-27 and could go next in G3 Illinois Derby on 4-7. Graded Earnings: $150,000  

Went The Day Well

Is Went The Day Well the next Animal Kingdom? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

3. Midnight Transfer (Hard Spun) – Ended up a respectable 3rd in his G2 San Felipe, his first start around two turns. He fired a 6f bullet at Santa Anita on March 30 and goes next in the G1 SA Derby on April 7.  Graded Earnings: $36,000

4. Prospective (Malibu Moon) – Professional winner of the G2 Tampa Bay Derby (88 BSF) for Mark Casse. Blinkers helped him get involved earlier and he will face better next time in Wood Memorial or Blue Grass. Breezed 5f in 1:03 (3/4) at Churchill Downs on 3-27. Graded Earnings: $365,452

5. Went The Day Well (Proud Citizen) – Followed in Animal Kingdom’s footsteps with a win in the G3 Spiral Stakes (92 BSF) for Motion/Team Valor. He was green in the stretch and might run one more time before the Derby, with the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on 4-21 a logical target. Graded Earnings: $282,000Injured Reserve (in alphabetical order)

1. Algorithms – Missed scheduled Fountain of Youth appearance with bone split injury and is off the Triple Crown trail.

2. B Shanny (Street Cry) – Ran twice in NY last summer including good looking maiden win over El Padrino at Saratoga Aug 20. Bone chip has him on the sidelines.

3. Consortium (Bernardini) – Ankle chip knocked him out of the Gotham and off the Derby trail. He is expected to return later this year.

4. Fed Biz (Giant’s Causeway) – Hind-end issue has knocked him off the Derby trail, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

5. Fire On Ice (Unbridled’s Song) – Suffered a non-displaced condylar fracture in his left hind leg. He is expected to return later this year.

6. Junebugred (Corinthian) – Smarty Jones Stakes hero is off the Derby trail with a bone chip in his ankle.

7. O’Prado Again (El Prado) – G2 Remsen hero suffered a condylar fracture of his right front leg on Jan 9 and is off the Triple Crown trail. He is expected to return later this year.

8. Out of Bounds (Discreet Cat) – G3 Sham hero goes to the sidelines after suffering a non-displaced condylar fracture to his left front ankle. He is off the Triple Crown trail.

9. Sky Kingdom (Empire Maker) – According to Bob Baffert via Twitter, Sky Kingdom needs 60 days off and is no longer on the Triple Crown trail.

10. Spring Hill Farm (Smart Strike) – 4th place Tampa Bay Derby finisher goes to the sidelines with a right knee fracture. He will have surgery and his racing future is unknown at this time.

11. Stephanoatsee (A.P. Indy) – Injured pastern bone has knocked the Graham Motion trainee off the Derby trail. He is expected to miss at least two months and could return this summer.

12. Timely Tally (Mr. Greeley) – From Ian Wilkes in a recent DRF article – “Timely Tally, on the other hand, will be done for a while. He has a tendon issue. It’s not career-threatening, but I’m trying to work out now how much time I’ll have to give him.”

Grading the Kentucky Derby 2012 Preps: Daddy Nose Best Takes Sunland Derby

The Kentucky Derby 2012 trail made a rare stop in New Mexico and Daddy Nose Best wore down local hope Isn’t He Clever in an exciting renewal of the Grade 3 Sunland Derby.

G3 Sunland Derby (3-25-12): 100 BSF (Daddy Nose Best)

Daddy Nose Best

Versatile colt Daddy Nose Best is headed to the Kentucky Derby - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

An unexpected suicidal speed duel between post time favorite Castaway and Ender Knievel set things up for the patient runners and Isn’t He Clever got the first run trip under Luis Contreras, who seemingly jumped the gun and moved too soon.

Julien Leparoux and Daddy Nose Best bided their time in 6th place and went after the local hero turning for home.

Isn’t He Clever appeared home free for a moment but Asmussen’s El Camino Real winner was grinding away and got the job done by 3/4ths of a length, running nine furlongs in a solid 1:48.59.

It was more than seven lengths back to show finisher Stirred Up. No Spin was 4th, followed by Ender Knievel, Tequila Factor, Castaway, and Justanoldsong.

Daddy Nose Best earned $400,000 for the win and has more than enough graded dough for the first Saturday in May. The neat 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy has now won on dirt, synthetic, and turf.

Sunland Derby Grade: B- (83 out of 100)

Spiral Stakes 2012 Recap – Went The Day Well rolls home

The lone graded Kentucky Derby 2012 prep at Turfway Park was run on Saturday and Went The Day Well emerged as a contender on the first Saturday in May after cruising home in the G3 Spiral Stakes for Graham Motion and Team Valor.

G3 Spiral (3-24-12): 92 BSF (Went The Day Well)

Went The Day Well

Is Went The Day Well the next Animal Kingdom? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Heavy Breathing carved out the early splits for Todd Pletcher, with Went The Day Well positioned perfectly behind the speed along the rail under John Velazquez.

Pletcher’s other colt Holiday Promise was sitting midpack at almost 26-1 and expected early runner Handsome Mike broke 12th and last after losing his footing and getting bumped at the start.

Heavy Breathing put away overmatched pace rivals Ill Conceived and Coach Royal but Went The Day Well was always traveling smoothly and passed the front runner after six furlongs.

Holiday Promise made a wide move and tried to gain on the new leader but got a bit weary in late stretch while settling for runner-up honors.

Heavy Breathing was a comfortable 3rd and was followed across the line by Handsome Mike, Stealcase, All Squared Away, Ill Conceived, Russian Greek, Tizanexpense, Red Jack, Mr. Prankster, and Coach Royal.

Went The Day Well picked up $282,000 in graded earnings on March 24, which should be more than enough to make the Derby gate. The promising son of Proud Citizen handles dirt, turf, and synthetic, and Motion/Team Valor have plenty of options with the versatile sort this year. He was green in the Turfway stretch before kicking away to win by 3-1/2 lengths. He has some catching up to do and seems a cut or two below the best at this stage. The G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 21 could be next.

It should be noted that Animal Kingdom won the Spiral Stakes and Kentucky Derby for Graham Motion, Team Valor, and John Velazquez last year…deja vu all over again?

Spiral Stakes Grade: C+ (78 out of 100)

 

 

Sunland Derby 2012 Preview: Ender Knievel’s coming out party?

Kentucky Derby 2012 hopeful Castaway, a visually impressive winner of the slower division of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb 20, takes on seven rivals in Sunday’s Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby (race 12) at Sunland Park.

Castaway

Castaway goes after his third straight win in Sunday's G3 Sunland Derby - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

#1 Castaway (2-1) and his talented stablemate Secret Circle invaded Arkansas and left with graded glory in both divisions of the Southwest. Secret Circle returned to Oaklawn Park and landed the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes last weekend.

Now, Castaway visits New Mexico for trainer Bob Baffert in hopes of earning a nice chunk of graded cash for a possible engagement on the first Saturday in May.

Castaway, a well-bred son of Street Sense, took six tries to break his maiden, and he graduated in style over wet-fast footing at Santa Anita Park in January. He followed up his easy maiden tally over Holy Candy with another win in the G3 Southwest and figures in the think of things throughout from the inside post on Sunday. Rafael Bejarano rides again.

Baffert also conditions #3 Stirred Up (8-1). The late striding son of Lemon Drop Kid flees the speed conducive Santa Anita Park oval and would appreciate contested fractions. The recent graduate beat sharp next out winner Holy Candy last time will be ridden by Martin Garcia.

#2 Ender Knievel (6-1)  is on the upswing for Todd Pletcher. The promising son of Distorted Humor, out of an AP Indy mare, raced for George Arnold in Kentucky and Florida last year and improved his numbers each time. Pletcher took over the training duties and he responded immediately with a romping flat mile maiden win at Gulfstream Park on Feb 5. John Velazquez with pilot the fresh, prominent throughout threat.

#6 Daddy Nose Best (3-1) exits a game nostril victory over UAE Derby hopeful Lucky Chappy in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Steve Asmussen’s versatile son of Scat Daddy has been competitive on dirt, turf, and synthetic, and should be finishing under regular rider Julien Leparoux.

Local hope #4 Isn’t He Clever (4-1) is 4-for-4 in the state of New Mexico and smartly captured the local prep for this (Borderland Derby). The gelded son of Smarty Jones projects a tactical journey under new rider Luis Contreras. He is 2-for-2 at Sunland.

#5 No Spin (8-1) was last seen finishing 6th behind Castaway in Hot Springs. The Tim Ice trainee is 0-for-4 on dirt and appears better on turf/synthetic.

#7 Tequila Factor (15-1) easily captured a minor turf stakes affair at Turf Paradise March 17. He failed to threaten Isn’t He Clever in a pair of local starts and appears most effective on turf/synthetic at this stage of his career.

Lightly raced colt #8 Justanoldsong (20-1) colt broke his maiden in a local flat mile event Jan 31 and was a well-beaten 6th in the Borderland Derby last time. He is overmatched on numbers.

The Plays:

$20 to win #2 Ender Knievel

$5 Exacta #2 Ender Knievel over #3 Stirred Up and #6 Daddy Nose Best ($10)

$5 Exacta #3 Stirred Up and #6 Daddy Nose Best over #2 Ender Knievel ($10)

Spiral Stakes 2012 Preview – Wide Open Kentucky Derby Prep

Will the next Animal Kingdom emerge from the shadows at Turfway Park on Saturday? One thing is for sure. The Grade 3 Spiral Stakes is a wide open Derby prep race and the winner will have the necessary graded earnings to make the starting gate in Kentucky Derby 2012.

Kentucky Derby 2012 logo

#11 Stealcase (10-1) is worth a stab at double digit odds. He had a troubled start in a 6th of 13 performance behind Hansen in the G3 Gotham Stakes. He ran into multiple next out winners in his first few starts including promising runners Thunder Moccasin, Ender Knievel, and Windsurfer. He looked good in Gulfstream dirt route maiden tally Jan 19 and can compete here if he handles the footing. The Mark Casse runner dons the hood and sports a bullet for this engagement.

#4 Went The Day Well (4-1) is an interesting contender for Graham Motion/Team Valor. He landed the place in both Great Britain turf starts last year and graduated in a flat mile special weight affair at Gulfstream Park March 3.

#12 Handsome Mike (4-1) dueled and held the show in the G3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb 18. He handles any footing but appears best on turf. Joel Rosario rides.

#1 Russian Greek (10-1) captured two synthetic route stakes events at Golden Gate Fields and was last seen splitting a 10-horse field in the aforementioned El Camino Real Derby. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee dons the hood and attracts Nakatani.

#3 Heavy Breathing (3-1) easily captured both Gulfstream starts for Todd Pletcher. He is an obvious threat if he handles synthetic ground but probably won’t offer much value.

Pletcher also has #5 Holiday Promise (12-1). He donned the hood and landed the place when last seen at Laurel Park Feb 20.

#7 Ill Conceived (8-1) just missed in the Battaglia, the local prep for this. He will not get away with an easy lead this time and might find nine panels a bit much.

#9 Tizanexpense (15-1) failed to fire from post 11 in the G2 Risen Star last time. He was making steady progress before that and is not without a chance in a tough handicapping puzzle. Michael Maker conditions the son of Tiznow.

Maker also saddles #10 Mr. Prankster (12-1) and leading Fair Grounds jockey Rosie Napravnik is in to ride. He flopped in the Battaglia but won back-to-back local stakes races before that.

#8 Coach Royal (15-1) dons the hood and goes turf/synthetic. The is ambitious spot for the well-bred maiden.

#6 All Squared Away (30-1) will likely attend the pace for sharp SoCal trainer Peter Miller. He faded in the El Camino Real and will probably do the same today.

#2 Red Jack (30-1) has dropped all four starts this year for Wayne Lukas. He graduated in a turf route and failed to fire in lone all-weather route last year.

The Plays: $20 to win/place #11 Stealcase

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