Weekly Recap: So this is what we were missing last year

There’s no doubt that the 2008 three year-olds were a disappointing group.  Thankfully the memories of that crop can be forgotten because the sophomores headed to May 2 are very, very impressive and the leader of the fillies seems to be quite a runner herself.  Let’s run down the weekend’s Grade I stakes races and Derby preps and cap it off with Sunday’s Fantasy (G2) at Oaklawn.


“They’re in the gate…they’re off…uh oh.”  That was the basic progression of thoughts for anyone watching the Wood Memorial as I Want Revenge came walking out of the starting gate.  Of course, the first thing I thought was, “OK, what is Talamo going to do now.”  I was concerned that he would aggressively try to rush the son of Stephen Got Even into contention as he had proven recently that he’s most comfortable being on or near the lead.  What ensued was a pleasant surprise in that Talamo basically did nothing.  He let his colt settle into stride, he kept him in hand and he made his goal to slowly gain on the leaders and be in position to score at the top of the stretch.  Even though he found some trouble in deep stretch he was free in time to get up for a 1 1/2 length victory.  Even as well as Quality Road ran at Gulfstream, I Want Revenge should be the favorite on May 2.  Let’s just hope the situation with Jeff Mullins and the detention barn is not a distraction over the next four weeks.

Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUUdR0fXCNo to watch the Wood


I’m not a Stardom Bound fan.  I thought the BC Juvenile Fillies field was horrible, and that it looked like she had not moved forward at all in two starts this year.  She faced a soft field in the Ashland as the 7-10 favorite that contained three horses she had just beaten, and only two other graded stakes winners.  After falling well behind the lead she made a move that was far too little, far too late and wound up third beaten three lengths.  If she moves on to the Oaks she will likely be overbet once again but those of you who still consider her a major player in the 3YO filly division ought to read on and take a look at Rachel Alexandra’s effort on Sunday afternoon.

Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoMFJP70yD4 to watch the Ashland

Illinois Derby:

Was Perfect Song the “wiseguy” play of the decade?  Despite having form that paled in comparison to a number of his rivals, the Mike Trombetta trainee was bet down to 3-1 because of Hawthorne’s reputation as a conveyor belt.  Perfect Song’s steady fade after getting a clear early lead turned many upside down and the outcome of the race proved that Musket Man is not a one-dimensional Tampa Downs horse-for-course.  He finished strongly and continues to outrun his pedigree.  He might fare better in Derbies like the Iowa, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but he’s proven he belongs in the starting gate on May 2.

Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooOMH0aLuOM to watch the Illinois Derby

Santa Anita Derby:

The easiest toss at short odds in the Run for the Roses will be Pioneerof the Nile.  He is such a beneficiary of circumstances and it’s now become completely clear that he’s mastered a group of plodders out west.  He once again tugged jockey Garrett Gomez to the lead early on and was able to contest the pace through slow fractions.  He likes to win but I’m inclined to take Chocolate Candy moving forward, given that he had to move into the sluggish pace.  However, it seems reasonable to think that both are better suited to a race like the Swaps.

Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXMN2wV6KzY to watch the SA Derby

Apple Blossom:

It’s a good thing that one bad running doesn’t jeopardize a race’s graded status because if it did, the Apple Blossom would almost certainly be a Grade 2 next year.  That doesn’t take away from what might have been a breakthrough performance from Seventh Street, a $1 million purchase by Street Cry who was exiting a runner-up effort in the Barbara Fritchie where she endured a brutal trip.  There were no gate problems for her this time around and she was astutely taken right to the lead by jockey Rajiv Maragh.  She never looked back and scored a 5 3/4 length victory leaving 2/5 favorite Acoma 11 1/2 lengths behind.  She has a bright future and will be pointed to either the Humana Distaff (G1) or the Shuvee (G2) in May.


If there was one losing horse in any stakes race on Saturday that deserved to win more than Fabulous Strike deserved to win the Carter, then I’d like to see that animal.   The gallant, decorated son of Smart Strike ran a phenomenal race beating out all the other speedsters and fighting on right to the wire.  He made it abundantly clear that he is one of the best sprinters in the world and should enjoy a strong summer as his health issues look to be behind him.  Kodiak Kowboy was the victor and he added a Grade I to his strong resume, but doesn’t this horse seem like a very opportunistic beneficiary of circumstances?  I mean, he ran well yesterday but he had the table set for him.  The ultimate goal for him is the Forego (G1) and he stands a big chance in that event if he gets a similar pace setup to the one he received yesterday.

Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cByPuE8ts9g to watch the Carter


There is not a 3YO filly who can run with Rachel Alexandra.  In fact, I don’t think there’s anyone out there who’s even close.  She absolutely demolished the field in the Fantasy on Sunday at Oaklawn, drawing off under no urging whatsoever to score by almost nine lengths.  She has now won four stakes races in a row, three of them graded, by a total of 22 1/4 lengths.  She looms a very strong favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) back at her home track. 

With only one more weekend of multiple Derby preps on the horizon, the picture for the Run for the Roses is getting clearer.  Thankfully we’re dealing with a crop that should put on a good show at Churchill Downs.

Here is the inaugural running of the Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down for 4/4-4/5.

Thumbs Up:

Ian Wilkes- In an era where horses who have no business being included are left on the Derby trail, Wilkes recognized that Capt. Candyman Can is a sprinter and he was rewarded with the gelding’s third graded stakes win. 

Finallymadeit– Two hard fought defeats earlier in the Gulfstream meet are now a memory as he crushed the field in the Skip Away (G3).  He may not be a serious player in the handicap division, but he always gives you his best.

NYRA on MSG Plus– As racing fades from the national spotlight, especially in terms of television coverage, kudos to NYRA for unveiling a TV plan that will feature coverage of some of their biggest stakes races this year.

Thumbs Down:

Jeff Mullins– Even this “stupid bettor” hopes that no one from the Mullins operation was so bold as to attempt to administer anything to Gato Go Win in the detention barn on Saturday afternoon.

State of Arkansas– Oaklawn was forced to deal with two minus pools over the weekend thanks to a state law that makes the minimum payout in any pool $2.20 with Acoma in the Apple Blossom and Rachel Alexandra in the Fantasy bringing out the “bridge jumpers.”

Imperial Council– There was a great deal of hope (or hype) surrounding this horse and surely the faithful expected better than a listless stretch drive from this well-bred son of Empire Maker.  Maybe his performance had something to do with a complete meltdown in the paddock before the Wood Memorial.

See you Tuesday to discuss the week ahead!


One Response to “Weekly Recap: So this is what we were missing last year”

  1. Pat Cummings Says:

    Good analysis, Nick. Like the format for reviewing the weekend. Keep it going.

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