With 5 weeks to go now until the 2008 Kentucky Derby, the picture is starting to get a little clearer. Big Brown’s romp in the Florida Derby on 3/29 has shaken up the entire division. Will War Pass be able to return to form in the Wood Memorial? If so we’ve got ourselves a heck of a race coming up in May. If not we’ll need some more contenders to step up here quickly. Interestingly, while at one point it looked like War Pass had a shot at being lone speed in the Kentucky Derby, there now figures to be a strong pace with or without him.
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Tags: horse, horse racing, Kentucky Derby, news, sports, thoroughbred
Categories : Adriano, Atoned, Big Brown, Big Truck, Bob Black Jack, Colonel John, Cool Coal Man, Court Vision, El Gato Malo, Elysium Fields, Gayego, Georgie Boy, Hey Byrn, Horse Racing News, Kentucky Derby Trail, Majestic Warrior, Pyro, Roman Emperor, Texas Wildcatter, Visionaire, War Pass
It looks like we’ve got quite a race shaping up for this Saturday’s running of the $1 million Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. In the past 12 years, 3 winners of the Florida Derby have gone on to prevail in the Kentucky Derby, including Barbaro (2006), Monarchos (2001), and Thunder Gulch (1995). The 2008 edition of the Florida Derby has many big name competitors on the Derby trail and figures to be a useful measuring stick when attempting to separate the pack come the first Saturday in May.
There are several horses from our Road to the Kentucky Derby rankings, including Big Brown, Hey Byrn, Elysium Fields, and Fierce Wind. In addition, it is possible that Majestic Warrior will run this weekend. Joining this group will be other live competitors including Tomcito, Cool Gator, Face the Cat, and Smooth Air.
Big Brown is the likely post time favorite for the 1 1/8 mile race. The son of Boundary is 2 for 2 lifetime, including an eye popping 104 Beyer speed figure in an allowance level victory last out. He broke his maiden by 11 lengths last summer at Saratoga before hoof problems sidelined him for several months. Rick Dutrow has brought the colt back impressively and there is already quite a buzz circulating among horseplayers about his ability to compete with the big boys this May. I think most of the horse racing world is anxious to see him this weekend. Kent Desormeaux will ride the beautiful looking colt that makes a stunning impression visually.
Big Brown romps in his 2008 debut at Gulfstream Park in early March
Hey Byrn is a horse that my friend Ron Correll of the State Journal-Register is very excited about. Trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., the son of Put it Back defeated onetime Derby hopeful Alaazo on 3/2/08 in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Prior to that he prevailed by an impressive 14 lengths on February 10, earning a 97 Beyer speed figure. Interestingly, Jose Lezcano has picked up the mount in place of Edgar Prado, who will be busy in Dubai this weekend. At the end of his aforementioned 14 length victory in February, the track announcer had yelled out “he’s for real!” We’ll certainly find out if he’s for real this weekend. Ron’s got one of the best eyes for talent I’ve ever seen so I’m equally as anxious to see him as I am Big Brown.
Hey Byrn wins impressively at Calder last August as a 2 year old
As if all that weren’t enough, another colt that I think very highly of is entered for Saturday’s race. Elysium Fields, the talented son of El Prado who we last saw battling it out for 2nd against Cool Coal Man in the Fountain of Youth, returns looking for Graded Stakes money that can help send him to Kentucky. I really like this colt. I thought he was much the best in the Fountain of Youth, but he may actually be stepping up in company today against the likes of Big Brown and Hey Byrn. Barclay Tagg put blinkers on him before the Fountain of Youth and the colt responded with a rousing run in the stretch. After Cool Coal Man passed him, he had enough left to fight back and make a late run for the money. He broke his maiden in January at Gulfstream by 8 lengths. He worked 6 furlongs in 1:12 at Gulfstream officially, with an unofficial 7 furlongs in 1:26.
Elysium Fields, after losing the lead to Cool Coal Man, fights back in the final strides to lose by a neck
Fierce Wind is a Nick Zito trained son of Dixie Union. Most notably, he defeated Big Truck in the Sam F. Davis Stakes on February 16. Big Truck of course went on to win the Tampa Bay Derby over Atoned and War Pass. Fierce Wind will be seeking his 4th consecutive victory on Saturday. The colt breezed 4 furlongs in 49 seconds on 3/18.
Fierce Wind defeats Big Truck and Z Humor in the Sam F. Davis Stakes
Tomcito is a very interesting colt that most folks are probably not familiar with. He’s a Stakes winner shipping in from Peru that was a mere $7500 purchase as a yearling. That’s rather amazing considering his daddy is Street Cry, who produced 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and is one of the most sought after sires in the world. Tomcito will make his U.S. debut on Saturday and will look to invoke memories of Canonero II – the famed Venezuelan colt that won the 1971 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The colt worked 5 furlongs in 58.6 on 3/17. He won the prestigious Nacional Derby in Peru with a resounding move in the stretch from very wide.
Tomcito’s wide run prevails in the Derby Nacional (Peru)
Smooth Air is yet another contender in the stacked field on Saturday. The son of Smooth Jazz won the 7 furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park earlier in the year on January 5. Most recently, he was third behind Fierce Wind in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay on February 16.
Face the Cat is a highly regarded son of Tale of the Cat that many horseplayers have been waiting to see for quite some time. Padua Stables purchased him after an allowance level victory on 1/30 at Gulfstream and promptly transferred him from Helen Pits barn to Todd Pletcher’s barn. Many will note that story sounds eerily similar to that of Curlin in 2007. The colt breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 in his most recent prep workout.
Cool Gator is a son of Macho Uno, who was the 2 year old champion back in 2000. He’s trained by Danny Vella and will enlist the services of jockey Eddie Castro. He appears to be a bit over-matched here as he was recently second behind fellow Florida Derby competitor Nistle’s Crunch in a 1 1/8 mile allowance race on 1/30 at Gulfstream. Still, Vella thinks the colt is progressing nicely and wants to see how he stacks up against the competition.
Majestic Warrior remains a possibility for the Florida Derby. The son of A.P. Indy was at one point in time (read: around New Year’s Day) my selection for the Kentucky Derby. Since then just about everything has gone wrong. First he was delayed with some minor physical problems, and then after a long layoff he came back to finish a disappointing 7th in the Louisiana Derby. He’ll need to turn things around quickly if he’s to remain on the Derby trail, but it’s possible the colt needed that last race. He did win the Hopeful in 2007 as a 2 year old. Majestic Warrior breezed 4 furlongs in 49.2 on 3/19 at Payson Park.
Other entries in the race include Nistle’s Crunch, BB Frank, and Da’ Tara. It would be a huge surprise to me if one of them were able to prevail this weekend. This race looks loaded with developing talent and could wind up being the best prep race we’ve seen so far this year when all is said and done.
I’ll be back later in the week to make official selections after the post positions have been assigned.
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Tags: horse racing, horse, thoroughbred, sports, news, how to
Categories : Horse Racing News, Handicapping Selections, Kentucky Derby Trail, Gulfstream Park, Majestic Warrior, Hey Byrn, Big Brown, Elysium Fields
We’ve got 48 days until the “greatest two minutes in sports” with the running of the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Obviously there’s been some shakeups this week. The unbeatable War Pass got beat in the Tampa Bay Derby, and Sierra Sunset and Georgie Boy made impressive moves to win the Rebel Stakes and the San Felipe Stakes, respectively.
So where does this all leave us? Well, I’ve locked myself away in the study and have spent hours going over the info in an attempt to rank the contenders as they stand today, the 16th of March. What follows is a bit of an expanded rankings list from what you may be used to. In keeping with the theory that ”bigger is better”, I’ve attempted to feed your desire for more information by numerically ranking the top 15 contenders as opposed to just the top 10. As we get closer to Derby week, I plan on expanding further to a top 20 list.
Without further adieu, let’s let the discussion begin. All of the content you see below is also found on my main Road to the 2008 Kentucky Derby rankings page. I’m using the “more” tag (as in “click here to read the rest of this post) as the load times are starting to get a bit longer thanks to the inclusion of so many youtube videos and pictures. I remain committed nonetheless to giving you guys as much information as I can in one concise location to help make your own evaluations. As always, I’d love to hear your own thoughts and opinions. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: horse, horse racing, how to, Kentucky Derby, news, sports, thoroughbred
Categories : Atoned, Big Truck, Bob Black Jack, Colonel John, Cool Coal Man, Elysium Fields, Gayego, Georgie Boy, Giant Moon, Hey Byrn, Horse Racing News, Kentucky Derby Trail, Majestic Warrior, Pyro, Roman Emperor, Sierra Sunset, Texas Wildcatter, Visionaire, War Pass
As promised, after an exciting weekend of racing that saw victories by Visionaire in the Gotham Stakes, Pyro in the Louisiana Derby, and Autism Awareness in the El Camino Real Derby, a near total shakeup of my top 10 contenders has occurred. I’ve no doubt this list will cause some controversy amongst readers, so I invite you to share your own thoughts both here and on my main Road to the 2008 Kentucky Derby page, which currently displays the same information you see below along with a few other links to useful resources.
Without further adieu, I present my updated 2008 Kentucky Derby rankings as they stand today, Sunday the 9th of March: Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: horse, horse racing, Kentucky Derby, news, sports, thoroughbred
Categories : Big Brown, Colonel John, Cool Coal Man, Court Vision, El Gato Malo, Elysium Fields, Giant Moon, Hey Byrn, Horse Racing News, Kentucky Derby Trail, Majestic Warrior, Pyro, Roman Emperor, Tale of Ekati, Texas Wildcatter, Visionaire, War Pass, Z Fortune, Z Humor
Pyro wins the G2 Lousiana Derby with jockey Sean Bridgmohan aboard. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
Pyro returned from his impressive win last month in the Grade 3 Risen Star to take yet another move forward for trainer Steve Asmussen by crushing the field in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on Saturday at Fair Grounds. I’ve been saying since the Risen Star that the “new and improved” Pyro is a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby in May, and today only solidified that feeling.
Ever since the decision was made to train the colt with Curlin earlier in the year, Pyro has demonstrated a lethal “killer instinct” that he seemed to lack when chasing top rival War Pass as a 2 year old last year. This newfound killer instinct resulted in $360,000 for the win on Saturday, boosting his career earnings to $1,056,718 for owner Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds.
What’s even more impressive is that we saw a more forwardly placed and actively involved Pyro today. In previous races, such as the Risen Star, Pyro had chosen to trail the field and do all of his running in the final stretch. Today Pyro showed that he can rate off the pace but still be involved in the early action without using up too much gas for the stretch. In fact, in my opinion you can look at the Louisiana Derby and still see room for the colt to improve. It looked like he caught a bit of traffic entering the top of the stretch, but was able to swing to the outside and gun down My Pal Charlie with ease when asked.
There was an article in the Daily Racing Form on Saturday that quoted Steve Asmussen as saying that Pyro was “as good as any horse I’ve trained.” That’s something when you consider that Curlin is his stablemate. What we’ve seen from Pyro these last two races seems to back up Asmussen’s words. Up next for the son of Pulpit will be the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., on April 12.
My Pal Charlie got onto the lead early over J Be K and wound up finishing second at 60/1. Pyro finished the 1 1/16 mile distance in 1:44.44, returning $3.60 for the win. My Pal Charlie completed the exacta that returned $81.20. Yankee Bravo took show honors and rounded out a $556.00 trifecta.
Pyro romps to victory in the Louisiana Derby
Two other Derby contenders that were making their first runs of the 2008 season left us with many questions and few answers. Tale of Ekati’s connections were hoping for more from their colt, but some trouble at the start may have cost him a step. Tale of Ekati wound up a disappointing 7th. Likewise, Majestic Warrior never seemed to get uncorked as he wound up in 8th. Still, you could see Majestic Warrior moving into position at the final turn before he ran out of steam. Perhaps that’s not such a bad effort for Majestic Warrior though considering the long layoff he had endured?
With the win, Pyro has firmly entrenched himself as either the favorite or 2nd choice among the Derby contenders. We’ll find out some more about his main rival, the Nick Zito trained War Pass, next week in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Look for my updated Kentucky Derby rankings tomorrow to see if Pyro has moved forward past War Pass in my opinion.
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Tags: horse, horse racing, news, Pyro, sports, thoroughbred
Categories : Fair Grounds, Horse Racing News, Kentucky Derby Trail, Majestic Warrior, Pyro, Tale of Ekati
Earlier in the week we took a first look at the prestigious Louisiana Derby, a Grade 2 Kentucky Derby prep race being run at Fair Grounds this Saturday. The race features several colts with major aspirations for running in the 2008 Kentucky Derby this May, including Pyro, Tale of Ekati, and Majestic Warrior.
Looking over the race in the DRF, it seems clear that #4 J Be K will be on the gas and setting the pace around the track. Trying to figure out how the 1st group of horses coming just off the pace willl line up gets a little bit trickier to predict. I could see #6 Tale of Ekati and #9 Majestic Warrior getting decent trips, despite the fact that Majestic Warrior breaks from the outside post. Tale of the Ekati stands a chance at getting a better trip of the two as he could be rating well just off the pace. If so I think he’s a threat to run a big one. Majestic Warrior will probably be just in front of Pyro early on towards the back of the pack.
Pyro we of course saw last time in the Risen Star when he went from last to first in the stretch to run down the likes of Z Fortune and Visionaire. It may be a bit tough for Pyro to get at J Be K today though if no one else goes up and gets him. Stevil, Tale of Ekati, and My Pal Charlie would be the logical possibilities to try and burn him up, but there’s a good chance he’ll be alone the lead. That means you’ve got to work J Be K into the equation. Still, Pyro is in top notch condition and is arguably the top 3 year old in the country depending on who you talk to. His late move in the Risen Star was simply jaw-dropping. It’s even more impressive when you consider that the Risen Star wasn’t exactly run blazingly fast. That makes that late closing performance all the more impressive to me, and convinces me that Pyro is the worthy favorite and horse to beat here today.
I’d probably cover J Be K in the multi-race tickets just to be safe, but as far as exotics on the the Louisiana Derby itself are concerned, I’d play Pyro to win. For place I’ll toss in J Be K and Tale of Ekati. I’ll add in Majestic Warrior and Blackberry Road for show honors. It’s a realtively cheap $6 trifecta that won’t pay a whole heckuva lot if I hit, but that’s how I see it.
I’m not expecting the morning line of 12/1 to hold for J Be K as he’s the obvious lone speed here. Majestic Warrior and Tale of Ekati could benefit from a shift in the odds on J Be K, but it’s hard to back them for the win considering the long layoffs. They have been working well, but I’ll watch this one rather than wager a win bet on them and hope to see what kind of horses we’ve got. At one point in time (early January) I was predicting Majestic Warrior would be my choice for the Kentucky Derby. I still think he could develop in time to compete, but I think he’s chosen a tough one to make his 2008 debut against the new and improved Pyro.
The post positions, odds, and jockeys are included below:
Stevil (E. Castro) 15/1
My Pal Charlie (J. Leparoux) 20/1
Pyro (S.Bridgmohan) 7/5*
J Be K (K. Desormeaux) 12/1
Unbridled Vicar (C. Lanerie) 20/1
Tale of Ekati (E. Prado) 7/2
Blackberry Road (R. Albarado Jr.) 10/1
Yankee Bravo (A. Solis) 4/1
Majestic Warrior (G. Gomez) 9/2
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Tags: horse racing, how to, Louisiana Derby, sports, thoroughbred
Categories : Fair Grounds, Handicapping Selections, Kentucky Derby Trail, Majestic Warrior, Pyro, Tale of Ekati
Saturday’s running of the Louisiana Derby looks to be yet another interesting prep race for the 2008 Kentucky Derby. The $600,000 Louisiana Derby is a one of the premier prep races in the country, having last served as a preview for a future Kentucky Derby winner in 2003 with the victory of Funny Cide.
The 2008 version of the Louisiana Derby features some big names in it’s own right. We last saw Pyro putting in a jaw-dropping performance in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds where he circled the field going from last to first in the stretch. The run instantly made me think of his training partner for much of the year, fellow Steve Asmussen trained colt Curlin. Prior to the Risen Star, I had been a little harsh on Pyro and had suggested he may have lacked the “killer instinct” necessary to have a chance and run down War Pass this May. I think it’s safe to say that Pyro showed the instinct we were looking for with his performance in the Risen Star, and his stock has been skyrocketing ever since. Pyro is already widely considered either the best or 2nd best 3 year old in the country, depending on who you ask. While his main rival War Pass will not be here in the Louisiana Derby, Pyro does run into several heavy hitters who are members of my current Road to the 2008 Kentucky Derby rankings.
Majestic Warrior is the horse I’m most interested to see in addition to Pyro. We haven’t seen him since a disappointing 6th place finish in the Champagne last October at Belmont, from which the colt returned with some minor injuries. He’s been working well at Payson Park recently for trainer Bill Mott and is still thought of as a potential serious contender for the roses in May. He prevailed in the Hopeful last summer at Belmont against the then highly regarded Ready’s Image and Maimonides. He sure looked good running late in the Hopeful, but it’s hard to tell how much we can make of that race as it was a 4 horse field and the two favorites duked it out the entire way along the track. Majestic Warrior is a son of A.P. Indy. Garrett Gomez is slated to ride Majestic Warrior, who is listed at odds of 9/2.
Tale of Ekati also returns to action after finishing 4th in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile last October. The son of Tale of the Cat had a very impressive run in the Grade 2 Futurity last year that hinted he was to be taken seriously on the Derby trail. I’m a little worried that we haven’t seen him recently, but his connections have been pointing to this race for quite some time. Edgar Prado will ride Talke of Ekati, who is currently listed at odds of 7/2.
Yankee Bravo, who folks may remember from his gutsy performance in the dead-heat finish in the Delta Jackpot, and Blackberry Road, who finished 5th in Pyro’s victory in the Risen Star, round out the list of likely contenders. The rest of the field includes Stevil, My Pal Charlie, J Be K, and Unbridled Vicar.
I haven’t handicapped the race yet, but this one well could be another victory for Pyro. His main competition seems to be Majestic Warrior and Tale of Ekati, who will be returning from long layoffs. Yankee Bravo may end up offering more value than his 4/1 morning line odds suggest, and if so he may be worth using underneath in the exacta. I’ll have full handicapping of the race later in the week.
The post positions and morning line odds for the field are listed below, with jockey’s name in parenthesis.
Stevil (Calvin Borel) 15/1
My Pal Charlie (Jordan Leparoux) 20/1
Pyro (Shaun Bridgmohan) 7/5*
J Be K (Kent Desormeaux) 12/1
Unbridled Vicar (Corey Lanerie) 20/1
Tale of Ekati (Edgar Prado) 7/2
Blackberry Road (Robbie Albarado) 10/1
Yankee Bravo (Alex Solis) 4/1
Majestic Warrior (Garrett Gomez) 9/2
Here are the race replays for Pyro (Risen Star Stakes), Majestic Warrior (Hopeful Stakes), and Tale of Ekati (Futurity Stakes) that I thought might assist players in forming some pre-race opinions.
Pyro circles the field to win the Risen Star:
Majestic Warrior pulls the upset to win the Hopeful:
Tale of Ekati finds late running room to win the Futurity:
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Tags: horse, horse racing, how to, sports, thoroughbred
Categories : Fair Grounds, Kentucky Derby Trail, Majestic Warrior, Pyro, Tale of Ekati