Posts Tagged ‘Julien Leparoux’

Can Union Rags Beat I’ll Have Another in the Belmont Stakes?

Union Rags has not improved since turning three. He always finds trouble. He is not bred to run a mile and a half. He is overrated. Are any of these statements true? Are all of them true? I have been reading similar comments about Union Rags on HorseRacingNation.com and it is time to find out if he is the real McCoy or a paper tiger.

Union Rags

Is Union Rags a Belmont Stakes contender or pretender? – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Did Union Rags peak as a juvenile?

I agree that Union Rags has not moved forward from a speed figure standpoint but circumstances have prevented him from running fast.

It is difficult to earn a high speed rating in races without much pace. Just ask I’ll Have Another. He did not earn flashy numbers in the Robert Lewis Stakes and SA Derby because those two races had below par early fractions.

Union Rags cruised in the paceless Fountain of Youth and finished a troubled 3rd behind wire job winner Take Charge Indy in the similarly slow-paced Florida Derby. He was only beaten a bit more than a length in his better than looked final Derby prep and appeared to be sitting on the race of his life on the first Saturday in May.

Unfortunately, his Kentucky Derby hopes were dashed before they started. He was shuffled back to 19th early and ended up a respectable 7th after getting eliminated at the break. So long, Julien Leparoux!

Is Union Rags trouble-prone?

Union Rags is not trouble-prone but jockey Julien Leparoux sure found plenty of it in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. His situation reminds me of Lookin At Lucky in 2010.

Jockey Garrett Gomez could do nothing right aboard Lookin At Lucky in the SA Derby and Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert reached out to Martin Garcia and Lookin At Lucky won the Preakness, Haskell, and Indiana Derby.

Union Rags exits back-to-back miserable trips and the rider switch to John Velazquez comes at the perfect time. Johnny V knows Belmont Park like the back of his hand and won the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard Rags To Riches.

Does Union Rags have the breeding to handle twelve furlongs?

His late sire Dixie Union won the G1 Haskell in 2000, defeating Captain Steve and Milwaukee Brew. He sired 39 stakes winners from his first eight crops. Dixie Union’s sire was Dixieland Band (by Northern Dancer), a Maryland-bred horse I remember when I first started following racing in the early 1980′s. Dixieland Band ran in the 1983 Belmont Stakes and finished 14th.  Dixie Union’s offspring are usually effective up to a mile and an eighth.

His dam Tempo raced three times, winning her first two starts at six furlongs and finishing 2nd at a flat mile in her career finale for trainer Bill Mott. Tempo’s sire Gone West (by Mr. Prospector) was on the Triple Crown trail in 1987, making waves in the Hutcheson (2nd), Fountain of Youth (3rd), Gotham (1st),  Wood Memorial (2nd), Withers (1st), and Peter Pan (2nd), before finishing 6th in the Belmont Stakes. The late Gone West sired his 100th stakes winner earlier this year.

If Union Rags is going to find added stamina, it will most likely come from Tempo’s mother Terpsichorist (by Nijinsky II). Virginia-bred Terpsichorist was a long distance turf specialist in the late 1970′s, winning races like New York’s Long Island and Sheepshead Bay Handicaps.

Although his pedigree is less than ideal for twelve furlongs, Union Rags has the right running style and proper energy distribution to handle the Test of Champions. He earned strong Late Pace Ratings in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby and quality conditioner Michael Matz should have him primed for his best effort at Belmont Park on June 9.

Is Union Rags the best 3yo in the country?

Union Rags has been my top ranked Triple Crown trail colt since last November and I still think he is the most talented sophomore in the land. I thought he had the raw talent to make a run at the Triple Crown but it was not meant to be.

His best career race was a facile victory at Belmont Park in last year’s G1 Champagne Stakes and he could play the Triple Crown spoiler if he handles the trip and gets to stretch his legs around the sweeping turns. I predict a preferred outside stalk and pounce trip under new pilot Johnny V…may the best horse win!

Will I’ll Have Another Sweep Triple Crown?

I’ll Have Another will try to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 9.

I'll Have Another

Does I’ll Have Another have what it takes to win the Triple Crown? – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Since Spectacular Bid in 1979, eleven 3-year-olds have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to fail in their Triple Crown quest at Belmont Park.

Spectacular Bid appeared to be a slam dunk in the ’79 Belmont Stakes but received a questionable ride and finished 3rd. Pleasant Colony was also 3rd in his failed bid in 1981. Alysheba finished a disappointing 4th behind runaway winner Bet Twice in 1987. Easy Goer turned the tables on his arch rival Sunday Silence to deny history in 1989.

Touch Gold turned the tables on Silver Charm in 1997. Real Quiet moved too soon and Victory Gallop made him pay the price late in 1998. My value top Lemon Drop Kid spoiled Charismatic‘s party in 1999.

Big Brown

Big Brown was a big frown in 2008 Belmont Stakes – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

War Emblem faded to 8th while Sarava lit up the tote in 2002. My Derby top Empire Maker got sweet revenge on Funny Cide in 2003. I was never on the Smarty Jones bandwagon and was not surprised to see him go down to Birdstone in 2004. Finally, I was not a fan of Big Brown and expected him to go down in flames in 2008 but I was not smart enough to come up with Da Tara.

I did not start attending the races until 1980 so I just missed Spectacular Bid’s 3-year-old season, but I did see the last ten failed attempts and know how hard it is to complete the sweep with a win in the Test of Champions.

I’ll Have Another has a winning spirit, versatile running style, and a promising pedigree, but is that enough to complete a seemingly impossible task? History is not on his side.

Mario Gutierrez has been a huge asset up to this point, but so was Stewart Elliott aboard Smarty Jones until he was harassed by Rock Hard Ten (Alex Solis) and Eddington (Jerry Bailey) at Big Sandy. Kent Desormeaux jumped the gun in ’98 aboard Real Quiet and Gary Stevens and Victory Gallop tagged him late. Gutierrez has been a cool customer so far but the inexperienced pilot could get lost in the vastness of Belmont Park.

Ruler On Ice

Last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On ice – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Fresh, talented rivals also make the twelve furlong task a daunting one. Empire Maker, 2nd to Funny Cide in the 2003 Derby, skipped the Preakness and turned the tables on him in the Belmont. Birdstone did the same thing to Smarty Jones in 2005. The last six Belmont Stakes winners (Ruler On Ice, Drosselmeyer, Summer Bird, Da’  Tara, Rags To Riches, Jazil) did not run in the Preakness Stakes.

The most dangerous threat to I’ll Have Another is Union Rags. The Michael Matz trainee is a 3-time graded winner exiting back-to-back troubled trips under Julien Leparoux in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. I have always thought that he was the most talented member of his generation and a clean trip is all he needs to prove me right. Look for Matz to reach out for an experienced NY rider for the Belmont Stakes.

Alpha is another interesting candidate and reminds me of last year’s Belmont Stakes runner-up Stay Thirsty. He owns tactical speed, is bred to run all day, and should get better with age. Kiaran McLaughlin won the 2006 Belmont Stakes with Jazil. This year’s Kentucky Derby show finisher Dullahan is also waiting in the wings.

Much will be written and said in the weeks leading up to the Belmont Stakes. I would like to see a Triple Crown winner as much as anyone and will be pleasantly surprised if history is made at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 9. Let the games begin!

Kentucky Derby 2012 Aftermath: What Happened to Union Rags?

The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby went according to script from a pace standpoint and I’ll Have Another ran down Bodemeister after sitting the perfect outside stalking trip.

Post position was critical in the outcome of Kentucky Derby 2012 and the key was the draw of the speed horses. Bodemeister (post 6) drew inside the other pace players and hit the ground running under Mike Smith.

I'll Have Another

Will I’ll Have Another win the Preakness? – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

I’ll Have Another was comfortably drawn outside the other speedsters in post 19 and his young rider Mario Gutierrez did a great job angling him in early and positioning him within striking range throughout.

I’ll Have Another is better than recent Derby winners Mine That Bird and Super Saver but probably not as good as Animal Kingdom. He was in the right spot to take advantage of a strung out field on the first Saturday in May and I want him to go out and prove it again at Pimlico.

Bodemeister ran a winning race but was forced to expend too much early energy and could not hold off I’ll Have Another. He wires the field if speedy sprinter Trinniberg is not entered.

Union Rags lost the race at the start and my troubled Derby tops have been down this road before (Lookin At Lucky, Point Given, Hansel, Risen Star). He reminds me of Lookin At Lucky the most. My 2010 Derby top experienced troubled trips in the SA Derby and Ky Derby that year under Garrett Gomez. Baffert made the switch to Martin Garcia and he proceeded to win the Preakness, Haskell, and Indiana Derby.

Julien Leparoux has gotten Union Rags into trouble in back-to-back races and it is time for a change. Just like ‘Lucky and Gomez, the karma is not there for some reason. Who would I like to see on Union Rags? I am thinking Rosie Napravnik. She always seems to put her horses in the right spot and gives them every chance to succeed.

Also, rewind your mind to the Gulf this winter when Javier Castellano ditched Union Rags for a plethora of Pletcher runners including Algorithms. Maybe Michael Matz gives him a second chance.

Let’s recap the entire field…

1st – I’ll Have Another: Post 19 was perfect because he drew outside the other speed horses and was able to keep Bodemeister in his sights throughout. I have never been on his bandwagon and am not about to hop aboard now but you gotta love his positional speed and winning spirit.

2nd Bodemeister: Ran great considering Trinniberg forced him to go too fast early. He has accomplished so much in a short time this year and I would like to see him get a well-deserved break. Preakness remains a possibility but that would be three races in five weeks and he could bounce to the moon following his grueling Derby run.

3rdDullahan: Not surprised that the Keeneland specialist clunked up for a minor award because he did the same thing in the BC Juvenile. He handles any footing but clearly does his best work in Lexington.

4th Went The Day Well: Nice late run to garner a minor award under the Twin Spires. He was one of my projected trifecta/superfecta contenders so he ran as I expected. He will prepare for the Preakness at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.

5thCreative Cause: Made a wide run to get into 3rd but lost the show late when Dullahan and Went The Day Well shot past him. He beat Bodemeister in March and was a nose behind I’ll Have Another in April so he is right there with these on his best day and can make some noise in the Preakness.

6thLiaison: Ended up a better than expected 6th from post 20. He still has not won a race since last December.

Union Rags

Look for Union Rags to have a new rider in the near future – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

7thUnion Rags: A real shame that he did not get to strut his stuff in the Derby. I still think he is the best 3yo in the land and at this point it looks he might skip the Preakness and wait for the Belmont Stakes. He probably wins the second jewel if he goes in that direction.

8thRousing Sermon: Decent CA-bred has not won since moving into open company last November. He packs a nice late kick and could resurface in the Belmont Stakes.

9th Hansen: Never looked like a ten furlong horse and faded under Twin Spires as expected. Juvenile champ is now 1-for-4 in 2012.

10thDaddy Nose Best: Split the field in a bit of disappointing run considering he was training well for the big dance. He handles dirt, synthetic, and turf so Asmussen has plenty of options in the coming months.

11thOptimizer: Not a terrible effort beating nine rivals from post two. He has now dropped seven straight on conventional dirt but Lukas will surely keep him on the Triple Crown trail. He is a decent turf/synthetic horse.

Alpha

I am expecting Alpha to make some noise later this year – photo by Eclipse Sportswire

12thAlpha: Missed a key Derby work after being diagnosed with a leg infection after the Wood Memorial. He reminds me of Stay Thirsty and I fully expect him to blossom later this year.

13th El Padrino: Had a slow start and a rough trip early. He passed a few rivals after sitting in last early and has not been the same since grueling nose victory in G2 Risen Star. I always had the feeling that he was better on wet footing.

14th Done Talking: Late runner passed a few tired foes and ran to expectations.

15thSabercat: Figured to finish near the bottom.

16thGemologist: Folded like a cheap suit when the real running began. Guess Pletcher’s plan to avoid Kentucky and train in Florida backfired.

17thTrinniberg: Seven furlong specialist cost Bodemeister the race and had no business running ten furlongs on the first Saturday in May. Connections are thinking Preakness if Bodemeister skips the second leg and he will finish up the track again if he ends up in that spot. A more logical placement would be the G2 Woody Stephens at seven panels on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

18thProspective: G2 Tampa Bay Derby hero is a few cuts below the best.

19thTake Charge Indy: Came out of the Derby with an ankle chip and is scheduled to go under the knife this week. He could return in the fall if everything goes well.

20thDaddy Long Legs: Not surprising the he did not take to conventional dirt since he finished 12th of 13 in last year’s BC Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

KENTUCKY DERBY 2012 Contenders – Union Rags still on top

There were surprises galore on the Kentucky Derby 2012 trail last weekend with Take Charge Indy going all the way in the G1 Florida Derby and 109-1 bomb Hero of Order stunning his rivals in the G2 Louisiana Derby.

Kentucky Derby 2012 logo

I recapped the G1 Florida Derby here on Sunday and in the video below. I have always liked Union Rags and am not going to abandon ship after a less than ideal trip behind tepid splits in his final Derby prep. Julien Leparoux could not do much after he committed to taking back early, coupled with getting pinned down along the inside by El Padrino’s rider Javier Castellano.

Union Rags finished up nicely after finding room in the lane and almost caught Reveron for the place. He galloped out in front and horse/rider should move forward following that learning experience. In reality, he qualified for the Derby on graded earnings long ago, so Saturday’s race was meaningless from that standpoint. He remains a solid contender on the first Saturday in May as long as he trains well leading up to the big day.

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

1. Union Rags (Dixie Union) – My longtime top ranked Derby contender remains #1 after a troubled show finish in the G1 Florida Derby. I will monitor him closely in the weeks leading up to the Derby to see how he training. Graded Earnings: $1,170,000

Alpha horse

Alpha runs in Saturday's G1 Wood Memorial - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

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. Gemologist (Tiznow) – G2 Ky Jockey Club hero returned in the pink at the Gulf on March 16. The undefeated WinStar Farm/Todd Pletcher runner fired a 5f bullet in 1:00.44 (1/9) at Palm Meadows on April 1. Saturday’s G1 Wood Memorial is next. Graded Earnings: $103,855

4. Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) – Captured his second graded route in G2 San Felipe (102 BSF) at Santa Anita on 3-10. He breezed 4f in :48.40 (5/14) at Hollywood Park on 4-3 and goes next in Saturday’s G1 SA Derby. Graded Earnings: $686,000

5. Hansen (Tapit) – BC Juvenile hero relaxed nicely in sharp G3 Gotham tally. He breezed 5f in :59.80 (2/10) at Churchill (training track) on 3-31. The G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14 in next on the docket. Graded Earnings: $1,400,000

6. 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

7. Take Charge Indy (A. P. Indy) – Stole the Florida Derby but could only muster a 95 BSF despite everything going his way. I have always been fond of this one but he could be a pace casualty on the first Saturday in May. Graded Earnings: $698,400

8. Daddy Nose Best (Scat Daddy) – Back-to-back nine furlong wins in G3 El Camino Real Derby (92 BSF) and G3 Sunland Derby (100 BSF). Late running Asmussen trainee can run on anything. Graded Earnings: $545,558

9. El Padrino (Pulpit) – Finished a flat 4th in a very disappointing Florida Derby performance. He is on the graded earnings bubble and seemingly moves up on wet footing. Graded Earnings: $250,000

10. 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: $260,000

Exciting Prospects (in alphabetical order)

Bodemeister

Bodemeister is likely for the G1 Arkansas Derby on April 14 - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

1. Bodemeister (Empire Maker) – Followed up 101 BSF maiden romp with another 101 BSF in San Felipe runner-up effort on 3-10. He zipped 6f in 1:10.40 (1/9) at Santa Anita on 4-2 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. Breezed 5f in 1:00 (2/9) at Gulfstream on 3-27 and goes next in G3 Illinois Derby on 4-7. Graded Earnings: $150,000

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.

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 G1 Blue Grass. Breezed 5f in 1:01.20 (2/5) at Churchill Downs on 4-2.

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.

Injured 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 had him on the sidelines and he returned to the worktab on March 30, breezing 3f in :38.09 (16/22) at Belmont Park (training track).

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.”

Take Charge Indy Beats Union Rags in Florida Derby

Last year’s G1 BC Juvenile continues to shine in regards to finding Kentucky Derby 2012 prep winners. It was Take Charge Indy‘s turn in the spotlight as he controlled proceedings throughout and held off Reveron and Union Rags in Saturday’s G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

 G1 Florida Derby (3-31-12): 95 BSF (Take Charge Indy)

Take Charge Indy

Can Calvin Borel win another Kentucky Derby aboard Take Charge Indy? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

There was not much pace in the paper race and Calvin Borel sent Take Charge Indy straight to the front through moderate fractions of :47.71 and 1:12.09. For comparison purposes, Yara went :47.19 and 1:10.80 with eventual winner Grace Hall pressing in the G2 Gulftream Oaks earlier on the card. The hidden fraction between 4-6 furlongs (:24.38) was the key as Borel was able to slow things down, which put Union Rags and El Padrino at a huge disadvantage over a speed conducive oval.

Javier Castellano aboard El Padrino was intent on keeping Julien Leparoux and Union Rags hemmed in along the inside, and those race riding tactics, coupled with the controlled tempo up front, doomed the strong post time favorite.

Take nothing away from the winner. Take Charge Indy and Borel utilized their paper race advantage and now trainer Patrick Byrne looks like a genius for scratching out of the G2 Tampa Bay Derby. I have always liked the son of AP Indy but had my doubts about his ability to change course and return from a layoff to beat a field of this quality. The race shape may not be so kind on the first Saturday in May.

Union Rags had a useful final Derby prep, and if you liked him before this race, don’t abandon ship now. Everything seemed to go against him at the Gulf on Saturday. Sure, Leparoux could have been a bit more aggressive, but he thought he was on the best horse and could not do much behind tepid splits while pinned in. He had room to roam in the lane and finished up nicely while just missing the place, a length and a neck behind the winner. He galloped out in front and remains a serious Derby threat if he trains well leading up to the big dance.

El Padrino was the big disappointment. He tracked the pace wide and in the clear but had no answer when Castellano asked for run around the far turn. He ended up a flat 4th and may have bounced following a grueling Risen Star win. Also, he may be better on wet ground, something that we have talked about numerous times on the Fast Track radio show.

Reveron chased from 2nd all the way around the track and had just enough left to hold off Union Rags. The gem of consistency is on the bubble in regards to having enough graded earnings ($220k) to make the Derby gate.

Florida Derby Grade: B (86 out of 100)

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)

 

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)

Grading the 2012 Kentucky Derby Preps: Union Rags Wins Fountain of Youth

Union Rags was the Kentucky Derby 2012 favorite going into the Fountain of Youth Stakes and proved his mettle with a facile score at Gulfstream Park under Julien Leparoux on Sunday.

G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes (2-26-12): 95 BSF (Union Rags)

Union Rags horse

Derby favorite Union Rags wins Fountain of Youth - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Union Rags did not have to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He already had plenty of Derby graded earnings and was using his sophomore debut as a prep for the Florida Derby. It was nice to see a good prospect score despite not being fully cranked. The Michael Matz runner is the solid Derby favorite at this stage but let’s not get carried away with Triple Crown talk. His main rival and morning line favorite Algorithms scratched due to a bone splint injury and there was not much depth to the FOY field. Discreet Dancer was the controlling speed but spiked a fever earlier in the month and figured to have distance limitations.

Union Rags has been my top ranked Derby hopeful since November 2011 and showed plenty of promise at the Gulf on Sunday but there is still a long way to go and we will learn more when he faces better rivals at nine furlongs in the Florida Derby on March 31.

Dale Romans always seems to find a way to have a Triple Crown trail player and News Pending finished a fine 2nd in the FOY. Kent Desormeaux sensed the slow splits and made a smart early move aboard the 27.50-1 longshot. He was not match for Union Rags but ended up a clear second.

Discreet Dancer set the pace and held the show in a disappointing effort as the favorite. He is best around one turn.

Fountain of Youth Grade: B

Dialed In Wins Holy Bull Stakes

Dialed In rallied from far back to impressively capture Sunday’s Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.

The winner, ridden by Julien Leparoux and trained by Nick Zito, won his career debut in a six and one-half furlong sprint at Churchill Downs in November. He was withdrawn from a recent allowance race at Gulfstream Park due to a sloppy track.

Dialed In, by Mineshaft out of a Storm Cat dam, is now a viable 2011 Kentucky Derby contender and many fans are anxiously awaiting his next start following his electrifying performance in Sunday’s one-mile race.  The Feb 26 Fountain of Youth Stakes and the April 3 Florida Derby are possible upcoming targets for the exciting colt.

He is owned by Robert Lapenta and is now 2-for-2 lifetime with earnings of $268,800.

 

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