18,000 Miles

18,000 miles.* Or more accurately, 18,001.25 miles, of which the last one and a quarter was too much.

Welcome to the Graveyard of Favorites, American Pharoah.  But it wasn’t American Pharoah who lost yesterday’s 146th running of the Travers Stakes; the flawed plan of his connections did.

My major and stated concern with American Pharoah contesting the Travers was that he’d traveled SO many miles in the lead up to and throughout the Triple Crown and just in the last 27 days from coast to coast that the constant travel just might extract a toll. In the last quarter mile I got the answer I feared as American Pharoah gamely wrested the lead from Frosted only to be tagged at the wire by Keen Ice in a plodding, decidedly non-American Pharoah last quarter of :26 seconds and change.

The question, for me is, why did they ship American Pharoah back to the West Coast off his Haskell victory? Even prior to the Haskell there was talk that, should he run well and not appear to have had a taxing effort, American Pharoah might contest the Travers.  I don’t understand why the didn’t leave him at Monmouth or ship over to Saratoga or even back to Churchill Downs, which had been his base throughout the Triple Crown while that decision was being made.  Not saying it would have allowed him to win yesterday, but it would have eliminated two cross-country flights and the inevitable stresses and fatigue that can be incurred.

Let’s take a brief look at what did happen on the track in the Travers Stakes.

What exactly was Frosted doing contesting the lead? I’d pay good New York money to know if that was intentional or if Frosted, who was on his toes in the post parade, got away from new rider Jose Lezcano.  It wasn’t his usual stalking, off the pace style. And the bottom line is there isn’t another three-year-old colt that can go stride for stride with American Pharoah, even when he wasn’t at his best, and expect to survive and win. Hard to figure what that was about, but it wasn’t and could never be a viable winning strategy.

But even with Frosted engaging him early, you can’t place the blame for the loss on this confrontation, primarily because the opening half-mile fractions were modest–:24 and :48 seconds and change. American Pharoah can run faster than that in a morning gallop.

Keen Ice “stayed in his lane,” ran true to his style, and in the more than capable hands of Javier Castellano was there to pick up the pieces of a wilting American Pharoah.  All hail Javier in his first ride on Keen Ice. Castellano’s mastery of the Saratoga track was on full display yet again in the Travers and was about the only thing I got right in my pre-race analysis.

Let’s briefly revisit the trips of the other key players in the race.

Texas Red.  Huge disappointment.  He was never involved or a factor in the race and showed none of the style he displayed in winning the Jim Dandy Stakes over the Saratoga Track on August 1.

Upstart. FAR more game than I expected him to be, but never in contention for the win.

Everyone else, pretty much the also rans I expected them to be.

So now the plot completely thickens.  Where does American Pharoah go from here? The “R-word” has already been thrown out in post-race comments. And that’s as in immediate, not the previously stated plan of after a run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If it’s still on to the Classic, does American Pharoah enter it off a long layoff that starts today of run once more prior to?  That was another reason why I had felt the Travers, win, lose or draw wasn’t necessarily the best placement for him in preparation for that goal.  It either leaves a long unraced gap between the Travers and the Classic or about forces one more race to be squeezed in prior to October 31.  Fortunately, it’s not my problem to resolve.

I’m grateful to the Zayats for their generosity with American Pharoah.  Unfortunately, they fell into the same trap the connections of Secretariat (defeat in the 1973 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga) and Seattle Slew (his first-ever loss in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park, just three weeks after his Triple Crown-sealing win in the Belmont Stakes) did with one ill-timed race too many. Master horseman Horatio Luro was well known for getting the best out of his horses by not “squeezing the lemon dry.” That’s sometimes hard to remember when you’re in the midst of “laissez les bon temps rouler,” and an impending stated 2016 retirement date.

Much like Zenyatta in the 2010 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, American Pharoah revealed much more in defeat than in any of his Triple Crown race victories. Up until yesterday, he was just an ultra-cool colt with an amazing stride.  In the Travers he showed he has a heart that’s every bit as amazing.

*According to USA Today, (8.29.15), American Pharoah has been flown more than 18,000 miles around the country in his 2015 race campaign.

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Exorcism

“The Graveyard of Champions.”

Today, American Pharoah will step foot on the Saratoga Racecourse track to face nine competitors and, in the process, attempt to put its long-standing reputation to rest for awhile.

Man O’ War lost his only race at Saratoga.  Secretariat lost, post-Triple Crown success, at Saratoga.  Triple Crown Champion Affirmed was disqualified from his win in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.  I’ve been watching the meet since it started in late July, and although I don’t have the stats, I’ve seen a lot of favorites, especially short-price favorites crash and burn at the track also known as The Spa.  My guesstimate is that the win rate has been 50-50, favorites to other horses in the respective fields.

So here are the basics.  Race 11, The Travers Stakes, contested at 1 1/4 miles. Post Time: 5:46 p.m. The field and my comments:

1.Upstart–Doesn’t want 1 1/8 miles let alone 1 1/4.

2.American Pharoah–Even Saratoga’s longstanding reputation will have a hard time stopping The Ruler.

3.Mid Ocean–Who?

4.Texas Red–The ONLY colt in this field that I think call pull an upset.  The son of Afleet Alex is coming back strong, and appears relentless like his sire.

5.Frammento–Not again.  Hasn’t been in the same zip code as many of these in previous matchups.

6.Frosted–The lost shoe could have been an issue in his second-place finish in the Jim Dandy.  Personally, I’m starting to doubt his desire/ability to get a mile and a quarter also.

7.Keen Ice–He’ll be coming at the end, but he’s lost his most effective rider, Kent Desoumeaux, to Texas Red.  Still Javier Castellano KNOWS how to ride ’em and for sure knows where the Saratoga wire is.

8.Tale of Verve–It ain’t raining today.

9. King of New York–Who again?

10.Smart Transition–Won the ungraded Curlin Stakes earlier in the meet.  Might break the top four; will not win.

Fifteen thousand people showed up early yesterday to watch American Pharoah take a gallop around the track.  By his appearance and the comments of his exercise rider he likes and is handling the surface well.  He looks as robust, fresh, and happy as he has at any point during this magical run.

Still…the reason for my superstitious rationale (how’s THAT for an oxymoron??!!) for a potential upset, what’s giving me cause for concern is the track’s reputation and the number of trips he’s made and miles he’s travelled just in August (let alone for his entire 2015 season to date).  It was just 27 days ago when he ran in and won the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth.  I’d feel more confident if he’d stayed on the East Coast between races as he did during his Triple Crown assault.

But hey, we’re talking American Pharoah here; why worry?  Just enjoy!  

Greatness Personified

My mom used to refer to people she thought of as conceited as ones who felt they were “greatness personified.”  Well I’m here to turn that usage around a bit toward the complimentary side.  If you watched yesterday’s edition of the Haskell Stakes from Monmouth Park, you saw greatness personified in the most wonderful and brilliant fashion as American Pharoah cruised to his eighth victory in a row.  In his first race back from winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown it certainly appeared that he lost nothing in the process of attaining that rare feat. Maybe he’s even better and stronger. Yikes!

If he wasn’t so magnificent to watch, you might actually start to get bored with American Pharoah’s races. He just makes it look all too easy against what are good fields of usually competitive three-year-old colts.  And it’s all in that superior stride he’s been gifted with.  The most telling moment in the race yesterday was shortly out of the gate when Competitive Edge took the lead, American Pharoah sat second, and Mr. Jordan was third on his flank.  Competitive Edge and Mr. Jordan were working to get and hold their early positions while American Pharoah was just smoothly loping along; they were doing almost twice the work while getting half the result that American Pharoah was getting without significant effort.  It almost isn’t fair.  And those early efforts took their toll with Mr. Jordan dropping out quickly to finish last, beaten by 60 lengths in the end and Competitive Edge finishing a well-beaten fourth.  In the end, the only horse closing ground was the late-running Keen Ice and even his closing move was a bit deceptive to the eye as American Pharoah had been geared down and was being hand-ridden to the finish line.

Personally, I’ll never get enough of watching American Pharoah running and winning.  From the response of the Monmouth crowd yesterday, I’m not the only one.  There was a tremendous roar from that crowd when American Pharoah began to make his move to take the lead at the turn for home.  It’s a thrill to have this type of enthusiasm and turnout for horse racing again.

It’s unclear when American Pharoah will race again.  There is a chance he might move on to Saratoga to run in the Travers Stakes at the end of August, the 29th to be exact.  Saratoga is certainly making the effort to draw the Triple Crown winner in as they have indicated they will increase the purse if American Pharoah races.  It seems like a good possibility to me; there’s probably just one, maybe two races left before American Pharoah’s final race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be held this year for the first time at Keeneland.

Meanwhile, in the Jim Dandy, the prime setup race for the Travers, the complexion of the race changed significantly with the scratches of Competitive Edge and Upstart to take on American Pharoah in the Haskell yesterday (M-O-N-E-Y) and Tekton who ran in the day before to a second place finish in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga.  Still, the race came down to the two horses and scenario I anticipated: Texas Red picked up early leader Japan mid-stretch to take the lead and Frosted came late attempting to run him down, but came up short.  Texas Red indeed seemed to thrive with the added distance of the race (1 1/8 miles) and Frosted did appear a bit short.  He also lost a shoe during the running of the race.  If all goes well, the two will go at it again in the Travers Stakes at the classic 1 1/4-mile distance. I would love to see American Pharoah mix it up with Frosted and Texas Red (they met as two-year-olds on the West Coast) again.  The field for the Travers will sort itself out soon enough.  Stay tuned.

More great racing and fun ahead this weekend with one of my favorites: Tonalist taking on Stephen Foster winner Noble Bird and others in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney Stakes, which generally leads to the Woodward Stakes the last weekend of the Saratoga meet.

A quick word on an exciting up and coming filly racing on the turf–Casual Smile won the WinStar Matchmaker Stakes on the Haskell undercard.  Casual Smile is one of the rare stateside offspring of European champion Sea The Stars.  Seeing that name in the pedigree was more than enough for me and I was amazed she went off at 9-1.  What a gift!  She sat off the pace and bravely squeezed through a narrow spot between two other runners, late and full of run to get the win.  Keep your eye out for this classy filly.

And finally, on the subject of great turf fillies, late last week it was announced that Lady Eli appears to be responding well to her treatment for laminitis.  Thoughts and prayers continue on for this really special racehorse!

The Second Half Begins

After nearly a two-month lull, Thoroughbred horse racing begins the second half of its annual season at the most competitive level for three-year-olds. And the highlight of the weekend will be the return to racing of the Triple Crown Champion, American Pharaoh, at Monmouth Park, racing in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational Stakes.

But before we get to the rare Sunday feature race, attention should be paid, Saturday afternoon, to Saratoga Race Track and the Jim Dandy Stakes, which will feature the return to the races of Belmont Stakes second-place horse, Frosted.  The Jim Dandy is also run at a mile and an eighth and is the traditional prep race for Saratoga’s feature race of the meet, The Midsummer Derby, the Travers Stakes.

In my opinion, the Jim Dandy is likely to be the more entertaining of the two races, in that is likely to be the more competitive race of the two features this weekend. The field for the Jim Dandy is, by post position, as follows:

1.Frammento

2.Japan

3.Texas Red

4.Upstart

5.Competitive Edge

6.Tekton

7.Frosted

This race for me boils down to Frosted and Texas Red. As the three-year-old class has developed through the year, it’s clear that American Pharoah is far and away the best horse; for me Frosted is the next best.  Since his throat surgery in the spring, this is a horse that has solidly grown to his potential.  I think he’ll be fine with the distance and this race could be his opportunity to shine.  The only misgiving I have, is that this will be his first race back from the nearly two-month layoff following the Belmont.  There is a chance he could be a hair fraction short.

If he is, look for Texas Red to be ready to pounce.  Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Champion Texas Red is coming off a solid second-place finish to improving sprinter Speightser in the one-mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park, July 4.  It was a great prep for Texas Red and he should really benefit going longer in the Jim Dandy and that’s where I think the race will get interesting and entertaining.

There are other horses to consider beyond these two.  Japan is a highly regarded colt that has shown steady improvement. Upstart had a very solid late winter/early spring leading up to the Kentucky Derby, but faltered completely in that race finishing 19th and last.  This will be his first race since the Derby.  His connections have been pleased with his training leading up to the Jim Dandy, but I think the long layoff and the distance will work against him being in the winner’s circle at the end of the race. Competitive Edge showed a great deal of promise as a two-year-old, but his form has dipped as a three-year-old; can’t endorse him here.  Frammento also ran in the Derby and Belmont and was a non-factor in both.  Tekton is a colt I’m completely unfamiliar with.  One more thing to add to the Jim Dandy Stakes mix–Saratoga is known as “The Graveyard of Champions,” anything can and often does happen at the Saratoga track. Man O’ War and Secretariat are two famed horses that were upset at Saratoga; the Jim Dandy Stakes is named for the colt of that name that upset Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the 1930 edition of the Travers Stakes at odds of 100-1!

For me, it would take a Jim Dandy (indeed!) to upset Champion American Pharoah in the Haskell Stakes on Sunday, especially  with the horses that have been entered to face him.  The field for the Haskell as of today stands as, by post position:

1.Upstart

2.Competitive Edge

3.Nonna’s Boy

4.American Pharoah

5.Mr. Jordan

6.Keen Ice

7. Top Clearance

8.Dontbetwithbruno

And yes, you’re seeing Upstart and Competitive Edge’s names yet again.  They have been cross-entered for both of the weekend’s features; at this writing, they are expected to scratch from the Jim Dandy and run in the Haskell.  I’ve already explained how I felt about their chances against Frosted and Texas Red.  I give them even less of a chance for a win against American Pharoah. Mr. Jordan was a solid sprinter over the winter at Gulfstream Park and has won the Pegasus Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth at Monmouth so he’s familiar with and comfortable on this track.  Keen Ice ran a good third in the Belmont Stakes and this race will be his first start back since that race.  The other three horses lining up against American Pharoah boil down to four words for me–I couldn’t tell you…

Since his last race winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown in the process, American Pharoah has rattled off a series of, as usual, solid, flawless works at Santa Anita and Del Mar race tracks.  He doesn’t appear to be any worse for wear from his Triple Crown efforts.  If the cross-country trip hasn’t drained him (and he’s already shown himself to be a solid traveller) and he takes to the track (and so far there hasn’t been one yet he hasn’t shown the ability to handle), everyone is, once again, running for second place money.  If all goes well, there is a chance that the Haskell could serve as American Pharoah’s “prep” for the Travers Stakes.  As trainer Bob Baffert has indicated, the next race or races leading to the ultimate goal and final race for American Pharoah, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will be American Pharoah’s call.

The very good and exciting news is that the Haskell Stakes will be available for all to see (for the first time in many years), airing Sunday beginning at 5:00 p.m. on NBC.  That’s the power of a Triple Crown winner.

Also, one quick update since my last post, Carpe Diem, who I considered the third best horse of this three-year-old crop has been retired from racing due to a knee chip.

I can’t wait for the Haskell even though I don’t believe it’ll be the exciting race of the weekend.  It should, however, still be the most thrilling because American Pharoah will be gracing the track!  Enjoy!!

Well…

At the risk of dating myself, when you read that title, in your head you should hear the voice of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stevens in Bewitched…that kind of hesitant, noncommittal response.  That’s my response to the question “What did you think of this weekend’s Kentucky Derby prep races?”

Well…

Let’s start with the biggest of the preps over the weekend: The Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.  The winner: highly regarded Upstart…for about five minutes.  Upstart crossed the wire first, but was disqualified (DQed) for interference in the stretch.  The horse he crossed, Itsaknockout was rewarded the victory.  So here’s what I saw: Upstart ran a good, workmanlike race.  But he didn’t get the best ride from regular rider Jose Ortiz and, in my opinion, it cost him the race.  The interference with Itsaknockout was not that dramatic, but the head on view shows Ortiz repeatedly whipping left handed and drifting out…and drifting out…and drifting out before he switches to the right in a too little too late effort to correct.  Besides floating Itsaknockout at least four to six paths wide, he makes brief contact with him at just the moment when Itsaknockout appeared to hitting his best stride.  I’m not convinced if he had had a clear run, if Itsaknockout would have passed Upstart, but the total action by Upstart did hamper, if ever so briefly, his momentum. Further, Itsaknockout is a relatively green (inexperienced; this was only his third race) racehorse and that might have effected his performance as well.

Still, note, I said I found Upstart’s performance “workmanlike.” He did what he needed to do, not dazzling, but professional.  There were many comments that Gulfstream was a tiring race course over the weekend and that may have contributed to the visual I got of his race performance.  He’s solidly in contention on my Derby list (and I know, near or at the top for many people), but at this point I’m just not seeing the Derby winner.  His next out should be the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct April 4.

Itsaknockout is definitely an improving colt with lots of potential.  I’ll continue to watch him, but today he wouldn’t be my Derby pick either. The horse that DID catch my eye was third place finisher Frammento.  On that “tiring” track, he was closing and, at least Saturday, looked like he might like more ground.  Being a son of Midshipman, who was most effective at a mile, I’m not completely convinced, but I’d like to see him in another race and of course it would be fun to have his two-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Nick Zito in the mix.

Highly thought of contender Frosted laid an egg in this race spitting the bit shortly after taking a brief lead.  My pick for the race, Gorgeous Bird was also disappointing after an easy, sparkling performance in his previous race.  I’d suspect trainer Ian Wilkes might “take back” and take him off the Derby trail unless there was some obvious problem for his lackluster performance identified post race.

Later Saturday, the Risen Star was run at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.  This was the race Texas Red was being pointed to prior to his hoof abscess.  After the race was over all I could think was “If only..”  Again, I really didn’t see much that excited me in this race either.  International Star, winner of the Lecomte Stakes, returned and essentially repeated his effort.  He was followed home by War Story and Keen Ice; another workmanlike performance, but not one that made me sit up and get excited.  Most likely, he’ll finish out his preps there at Fairgrounds in the Louisiana Derby, March 28.

Another prime contender, Imperia, put in a lackluster effort in the Risen Star, finishing fifth.  He’s run well at Churchill Downs in a strong second-place finish to El Kabeir last fall, so barring some injury or other issue coming out of the Risen Star, he might get another chance to prove himself and earn the points he’ll need to get in the gate in Louisville.

Yesterday, the weather-delayed Southwest Stakes was run at Oaklawn…not that yesterday’s weather at Hot Springs was a bargain–plenty of rain resulted in a very sloppy surface for the race.  Pretty much the same contenders from the Smarty Jones Stakes, the first of the Oaklawn preps, returned and the outcome was pretty similar as well with another win for Far Right.  Calvin Borel put in a nice ride to finish second with a longshot, The Truth or Else, and Mr. Z, who led from the gate, showed a lot of heart to hold on for third, the same finish he had in the Smarty Jones.  Bayerd, the second-place finisher in the Smarty Jones was a non-factor, finishing eighth.

Not winning at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth, respectively, in his two starts at Oaklawn suggests to me that Mr. Z is not cut out for the Kentucky Derby’s mile and a quarter.

 

However, with such a sloppy track, it’s hard to gauge just what the results mean going forward.  Super Ninetynine ran a bang up race winning the Southwest in 2013 in the mud, but didn’t make it to the Derby and was never as successful again.  Hopefully, there will be dry weather for the April 11 Arkansas Derby and we’ll see who goes improves and goes on.  Today, I could only be enthusiastic about Far Right if on Derby Day the track is muddy.

At this point, you’re likely wondering what I’m looking for or what would impress me.  One thing for sure is a better turn of foot than I’ve seen from most of the horses that have had preps so far this year.  I’d also like to see some colts that look like the distance they’ve covered so far was a snap and they’d like to run farther.  And then there’s that elusive “Je ne sais quoi,” that “something” that I cannot define, but I know it when I see it and I haven’t quite seen it yet.

Now there is an up and coming colt that is impressing me, but getting him to and in the Kentucky Derby gate could be a challenge.  His name is Khozan, and he has had two stellar races at Gulfstream.  And therein lies the problem–he’s raced only two times and neither race has been a race where he’s earned points.  Further, he did not race as a two year old and thus would be up against the “Curse of Apollo” (Apollo being the last colt to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two year old, in 1882).  I heard a lot of people bring this point up over the weekend following Khozan’s second race and victory Sunday, and chuckling about it a bit, but let’s face it, 132 runnings have taken place since and a horse without a two-year-old foundation hasn’t won.  And I’ve already questioned here whether or not horses with more experience will be adequately prepared with their late and/or limited starts this year.  Still, Khozan seems to have all the raw talent and I suspect his performance yesterday will have trainer Todd Pletcher mapping out a plan to get him in at least one appropriate prep race.

Going forward, Upstart is on my Derby short list, along with Texas Red (if he can literally get back on track and succeed), Dortmund, and American Pharaoh.  But at this point I’m VERY open to being impressed by other contenders.  Derby Day is now 68 days away…

And there are fillies pointing to the Oaks yet to be discussed.  Keep reading!

 

 

 

Will They Be Ready?

FOUNDATION: Defined as “the load-bearing part of a building; also the base or underpinning. Support. Strength.”

Foundation in a Thoroughbred racehorse has similar meaning; it’s the development through morning workouts/gallops that develops the wind, heart, and muscle that powers the horse forward.  But it’s more than just timed exercise runs.  RACING also helps develop foundation and more than the physical.  A race sharpens the Thoroughbred’s mind, competitive instincts, and skills. Races put foundation in a horse, giving it a base, something to work and draw off of as it moves on to the next race.

So last week I talked about the stellar efforts of Dortmund and Far From Over.  I also mentioned Texas Red and Upstart’s first races of 2015 en route to Derby Day.  But there’s a list of talented colts–Competitive Edge, American Pharaoh, I Spent It, Carpe Diem, Daredevil, and Ocho Ocho Ocho– that showed promise in their two-year-old season of racing that have yet to run a race as a three-year old. And personally, I’m starting to wonder if, they make it into the gate for the Kentucky Derby, they will truly be ready.

There are many prep races that will pass through Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Tampa Bay Downs, Oaklawn, and Santa Anita Park and give these colts competitive races and possibly winnow out a few as contenders.  But it is now mid-February, and it’s unlikely the aforementioned will run any more than two races leading up to the Derby.  Depending on their performance, some may run only one.  That means several of these horses could enter the Churchill Downs starting gate about to run the Derby in a third or possibly second off a layoff scenario.  As young, growing and developing animals that seems a bit rich for my (and their) blood.  Not only does it raise the question will they be physically fit enough to run the most demanding  10 furlongs they’ll ever contest (if indeed they ever run that distance again), but also will they have the mental edge they need that they can only get by mixing it up in and running a race.  Further, the possible lack of foundation makes me wonder (but not a lot), if 10 or more of the horses that race in the Derby are not competitive at the top levels of racing post Derby Day.

It’s not to say that the Derby hasn’t been won by horses with just two three-year-old prep races.  Training a Thoroughbred racehorse is as much, if not more, art that science, a matter of “feel” sometimes if you will.  But when you’re taking or considering the long view for the horses in terms of a career…Just a thought; obviously I’m not a trainer.

And there have been some interesting developments since my last post regarding the horses on the Derby trail.  Texas Red (TR) has suffered an abscess in his right front hoof.  Far from a catastrophic injury, but a bump in the road and certainly a hiccup in his training and racing schedule.  Instead of racing as planned in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds, TR may have his next race at Oaklawn or Santa Anita depending on how he comes back around.

Dortmund likely will not return to racing until April 4th’s Santa Anita Derby.  As mentioned in my last post, this is a large colt for his age and trainer Bob Baffert is as cognizant of that as anyone and indicated when discussing the colt’s next race, that he believes some time off is in order for him to allow for his latest (and ongoing!!) growth spurt.  Plus, his two most recent races, the Los Alamitos Futurity and the Robert Lewis, were two VERY demanding races. Makes sense/works for me!

Firing Line, second to Dortmund last week, may take his show on the road for his next start, possibly in the March 22 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico.  The Sunland Derby is the race that set Mine That Bird up for his improbable Derby win. That race is at nine furlongs and should be a good test for him going forward, especially since I’m not the only one wondering if he really wants more than a mile to a mile and a sixteenth.

A new or stronger contender may emerge Monday as the Southwest Stakes runs at Oaklawn Park.  I refer to the Oaklawn prep races as the Smarty Jones/Afleet Alex route as those two horses used those prep races for their Classic race runs with great success, coming up a Belmont and Kentucky Derby win short, respectively, of a Triple Crown.  Top finishers in the Southwest likely will move on to the Arkansas Derby, April 11.

ALWAYS something this time of year!