In his play Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare wrote of the title character’s impending misfortune, “Beware the Ides of March.” Perhaps such a warning could have been given by trainer John Shirreffs to trainer Steve Asmussen before Zardana was to take on Rachel Alexandra in the inaugural running of the New Orleans Ladies on the eve of the eve of the Ides of March. Shirreffs’ mare Zardana clearly improved in her first start on conventional dirt in America and she upset the reigning Horse of the Year under a clever ride by David Flores, the one-time jockey of 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Zenyatta. What else did we learn on the thirteenth? Here are thirteen thoughts:
1.) Please, folks, let’s remember that the Horse of the Year voting had to do with 2009. Nothing about yesterday’s respective efforts by Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta should make you think the voters “got it wrong.” Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 campaign was one for the ages and we can only hope she returns to that level soon, because she clearly wasn’t there yesterday.
2.) Zenyatta is so special and such a rarity in racing. A horse that can seemingly hold her form for 2+ years and find a way to win time and again is truly spectacular. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Moss for allowing us to watch this mare once again in 2010.
3.) Richard Grunder wasn’t the only one who thought Odysseus was done on the far turn of the Tampa Bay Derby. After chasing the pace for the opening six furlongs it appeared as if the son of Malibu Moon was spent as he fell back to fourth. He somehow managed to re-rally and win what looked like an impossible photo. It’s unclear just how good Odysseus really is as the final quarter of the Tampa Bay Derby was far from impressive, but he definitely has heart.
4.) Caracortado was bound to come back down to earth when he didn’t get the same trip he enjoyed in his prior two stakes wins. He was asked to rally into a very slow pace with a nice horse in front of him and his inability to track him down doesn’t take away from his overall ability. If you liked him before you shouldn’t be discouraged, but I won’t be betting on him on May 1.
5.) If you have a horse that you want to run big in one particular race, is there a better trainer than John Shirreffs? You’re talking about a man who has won the Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup Classic, trained two horses that defeated a reigning Horse of the Year, two consecutive Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winners and trained a mare to 15 consecutive victories. This has all been accomplished in the last five years.
6.) The Rebel was the most competitive Derby prep we’ve seen so far. Dublin was victimized by another poor ride, this time by Corey Nakatani, who inexplicably decided to make a bold middle move while racing four to five wide. He probably regressed a bit coming back only three weeks after a taxing effort in the Southwest. Lookin at Lucky, on the other hand, ran a superb race as he almost fell on the backstretch, held together, and finished strongly to get up by a nose. Noble’s Promise also came back in fine fashion off a layoff in his 2010 debut.
7.) Was anyone hotter than Marty Wolfson at Gulfstream on Saturday? After his mare Jessica is Back rolled home in the Ocala, his two entrants in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, You and I Forever and Motovato, finished 1-2. He tried to continue the roll on Sunday in the Inside Information but his March 13 magic didn’t carry over.
8.) I will go on record saying that I think In Perpetuity is going to become a nice 3YO filly. She won a scratch-decimated N1X at Gulfstream on Saturday afternoon by open lengths but it was her 2nd win on conventional dirt in as many starts and she looked like she’ll be able to go farther without a problem.
9.) Between Super Saver, Conveyance, and Sidney’s Candy, with a few others lurking out there, it seems like the Derby pace might be very strong this year. Sidney’s Candy ran what can be considered an atypical race for the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita in his wire-to-wire win in the San Felipe.
10.) It was announced that 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Life is Sweet was retired after she tied up again following a morning workout. She was being pointed to the Dubai World Cup and those plans are obviously scrapped but her career was quite accomplished nonetheless.
11.) She may not take her game anywhere else, but Diva Delite sure did take to the quirky surface in Oldsmar as she won another stakes race at Tampa in the Florida Oaks. She now has some black-type and that’s arguably the biggest prize for an extremely productive winter.
12.) No Such Word was a sharp winner of the Honeybee as she earned her second consecutive win around two turns in Hot Springs. She’s a late bloomer but is rapidly improving and looms another contender who will spice up the Fantasy scheduled for April 2.
13.) It took until March 14, but we learned that there will be no showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom. Don’t despair racing fans, provided Rachel stays in training there will be a matchup between these two. When and where, who knows?
I’ll leave you with a video of Zenyatta earning her 15th consecutive win in the Santa Margarita:
Check back on Tuesday for the latest edition of my Derby Countdown!