Posts Tagged ‘Sabercat’

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 looks the part

We are less than one week to Kentucky Derby 2012. All of the preps have been run and now we wait for Wednesday’s post position draw.

Kentucky Derby 2012 logo

The big news on Tuesday was the defection of Mark Valeski and the addition of Wayne Lukas trainee Optimizer.

Mark Valeski, trained by Larry Jones, could resurface in the G2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park on May 12.

My Adonis is on the outside looking in and needs one defection to make the gate on the first Saturday in May.

Bodemiester and Union Rags figure to vie for favoritism and both are training well leading up to the big dance.

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) – The G1 Florida Derby show finisher has been in my top three since last September and on top of my list since last November. He breezed a strong 5f in :59.80 (3/53) at Churchill Downs on April 28. Graded Earnings: $1,170,000

2. Gemologist (Tiznow) – Kept his perfect record intact in game G1 Wood Memorial tally. The WinStar Farm/Todd Pletcher runner likes Churchill Downs, owns fine early-pressing speed, and has a nose for the wire. He breezed a 4f bullet in :50.39 (1/8) at Palm Meadows on April 29. Graded Earnings: $703,855

3. Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) – The versatile gem of consistency was last seen finishing a close-up 2nd in the G1 Santa Anita Derby (blinkers off). He breezed 4f in :47.80 (3/58) at Churchill Downs on 4-30 . Graded Earnings: $836,000

4. Alpha (Bernardini) – Infection caused by a few small cuts in the Wood Memorial forced him to miss one Derby work. He needed a swift final move and got it with a 5f bullet in :59.54 (1/25) at Belmont Park on April 28. Made a nice appearance at Churchill Downs on May 1. Graded Earnings: $380,000

5. Bodemeister (Empire Maker) – G1 Arkansas Derby (108 BSF) wire job winner has history against him under the Twin Spires. Bob Baffert’s unraced juvenile is back in three weeks and faces a tough pace scenario. Excellent 5f breeze in :59.60 (2/10) at Churchill Downs on 4-29. Graded Earnings: $660,000

Daddy Nose Best

Daddy Nose Best is an interesting late running Derby threat - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

6. 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). He is quietly training well under the Twin Spires and would appreciate a contested early pace.  Breezed 4f in :49.40 (29/58) at Churchill Downs on 4-30. Graded Earnings: $545,558

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. Breezed 5f in 1:00.77 (1/4) at Palm Meadows on 4-26. Graded Earnings: $698,400

8. I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley) – Followed up his surprise G2 Robert Lewis triumph with another tally in the G1 SA Derby. The Doug O’Neill trainee looms an early-pressing factor on the first Saturday in May. Breezed 6f in 1:13.80 (7/22) at Hollywood Park on 4-27. Graded Earnings: $601,000

9. Dullahan (Even The Score) – Won his second Keeneland (Polytrack) Grade 1 from as many starts in the Blue Grass. He is better this year so his conventional dirt task is not impossible. Breezed 5f in 1:01.20 (9/53) at Churchill Downs on 4-28. Graded Earnings: $855,000

10. Hansen (Tapit) – BC Juvenile hero relaxed nicely in sharp G3 Gotham tally but was too aggressive early in Blue Grass place finish. I have never thought of him as a ten furlong horse. Dominguez chose him over Alpha. Breezed 5f in 1:01.20 (2/5) at Churchill Downs (training track) on April 28. Graded Earnings: $1,550,000

The Other Ten

Went The Day Well

Can Went The Day Well give Graham Motion/Team Valor back-to-back Derby wins? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

11. Went The Day Well (Proud Citizen) – Followed in Animal Kingdom’s footsteps with a win in the G3 Spiral Stakes (92 BSF) for Graham Motion/Team Valor. Reportedly training well but might not be experienced enough to make a serious Derby run. He breezed 5f in 1:01 (6/53) at Churchill Downs on 4-28. Graded Earnings: $282,000

12. Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit) – Rallied for the show in G2 Louisiana Derby and can hit the board in the Derby if a fast pace develops. Decent 5f move in 1:00.40 (2/18) at Churchill Downs on May 1. Graded Earnings: $269,000

13. El Padrino (Pulpit) – G2 Risen Star hero finished a wide 4th in disappointing Florida Derby performance. He moves up on wet footing and breezed a slow 4f in :53.34 (7//8) at Palm Meadows on April 29. Graded Earnings: $250,000

14. Prospective (Malibu Moon) – G2 Tampa Bay Derby hero finished 6th in G1 Blue Grass. Breezed 5f in 1:01.20 (9/53) at Churchill Downs on 4-28. Graded Earnings: $387,952

15. Daddy Long Legs (Scat Daddy) – G2 UAE Derby hero was 12th in last year’s productive BC Juvenile. Graded Earnings: $1,294,030

16. Optimizer (English Channel) – G2 Rebel runner-up is winless in six conventional dirt starts. Wayne Lukas trainee breezed 5f in 1:00.40 (4/10) at Churchill Downs on 4-29.

17. Done Talking (Broken Vow) – Late running G3 Illinois Derby winner breezed 5f in 1:01 (1/17) at Laurel Park on April 28. Graded Earnings: $310,000

18. Liaison (Indian Charlie) – G1 CashCall Futurity winner has disappointed in three starts at Santa Anita this year. Breezed 5f in 1:00.80 (7/28) at Churchill Downs on 4-30. Graded Earnings: $393,000

19. Sabercat (Bluegrass Cat) – Finished an improved 3rd in G1 Arkansas Derby. Breezed 4f in :48.40 (10/58) under the Twin Spires on 4-30. Graded Earnings: $701,429

20. Trinniberg (Teuflesberg) – Back to-back sharp 7f wins in G3 Swale and G3 Bay Shore. The likely Derby pacesetter breezed 6f in 1:15.40 (1/1) at Calder on April 23. Graded Earnings: $324,500

On the Graded Earnings Bubble: My Adonis

KENTUCKY DERBY 2012 Contenders – Union Rags still top dog

We are less than two weeks to Kentucky Derby 2012. All of the preps have been run and now we wait for final workouts and the post position draw.

Kentucky Derby 2012 logo

There have been a few recent changes to the field. Secret Circle came down with an injury and is out for four months.

Seven furlong specialist Trinniberg is now pointing to the Derby and changes the complexion of the early pace. Will he hurt the chances of Hansen and Bodemeister?

Daddy Long Legs will invade from Europe and El Padrino has made the field after sitting on the graded earnings bubble for the last few weeks.

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 horse

Union Rags is still my strong Derby top with less than two weeks to the big dance - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

1. Union Rags (Dixie Union) – The G1 Florida Derby show finisher has been on top of my list since last November. He breezed 4f in :47.40 (3/43) at Keeneland on April 20. Graded Earnings: $1,170,000   

2. Gemologist (Tiznow) – Kept his perfect record intact in game G1 Wood Memorial tally. The WinStar Farm/Todd Pletcher runner likes Churchill Downs, owns fine early-pressing speed, and has a nose for the wire. He breezed 5f in 1:00.81 (7/11) at Palm Meadows on April 20. Graded Earnings: $703,855  

3. Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) – The versatile gem of consistency was last seen finishing a close-up 2nd in the G1 Santa Anita Derby (blinkers off). He worked 5f in 1:00.20 (5/35) at Hollywood Park on 4-24 . Graded Earnings: $836,000

4. Alpha (Bernardini) – Getting over an infection caused by a few small cuts in the Wood Memorial. McLaughlin will train him at Belmont Park before shipping to Louisville on April 30. Graded Earnings: $380,000

5. Bodemeister (Empire Maker) – Moved into the top five after his facile wire job in the G1 Arkansas Derby (108 BSF). The Baffert trainee is a dangerous Derby early runner under Mike Smith. Breezed 5f in 1:00.80 (3/23) at Churchill Downs on 4-24. Graded Earnings: $660,000 

6. 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 and breezed 6f in 1:14 (1/2) at Churchill Downs on 4-23. Graded Earnings: $545,558  

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. Breezed 5f in 1:01.66 (1/2) at Palm Meadows on 4-19. Graded Earnings: $698,400 

8. I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley) – Followed up his surprise G2 Robert Lewis triumph with another tally in the G1 SA Derby. The Doug O’Neill trainee looms an early-pressing threat on the first Saturday in May. Breezed 6f in 1:13.60 (5/18) at Hollywood Park on 4-19. Graded Earnings: $601,000

9. Dullahan (Even The Score) – Won his second Keeneland (Polytrack) Grade 1 from as many starts in the G1 Blue Grass. He is better this year so his conventional dirt task is not impossible. Graded Earnings: $855,000

10. Hansen (Tapit) – BC Juvenile hero relaxed nicely in sharp G3 Gotham tally but was too aggressive early in Blue Grass place finish. I have never thought of him as a ten furlong horse. Dominguez sticks with him  Graded Earnings: $1,550,000

The Other Ten

El Padrino horse

El Padrino is an interesting Derby longshot - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

11. El Padrino (Pulpit) – Finished a flat 4th in a disappointing Florida Derby performance. He moves up on wet footing and breezed 5f in 1:00.56 (5/11) at Palm Meadows on April 20. Rafael Bejarano will ride in Derby. Graded Earnings: $250,000

12. Mark Valeski (Proud Citizen) – Runner-up in G2 Risen Star and G2 Louisiana Derby. Breezed 5f in :59.60 (2/32) at Churchill Downs on April 23. Graded Earnings: $260,000

13. Went The Day Well (Proud Citizen) – Followed in Animal Kingdom’s footsteps with a win in the G3 Spiral Stakes (92 BSF) for Graham Motion/Team Valor. He breezed 6f in 1:14.40 (2/3) at Keeneland  on 4-21. Graded Earnings: $282,000 

14. Prospective (Malibu Moon) – G2 Tampa Bay Derby hero finished 6th in G1 Blue Grass. Graded Earnings: $387,952

15. Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit) – Rallied for the show in G2 Louisiana Derby. Worked 7f in 1:27.20 (1/2) at Hollywood Park on 4-21. Graded Earnings: $269,000

16. Daddy Long Legs (Scat Daddy) – G2 UAE Derby hero was 12th in last year’s productive BC Juvenile. Graded Earnings: $1,294,030

17. Done Talking (Broken Vow) – Late running G3 Illinois Derby winner breezed 4f in :49.40 (24/69) at Laurel Park on April 21. Graded Earnings: $310,000

18. Liaison (Indian Charlie) – G1 CashCall Futurity winner has disappointed in three starts at Santa Anita this year. Worked 6f in 1:13 (3/19) at Hollywood Park on 4-18. Graded Earnings: $393,000

19. Sabercat (Bluegrass Cat) – Finished an improved 3rd in G1 Arkansas Derby. Breezed 5f in 1:02.80 (19/32) under the Twin Spires on 4-23. Graded Earnings: $701,429

20. Trinniberg (Teuflesberg) – Back to-back sharp 7f wins in G3 Swale and G3 Bay Shore. Breezed 6f in 1:15.40 (1/1) at Calder on April 23. Graded Earnings: $324,500

On the Graded Earnings Bubble: Isn’t He Clever, Optimizer

 

Bodemeister Humbles Stablemate Secret Circle in Arkansas Derby

Bodemeister stamped his Kentucky Derby 2012 ticket with a facile 9-1/2 length triumph over stablemate Secret Circle in Saturday’s Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

G1 Arkansas Derby (4-14-12): 105 BSF (Bodemeister)

Bodemeister

Bodemeister runs away and hides in Arkansas Derby - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Bodemeister broke outwardly from post 11 but quickly straightened himself out and set sail for the lead under Mike Smith, carving out splits of :23.02, :46.55, and 1:11.36. The Bob Baffert trainee increased his advantage at every call and opened up by two lengths after six panels.

Stat started to give up the chase after six furlongs and it was Secret Circle’s turn to make his move. The G3 Southwest/G2 Rebel hero was clearly second at this point but Bodemeister was more than three clear after a mile in 1:36.74 and cruised across the line more than nine to the good, stopping the clock in 1:48.71 and paying $6.80 as the post time favorite.

Secret Circle might have distance limitations but he always fights hard to the end and would not let Sabercat and Cozzetti pass him for 2nd. Baffert’s runner-up has fired Exacta shots in all seven lifetime starts. I have been a fan for quite some time but do not consider him a viable ten furlong threat on the first Saturday in May.

Sabercat punched his Derby ticket last November when he captured the $1million, G3 Delta Jackpot. He flopped in his Rebel return and showed some late interest to garner the show on Saturday. He is not good enough to win the Derby but has earned the right to participate based on the rules.

Atigun finished 5th and was followed by Stat, Najjaar, Isn’t He Clever, Optimizer, Jake Mo, and Raconteur.

As for Bodemeister, he put it all together in Hot Springs but I do not like his chances under the Twin Spires. The unraced juvenile may have peaked at Oaklawn Park and I cannot see him running the same race in three weeks. Yesterday’s win reminded me of his maiden tally and after that effort he returned in four weeks to lose to Creative Cause in the G2 San Felipe. Note that he romped the two times he grabbed the early lead and he finished 2nd both times he failed to clear off early.

For final time comparison purposes, Alternation won the G2 Oaklawn Handicap for older horses earlier in the day and completed his nine furlong journey in 1:49.94.

Arkansas Derby Grade: A (94 out of 100)

Arkansas Derby 2012 Preview: Bodemeister or Secret Circle?

The Oaklawn Park 3-year-olds take their final steps toward Kentucky Derby 2012 in Saturday’s G1 Arkansas Derby and Bodemeister and Secret Circle share top billing for trainer Bob Baffert.

Bodemeister

Can anyone stop the Baffert express at Oaklawn Park? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

#11 Bodemeister is the 9-5 morning line favorite. The unraced juvenile landed the place in his Santa Anita sprint bow before romping in a fast flat mile graduation run Feb 11. He gave his all but could not quite match strides with Creative Cause in the G2 San Felipe March 10, and he was hardly disgraced in a fine runner-up performance. He removes the hood and figures in the thick of things throughout under Mike Smith.

#5 Secret Circle (5-2) has fired Exacta shots in all six lifetime starts and is 2-for-2 at Oaklawn Park. The hard knocking early-pressing type may have reached the end of his stamina rope but must be respected throughout under Bejarano.

#3 Najjaar (15-1) is an interesting late runner for profitable dirt route trainer Dan Peitz. He fell too far back under Borel in the G2 Rebel and showed late interest while splitting the 12-horse field. He is reportedly training well for this and can make a serious late run if he is able to maintain contact with the field.

#2 Stat (10-1) has raw talent for Todd Pletcher. The early-pressing type reminds me a bit of Dance City, who landed the show for this barn in last year’s Arkansas Derby.

#6 Isn’t He Clever (6-1) almost stole the candy in the G3 Sunland Derby but he moved a bit too soon under Contreras. He would probably be a slam dunk if this race was in New Mexico but looms a tactical threat nonetheless. Albarado hops aboard.

#1 Cozzetti (15-1) put in a late run to garner the show in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby last time. He appears capable of landing the show for Dale Romans but a win would surprise.

#4 Jake Mo (30-1) has danced all of the local dances (Smarty Jones, Southwest, Rebel) and was not disgraced in any of those events. He can compete for a minor award at a big number.

#7 Optimizer (30-1) rallied for the place in the Rebel but that was his sixth straight loss on conventional dirt. Court got to know him last time but Lukas struggles in graded races (2% wins, 154-race sample) and this one is better on synthetic/turf.

#9 Sabercat (15-1) won a slow renewal of the G3 Delta Jackpot as a juvenile and predictably flopped while overbet in his Rebel return. He can spring forward 2nd off the shelf but is not fast enough to threaten these.

#8 Atigun (30-1) is training forwardly and has seemingly gotten rid of his pesky quarter crack. He adds lasix and should improve off his 11th place Rebel finish.

#10 Raconteur (15-1) exits a game win in the $75k Private Terms Stakes but was dusted in his lone graded try (Gotham) and is a few notched below the best in here.

The Plays:

$6 to win, $10 to place, $15 to show #3 Najjaar

.50 cent Trifecta 5-11/ALL/3 ($9)

KENTUCKY DERBY 2012 Contenders – Secret Circle, Gemologist score

Was the Rebel Stakes a strong Kentucky Derby 2012 prep? Secret Circle won the race as the favorite for Bob Baffert but the final time was moderate (92 BSF) and the talented son of Eddington looked tired in the lane.

Secret Circle

Do you think Secret Circle can handle ten furlongs on the first Saturday in May? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

I have always been fond of Secret Circle. He has been part of my Derby Top 10 list since last September but he always seemed suspect in the stamina department and a mile and a sixteenth appears to be his limit at this stage.

Optimizer is getting some Derby buzz for Wayne Lukas after finishing well for the place in the Rebel but I do not consider him a viable threat on the first Saturday in May. He has lost seven straight and is winless in five conventional dirt starts. He is better on turf/synthetic but won’t see preferred footing for quite some time.

Scatman made all the running and settled for the show in a solid effort. Sabercat, winner of the slow G3 Delta Jackpot last year, was never a threat in his sophomore debut.

Gemologist was originally scheduled to begin his 3yo campaign in the Rebel but Pletcher and company opted for a flat mile allowance prep at Gulfstream Park against four rivals on March 16.

The undefeated WinStar colorbearer ran his record to 4-for-4 with a facile wire job over returnee Currency Swap. Based on that performance (95 BSF), Gemologist would have won the Rebel. I wish Pletcher would have given him a tough, two turn graded test, but you can’t always get what you want and he needs graded earnings in the Wood Memorial to make the gate on the first Saturday in May.

Alpha horse

Alpha goes next in G2 Louisiana Derby - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

In other Derby prep news, Alpha will likely make his next start in the G2 Louisiana Derby on April 1. Secret Circle is expected to return to Oaklawn Park for the G1 Arkansas Derby on April 14, and Bob Baffert is also considering Bodemeister for that spot. Howe Great and Dullahan, the 1-2 finishers in the grassy G3 Palm Beach on March 11, are expected to meet again 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

1. Union Rags (Dixie Union) – My longtime top ranked Derby contender looked great in G2 Fountain of Youth. He breezed 5f in 1:04.21 (22/22) at Palm Meadows on March 17. 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 5f in 1:01.01 (5/22) at Palm Meadows on March 17. The G2 Louisiana Derby on 4-1 is next and Leparoux will ride. 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 5f in 1:01.22 (3/13) at Palm Meadows on March 18. 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  

Creative Cause

Creative Cause fires 5f bullet on March 20 - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

5. Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) – Captured his second graded route in G2 San Felipe (102 BSF) at Santa Anita on 3-10. He fired a 5f bullet in :59.80 (1/29) at Hollywood Park on 3-20 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 will train in Kentucky before returning to Aqueduct for the G1 Wood Memorial on April 7. 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 is expected to return to Hot Springs for the G1 Arkansas Derby on April 14. Graded Earnings: $470,000

8. Dullahan (Even the Score) – Rallied for the place in grassy, nine furlong G3 Palm Beach Stakes at the Gulf on 3-11, his first start since BC Juvenile. The April 14 Blue Grass is expected to be his final Derby prep. Graded Earnings: $375,000  

9. 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 1:01.88 (10/22) at Palm Meadows on March 17. Graded Earnings: $98,400  

10. Mark Valeski (Proud Citizen) – Almost upset El Padrino in his G2 Risen Star route/stakes bow. Look for Larry Jones trainee in Louisiana Derby. Fired 5f bullet in :59.40 (1/11) at Fair Grounds on 3-20. Graded Earnings: $60,000 

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 looms a serious prominent throughout player in the Arkansas Derby or Santa Anita Derby. Graded Earnings – $60,000

2. Castaway (Street Sense) – Baffert trainee won slower division of Southwest (92 BSF) in his first start against winners. Worked 6f in 1:12.40 (4/17) at Santa Anita on 3-16. G3 Sunland Derby on March 25 is next. Graded Earnings: $150,000

3. Currency Swap (High Cotton) – G1 Hopeful hero was clearly second best behind romping, undefeated colt Gemologist at the Gulf on 3-16. Graded Earnings: $150,000  

4. Midnight Transfer (Hard Spun) – Ended up a respectable 3rd in his G2 San Felipe, his first start around two turns. He deserves a shot in the G1 Santa Anita Derby. Graded Earnings: $36,000

5. 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. Graded Earnings: $365,452

Injured Reserve (in alphabetical order)

1. Algorithms (Bernardini) – 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.”

Ranking the Kentucky Derby 2012 Preps

I began grading the Kentucky Derby 2012 preps with the Breeders’ Cup last November and the BC Juvenile has turned out to be quite a productive race.

Kentucky Derby 2012 logo

I gave the BC Juvenile a B grade, which was my highest ranked 2-year-old Derby prep of 2011. The race did not earn a triple digit speed rating but I liked the looks visually and thought there were numerous well bred prospects capable of making noise on the Derby trail including Union Rags, Creative Cause, and Alpha.

So far, I have graded 29 Kentucky Derby preps, beginning with the  BC Juvenile Sprint (11-4-11) through the Rebel Stakes (3-17-12). The next phase of Derby preps stretch the stamina limits to nine furlongs so I thought this was an appropriate time to rank the aforementioned 29 Derby prep races.

I graded each prep along the way like a teacher, using the A-B-C-D format. For ranking purposes, I have included a number with the letter grade. For example, 100 is the highest number possible, an A+ perfect prep. A 60 or D- is the lowest possible grade.

In the chart below, El Padrino‘s allowance win at Gulfstream Park in January received an A- grade or 90, which is my highest ranked race on the Derby trail up to this point. The Delta Jackpot is ranked lowest with a grade of 65.

How did I come up with the rankings? I considered speed figures, strength of competition, and visual impressions, which helped me compile the rankings below.

Kentucky Derby 2012

 

Grading the Kentucky Derby 2012 Preps – Secret Circle’s Rebel + Gemologist

The Oaklawn Park 3-year-olds are one step closer to Kentucky Derby 2012 following Secret Circle‘s game performance in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes on Saturday.

G2 Rebel Stakes: (3-17–12): 92 BSF (Secret Circle)

Secret Circle horse

Secret Circle pads his graded bankroll in G2 Rebel - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Longshot Unbridled’s Note and Southwest runner-up Scatman made the running with Cyber Secret chasing and Secret Circle rating kindly in 4th. The top four retained their positions through six furlongs (1:11.42) with Unbridled’s Note the first to crack.

Scatman kicked clear on the bend with Cyber Secret going one-paced. Secret Circle was set down for the drive under Bejarano and went by Scatman with a sixteenth to go. Optimizer found his best stride late and was gaining on the Baffert trainee approaching the wire.

In the end, it was Secret Circle by 3/4ths of a length with Optimizer completing the exacta and Scatman rounding out the trifecta. Jake Mo got up for 4th, followed by Cyber Secret and a belated Najjaar. Adirondack King, Sabercat, Pee H Dee, Reckless Jerry, Atigun, and a tired Unbridled’s Note completed the dirty dozen.Ring It Up scratched.

I have always been a fan of Secret Circle and love his tenacity and winning spirit but he seems to be reaching the end of his rope in regards to stamina. I have always believed that Optimizer was better on turf/synthetic, so based on those statements, along with the moderate final time in Arkansas on Saturday, I doubt this was a top notch Derby prep.

Rebel Stakes Grade: C

Earlier in the week, Gemologist returned in the pink vs. four Allowance rivals at Gulfstream Park.

Gulfstream Park Allowance: 95 BSF (Gemologist)

Gemologist, originally pointing to the G2 Rebel Stakes, stayed in South Florida instead and made short work of Currency Swap and friends on March 16.

The Pletcher/Winstar colt made the lead in the flat mile affair around one turn and widened his advantage throughout, crossing the line seven in front. Currency Swap was clearly second best in his needed return and was followed by Angel’s Tune, Jordan’s Image, and Brother Pat.

It was tough to get a true gauge on this one. Gemologist looked good and earned a decent enough number but Team Pletcher took the easy way out. Gemologist has been in my Derby top ten for many months and is currently ranked 4th. This decision by Pletcher reminds me of Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer. The Rebel was ripe for the taking and would have been a much better Derby prep because it was a graded two turn affair against moderately tough competition.

At any rate, Gemologist remains undefeated and needs to pick up somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 in graded earnings next time to make the gate on the first Saturday in May.

Gemologist’s Allowance Race Grade: C+

Rebel Stakes 2012 Preview – Can anyone beat Secret Circle?

The Arkansas sophomores take another step on the road to Kentucky Derby 2012 and morning line favorite Secret Circle will be tough to overhaul in Saturday’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Secret Circle Kentucky Derby 2012

Secret Circle seeks more graded cash in Rebel Stakes - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

#8 Secret Circle (9-5) is one of the fastest members of his generation for Bob Baffert. The fleet son of Eddington has earned strong Final Time Ratings in all five outings and exits a gritty victory in the G3 Southwest. A mile and a sixteenth should be within his grasp and he figures in the hunt early and often under Bejarano.

#4 Cyber Secret (15-1) is worth a stab at square odds. He was only 5-1 against Secret Circle and company in the Southwest and ended up a respectable 5th after racing wide and returning in 16-days. The tactical threat looked great in fast local optional claiming route tally Feb 4 and can rebound with 26-days between starts.

#2 Scatman (8-1) gave Secret Circle fits in the Southwest and will probably attempt to go all the way once again. He makes his second start around two turns and could have more to offer in his 3rd race off the shelf.

For country music star Toby Keith Kentucky Derby hopeful Reckless Jerry is one of his best Derby chances in years. #9 Reckless Jerry (12-1) has fired Trifecta shots in all seven lifetime starts including underneath finishes in the Smarty Jones and G3 Southwest here. He is one you can use in your exotics.

#13 Adirondack King (6-1) will try to overcome unlucky post 13. He was best of the rest in the faster edition of the Southwest and has hit the board in all seven career starts.

#7 Sabercat (5-1) will take too much action off the shelf for Steve Asmussen. He rattled off three straight to end his juvenile campaign and fattened his graded stakes bankroll in the G3 Delta Jackpot. The versatile son of Bluegrass Cat owns ordinary numbers and might need the race.

#6 Jake Mo (20-1) was up for the place in the slower division of the Southwest and can contend for a minor award.

#11 Najjaar (6-1) seems pegged too low on the morning line. The late runner is slowly improving and is 2-for-2 at Oaklawn but he lands a tough post and needs to run much faster to make a dent in this salty spot. Calvin Borel sticks with the long winded stretch runner.

#9 Atigun (12-1) packs a decent late kick and is 2-for-3 on regular dirt. He necked today’s rival Ring It Up when last seen in a local optional claiming route Jan 15.

#2 Unbridled’s Note (20-1) stalked and pounced his way to a good looking debut maiden win under the Twin Spires last October. He took money in his needed Southwest return but never got seriously involved after a troubled start and racing in traffic. He lands the cozy rail and could attend the pace with a clean beginning.

#1 Ring It Up (20-1) and #1a Pee H Dee (20-1) run as a coupled entry for high percentage trainer Chris Richard. The former was 4th to Castaway in the slower division of the Southwest and the latter was 4th in the faster division of the Southwest on Feb 20.

#5 Optimizer (30-1) exits a disappointing 9th in the G2 Risen Star. Wayne Lukas has given this one every chance to excel on conventional dirt but he clearly prefers turf or synthetic. He fired a local three furlong bullet for this March 13.

The Plays:

$20 to win #4

$10 Exacta Box 4-8 ($20)

$5 Exacta Box 2-4 ($10)

Grading the Early Kentucky Derby 2012 Preps

The unofficial road to the 2012 Kentucky Derby began with the Breeders’ Cup in early November and now that we have multiple graded routes in the books it is time to rate the quality of the preps so far.

2012 Kentucky Derby

BC Juvenile Sprint (11-4-11) – 95 BSF (Secret Circle)

Not sure about the overall strength of the field but winner Secret Circle is arguably the fastest juvenile in the land with 97-97-95 BSF’s in his three winning races to date. He owns three of the top ten BSF’s for juveniles as of 11-29. Grade: B-

Secret Circle had every right to fold after dueling through quick splits of :20.96 and :44.55 but the Baffert trainee gamely held off overseas filly Shumoos to remain undefeated. He has route influences in his pedigree and might try two turns in the G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on 12-17.

G1 BC Juvenile (11-5-11) – 94 BSF (Hansen)

The deepest juvenile prep race of the season with seven Graded/Group winners in the starting gate. Hansen went all the way, becoming the eighth member of the field to make the grade. The number came back solid if unspectacular and the top three were well clear of the rest. Grade: B

Hansen

Is Hansen a legit Ky Derby threat? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Hansen kept his perfect record intact with a game wire job head victory. He has never been headed in three career starts and it remains to be seen how he will react to serious pace pressure. Mike Maker’s talented colt is wintering in Florida with the Gulfstream 3-year-old preps on his radar screen.

Union Rags tasted defeat for the first time but was probably best after breaking 12th from post 10, racing wide, and wandering in the stretch. He is also spending the winter in Florida.

Creative Cause ended his productive juvenile season with a solid show finish in the BC Juvenile. He will likely resurface at Santa Anita in 2012 with the G2 San Vicente at 7f on Feb 19 a possible starting point.

Dullahan was bumped at the start and rallied to finish a respectable 4th. He graduated in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and might be better on turf/synthetic.

Real Quiet Stakes (11-12-11) – 81 BSF (Liaison)

A bit of quality in this six-pack with a pair of multiple winners including CalCup Juvenile hero Rousing Sermon. Liaison gamely edged the aforementioned CalCup winner but did not earn much of a number. Grade: C-

Liaison has now won two straight and is clearly making nice progress. He has the right connections (Baffert) and a decent pedigree (Indian Charlie-Victory Gallop). The CashCall Futurity might be next.

G3 Delta Jackpot (11-19-11) – 80 BSF (Sabercat)

Pace meltdown with morning line favorite Drill and My Adonis dueling through splits of :22.11, :45.41, and 1:11.60. Top three finishers Sabercat, Basmati, and Longview Drive rallied from 9th, 6th, and 10th while crawling home in slow final time of 1:46.62. Delta Princess winner Now I Know earned a slightly better 81 BSF. Grade: D

Sabercat was making his sixth start of the year and won his third straight route in Delta Jackpot. Improving Asmussen runner breezed an easy 4f in :53 at Fair Grounds on 11-28.

Basmati took six tries to break his maiden and earned a nice chunk of change in place finish at Delta Downs. The busy juvenile might show up next in the CashCall Futurity.

Jerry Hollendorfer’s NoCal invader Longview Drive showed a new dimension rallying for the show. The $175k Keeneland sales grad has earned his best numbers in sprint races.

Drill came back in two weeks after a failed BC Juvenile attempt and flopped once again in Louisiana for Baffert. He has dropped three straight Graded dirt routes and seemingly needs a break. Both wins occurred at Del Mar in synthetic sprints.

G3 Hollywood Prevue (11-24-11) – 83 BSF (So Brilliant)

So Brilliant gamely wired six rivals but all members of the field were eligible for their entry level condition prior to this seven furlong synthetic affair. Grade: D+

So Brilliant was hardly as secret in his winning bow and made the betting public happy again on Thanksgiving Day. Bob Baffert’s $300k purchase is bred to route and has plenty of room to improve. CashCall Futurity is on his radar screen.

Empire Way was visually impressive in his Nov 13 bow but did not earn much of a number in that event and showed nothing in his Stakes debut. He should improve next year in routes but needed to run much faster.

G2 Remsen (11-26-11) – 80 BSF (O’Prado Again)

The pace was crawling (4f – :49.97, 6f – 1:15.05) and they ran the final 3f in :37.02. Tough to get a true gauge on this event with an overall impression of something close to average. Grade: C

O'Prado Again

O'Prado Again wins his second 9f race in Remsen - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

O’Prado Again won his second straight 9f affair in the Remsen. Trainer Dale Romans has had some success in recent Triple Crown events (Paddy O’Prado, First Dude, Shackleford).

Souper Speedy set the aforementioned crawling fractions and had just enough left to hold the place. Not a bad effort considering he was coming off a layoff after graduating in his 7f mud bow at 31-1.

El Padrino is an interesting long term prospect. He graduated by open lengths in his second career start and saved all the ground tracking the pace while showing late interest in the Remsen. Todd Pletcher’s $210k purchase has a nice distance pedigree and plenty of room to develop.

G2 Kentucky Jockey Club (11-26-11) – 85 BSF (Gemologist)

This one could turn out to be a decent prep. The fractions and final time were solid and the top three ran well. One/all could be heard from next year. Grade: C+

Gemologist remained unbeaten with a sharp stalk/pounce tally. Super Saver won this for same connections (Pletcher/WinStar Farm) en route to 2010 Kentucky Derby triumph. Interesting pedigree with Tiznow on top and Mr. Prospector on bottom.

Ever So Lucky set the pace and gamely held the place. Souper Speedy had a similar effort/pattern in the Remsen but Ever So Lucky carved out stronger splits and looks like the better long term prospect for Jonathan Sheppard. Like the speed (Indian Charlie), stamina (Summer Squall) pedigree mix.

Timely Tally has clearly kicked it up a few notches around two turns. He had some traffic issues under Borel and flew late to just miss the place. Gemologist seemingly has his number but the $220k son of Mr. Greeley is coming around and could be a player next year for Ian Wilkes.